Health Highlights: Sept. 13, 2014
New York State Confirms Enterovirus 68 Cases One in Three Retired NFL Players Will Suffer Neurological Problems, Records Show Missouri Lawmakers Enact 72-Hour Wait Period for Abortions Hospitals Overprescribing Antibiotics, Study Shows
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New York State Confirms Enterovirus 68 Cases
The New York State Health Department confirmed on Friday that more than a dozen cases of infection with an enterovirus that can cause severe respiratory illness have been reported in that state.
Known as Enterovirus 68, cases first began cropping up in the Midwest in August. More than 80 cases in six other states -- Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri -- have been reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but New York is the first state in the Northeast with confirmed cases, CNN reported.
On Thursday, the news network reported that kids are flooding emergency rooms in Washington state and Alabama, an indication that the virus continues to spread. Other states, including Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah, are investigating clusters of respiratory illnesses and several have sent virus samples to the CDC for testing, CNN reported.
Enteroviruses are common in September as kids head back to school, with an estimated 10 to 15 million people infected each year, CNN reported. But doctors believe this particular type of enterovirus is causing more severe cases than in the past.
The virus is also hard to track because it causes symptoms similar to many other infections, including the common cold, experts have said.
"It is important that we follow common sense rules to prevent the spread of this virus, as we do for flu and other contagious illnesses," New York acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in the statement. "Because there is no specific treatment or vaccination against this virus, our best defense is to prevent it by practicing proper hygiene."
One in Three Retired NFL Players Will Suffer Neurological Problems, Records Show
One in three retired NFL players will develop neurological problems, and those problems will develop at "notably younger ages" than is normal, numbers released Friday show.
The statistics formed the basis of a settlement the NFL reached with 5,000 former players who sued the league claiming the long-term damage of concussions was hidden from them, the New York Times reported. The settlement set up a $675 million pool million to cover conditions linked to head traumas that the players suffered during their careers.
The statistics seem to confirm what scientists have suspected for years, which is that playing the high-contact sport of football raises the risk of developing conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can be identified only in an autopsy.
""We have come a long way since the days of outright denial," Chris Nowinski, executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, which has pressured the league on this point for years, told the newspaper. "The number of former players predicted to develop dementia is staggering, and that total does not even include former players who develop mood and behavior disorders and die prior to developing the cognitive symptoms associated with CTE."
Missouri Lawmakers Enact 72-Hour Wait Period for Abortions
Missouri legislators have passed one of the nation's most stringent waiting periods for an abortion. The new law requires women to wait 72 hours for the procedure, even in cases of rape or incest, the Associated Press reported.
The new requirement takes effect 30 days after Wednesday's vote by the Republican-controlled legislature. The lawmakers overruled a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who had called the measure "extreme and disrespectful" to women, the news service said.
About half of states have abortion waiting periods of 24 hours.
The new Missouri law will be the second strictest in the nation, behind South Dakota, where its 72-hour wait can sometimes last even longer due to weekends and holidays. Utah is the only other state with a 72-hour waiting period, but it permits exceptions for rape, incest and other circumstances, the AP said.
Hospitals Overprescribing Antibiotics, Study Shows
Antibiotics are being widely overprescribed in U.S. hospitals, a new study says.
The infection-fighting drugs are being given to patients too often, and many doctors are using more than one antibiotic to fight serious infections when it's not necessary, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
Along with risking patient safety because of the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, the practice cost an extra $163 million, the study said.
In the retrospective analysis, pharmacy data from 2008-2011 at more than 500 hospitals showed that 78 percent of them had examples of potentially unnecessary combinations of antibiotics being given for two or more days, with a total of more than 32,000 cases of redundant antibiotics treatment.
Overall, that added up to almost 150,000 days of potentially inappropriate antibiotic therapy and $13 million in unneeded health care costs. Extrapolated to all U.S. hospitals over the same time period, an estimated $163 million could have been saved through appropriate prescribing, the researchers noted.
"Eliminating these unnecessarily duplicative antibiotic therapies is a simple way that all facilities can both protect their patients and save health care dollars," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC, MarketWatch reported.