Health Highlights: May 11, 2015
Preventive Care Coverage Gaps Closed by Federal Government San Francisco Bans Chewing Tobacco From All Playing Fields Infant Vaccinations Suspended in Mexico After Deaths, Illnesses Liberia Declared Free of Ebola
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Preventive Care Coverage Gaps Closed by Federal Government
Gaps in health insurers' coverage of preventive services such as birth control and colonoscopies are being closed by the federal government.
On Monday, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said insurers must cover -- at no extra cost to patients -- at least one birth control method in each of 18 categories approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reported.
The government also said insurers can't charge patients for anesthesia services in connection with colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance must cover recommended preventive services at no additional charge to patients, including birth control. However, some coverage gaps for birth control methods have been identified by women's groups and experts, the AP reported.
Insurance companies said federal rules did not provide enough detail.
San Francisco Bans Chewing Tobacco From All Playing Fields
San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to ban smokeless tobacco from all playing fields, including the home park of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2016. It bans the use of smokeless tobacco at athletic facilities, and targets baseball, which has a long history of players using smokeless tobacco, the Associated Press reported.
The San Francisco ban on smokeless tobacco -- which includes chewing tobacco and moist snuff -- is part of a larger effort by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"Today, San Francisco entered the history books as the first city to take tobacco out of baseball. The home of the world champion Giants has set an example that all of Major League Baseball and the rest of the country should quickly follow," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the AP reported.
A bill to ban all tobacco use -- including smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes -- wherever organized baseball is played in California is being considered by state legislators.
Infant Vaccinations Suspended in Mexico
An investigation has been launched and infant vaccinations have been suspended after two babies died and 29 became ill after receiving vaccines for tuberculosis, rotovirus and hepatitis B, Mexican health officials said Sunday.
The cause of the adverse reactions among the children in a poor community in southern Mexico are not known, according to the Mexican Institute for Social Security, the Associated Press reported.
Vaccinations nationwide were halted Saturday as a precaution, the institute said.
The babies became sick within hours of receiving the vaccinations on Friday. The 29 ill babies are being treated in a hospital in Simojovel, Chiapas. Six of them are in grave condition, the Associated Press reported.
Liberia Declared Free of Ebola
The West African country of Liberia is officially free of Ebola, World Health Organization officials announced Saturday.
There have been no new cases reported in 42 days, which is the equivalent of two incubation periods for the devastating disease, health officials said.
Still, the damage wrought by the worst Ebola outbreak in history leaves ""a scar on the conscience of the world," Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the Associated Press on Saturday.
WHO officials also noted they are not letting their guard down, since 18 new cases were reported this week in the two other countries hit hardest by the deadly virus -- neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Still, that was the lowest number of cases reported in a week so far this year, according to the WHO.
At least 11,005 people have died since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began more than a year ago, the WHO said.