Monday, October 23, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, everyone! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine today. 

Will Trump actually declare an opioid emergency?

There’s a big buzz this week about whether President Trump will actually declare the opioid crisis an emergency after announcing he’d do so in August. Last week, the president said a formal declaration would be made soon. But there’s been fighting within the administration about what the order would do and how much funding it’d require. Politico reports that Trump’s recent comments caught administration officials — who didn’t have a real plan or a consensus on putting an emergency order in place — off guard.

WHO rescinds ambassador offer to Mugabe

The World Health Organization has rescinded its widely criticized invitation to make Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador for the global health agency. Mugabe’s government has been implicated in widespread human rights violations, has repressed protesters and political opponents, and has been accused of rigging elections. The global health community, human rights groups, and political leaders fiercely criticized the decision to appoint Mugabe as an ambassador, a role that’s used raise awareness of health issues and solutions. 

“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised. I have also consulted with the Government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director-general, said in a statement.

Much of Puerto Rico still doesn't have clean water

Just over 70 percent of people in Puerto Rico now have access to water, more than a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. Those who do have water still have to boil it, and there’s continued concern about the health impact of both the lack of access and the safety of the water available. Late last week, Puerto Rico’s governor announced a death due to leptospirosis — a bacterial disease spread by animal urine — pushing the official death toll to 49.

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Inside STAT: Genetic testing of embryos creates an ethical morass



There’s an emerging ethical issue in reproductive medicine: What should be done when patients seeking to get pregnant pick embryos with genetic mutations that could lead to disability or disease? For Samantha and Jessica, a couple seeking to have a child through in vitro fertilization, the choice was quite narrow. They ended up with only one viable embryo in the process, which carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene — which ups a person's risk for certain types of cancer. They opted to move forward, and they now have a 2-year-old son. “There’s a part of me that feels selfish, indulgent, self-conscious, like I shouldn’t have wanted this so badly or I shouldn’t have gone to such lengths,” said Samantha, who has the BRCA mutation herself and provided the egg for the pregnancy. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has the story — read here.

Steer clear of the pediatrician's toy box 

Drop the teddy bear — the American Academy of Pediatrics is out with a new recommendation to nix fuzzy friends from the toy box at the doctor's’ office. The group says that most patients are seen in doctors’ offices or outpatient centers, and those facilities aren’t nearly as strict on infection control as hospitals. The new guidelines say to avoid leaving plush toys that are tricky to clean and harbor germs in waiting rooms. They also suggest stocking waiting rooms with alcohol-based sanitizers and masks.

Arsenic exposure drops after water regulations

EPA regulations to curb exposure to arsenic in drinking water have led to significantly lower levels of the chemical in public water systems, according to a new analysis. Arsenic naturally turns up in drinking water systems, but it’s also a known carcinogen. So in 2006, the EPA released regulations to lower the limit of arsenic allowed in public water systems by 80 percent. Arsenic levels measured in urine tumbled 17 percent in areas that complied with the law — which researchers say could lead to fewer cases of lung and bladder cancer. But arsenic exposure among those with private well water didn’t decline, which the researchers say backs up the idea that federal regulation plays a critical role. Nearly 46 million people in the U.S. get their water from private wells, which don’t have to abide by the regulation.

What to read around the web today

  • ACA enrollment schedule may lock millions into unwanted health plans. Washington Post
  • Nursing crisis strains hospitals. Reuters
  • .Jury to decide fate of pharmacist at center of meningitis outbreak. Boston Globe

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

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