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Health Highlights: July 20, 2019

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

Experts Warn of Mosquito-Borne Brain Infection in Florida

There’s an increased risk of a mosquito-borne virus that causes brain infection and swelling, Florida health officials warn.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been detected in several sentinel chickens, according to the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, CNN reported.

Sentinel chickens are tested regularly for the West Nile virus and EEE.

After the positive tests for EEE virus in the sentinel chickens in Orange Couty, the health department said “the risk of transmission to humans has increased,” CNN reported.

Only about seven human cases of the EEE virus reported in the US each year. However, about one-third of people who contract it die, and many survivors have long-term neurological problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


NC Man Dies of Brain-Eating Amoeba After Visiting Water Park

The rare brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri has been confirmed as the cause of death of a North Carolina man.

Health officials said the man became sick after swimming in a manmade lake at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12, CBS News reported.

The infection was caused by the amoeba naturally present in warm freshwater during the summer, the state Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release.

Infection can occur when amoeba-contaminated water enters the body through the nose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The condition remains very rare: Just 145 people in the U.S. are known to have been infected with the amoeba from 1962 through 2018, health officials noted.


Lifesaving Drug for Babies Costs $2.1 Million a Dose

Its extremely high price tag means that a lifesaving medication to treat young children with spinal muscular atrophy is simply too expensive for most families.

A single dose of Zolgensma costs $2.1 million, the highest per-dose price ever, NBC News reported.

That puts the drug — approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May — out of reach for many parents of infants with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare and fatal progressive disease.

Sarah Stanger’s son Duke has the illness.

“I was pretty shocked” by the price, Stanger told NBC News. “You know, as a teacher we definitely don’t have $2.1 million, and I don’t know anybody who does.”

Her family’s insurance company refused to pay for the drug, which doctors said was the best option for Duke.

“With no treatment, most children will pass away by age 2,” Stanger, of Monroe, Ohio, told NBC News.

When Zolgensma was approved, maker Novartis said it expected insurance companies would cover the cost of the treatment.

The company told NBC News that a “wide range of patients” have had the drug covered by insurance, and added that it’s not uncommon for patients to have to go through an appeals process for any new drug.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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