Health Highlights: Oct. 15, 2014

NYC Rats Carry Wide Variety of Germs U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Parts of Texas Abortion Law Faster Test Developed for Enterovirus D68

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

NYC Rats Carry Wide Variety of Germs

Experts are alarmed by a new study showing that rats in Manhattan carry a wide range of bacteria and viruses.

Columbia University researchers examined 133 rats and found a large number of pathogens, including some that cause food-borne illnesses, others that had never been detected in New York, and some that were new to science, The New York Times reported.

The study in the journal mBio is the first to use DNA to identify pathogens in any animal species in New York City.

"Everybody's looking all over the world (for animal pathogens), in all sorts of exotic places, including us," Ian Lipkin, a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia, told The Times. "But nobody's looking right under our noses."

The findings are "shocking and surprising," said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a group that researches the links between human health and wildlife.

"This is a recipe for a public health nightmare," he told The Times.


U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Parts of Texas Abortion Law

Key parts of a highly restrictive Texas abortion law were blocked Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices suspended an Oct. 2 ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that Texas could immediately apply a rule requiring abortion clinics to spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades, the Associated Press reported.

The Supreme Court also put a hold on a rule only as it applies to abortion clinics in McAllen and El Paso that requires doctors at the clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The rule remains in effect in all other areas of Texas.

The rules in the 2013 abortion law led to the closure of all but eight abortion clinics in Texas. The 5th Circuit Court is still considering the overall constitutionality of the law , the AP reported.


Faster Test Developed for Enterovirus D68

A new, faster lab test for enterovirus D68 has been developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between mid-August and Oct 14, a total of 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68, according to the CDC. The virus was blamed for the Sept. 25 death of a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey.

The new test will enable the CDC to more rapidly analyze untested specimens received from states since mid-September. As the agency is able to do more testing with the faster lab test, confirmed cases will appear to rise, but will not actually represent a sudden surge in new cases, the CDC said.

In fact, it's expected that enterovirus D68 infections will begin to fall by late autumn.

"CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations," Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in an agency news release.

"When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations. This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days," she explained.

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