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Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2014

Ebola Concerns Overshadow Medical Meeting in New Orleans Gerber Sued Over Baby Formula Allergy Claims

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

Ebola Concerns Overshadow Medical Meeting in New Orleans

Ebola fears have triggered a conflict between Louisiana officials and a medical group holding its annual meeting in the state.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is meeting in New Orleans, starting this weekend, and thousands of doctors plan to attend. In a letter to the society, state officials ordered doctors to stay away if they have been to West African countries with Ebola outbreaks or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days, the Associated Press reported.

The letter was sent Wednesday and signed by Kathy Kliebert, secretary of the state's Department of Health and Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The state's stance means that a number of doctors, including some from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, may not be able to attend or present studies at the meeting, the AP reported.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene does not agree with the state's position and noted that it goes beyond CDC guidelines for Ebola. The order is "unfortunate" and "a pretty tough message to send out, particularly to our international colleagues," according to the group's president, Dr. Alan Magill.

Dr. John Schieffelin, an infectious-disease expert at Tulane University in New Orleans, called the state's order an overreaction to supposed risk and "comes off as a little xenophobic," the AP reported.

In a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, Schieffelin gave the most detailed information yet on symptoms and treatment of Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Schieffelin returned from the West African country in August and plans to attend the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting.

State officials plan to send a similar letter to the American Public Health Association, which has scheduled its annual meeting in New Orleans Nov. 15-19.


Gerber Sued Over Baby Formula Allergy Claims

Baby food maker Gerber is being sued for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday.

The company's claim is false and it misled consumers by suggesting the formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing allergy risk, said an FTC complaint filed in federal court, the Associated Press reported.

The agency wants Gerber Products Co. -- also doing business as Nestle Infant Nutrition -- to remove the claim from formula labels and advertisements and may ask the court to force the company to issue consumer refunds.

"Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company's ads failed to live up to that trust," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, the AP reported.

"Gerber didn't have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents' allergies," Rich added.

Gerber says it didn't violate the law, the AP reported.

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