Walmart to restrict opioid dispensing at its pharmacies

The Walmart logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Monday it would restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply as the retailer aims to curb an opioid epidemic that has plagued the United States.

The supply limit will begin within the next 60 days, the company said.

In January , Walmart said it would provide its customers filling prescriptions for opioids with a packet of powder that would help them dispose of leftover medication.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 115 Americans die on average every day from an opioid overdose.

The company also said on Monday that from Jan. 1, 2020 it would require e-prescriptions for controlled substances, noting that these prescriptions are proven to be less prone to errors and cannot be altered or copied.

The initiatives apply to all the pharmacies of Walmart and its Sam’s Club unit in the United States and Puerto Rico.

(This story has been corrected to add dropped words “initial acute” in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Tick, mosquito-borne infections spiking in United States: CDC

FILE PHOTO - A sign is displayed as San Diego County officials hand spray a two block area to help prevent the mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus in San Diego, California, U.S. August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton

By Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The number of Americans sickened each year by bites from infected mosquitoes, ticks or fleas tripled from 2004 through 2016, with infection rates spiking sharply in 2016 as a result of a Zika outbreak, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that some 96,075 diseases caused by bites by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas were reported in 2016, up from 27,388 in 2004, in an analysis of data from the CDC’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

Infections in 2016 went up 73 percent from 2015, reflecting the emergence of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause severe birth defects. Zika was the most common disease borne by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas reported in 2016, with 41,680 cases reported, followed by Lyme disease, with 36,429 cases, almost double the number in 2004.

The increases may be a result of climate change, with increased temperatures and shorter winters boosting populations of ticks, mosquitoes and other disease-carrying creatures known as “vectors.”

“It enables these ticks to expand to new areas. Where there are ticks, there comes diseases,” said Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

Warmer summer temperatures also tend to bring outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, Petersen said.

While Zika stood out as the latest emerging threat in the report, it also showed a long-term increase in cases of tick-borne Lyme disease, which can attack the heart and nervous system if left untreated.

Researchers warned that their numbers likely do not include every case as many infections are not reported.

These increases are due to many factors, including growing populations of the insects that transmit them and increased exposure outside of the United States by travelers who unknowingly transport diseases back home.

The CDC said more than 80 percent of vector-control organizations across the United States lack the capacity to prevent and control these fast-spreading, demanding illnesses. Petersen said that federal programs are increasing funding for those organizations.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)

U.S. flu outbreak worsens, likely to linger for weeks: CDC

A box of masks is shown in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018

(Reuters) – One of the worst flu outbreaks in the United States in nearly a decade worsened last week and will likely linger for several weeks, causing more deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

Another 10 children were reported to have died of the flu in the week ending Feb. 3, bringing the total infant mortality so far this season to 63, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s acting director, told reporters. The CDC does not require national reporting of flu deaths in adults.

“I wish there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news,” Schuchat said. “There have been far too many heart-wrenching stories in recent weeks about families who have lost loved ones to influenza.”

It was unclear whether the outbreak had reached its peak yet or if it would get worse, she said. Previous outbreaks had lasted between 11 and 20 weeks, and the current outbreak was in its 11th week, she said.

The number of people hospitalized for flu-like illnesses is the highest the CDC has seen since starting its current tracking system in 2010.

The dominant flu strain this season, influenza A (H3N2), is especially potent, linked with severe disease and death, particularly among children and the elderly.

The outbreak has reached almost every corner of the country, with every state except Hawaii and Oregon reporting widespread flu, Schuchat said.

She urged sick people to stay home and said it is still not too late for people to get a flu vaccine, which offers some protection.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

U.S. flu-related hospitalizations highest in nearly a decade: agency

Emergency room nurse Christine Bauer treats Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, for the flu as his girlfriend Mayra Mora looks on in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018.

By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – Flu activity worsened over the past week as more people headed to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, with hospitalizations at the highest in nearly 10 years, U.S. health officials said on Friday.

Sixteen children died of the flu in the week ended Jan. 27, bringing total pediatric deaths to 53 for the season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report.

Out of every 100,000 people in the general population, an estimated 51.4 have been hospitalized for the flu, surpassing the rate in the last severe season of 2014/2015, when 710,000 were hospitalized and 148 children died. Adults aged 65 or older had the most hospitalizations, followed by those aged 50 to 64, and children below 5.

The dominant strain during this flu season is an especially nasty type called influenza A (H3N2) that in seasons past had been linked with severe disease and death, especially in the elderly and young.

