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Health Highlights: March 30, 2015

U.S. Ebola Patient's Condition Improves GNC to Boost Testing of Herbal Supplements Ebola Survivors Told to Practice Safe Sex

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Ebola Patient's Condition Improves

The condition of an American health worker being treated for Ebola at a National Institutes of Health facility has improved from serious to fair, officials said Monday.

The NIH did not release any more details about the patient, who was one of 17 staff members of the non-profit Partners in Health group evacuated from Sierra Leone earlier this month, NBC News reported.

The other 16 staff members are under a 21-day watch to see if they develop any Ebola symptoms. All 16 are close to clinics where they could begin receiving treatment quickly if necessary.

Ebola has infected more than 25,000 people in West Africa, and more than 10,000 of them have died, NBC News reported.


GNC to Boost Testing of Herbal Supplements

Extensive testing procedures for its herbal supplement products are being introduced by GNC, the company announced Monday.

The testing of those products by GNC -- the largest specialty retailer of dietary supplements in the United States -- will far exceed the quality controls required under federal law, The New York Times reported.

The New York State attorney general's office recently accused GNC and three other major retailers -- Walgreens, Walmart and Target -- of selling herbal supplements that were fake or contained unlisted ingredients that could be a threat to consumers' health.

GNC's announcement is an initial but major step forward for the loosely-regulated supplement industry, according to experts.

"This should be a standard across the entire industry," Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies tainted supplements, told The Times. "Today we finally have one first step taken by one retailer, and only after the very aggressive intervention by the New York attorney general's office."

GNC, which has more than 6,500 stores nationwide, said it will use advanced DNA testing to authenticate all of the plants used in its in-store brand herbal supplements. The company will also conduct extensive product tests for common allergens such as wheat, soy and tree nuts, and submit semiannual reports proving that it is complying with the state attorney general's demands, The Times reported.

In a statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged Walgreens, Walmart and Target "as well as all herbal supplements manufacturers, to join GNC in working with my office to increase transparency and safeguard the wellness of their customers."


Ebola Survivors Told to Practice Safe Sex

Ebola survivors should practice safe sex until more information is available about the length of time the deadly virus might remain in semen and other body fluids, the Liberan government said on the weekend.

Previously, men who survived Ebola infection were told to avoid sexual intercourse or to use a condom for three months, because the active virus had been detected for up to 82 days in semen, The New York Times reported.

All countries affected by Ebola should consider similar recommendations, according to Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations secretary general's special envoy for Ebola.

The issue is under urgent review by agencies involved in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, The Times reported. Concerns were raised after the recent Ebola death of a woman in Liberia, whose only known risk factor was having a boyfriend who was an Ebola survivor.

The genetic material of Ebola was found in a semen sample from the boyfriend, according to officials. The earliest the women could have been infected was well over three months after her boyfried was cured of Ebola.

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