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Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2017

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

Sexually Transmitted Zika Case Confirmed in Florida

Florida's first case of sexually transmitted Zika infection this year was confirmed Tuesday by state health officials.

The case in Pinellas County involved a person whose partner recently traveled to Cuba and had symptoms consistent with Zika infection. Both people tested positive for Zika, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

There was no evidence that Zika transmission through mosquitoes took place anywhere in the state, according to the health department.

"It is important to remember Zika can also be transmitted sexually and to take precautions if you or your partner traveled to an area where Zika is active. If the department identifies an area where ongoing transmission of Zika is taking place, we will notify the public immediately," a Florida Department of Health news release said.

It added that mosquito control had been notified and appropriate "mosquito reduction activities" were taking place.

Of the 118 confirmed Zika cases in Florida so far this year, most have been linked to travel outside the continental United States. The only confirmed local cases all were associated with exposure to Zika last year, CBS/AP reported.

Last week, Texas health officials reported a Zika infection that likely occurred from a mosquito bite in recent months.

Zika can cause mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. Some people have no symptoms. But infection during pregnancy can cause severe brain-related birth defects, CBS/AP reported.

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Older Workers More Likely to Die on the Job

The number of fatal workplace accidents in the United States has declined, but older workers have a much higher accident rate than younger employees, a new analysis of federal data finds.

The workplace fatality rate fell by 22 percent between 2006 and 2015, but the rate among older workers during that time ranged between 50 percent to 65 percent higher than the overall rate, according the Associated Press report.

The overall number of workplace deaths decreased from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015, but rose from 1,562 to 1,681 among older workers. In 2015, about 35 percent of workplace deaths involved someone aged 55 and older, according to the AP.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of older workers increased by 37 percent, compared with a 6 percent rise in the number of workers overall.

Many baby boomers are working past age 65. By 2024, older workers will account for 25 percent of the labor market, according to the federal government.

Older workers may have age-related physical changes such as declining vision and hearing, slower response time, balance problems, chronic health problems, and muscle or bone conditions such as arthritis, the AP reported.

However, older people have a range of physical and mental abilities and shouldn't be stereotyped, according to Ruth Finkelstein, co-director of Columbia University's Aging Center.

She said workers of all ages require more protection. "We are not paying enough attention to occupational safety in this country," Finkelstein told the AP.

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States Sue Trump Administration Over Delay in New Air Pollution Rules

The Trump administration is being sued by more than a dozen states over its delay of rules to reduce smog-causing air pollution.

The lawsuit, which focuses on rules instituted by the Obama administration, was filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit by attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia, the Associated Press reported.

In June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he was extending the deadline for compliance with the new rules by at least a year. That puts the profits of polluters before public health, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is among those filing suit.

The EPA does not comment on pending litigation, an EPA spokeswoman told the AP.

Ground-level ozone can lead to serious breathing problems that cause thousands of premature deaths each year in the United States.

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Fast Heart Attack Care Now the Norm in U.S. Hospitals: Study

The speed of heart attack care at U.S. hospitals is faster than ever, researchers report.

More than 93 percent of heart attack patients had blocked arteries opened within the recommended 90 minutes of arrival at a hospital in 2014, and the average time was 59 minutes, the Associated Press reported.

In 2005, less than half of patients underwent the procedure, called angioplasty, within the recommended time and the average time was 96 minutes.

"Things have definitely improved," study leader Dr. Fred Masoudi, a University of Colorado cardiologist, told the AP.

The sooner blood flow to the heart is restored, the lower the risk of permanent damage.

A heart attack patient's risk of death rises 42 percent if angioplasty is delayed even half an hour beyond the recommended 90 minutes after arrival at a hospital, the researchers said.

In angioplasty, a tiny tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin or arm and guided to the blockage causing the heart attack. Doctors then inflate a balloon to open the artery and place a stent to keep the artery open.

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Sam Shepard Dead at 73

Award-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73.

A family spokesman said Shepard died last Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), The New York Times reported Monday.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rare neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movements such as chewing, walking, breathing and talking. The disease is progressive and always fatal, and there is no cure or treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease.

Shepard won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979 and was nominated for two other Pulitzers for his Broadway plays. He also won an Academy Award for his supporting role in the movie "The Right Stuff."

Shepard is survived by three children and two sisters, according to The Times.

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Posted: August 2017


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