Health Highlights: Aug 4, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 4, 2015

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

Death Toll Reaches 7 in NYC Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak

The death toll from the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx now stands at seven, and more than 80 people have been diagnosed with the illness, New York City health officials said Monday.

On the weekend, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials said four people had died of the bacterial infection. But officials said Monday that they learned Sunday about three more deaths that occurred on previous days, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All seven of the people who have died were older adults with “underlying medical problems,” according to health officials.

The overall number of Legionnaires’ disease cases since July 10 now stands at 81, including 64 who required hospitalization, WSJ reported.

Legionnaires’ disease causes pneumonia-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle aches and cough. It can’t be transmitted from person to person, but can spread through air conditioner cooling towers or hot water systems.


Not Enough Evidence to Support Universal Screening for Autism: Expert Panel

There is not enough medical evidence to recommend that all young children be screened for autism, according to a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force draft proposal released Monday.

The conclusion came as a shock to many autism experts who have long urged doctors to screen infants and toddlers for autism so that treatment could begin as early as possible.

“I was in a meeting when I read this, and I started feeling like I’d have chest pain,” Dr. Susan Levy, a pediatrician who helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines urging universal screening of all babies at both 18 and 24 months, told The New York Times. “I would hate to see people stop screening.”

About half of all American pediatricians routinely screen toddlers for autism.

The draft proposal is a call for more research and is not intended to change practices, task force vice chairman Dr. David Grossman explained.

“This doesn’t mean ‘don’t screen.’ It means there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation,” he told The Times.

Grossman said the panel’s conclusion applies only to routine screening of healthy children without autism symptoms. Children with autism symptoms should always be evaluated, he added.


New Standards Will Reduce U.S. Power Plant Carbon Pollution: White House

The first national standards for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States were announced Monday by President Barack Obama. Power plants are the largest source of carbon emissions in the country.

Obama said the Clean Power Act is a major step in his administration’s efforts to fight climate change. Previous efforts have focused on reducing soot and other toxic emissions but, until now, power plants could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The new plan’s goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Act and other anti-pollution measures will provide significant health benefits, the White House said, reducing premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005, and decreasing pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks in children by more than 70 percent.

In actual numbers, the White House also estimates that the Clean Power Plan will prevent 3,600 premature deaths, prevent 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days, according to the White House.

In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change increases their risk of hospitalization.

Extreme weather events — such as severe droughts, wildfires and record heat waves — and rising sea levels are affecting communities nationwide. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the first 15 years of this century, and 2014 was the warmest year ever, the government said.

The most vulnerable Americans — including children, seniors, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty — are most at risk from the effects of climate change.