Health Highlights: Dec. 17, 2019

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

Epilepsy Foundation Goes After Twitter Users Sending GIFs That Trigger Seizures

Criminal complaints against Twitter users who sent strobe GIFs in an attempt to trigger seizures in people with epilepsy have been lodged by the Epilepsy Foundation.

It’s going after copycats emulating John Rayne Rivello, who’s alleged to have sent a tweet with a strobing GIF that triggered a seizure in journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, the Washington Post reported.

Eichenwald received the seizure-inducing tweet — which included the words “YOU DESERVE A SEIZURE FOR YOUR POSTS” — on Dec. 15, 2016 after he posted an unflattering tweet about President Donald Trump.

Eichenwald says he would have died if his wife hadn’t walked into the study at their Dallas home and found him, the Post reported.

Rivello, a 32-year-old veteran who lived in Salisbury, Md., is expected to plead guilty to aggravated assault at a scheduled Jan. 31 appearance in a Dallas County district court, and this could be the first of many such cases.

The Epilepsy Foundation said Monday that it’s taking legal action against dozens of copycats who sent strobe GIFs to people with epilepsy over a short period of time during National Epilepsy Awareness Month in November, the Post reported.

Rivello’s expected guilty plea would give the foundation a legal precedent for such cases.

“These kinds of attacks need to be taken seriously,” Allison Nichol, the Epilepsy Foundation’s director of legal advocacy, told the Post. “There needs to be a very aggressive response, both by the foundation and by law enforcement. What these people did is incredibly dangerous to people with epilepsy and it just cannot stand.”

The foundation has identified at least 30 cases where a Twitter user responded to content on the foundation’s page by posting flashing or strobing lights, according to Nichol.

“What they’re doing virtually is no different than walking into a convention they know is the Epilepsy Foundation with a strobe light, hoping to cause seizures,” Nichol told the Post. “It has the capacity to induce exactly the same harm.”


Deadline to Sign Up for Obamacare Extended

The deadline for signing up for Obamacare health insurance has been extended to 3 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday.

A series of computer problems over the weekend led to the decision to extend the period to get coverage that will take effect Jan. 1, the Associated Press reported.

It was the second time in weeks that there were problems with online sign-ups at the agency.

A Medicare site redesign led to search results that didn’t automatically put prescription drug plan with the lowest total cost at the top of the list, the AP reported.


Possible Measles Exposures at LA International Airport

People who were at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 11 may have been exposed to the measles, the LA County Department of Public Health warned Monday.

It said that three people with measles traveled through the airport on Dec. 11 between 6:50 a.m. and noon in Terminals 4 and 5, CNN reported.

It said people who may have been exposed to the highly contagious virus should monitor themselves for illness or unexplained rash for seven to 21 days, and call a healthcare provider immediately if symptoms develop, CNN reported.

“Public Health urges residents, especially those who travel internationally and those who have not been fully protected against measles, to get the measles immunization in order to better protect their individual health and to prevent the spread of measles to others,” the department said.

Measles can be spread through coughing and sneezing and can remain in the air for as long as two hours, CNN reported.

Up to 90% of unvaccinated people who are exposed to measles will become infected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Congress Could Raise Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

A provision to raise the U.S. minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 has been inserted into the end-of-year spending bill in Congress.

“It shall be unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age,” the provision reads, CBS News reported.

Similar legislation was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this year and President Donald Trump has suggested support for an age increase.

Nineteen states have already increased the age to buy tobacco products to 21: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, in addition to the District of Columbia.

The bill also includes $25 million of funding for gun violence research at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Congress hasn’t provided funding for gun violence research in 20 years, CNN reported.