Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2018

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

First Human Case of Rat Strain of Hepatitis E

The first human case of a strain of hepatitis E previously found only in rats was diagnosed in a Hong Kong man who received a liver transplant in May 2017.

University of Hong Kong researchers said the 56-year-old man was cured of the liver disease in March, The New York Times reported.

The case is “a wake-up call,” according to Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the infectious diseases section of the microbiology department at the university.

The researchers said the man’s infection was not related to his liver transplant, but rather to factors such as rat droppings and open piles of garbage near his home, The Times reported.

Routine hepatitis E testing would not have detected the man’s infection, because the rat strain is much different than the one that typically infects humans, the researchers explained.

They said the rat strain of hepatitis E was discovered in 2010 in Germany and has been found in rats across the world, including the United States.

Most human cases of hepatitis E typically cause mild symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, but such infections can be more serious for patients with weakened immune systems, The Times reported.

The human strain of hepatitis E infects 20 million people each year and about 44,000 people died from it in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.


‘Very High Risk’ That Ebola Will Spread From Congo: WHO

There’s a “very high” risk that the latest Ebola outbreak in Congo will spread beyond that nation’s borders, the World Health Organization warns.

The agency said two cases of the deadly virus were confirmed near the border with Uganda, the Associated Press reported.

As of Friday, there had been 124 confirmed Ebola cases, including 71 deaths, in the outbreak in northeastern Congo. The outbreak is now larger than the previous one in the northwest, which was declared over just a week before the current one was announced and had 54 confirmed cases, including 33 deaths.

“While substantial progress has been made, the situation is precarious,” the WHO said of overall efforts to contain Ebola. However, it continues to recommend against any travel restrictions, the AP reported.

Congo health officials said more than 12,000 people have received Ebola vaccinations so far, while officials in Uganda said preparations are underway to begin vaccinations as needed.


U.S. and Japanese Researchers Awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine

Landmark research into how the body’s immune system can help fight cancer has earned American and Japanese researchers the Nobel Prize in medicine.

The $1.01 million prize will be shared by James Allison of the University of Texas Austin and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University, the Associated Press reported.

Both scientists’ work focused on proteins that limit immune system response.

Their research constitutes “a landmark in our fight against cancer,” according to a statement from the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which selects winners, the AP reported.