Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2015

Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2015

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

Ebola Cases Lowest Since June: WHO

The three countries hardest hit by Ebola — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have reported fewer than 100 cases in the past week, for the first time since June, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The agency said health officials’ focus is now on ending the outbreak in West Africa rather than just slowing the spread of the deadly disease, the Associated Press reported.

Despite the progress, Ebola still isn’t under control, according to the leader of WHO’s Ebola response.

“This is like being in bed with two cobras, and one of them is dead. You still have an incredibly dangerous situation,” Dr. Bruce Aylward told the AP. Ebola outbreaks often occur in waves, he noted.

“We cannot say the epidemic is under control,” Jerome Oberreit, secretary general of Doctors Without Borders, said at a WHO Ebola meeting on Sunday.

Surveillance teams don’t have the resources to track down Ebola patients who cross the borders between the three countries in West Africa, and said “international negligence” was to blame for failure to contain the largest-ever outbreak of the deadly virus, the AP reported.

In related news, scientists in France are trying to determine if the Ebola virus underwent any major mutations since the outbreak began. Such genetic changes could make a difference in how people get infected or the severity of their illness.


E-Cigarettes a Health Threat: California Health Officials

Electronic cigarettes have been declared a health threat by California health officials.

The devices emit cancer-causing chemicals, get users addicted to nicotine and should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, according to a California Department of Public Health report released Wednesday, the Associated Press said.

If regulations aren’t implemented, new generations of young people will become nicotine addicts by using e-cigarettes, California Health Officer Ron Chapman warned.

“Without action, it is likely that California’s more than two decades of progress to prevent and reduce traditional tobacco use will erode as e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behavior,” the report said.

It called for restrictions on the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes, measures to protect against accidental ingestion of liquid nitrogen used in the devices, and a public education campaign about the dangers of e-cigarettes, the AP reported.

California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010. This week, a state senator introduced a bill that would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and forbid their use in public areas such as schools, hospitals and bars. Last year, a similar measure was defeated due to opposition from tobacco companies.