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Health Highlights: May 22, 2017

WHO Spends More on Travel Than on Many Major Health Threats California Botulism Outbreak Caused by Nacho Cheese Sauce Seizures of Fentanyl-Containing Drugs More Than Double: DEA

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

WHO Spends More on Travel Than on Many Major Health Threats

The World Health Organization spends more on travel than it does to fight some of the most serious public health problems, according to the Associated Press.

Internal documents obtained by the news agency show WHO routinely racks up about $200 million a year in travel expenses, which is more than it devotes to combating AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Last year, the United Nations health agency spent $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, $61 million on malaria, and $59 million on tuberculosis, the AP reported.

WHO does spend about $450 million a year on efforts to eliminate polio.

WHO has an annual budget of about $2 billion, paid for by taxpayer-funded contributions of its 194 member countries. The United States is the largest contributor. Since 2013, WHO's travel costs have totaled $803 million, the AP reported.

Even as it asks for more money to tackle health crises worldwide, WHO is finding it difficult to control travel costs. Staff ignore new rules meant to curb travel spending, according to senior officials. For example, staff book business class on flights and stay in five-star hotels.

"We don't trust people to do the right thing when it comes to travel," Nick Jeffreys, WHO's director of finance, said during a September 2015 internal seminar on accountability. A video of the meeting was obtained by the AP.


California Botulism Outbreak Caused by Nacho Cheese Sauce

Ten people in California were hospitalized after contracting botulism linked to nacho cheese sauce from a gas station store, health officials say.

The cause of the outbreak "appears to be prepared food, particularly nacho cheese sauce" from a gas station in Walnut Grove," according to a Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services statement, CNN reported.

Symptoms of botulism include blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and paralysis. The illness is fatal in three to five percent of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials said there does not appear to be an ongoing risk to the public, CNN reported.


Seizures of Fentanyl-Containing Drugs More Than Double: DEA

There's been a sharp rise in seizures of drugs containing the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency data reveals.

The number of seized drugs that were submitted to labs and tested positive for fentanyl more than doubled between 2015 and 2106, increasing from 15,209 to 31,700, CNN reported.

Fentanyl, typically prescribed to treat severe pain, is about 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.

The DEA data also showed that positive tests for fentanyl analogues -- drugs similar to fentanyl -- rose from 2,230 in 2015 to 4,782 in 2016, CNN reported.

Last year, more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, and more than 33,000 of those deaths were caused by opioids, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The DEA says more Americans die from opioids than from gun homicides and traffic fatalities combined.

"Drug use today has become a game of Russian roulette. There's no such thing as a safe batch, this is the opioid crisis at its worst," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told CNN.

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