Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
U.S. officials this week announced more conditions that are eligible for medical care through a special government fund. The fund covers World Trade Center rescuers, cleanup workers and area residents. People with 50 types of cancer now can get care through the fund. Researchers said this week that the current vaccine for whooping cough becomes less effective quickly after kids take their fifth dose. That helps explain a large increase in whooping cough cases. Children's deaths around the world are dropping, a United Nations agency said this week. But most deaths that still occur could be prevented, the report said. The New York City Board of Health this week adopted a controversial rule banning big sodas from restaurants. The limit for eateries and concession stands will be 16 ounces.
This Issue: Cancer Cases Eligible for 9/11 Health Fund Whooping Cough Vaccine Loses Power Fast Child Deaths Continue to Decline, UNICEF Says NYC Adopts Ban on Big Sodas
In the News:
Cancer Cases Eligible for 9/11 Health Fund
World Trade Center responders and others who have cancer may be able to get government health coverage. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the decision this week. The U.S. government program totals $4.3 billion. It covers people who lived or worked around the site after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Construction workers, firefighters, police officers and residents are among those eligible. About 60,000 have signed up so far. Most of the illnesses covered have been less serious than cancer. Cases include asthma, acid reflux disease and chronic sinus irritation. Many responders have been diagnosed with cancer. But there's no direct evidence that exposure to the site was the cause. Some health experts, however, have said the toxic dust at the site could potentially cause cancer. The program expansion covers 50 types of cancer. Worker groups had been lobbying for the change for years. Funds for the program are capped at $1.55 billion for treatment and $2.78 billion for compensation payments. No increase is planned. The Associated Press wrote about the NIOSH decision.
Whooping Cough Vaccine Loses Power Fast
The safer whooping cough vaccine that children get today also becomes much less effective quickly, research published this week shows. The current vaccine has been used since the 1990s. It replaces a vaccine that had more side effects. For decades after the old vaccine was introduced, U.S. cases hovered around 5,000 a year. This year, they have already passed 26,000, after growing rapidly in the last decade. About 10,000 of this year's cases occurred in children between ages 7 and 10. Most of them had been vaccinated. The new study showed that protection drops rapidly after kids get their fifth dose of vaccine. This occurs between ages 4 and 6. The study focused on 277 fully vaccinated children, ages 4 through 12. They were compared with similar children who did not get their shots. Soon after getting whooping cough shots, kids had 95% protection. Five years later it had dropped to 71%. Most experts now agree that change in the vaccine or schedule is needed. Options include another booster shot or a better vaccine. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Child Deaths Continue to Decline, UNICEF Says
Fewer children died last year around the world, a report released this week said. There were fewer than 7 million deaths among children under age 5 in 2011, the report said. But about 19,000 deaths still occur every day. And most of them are preventable, the report said. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued the report. About 80% of the deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the report said. Together, pneumonia and diarrhea caused nearly 30% of deaths. More than half of deaths from those causes occurred in only 4 countries: Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Overall, UNICEF said, annual deaths of children under 5 dropped from about 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million last year. The rate of decline also has sped up. Deaths have been dropping more than 3% a year for a decade. Many more lives can be saved, UNICEF said, with better access to vaccines, good nutrition and basic medical and maternal care. The Associated Press wrote about the report.
NYC Adopts Ban on Big Sodas
The New York City Board of Health this week approved a ban on sales of big sodas and other sugary drinks. Restaurants will not be able to sell sweetened drinks in any cup or bottle larger than 16 ounces. The rule also will apply to workplace cafeterias and concession stands, such as those in theaters and sports arenas. It will not affect drinks sold in stores. The ban will take effect in 6 months. Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed the ban in the spring. The idea has drawn criticism as intruding too much in people's personal decisions. A court challenge is possible. But others have praised it as taking aim at a major source of empty extra calories in the U.S. diet. For someone who drinks a soda a day, the difference between 16 and 20 ounces would equal 14,600 calories a year, or about 4 pounds. The Associated Press wrote about the decision.
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