Health Highlights: Oct. 16, 2019

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

Opioid Crisis Cost U.S. $631 Billion Over Four Years

The U.S. opioid epidemic cost the nation’s economy $631 billion from 2015 through 2018, a new study says.

Unrealized lifetime earnings of people who died from the drugs accounted for the largest share of that total, followed by health care costs, the Associated Press reported.

Most of the financial impact of the opioid crisis affects individuals and the private sector, while governments bear less than one-third. But most of the health care costs of treating opioid addiction and overdoses were paid by Medicaid, Medicare and other government programs, the report found.

The study, released Tuesday by the Society of Actuaries, also said that the cost of the opioid epidemic this year is likely to be between $171 billion and $214 billion. Even the lower figure is higher than the 2017 total, the AP reported.

The report comes as jury selection starts in the first federal trial on the opioid crisis, where a jury in Cleveland will hear claims from Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties against six companies that make and market opioids.

The U.S. opioid crisis has claimed more than 400,000 lives since 2000, according to the federal government.


Metal Pieces Found in Taco Bell Beef

About 2.3 million pounds of seasoned beef taco and burrito filling was removed from Taco Bell outlets in 21 states after metal pieces were found in the beef, the company said Tuesday.

The problem came to the attention of federal regulators on Saturday, after three consumers complained about metal pieces in Taco Bell beef, NBC News reported.

The beef was produced by Kenosha Beef in Columbus, Ohio, between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4 and distributed to Taco Bell restaurants in 21 states across the eastern Midwest, northern Southeast and Northeast regions, according to Taco Bell.

There were reports that Taco Bell restaurants in some states were suggesting chicken or steak to customers as a beef substitute before the recall was publicly announced, which led to criticism by some people on social media, according to NBC News.


Climate Change Raises Risk of Ebola Spread

Climate change could help Ebola spread farther and affect areas previously free of the deadly virus, including the United States, researchers warn.

They concluded that by 2070, the climate crisis will result in a 1.75 to 3.2-fold increase in the rate that Ebola moves from animals to humans, CNN reported.

There will be a greater risk of outbreaks in areas of Africa that haven’t had outbreaks before, while outbreaks in previously affected areas would occur more often and spread farther, via air travel, to previously unaffected areas.

That includes a high risk of the disease spreading to China, Russia, India, Europe and the United States, CNN reported.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.