“So far this year the cumulative rate of hospitalization is the highest since we began tracking in this way,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on a conference call. The CDC began its current hospital flu surveillance program during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Schuchat was named acting CDC director earlier this week after Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned from the post because of financial conflicts of interest, including purchases of tobacco and healthcare stocks while in office.

Flu is widespread in 48 states, down from 49 last week, with Oregon reporting less flu activity, the CDC said.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Schuchat said, noting that sick people should stay home to avoid transmitting the virus to others, frequently wash hands and cover their mouth while coughing or sneezing.

The CDC official also said it was not too late to get a flu vaccine.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Richard Chang)

Flu Spreading Rapidly across the Country, CDC reports increase since Christmas

Weekly report of widespread flu cases throughout the US from the CDC

By Kami Klein

Flu season is upon us and this year according to the CDC, reports do not look good. In states like California, pharmacies are running out of flu medicine, emergency rooms are packed with patients, and the death toll is three times higher now than this time last year.  So far, in that state alone 27 people under the age of 65 have died since October.  And the cases have now spread across the country.   

The flu outbreak covers the entire United States with many hospitals filling to capacity.  Although it has not been called an epidemic yet, this year’s flu season has already spread faster and further than it did last year at this time. The CDC has also reported that during the week of Christmas the flu virus has increased sharply across the nation.  

The Los Angeles Times reported that UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica are seeing over 200 patients a day in emergency rooms.  Dr. Wally Ghurabi, the ER medical director remarked on what they are seeing daily, “The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients.”  

Methodist Dallas Medical Center’s emergency room is so overrun with flu cases that it is asking people with non-emergency symptoms to go to urgent care centers or see a primary care physician. And many hospitals have gone into diversion mode having to send ambulances to other hospitals and not accepting flu patients.  

The most prevalent strain of flu that is being reported by public health laboratories is influenza A(H3).  Symptoms come on suddenly and can begin with any of these symptoms; Body Aches, Fever, Headache, Sore Throat, Cough, Exhaustion, Cold like symptoms of Congestion and more frequently in children can include Vomiting and Diarrhea.

According to the CDC, most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus.

It is vital to note that people with the flu can spread it to others from up to about 6 feet away when those infected cough, sneeze or talk and the droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or are inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

If you have been exposed to the flu, being aware of the risk of spreading is vital to slowing down this virus. Encourage family, friends and co-workers to frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand rub. Frequently touched surfaces such as telephones, computer keyboards, desks, doorknobs, light switches, should be cleaned and disinfected especially if someone ill has been around them.  

Anyone who is sick should stay home! By going to work or school you are only putting others who come into contact with you and their families at risk. Those who are the most vulnerable for this virus to become fatal are the very young, the elderly, and those that have other medical conditions. But there have been reports of healthy adults who are succumbing to this virus.  

Nobody is immune to the flu virus.  Health officials say that it is not too late for a flu shot even though at this time the current vaccine is only 10% effective in avoiding this strain of flu, but are also stating that while the flu shot may not protect you from the getting the flu it can absolutely help in your recovery if you are exposed to it.  

 

NOTE:  Morningside hopes you are taking good care of yourself. For many health items we use here at the ministry that can help you stay at your healthiest, please visit our store!

 

U.S. life expectancy fell in 2016 as opioid overdoses surged: CDC

A used container of the drug Narcan used against opioid overdoses lies on the ground in a park in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Life expectancy in the United States dipped in 2016 as the number of deaths due to opioid drug overdoses surged and total drug overdose deaths rose 21 percent to 63,600, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

Life expectancy fell to 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2015, the second annual decline in a row and the first two-year decline since a drop in 1962 and 1963.

Opioid-related overdose deaths have been on the rise since 1999, but surged from 2014 to 2016, with an average annual increase of 18 percent, to become a national epidemic. From 2006 to 2014 the rise was only 3 percent annually on average and between 1999 to 2006 averaged 10 percent per year.

In 2016, 42,249 people died from opioid-related overdoses, up 28 percent from 2015, while the number of deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl and tramadol, more than doubled to 19,413, the CDC said.

The 2016 rate of overdose deaths was up across all age groups but was highest rate among people aged 25 to 54.

West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania had the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2016.

The number of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids, which include drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, was 14,487 in 2016.

As the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic has worsened, many state attorneys general have sued makers of these drugs as they investigate whether manufacturers and distributors engaged in unlawful marketing behavior.

