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Health Highlights: Feb. 6, 2018

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

Former CDC Chief Warns of Dangers of Cuts to Agency Funding

The Trump administration's funding cuts to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programs to prevent epidemics in other countries could pose a serious risk to the U.S., the former chief of the CDC says.

The CDC's recent announcement that it will slash 80 percent of those programs "would significantly increase the chance an epidemic will spread without our knowledge and endanger lives in our country and around the world," said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director from 2009 to 2017, CNN reported.

The CDC said it will halt efforts to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika in 39 of 49 countries. The agency said it had to make the decision because it doesn't expect any new federal government funding for the programs.

Health experts and organizations were outraged, and said the Trump administration and Congress are making the U.S. vulnerable to outbreaks that could harm millions of Americans, CNN reported.

"We can either help other countries stop disease outbreaks abroad or fight them here at home," Frieden warned.

"If funding for global health security isn't found, CDC will have to retreat from the front lines of fighting not terrorism but terrible organisms in 30 countries," he said.

The CDC cuts are drastic and foolish, according to a coalition of four groups representing more than 200 health organizations.

"As the United States and the world begin to reap the benefits of our investments in better disease preparedness, now is not the time to step back," the coalition wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

"The ongoing danger that biological threats pose to American health, economic, and national security interests demands dedicated and steady funding for global health security," the letter stated.


Noise May be Risk Factor for Heart Disease: Study

Everyday loud noises may increase your risk of heart disease, according to a new study.

Researchers reviewed data and previous studies and found that people and animals exposed to frequent, loud noises had higher rates of heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, ABC News reported.

Noise pollution from sources such as traffic, construction, loud workplaces may cause an increase in stress hormones, which can harm arteries in the heart and the rest of the body, according to the authors of the study in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology.

The study does not prove a that noise causes heart disease, but does provide strong evidence that stress, especially when triggered by noise, can have major health consequences, ABC News reported.

Noise pollution should be considered a risk factor for heart disease, according to study lead author Dr. Thomas Munzel, University Medical Center Mainz Center of Cardiology, Germany.

"What we know is that if you already have pre-existing risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, noise will amplify that risk," he said, ABC News reported.


Trump Program to Protect Health Care Providers' Religious Rights to Cost Hundreds of Millions

It will cost more than $300 million to establish a Trump administration program to protect the rights of health care workers who don't want to participate in abortions, euthanasia or other procedures for religious or conscience reasons.

A new division in the Health and Human Services civil rights office will focus on such cases. Since Trump was elected, more than 40 complaints alleging violations of conscience and religious rights have been filed, the Associated Press reported.

The government estimates that there will be $311 million in costs in the first year for hospitals, nursing homes, state health programs, pharmacies and other service providers as they implement new requirements such as posting employee notices, creating policies and documenting cases. Costs would average $125 million a year thereafter.

Federal government costs would be about $900,000 a year, according to the AP.

The program could cause unnecessary conflicts and put some patients at risk, opponents say.

"This is looking for a problem," Susan Berke Fogel, a lawyer who directs reproductive health work for the nonprofit National Health Law Program, told the AP.

"The reality is that health care delivery facilities generally work these things out," she said. "This is in many ways a dog whistle to encourage people to complain as opposed to resolving any issues they might have."

LGBT and women's groups fear the Trump administration will provide cover for some health care providers to use religion as an excuse to deny needed care to some patients, the AP reported.

While the government has a reasonable interest in protecting the rights of conscience objectors, it can't result in denying some patients care at taxpayer-funded health facilities, said health economist Michael Cannon of the libertarian Cato Institute.

"You can't have someone claiming that their religion tells them that they should discriminate," he told the AP.

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Posted: February 2018