Health Highlights: May 23, 2018

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

Some Media Barred from EPA Water Contaminants Summit

At least three U.S. media outlets — including the Associated Press and CNN — were blocked from attending a national summit on water contaminants convened Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The meeting was convened in Washington, D.C., by EPA chief Scott Pruitt, but was open to invited media only, agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the AP. Wilcox claimed there was no room at the event for a reporter from the AP.

According to the AP, when the news agency’s reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person after being refused entry to the meeting, she was grabbed by security guards and pushed out of the EPA building.

In a statement, CNN also said its reporter was barred from the summit “after multiple attempts to attend,” and E&E News, which specializes in energy and environmental issues, said their reporter was also refused entry.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement. “It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.”

CNN said, “We understand the importance of an open and free press, and we hope the EPA does, too.”


Congo Ebola Death Toll at 27, Vaccination Campaign Begins

The death of a nurse in a town in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo brings the death toll from the Ebola outbreak there to 27, the country’s health minister said Monday.

So far, 49 people have become ill with some form of hemorrhagic fever, with 22 cases confirmed as Ebola, 21 probable and 6 suspected, health minister Oly Ilunga told the Associated Press.

Two of the patients have recovered and are returning to their homes where they will be monitored, Ilunga noted. Each carries “a medical certificate attesting that they’ve recovered and can no longer transmit the disease because they have developed antibodies against Ebola,” he said.

Ilunga, along with representatives of the World Health Organization and the United Nations, arrived in the Congolese city of Mbandaka, where Ebola has spread, to launch a vaccination campaign.

“It’s concerning that we now have cases of Ebola in an urban center, but we’re much better placed to deal with this outbreak than we were in 2014,” WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, said at the U.N. health agency’s annual meeting in Geneva on Monday. “I am pleased to say that vaccination is starting as we speak today.”

So far, 540 doses of the experimental vaccine have arrived in the country, and health officials said that it will take about five days to vaccinate about 100 contacts of affected Ebola patients. That includes 73 health care staff, Ilunga told the AP.

The vaccine remains experimental but seems effective. It was developed during the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014-2016, which claimed 11,300 lives.