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Health Highlights: Oct. 19, 2015

NY Giant Daniel Fells Shows Progress Against 'Superbug' Infection U.K. Nurse Recovering From Ebola Relapse Sudoku Triggers Seizures in Man Texas Halts Medicaid Funding to Planned Parenthood Clinics Tougher Penalties for Uninsured Start in 2016

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

NY Giant Daniel Fells Shows Progress Against 'Superbug' Infection

NFL player Daniel Fells' condition is improving after spending nearly three weeks in hospital fighting an aggressive antibiotic resistant Staph infection, according to the NFL Media Insider.

Fells, a tight end with the New York Giants, has had seven surgeries so far on his infected foot and more operations are scheduled.

However, sources informed of his condition told NFL Insider that recent tests results are "looking good" and there is a chance Fells will be released from hospital this week.

And while amputation had been a serious concern, doctors now believe they will be able to save Fells' foot.


U.K. Nurse Recovering From Ebola Relapse

A Scottish nurse who suffered a relapse of the Ebola virus has improved, health officials say.

Pauline Cafferkey is in "serious but stable" condition in London's Royal Free Hospital, according to a statement from the National Health Service, CNN reported.

Cafferkey, 39, contracted the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, but was discharged from Royal Free Hospital about nine months ago. However, she was re-hospitalized in Scotland nearly two weeks ago due to "an unusual late complication" of Ebola infection, the NHS said.

After her condition worsened, she was transferred to a high-level isolation unit in Royal Free Hospital and by last Thursday she was listed as critically ill.

The risk to the public from Cafferkey's relapse is "very low," according to health officials, CNN reported.


Sudoku Triggers Seizures in Man

A German man suffers seizures when he tries to solve Sudoku puzzles.

The man survived an avalanche when he was 25 years old, but didn't get sufficient oxygen to the brain for 15 minutes while trapped under the snow, resulting in irreparable damage to some parts of his brain, NBC News reported.

Weeks after his rescue, the man had seizures of his left arm when he attempted Sudoku puzzles.

"In order to solve a Sudoku, the patient used regions of his brain which are responsible for visual-spatial tasks. But exactly those brain parts had been damaged in the accident and then caused the seizures once they were used," said Dr. Berend Feddersen, University of Munich, NBC News reported.

The case study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The patient stopped attempting Sudoku puzzles and has been seizure-free for more than five years, NBC News reported.

"Fortunately, he can do crossword puzzles. He never had problems with those," Feddersen said.


Texas Halts Medicaid Funding to Planned Parenthood Clinics

Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas is being halted due to undercover videos of officials from the group discussing fetal tissue.

Monday's announcement by Texas officials could lead to a court battle like the one taking place in Louisiana, the Associated Press reported.

A letter sent by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's Office of Inspector General to Planned Parenthood affiliates across the state said their enrollment in the joint state-federal Medicaid program would end because they were potentially "liable, directly or by affiliation, for a series of serious Medicaid program violations."

This comes after the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos it claims show that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue from abortions for profit. That is untrue and the videos are misleading, Planned Parenthood says.

In their letter, Texas officials claimed the decision would not affect women's access to health services, the AP reported.

"Your termination and that of all your affiliates will not affect access to care in this state because there are thousands of alternate providers in Texas, including federally qualified health centers, Medicaid-certified rural health clinics, and other health care providers across the state that participate in the Texas Women's Health Program and Medicaid," according to the letter.

In a previous move against Planned Parenthood, Texas barred the group from the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides care to poor residents.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered his state to stop funding Planned Parenthood after the videos were released. However, Planned Parenthood took legal action and a federal judge on Monday ordered the state to continue providing Medicaid funding to the group's clinics for 14 more days, the AP reported.


Tougher Penalties for Uninsured Start in 2016

Americans will face much stiffer penalties for having no health insurance next year.

In 2016, the punishment for being uninsured for the full 12 months will increase to either $695, or 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater. This year, it was $325, or 2 percent of income, the Associated Press reported.

The Obama administration is being urged to emphasize the higher penalties, to convince more uninsured people to get coverage, the wire service reported.

Currently, subsidized consumers pay about $100 a month of their own money. That means that people could get six months of coverage with the $695 they would otherwise pay for not having insurance, the AP reported.

So far, efforts to convince people to get coverage have focused on the benefits of having insurance, such as subsides that cover about 70 percent of monthly premiums, a financial safeguard against an accident or sudden illness, and better access to health care.

But highlighting the penalties could help sway those who are skeptical about the value of health insurance, some experts say.

"Given that the penalty is larger, it does make sense to bring it up more frequently," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group, told the AP.

"More and more, people are mentioning the sticks as well as the carrots," Katherine Hempstead, director of health insurance coverage for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told the AP.

The threat of penalties resonates with uninsured people, who tend to be low- and middle-income workers who are financially strapped, and many people say penalties are their main reason for signing up, she said.

"It's the law and they don't want to pay the penalty," Hempstead told the AP.

"We need to be make sure that we are very clear and explicit about that $695 penalty so people understand the choice they are making," Obama administration spokeswoman Lori Lodes told the AP.

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