President Donald Trump in October declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which senior administration officials said would redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat abuse of the drugs. However, he stopped short of declaring a national emergency he had promised months before, which would have freed up more federal money.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jonathan Oatis)

Plague in Madagascar Surprises and Alarms World Health organizations, U.S. not immune

World Health Organization responding to Seychelles plague

By Kami Klein

Experts are alarmed at a recent outbreak of plague that is spreading through major populated areas in Madagascar.  So far there has been 1,836 suspected or confirmed cases of pneumonic plague and 133 deaths in areas that have never seen this form of the disease before.

Every year Africa and Madagascar deal with an outbreak of plague within their borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) anticipates this in outlying areas and is ready to step in with antibiotics and information which eventually curtails the outbreak.  This year, health organizations around the world were surprised as the plague has spread so quickly and is primarily being found in heavily populated areas. While they anticipate around 400 cases a year, this year’s outbreak began sooner and a different strain of the disease has the world watching.

What is causing the alarm is that 65% of the plague occurring in Madagascar, pneumonic plague, is the only form that can be spread from human to human through droplets from coughing.  This makes containing the disease much more difficult and the chances that there will be more deaths almost certain.

According to the Center for Disease Control here in the United States, there are major differences in bubonic plague and pneumonic. Bubonic plague is spread to humans by the bites of infected fleas that live on small mammals such as rats.Without treatment, it kills up to two-thirds of those infected. One in 10 cases will develop into pneumonic plague which is almost always fatal if not treated quickly with antibiotics. This form, can and will spread from human to human which is the case in this outbreak. The good news is that a simple short course of antibiotics can cure the plague, providing it is given early.

Dr. Tim Jagatic told BBC News that the outbreak had spread to populated areas when a man infected with bubonic plague had traveled from the highlands to the capital and then on to the coastal city of Tamatave by bus.

“He had the bubonic form of the plague and entered into one of the major cities, where the bubonic version of the disease had the potential of turning into the pneumonic form without treatment.”

“He was in a closed environment with many people when he started to develop severe symptoms, and he started to transmit the pneumonic form of the disease to others.”

“So it wasn’t recognised until later,” he said, allowing the disease to “proliferate over a period of time unabated”.

This  case infected 31 other people, according to the WHO, four of whom died. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that an outbreak of the plague was detected and officially confirmed.

Although a travel ban has not been issued as of yet, officials do expect another spike in the disease before the season ends in April.  Medical personnel are all on  alert in parts of Africa that are most frequented by Madagascar citizens. WHO has delivered nearly 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and released $1.5 million dollars in emergency funds to fight the plague in Madagascar.

Though not widely publicized, the United States does have several cases of plague per year mostly in the Southwest. Dr Tim Jagatic, a doctor with Doctors without Borders currently working in Madagascar stated that the conditions which cause the plague outbreaks on the African island are also found in the US.

“Something today that very few people are aware of is that in the United States for instance, in the south-west, there’s an average of 11 cases of bubonic plague per year.

“These outbreaks occur simply because this is a bacteria which is able to maintain a reservoir in wild animals and every once in awhile, when humans come into contact with fleas that have had contact with the wild animals, it is able to transmit to humans.”

Information Sheet on the Plague

Information Sheet on the Plague

 

Sources:   BBC, WHO,CDC, New York Post  CNN

Trump declares opioids a U.S. public health emergency

Trump declares opioids a U.S. public health emergency

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday, stopping short of a national emergency declaration he promised months ago that would have freed up more federal money.

Responding to a growing problem wreaking havoc in rural areas, Trump’s declaration will redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat opioid abuse, senior administration officials said on a conference call with reporters.

But it does not mean there will be more money to combat the crisis. Some critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said the declaration was meaningless without additional funding.

“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” Trump said at the White House. “Nobody has seen anything like what’s going on now. As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue.”

The announcement disappointed some advocates and experts in the addiction fight, who said it was inadequate to fight a scourge that played a role in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate has kept rising, estimates show.

Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, are fueling the drug overdoses. More than 100 Americans die daily from related overdoses, according to the CDC.

A White House commission on the drug crisis had urged Trump to declare a national emergency. On Wednesday, the president told Fox Business Network he would do so.

Officials told reporters on the conference call that Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that would have been released under a national emergency are already exhausted from recent storms that struck Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

The administration would have to work with Congress to help provide additional funding to address drug abuse, they added.

Under Thursday’s declaration, treatment would be made more accessible for abusers of prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, while ensuring fewer delays in staffing the Department of Health and Human Services to help states grapple with the crisis.

