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Health Highlights: Feb. 27, 2018

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

Trump Administration May Expand State Mental Health Treatment

Ways to allow states to expand inpatient mental health treatment using Medicaid funds are being explored by the Trump administration in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.

Currently, Medicaid cannot pay for mental health treatment in facilities with more than 16 beds, but states are seeking waivers to that rule, the Associated Press reported.

While state officials and groups representing people with mental illness say no one wants a return to the days when mental patients were warehoused in large institutions, federal action is needed to reverse the current law.

"We are actively exploring how best to provide states with new opportunities to improve their mental health delivery systems," Johnathan Monroe, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said

The nonpartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors wants a full repeal of the current policy or, at the least, expanded waivers.

"There is a need for a spectrum of services for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse," association head Matt Salo told the AP. "That spectrum should include everything from community-based resources as well as more structured institutional care."


Japan OKs New Drug That Kills Flu Virus in a Day

A new drug purported to kill the flu virus in just one day has been approved in Japan and could be for sale in that country by May.

Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) is a pill that's taken just once. Like the current antiflu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), the new drug shortens the duration of flu symptoms by a couple of days, ABC News reported.

But the makers of Xofluza say it is more advanced than Tamiflu because it requires just one dose and can kill the flu virus in the body within 24 after it's taken, meaning patients will no longer be infectious.

That could be a significant advance in preventing the spread of flu, according to ABC News.

Some late-stage trials of Xofluza are underway in the U.S., but the earliest it might be available would be the 2018-19 flu season, if the FDA approves the drug this year.


Too Much Touchscreen Use Means Toddlers Can't Hold Pencils

Overuse of touchscreen tablets and phones means children aren't developing the hand strength and dexterity required to hold pencils and pens, pediatricians warn.

"Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago," Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, told The Guardian newspaper in the U.K.

"Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills," she said.

"To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills," according to Payne.

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Posted: February 2018