Health Highlights: Aug. 19, 2020

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

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Be Released in Florida Keys

Hundreds of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes will be released into the Florida Keys to test if they can help control Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry several deadly diseases, including Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The genetically modified mosquitoes produce female offspring that die in the larval stage. Only adult female mosquitoes bite for blood, CNN reported.

In the pilot project, more than 750 million of the genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in 2021 and 2022.

The plan just received final approval from local authorities, after being approved by state and federal officials, CNN reported.


Michigan to Pay $600 Million to Flint Water Crisis Victims

Victims of the Flint water crisis will receive about $600 million from the state of Michigan in a major settlement to be announced this week, two people with knowledge of the deal say.

Residents of the city were exposed to lead-tainted tap water after officials switched the water supply six years ago, The New York Times reported.

Thousands of Flint residents are expected to be eligible to receive money under the settlement, with most of it going to children who were poisoned by the tap water.

No details of the settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge in Michigan, were released, the Times reported.


Wawona Bagged Peaches Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak that’s sickened 68 people in nine states may be linked to Wawona-brand bagged peaches sold at ALDI stores, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The peaches were in 2-pound, clear plastic bags at ALDI stores in a number of states from June 1 until now. ALDI recalled the peaches on Aug. 19.

Consumers, restaurants and retailers should not eat, sell or serve these peaches, the FDA said. Consumers who bought the peaches and still have them in their home should throw them away. That includes peaches that were frozen.

It’s also important to thoroughly clean and sanitize any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with the peaches, including cutting boards, slicers, countertops, refrigerators and storage bins.


Recalled Onions Linked to 869 Salmonella Cases in 47 States

Recalled onions have been linked to a salmonella outbreak that’s caused 869 illnesses in 47 states, according to an an update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency said there have been 116 hospitalizations, CBS News reported Wednesday.

The onions and foods that contain them have led to a number of consumer alerts and recalls by major retailers nationwide.

For example, Kroger — the country’s largest supermarket chain — last week recalled more than 30 varieties of cheese dips and spreads as they may contain the recalled onions, CBS News reported.

Consumers have also been warned about eating prepared foods that contain the recalled onions and were sold by other retailers, including Giant Eagle and Walmart.


FDA Emergency Approval on Hold for Blood Plasma to Treat COVID-19

U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency approval of blood plasma as a COVID-19 treatment was put on hold last week after senior federal health officials said data supporting the therapy was too weak.

More data is under review and the approval could still be issued in the near future, according to H. Clifford Lane, the clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The New York Times reported.

Plasma donated by people who’ve survived COVID-19 has high levels of antibodies against the disease and is considered safe, but clinical trials have not proven that it can help COVID-19 patients.

The proposed emergency approval was based on the history of plasma’s use in treating other diseases, animal research, and a number of plasma studies, including a federal government-financed Mayo Clinic research that’s tested plasma in more than 66,000 COVID-19 patient and is the largest such study in the U.S, The Times reported.

However, a number of leading health officials — including Lane, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert — cautioned last week that available data from the Mayo study wasn’t strong enough to support emergency approval.

“The three of us are pretty aligned on the importance of robust data through randomized control trials, and that a pandemic does not change that,” Lane told The Times.

An emergency approval at this stage would “change the way people view trials,” according to Dr. Mila Ortigoza, an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health who started a plasma clinical trial with colleagues at Montefiore Medical Center.

“We want to make sure that when we say it works, we are confident, with indisputable evidence,” she told The Times. “We’re dealing with patients’ lives here.”

An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter, The Times reported.

Plasma is the pale liquid that remains after red and white cells are removed from blood. Using plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to treat patients with the disease has attracted considerable attention as a potential therapy while scientists try to develop vaccines against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

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