Health Highlights: Aug. 21, 2020

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

Risky Behaviors Common Among U.S. Teens

Risky behaviors remain common among U.S. teens, a new government survey shows.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many teens don’t use condoms when they have sex, about one-third vape or use alcohol, and many text while driving and don’t wear a seat belt, CNN reported.

“Only approximately half of sexually active students reported any condom use at last sexual intercourse, which is concerning given the high risk for STDs among this population,” the CDC team said.

The survey also found that 32.7% of teens said they vaped in 2019, compared with 13.2% in 2017. In the new survey, 6% of teens said they smoked tobacco cigarettes; nearly 6% said they smoked cigars, and about 4% said they used smokeless tobacco, CNN reported.

Nearly 30% of teens said they drank alcohol, and nearly 4% admitted to binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man or four or more drinks at one time for a woman.

More than 1 in 5 teens said they used marijuana, just over 7% said they abused prescription opioids, and 1 in 7 said they’d misused a prescription opioid at least once in their lifetime, CNN reported.

The survey also found that 43% of high school students said they didn’t always wear a seat belt when they were in the car when someone else was driving, nearly 17% had been in a car with a driver who’d been drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 5.4% of the 60% who drove in that past month said they had a drink before they got behind the wheel.

Nearly 40% of the teens said they’d emailed or texted while driving in the 30 days before the survey, CNN reported.


Public Coronavirus Information Written at Too High a Level: Study

Online information about the coronavirus pandemic posted by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health organizations worldwide may be too difficult for many people to understand, a new study suggests.

Researchers assessed the readability of coronavirus information on three public health agencies and 15 official government websites and found they exceeded recommendations for most public health guidelines to be written at between sixth- and eighth-grade reading levels, CNN reported.

For example, coronavirus information was at or above the 11th grade level on the CDC website and other U.S. government websites, just below a 12th grade level on the WHO’s website, and just above a 13th grade level on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s website, according to the study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“The purpose of the readability and clear communication guidelines are to make sure that public health information is accessible in an equitable manner to all audiences,” study author Joseph Dexter, a fellow at the Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College, told CNN. “The hope is that you will reach as wide an audience as possible.”

“When that doesn’t happen, it opens up the potential for exacerbating inequality in access to information,” Dexter said.


Extract From Deadly Plant Touted as COVID-19 Cure by Trump Donor

Experts have slammed claims by a major Trump donor that an extract from a deadly plant is a cure for COVID-19.

The president was enthusiastic about the drug, called oleandrin, when told about it at a White House meeting last month, according to Mike Lindell, the chief executive of My Pillow, The New York Times reported.

Lindell has a financial stake in the company that makes the compound and sits on its board.

When Trump was asked by CBS News about the use of oleandrin to treat COVID-19, he replied that, “We’ll look at it.”

Scientists warn that ingesting even a tiny bit of the toxic shrub the compound comes from can be deadly, and no studies have shown that oleandrin is safe or effective as a COVID-19 treatment, the Times reported.

Oleandrin is derived from oleander, a flowering shrub that’s popular with landscapers but causes many cases of accidental poisoning. Oleandrin is the chemical that makes the plant so dangerous, according to Cassandra Leah Quave, a medical ethnobotanist at Emory University in Atlanta.

She and other experts said that ingesting any part of the plant can cause a potentially deadly irregular heart beat, the Times reported.

“Don’t mess with this plant,” Quave warned.


Trump Administration Advisory Panel Rejects Nearly All Proposals For Fetal Tissue Research

A Trump administration advisory board to evaluate scientific research involving fetal tissue says 13 of 14 proposals should be rejected.

The board, created in February, issued a report Tuesday about its recommendation. Health Secretary Alex Azar will make the final decision, but the 15-member panel is expected to have considerable influence, according to The New York Times.

Nearly two-thirds of the members of the panel are outspoken opponents of the fetal tissue research, and supporters of such research say its opinions are tainted.

“The evaluation process for research should be insulated from ideology and special interests,” the International Society for Stem Cell Research said in a statement, The Times reported.

“It is disheartening to see an ethics review perverted by an administration seeking to achieve a policy goal, a near ban on research with human fetal tissue.”


Fauci Has Vocal Polyp Removed

Surgery to remove a vocal cord polyp has sidelined White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that he had the surgery Thursday morning.

Fauci previously revealed that he had vocal cord problems. In April, he told the Economic Club of Washington “that when you get your voices damaged a little — I probably have a polyp there — the only way to get better is to keep your mouth shut.”

Despite the polyp, Fauci did numerous interviews and online events this week, as recently as Wednesday, CNN reported.

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