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Health Highlights: Nov. 16, 2017

Obamacare Sign-Ups 45 Percent Higher This Year Former NFL Player First Living Person to be Diagnosed with CTE: Study Vaccine Shortage Hampering Efforts to Fight U.S. Hepatitis A Outbreaks Anaheim Legionnaires' Disease Infection Cases Reach 15

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

Obamacare Sign-Ups 45 Percent Higher This Year

Forty-five percent more Americans in the 39 states covered by the website have signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans so far this year than at the same point last year, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data released Wednesday.

As of Nov. 11, nearly 1.5 million people had selected a plan, compared with just over 1 million between Nov. 1-12 last year, the Associated Press reported.

The number of sign-ups nationwide is higher because states that operate their own health insurance markets are not included in this data.

CMS said the share of new consumers for 2018 coverage remained at about 23 percent, the AP reported.

This year's sign-up season ends Dec 15, making it only half as long as last year's.

The release of the data comes as Republican senators seek to pay for tax cuts by repealing the ACA's requirement for people to have insurance.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 13 million more people would be uninsured by 2027 if Congress repeals that requirement, the AP reported.


Former NFL Player First Living Person to be Diagnosed with CTE: Study

The first case of a living person to be diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is described in a new case study.

The patient was not named in the study, but study lead author Dr. Bennet Omalu confirmed that it was former NFL player Fred McNeill, who died in 2015, CNN reported.

Until now, the only way to diagnose CTE was after death. McNeill's diagnosis was made in 2012 using an experimental brain scan that can detect a signature protein of CTE called tau, according to the study in the journal Neurosurgery.

While widely associated with former football players, CTE can develop in anyone who suffers repeated head injuries, including soldiers, wrestlers and boxers.

The experimental brain scanning technology has been used on at least a dozen other former NFL players but McNeil's case is the first to have the CTE test results confirmed with an autopsy, CNN reported.

Omalu and his colleagues are now seeking funding to begin a phase 3 clinical trail of their technology. He said it could be less than five years before a commercial test is available.


Vaccine Shortage Hampering Efforts to Fight U.S. Hepatitis A Outbreaks

A national shortage of vaccine is hampering efforts to combat hepatitis A outbreaks across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Current supply is not sufficient to support demand for vaccine," the agency said in a written statement to CNN.

To deal with the vaccine shortage, the CDC said staff are teaming with public health officials to target vaccinations toward at-risk populations, and are also working with vaccine manufacturers "to monitor and manage public and private vaccine orders to make the best use of supplies... during this period of unexpected increased demand."

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease caused by a virus found in the feces of infected people. The virus is commonly transmitted by eating food or drinking water handled by infected people who have not properly washed their hands, and is also transmitted by sex and illicit drug use, CNN reported.


Anaheim Legionnaires' Disease Infection Cases Reach 15

The number of confirmed Legionnaires' disease infections among people who spent time in Anaheim or at Disneyland has reached 15, Orange County health officials said Wednesday.

They were infected with the bacteria that causes the severe lung disease between late August and October. Two of them died, but neither of them visited Disneyland, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The bacteria that causes the disease grows in water and can spread when droplets of contaminated water get into the air and are inhaled by people. Last week, Disneyland shut down two cooling towers that had elevated levels of the bacteria.

Eleven of the 15 infected people had spent time at Disneyland, an Orange County Health Care Agency spokeswoman said.

Health officials have told Disneyland "there is no longer any known risk associated with our facilities," Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement to the Times.

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