‘BAD ACTORS’

Trump said he would discuss stopping the flow of fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Asia next month.

In his remarks, Trump said the U.S. Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security were “strengthening the inspection of packages coming into our country to hold back the flood of cheap and deadly fentanyl, a synthetic opioid manufactured in China.”

He added he would consider bringing lawsuits against “bad actors” in the epidemic. Several states have sued opioid manufacturers for deceptive marketing. Congress is investigating the business practices of manufacturers.

The president also said the government should focus on teaching young people not to take drugs. “There is nothing desirable about drugs. They’re bad,” he said.

Thursday’s declaration also allows the Department of Labor to issue grants to help dislocated workers affected by the crisis. HIV/AIDS health funding would also be prioritized for those who need substance abuse treatment, officials said.

As a candidate, Trump promised to address the crisis, including by building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the flow of illicit drugs, which he touched on in his speech.

Additional actions under the move would be announced in coming weeks by various agencies, officials said.

(Additional reporting by James Oliphant, Susan Heavey and Jason Lange; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)

High cholesterol levels among U.S. adults declining: CDC report

By Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The prevalence of U.S. adults with high cholesterol declined significantly between 1999-2000 and 2015-2016, achieving a long-term public health goal, according to data released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The latest survey found that overall 12.4 percent of adults aged 20 and over had high total cholesterol compared with 18.3 percent in 1999-2000. High total cholesterol was defined as above 240 mg/dl in the blood.

High cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease, which remains the No. 1 killer in the United States despite dramatic declines in overall numbers in recent decades.

To improve the health of the U.S. population, a program called Healthy People 2020 included a goal of reducing the proportion of adults with high total cholesterol to less than 13.5 percent. Both men and women aged 20 and over met that goal.

The surveys over two-year periods provide a snapshot of health of the U.S. population, Margaret Carroll, lead author of the latest report explained. “It’s good news that total cholesterol is going down.”

Each survey targets a sample of about 5,000 people from counties across the country.

While the report does not explain the positive trend, one answer seemed obvious to Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiology at Cleveland Clinic who was not involved with the CDC report.

“The use of statins has skyrocketed,” said Nissen, referring to widely used cholesterol-lowering medicines such as Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor, AstraZeneca’s Crestor and their generic counterparts that also significantly reduce heart attacks. “My guess is the vast majority of this difference is due to the use of statins.”

Public health measures such as bans on trans-fat foods, as well as individual decisions to alter diet and exercise has also likely helped, Nissen said.

The CDC report also found the prevalence of Americans with levels of “good” HDL considered too low fell from 22.2 percent in 1999-2000 to 18.4 percent as of last year. Levels of HDL are recommended to be at 40 mg/dl or above.

However, raising HDL via medicines, such as niacin, has never shown a correlation with better health outcomes.

The NCHS plans to release data on levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, the prime target of statins, and triglycerides – both components of total cholesterol – later, Carroll said.

In 2015-2016, men aged 40-59 had significantly higher rates of high total cholesterol (16.5 percent) than those aged 20-39 (9.1 percent) or those 60 and over (6.9 percent).

Among women, the 20-39 age range had far lower rates at 6.7 percent, while more than 17 percent had high total cholesterol in the other two age groups.

Race appeared to make no significant difference in high cholesterol rates among men, but Hispanic women had lower rates than non-Hispanic white women – 9 percent versus 14.8 percent – with non-Hispanic blacks and Asians in the middle at 10.3 percent each.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Richard Chang)

Listeria risk prompts Meijer to recall produce in six U.S. states

Listeria risk prompts Meijer to recall produce in six U.S. states

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Retailer Meijer Inc said it was recalling packaged vegetables in six U.S. states because of possible contamination from Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can cause fatal food poisoning in young children, pregnant women and elderly or frail people.

Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said there were no illnesses reported as of Sunday.

The recall affects 35 products and includes vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus as well as party trays sold in Meijer-branded plastic or foam packaging in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin between Sept. 27 and Oct. 20, the company said on Saturday.

In February, Meijer recalled its Meijer-branded Colby and Colby Jack cheese sold through its deli counters because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1,600 people develop a serious form of infection known as listeriosis each year, and 260 die from the disease, making it the third most deadly form of food poisoning in the United States.

“The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older and people with weakened immune systems,” the CDC said on its website. Symptoms include fever and diarrhea and can start the same day of exposure or as much as 70 days later.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney)