Health Highlights: May 15, 2018

Tom Wolfe, Renowned Author and Essayist, Dead at 88 STDs Hit Record High in California Congo Ebola Outbreak Death Toll Now at 19

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

Tom Wolfe, Renowned Author and Essayist, Dead at 88

Tom Wolfe -- the dapper, white suit-clad author who helped create the "New Journalism" of the 1960s with ground-breaking works such as "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", before finding wider fame with books like "Bonfire of the Vanities" and "The Right Stuff" -- died Monday in a Manhattan hospital from pneumonia, according to published reports.

He was 88 and had lived in New York City since becoming a reporter for the long-gone but respected New York Herald Tribune newspaper in 1962.

One of the most influential writers of the last 50 years, Wolfe, according to The New York Times, had a "pitiless eye and a penchant for spotting trends and then giving them names, some of which -- like 'Radical Chic' and 'the Me Decade' -- became American idioms."

"As a titlist of flamboyance he is without peer in the Western world," Joseph Epstein wrote in The New Republic. "His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word 'hernia' fifty-seven times."

The Times, citing William F. Buckley Jr., writing in the National Review, put it more simply: "He is probably the most skillful writer in America -- I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else."


STDs Hit Record High in California

California recorded more than 300,000 cases of sexually transmitted disease in 2017, a 45 percent jump from five years earlier.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said rates of chlamydia were highest among young women, while men accounted for most cases of syphilis and gonorrhea.

If not treated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility, long-term pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy -- when the fetus grows outside the uterus. Syphilis can lead to blindness, hearing loss and neurological issues, the wire service said.

The report noted 30 stillbirths stemming from cases of syphilis, the highest number in more than 20 years.

"We've known how to control syphilis since the early 1900s. Seeing it come back like this is a sign of failure of the public health safety net," Dr. Jeffery Klausner, a professor of medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Associated Press.

Klausner pointed to the nations of Cuba, Thailand and Belarus, which have virtually eliminated syphilis cases among infants, the AP reported.

"STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics," CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a statement.

"Regular testing and treatment are very important for people who are sexually active, even for people who have no symptoms," Smith added. "Most people infected with an STD do not know it."

STD rates have risen nationwide for several years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 2 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the wire service.


Congo Ebola Outbreak Death Toll Now at 19

The number of victims who've died as a result of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen to 19, with health officials speeding an experimental vaccine to the outbreak's epicenter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said there are now 39 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola in the central African nation. Cases are spreading throughout rural regions comprising about 40 square miles in the DRC's northwest sector, the Washington Post reported.

Three health-care workers are among the dead, and health officials are tracking the health of 400 people who've had contact with Ebola patients, the Post said.

In the meantime, WHO said shipments of an experimental Ebola vaccine are expected to arrive in the affected area by the end of this week. The vaccine was developed by Merck after the recent West African outbreak. In a trial of more than 5,800 people inoculated in Guinea in 2015, none came down with Ebola.

"Everything is formally agreed already. The vaccine is safe and efficacious and has already been tested. I think we can -- all is ready now to really use it," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, told reporters Monday.

The biggest Ebola outbreak yet recorded killed about 11,300 people as it spread throughout Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

Ebola symptoms typically arise within about eight to 10 days of exposure to the virus, and include fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhage.

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