Health Highlights: May 7, 2015
New Ebola Cases Fall to Lowest Level This Year: WHO Investigate All VA Regional Offices for Problems: Senators
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New Ebola Cases Fall to Lowest Level This Year: WHO
The weekly number of new Ebola cases in West Africa fell to the lowest level this year, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
The agency said there were 18 confirmed Ebola cases for the week that ended last Sunday -- nine each in Guinea and Sierra Leone, The New York Times reported.
In Liberia, the patient with the last confirmed case of Ebola in that country died March 27 and was buried March 28. If no new cases of Ebola are reported through Saturday, the outbreak will be declared official over in that country.
Despite the falling number of new cases, the WHO warned against complacency until there are no more new cases of the highly contagious virus, the Times reported.
At least 11,005 people have died since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began more than a year ago, the WHO said.
Investigate All VA Regional Offices for Problems: Senators
A group of U.S. senators wants the Government Accountability Office to investigate all 56 regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs for problems that cause delays in processing veterans' disability and pension claims.
Legislation requiring the investigation was to be included in a report to be released Wednesday by the bipartisan group of nine senators, the Associated Press reported.
They said recent findings of mismanagement at the Philadelphia VA -- such as alterations of quality reviews, manipulation of dates to make old claims appear new, and neglected mail -- suggest there may be department-wide issues.
"The VA system again finds itself engulfed in another scandal," said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., co-chair of the Senate's VA backlog working group, the AP reported.
He said poor management in VA offices across the country shows "it is time for an overhaul of the entire system."
The other co-chair of the working group, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is also worried that the Philadelphia VA office is not the only one with problems. "It's simply unacceptable to have a veteran with a disability wait hundreds of days for their claim to be resolved," he said, the AP reported.
The VA claims there are 161,000 disability and compensation claims on backlog (defined as pending over 125 days), compared to a peak of 611,000 in March 2013. However, the accuracy of the data has been challenged by the VA inspector general.
The Senate report says the inspector general should determine whether claims processors should be held to deadlines, and calls on the VA to improve manager training, submit an updated assessment of staffing and budget needs within six months, and keep Congress informed about its switch to an electronic claims system, the AP reported.