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Health Highlights: May 3, 2017

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

More Cases of Tick-Borne Powassan Disease Expected in U.S. This Year

Cases of a rare but potentially life-threatening tick-borne disease called Powassan are expected to rise in the United States this year as warmer winters lead to rising tick populations, experts say.

There have been 75 cases of Powassan reported over the past decade in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN reported.

The disease is transmitted by three types of ticks, including the one that carries Lyme disease.

"About 15 pecent of patients who are infected (with Powassan) and have symptoms are not going survive," Dr. Jennifer Lyons, chief of the Division of Neurological Infections and Inflammatory Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told CNN.

"Of the survivors, at least 50 percent will have long-term neurological damage that is not going to resolve," she added.

Most infected people never develop symptoms. Those who do become ill typically do so within a few days to a week after the tick bite, Lyons said.

"You basically feel nonspecific flu-like stuff," including "muscle aches and pains; maybe you have a little rash on your skin, but almost certainly, you'll have a fever and the headache," she told CNN.

People who develop a more serious illness will do so "very quickly over the next couple of days," she said. "You start to develop difficulties with maintaining your consciousness and your cognition. ... You may develop seizures. You may develop inability to breathe on your own," Lyons said.

There is no vaccines or cure for Powassan. Intravenous fluids are a standard treatment, but antiviral drugs, systemic corticosteroids and other medications have been tried in some patients, CNN reported.

Experts are also predicting an increase in Lyme disease infections in the U.S. this year.

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Jimmy Kimmel Reveals Newborn Son's Heart Condition

On his show Monday night, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel revealed that his son was born April 21 with a serious heart problem. His emotional speech also emphasized the importance of health insurance coverage.

William John Kimmel -- called Billy by his parents -- was born with a condition in which a pulmonary valve was completely blocked and there was a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart, CNN reported.

The baby underwent open-heart surgery three days later at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He is doing well but will require future operations, Kimmel said.

In his 13-minute long monologue, Kimmel also made note of President Donald Trump's proposed $6 billion cut to budget for the National Institutes of Health, and commended Congress for deciding "to not go along with that," because such cuts would have adversely affected children, CNN reported.

"They actually increased funding by $2 billion and I applaud them for doing that," Kimmel said.

Kimmel also pointed out that before Obamacare, infants born with congenital heart problems like his son could be denied health insurance because they were deemed as having a pre-existing condition, CNN reported.

Americans need to band together and hold elected officials accountable for their decisions on health care, which is a non-partisan issue, Kimmel said.

"If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make," he said. "I think that's something that whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?"

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Leading Republican Won't Support Health Care Bill

The new version of the Republican health bill "torpedoes" protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, an influential Republican says.

"I cannot support the bill with this provision in it," Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on a local radio show Tuesday, The New York Times reported.

The committee was one of those involved in drafting legislation to repeal and replace large parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Upton said removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions was meant to help get hard-line conservatives to support the bill, but is costing the backing of more moderate Republicans.

Upton is an important Republican voice on health care. His rejection of the bill comes as it's blasted by the American Medical Association and other advocacy groups and is the target of political attack ads, The Times reported.

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Posted: May 2017


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