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Health Highlights: Oct. 11, 2018

More Young American Children Not Getting Recommended Vaccines: CDC Nine Recent Cases of Polio-Like Illness Among Children in Illinois Being Investigated Toxic Metal Cadmium Found in Chain-Store Jewelry Aetna-CVS Merger Approved

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

More Young American Children Not Getting Recommended Vaccines: CDC

The percentage of U.S. children under 2 years old who haven't received any recommended vaccinations quadrupled in the past 17 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Among children born in 2015, 1.3 percent had not received any of the recommended vaccinations, according to an analysis of 2017 data, the Washington Post reported.

That compares with 0.9 percent in 2011 and 0.3 percent of 19- to -35-month-olds in 2001.

If the same proportion of children born in 2016 haven't received any vaccinations, about 100,000 children who are now less than 2 years old aren't protected against 14 potentially serious vaccine-preventable diseases, Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician and CDC's senior adviser for vaccines, told the Post.

Even though that number is only a small portion of the estimated 8 million children born in the last two years who are being vaccinated, the trend is worrying, public health officials say.

"This is something we're definitely concerned about," Cohn told the Post. "We know there are parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids . . . there may be parents who want to and aren't able to" get their children immunized.


Nine Recent Cases of Polio-Like Illness Among Children in Illinois Being Investigated

Nine recent cases of a rare, polio-like disorder in children are being investigated in Illinois, health officials said Wednesday.

All of the patients with the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), are younger than 18 and from northern Illinois, according to the Department of Public Health, CNN reported.

Since 2015, Illinois has had four confirmed cases of AFM, which affects a person's nervous system. Symptoms include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, swallowing difficulty or slurred speech, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The condition can be caused by a virus, a genetic disorder and environmental toxins. There is no treatment other than managing symptoms, CNN reported.

Five possible cases of AFM in children under age 6 in Washington state are being investigated by health officials. There has been one confirmed case of AFM in the state this year, and there were three confirmed cases last year.

On Tuesday, Colorado health officials said there have been 14 confirmed cases of AFM in that state this year. All of the patients are children who required hospitalization, but health officials said "nearly all have fully recovered," CNN reported.


Toxic Metal Cadmium Found in Chain-Store Jewelry

The toxic metal cadmium has been found in adult jewelry sold at a number of U.S. national retailers, according to the Center for Environmental Health.

Prolonged exposure to cadmium can cause cancer and reproductive problems, the Associated Press reported.

Tests showed that some jewelry sold with women's dresses and shirts was nearly pure cadmium, according to the Oakland-based nonprofit group. Stores selling the jewelry include Ross, Nordstrom Rack and Papaya.

A number of states banned cadmium in children's jewelry, but none have laws about cadmium in adult jewelry, the AP reported.

The Center for Environmental Health bought adult jewelry from retail stores in the San Francisco Bay Area this year and last and sent the items for lab testing. The results showed that 31 were at least 40 percent cadmium, and most were more than 90 percent.

How the findings apply nationwide is unclear, but national retailers would not normally sell a product in just one region, the AP reported.

The problem should not be underestimated due to the fact that the jewelry was bought in only one region, according to the center.

"If you're the person that buys and is wearing that jewelry, you don't really care whether it's a common problem or a rare problem," Caroline Cox, senior scientist at the center, told the AP. "You have a problem."

The test results do not suggest a wider problem, according to Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association. Most major retailers carefully test and analyze what they sell, he told the AP.


Aetna-CVS Merger Approved

A $69 billion merger between health insurer Aetna and pharmacy manager CVS Health has been approved, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

Under the approval, Aetna must sell off its private Medicare drug plans, The New York Times reported.

CVS Health was the last of the large independent pharmacy managers to reach a deal with a major insurer.

Last month, the Justice Department approved insurer Cigna's takeover of pharmacy manager Express Scripts, The Times reported.

The companies involved in these mergers say they will improve coordination of care for consumers, but critics say consumers could be left with far fewer choices and potentially higher costs.

"This type of consolidation in a market already dominated by a few, powerful players presents the very real possibility of reduced competition that harms consumer choice and quality," George Slover, senior policy counsel for the advocacy group Consumers Union, said in a statement, The Times reported.

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