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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Judge blocks Trump administration's birth control rules in 13 states, D.C. 

A California judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration's rules on contraception coverage from going into effect today in 13 states and D.C. The rules would make it easier for more employers to opt out of the ACA's contraception mandate, which requires companies to cover birth control at no cost to women. The ACA allows for companies to claim an exemption on religious grounds, but the new rules would expand those exemptions. The judge put the policies on hold in D.C. and the 13 states that challenged it while the court fight plays out, but rejected their request to do the same nationwide. 

Doctor being monitored for Ebola released from Nebraska hospital 

An American doctor evacuated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo after a risky exposure to an Ebola patient didn’t develop the disease and has been released from the Nebraska hospital where he was being monitored. The doctor worked at a missionary hospital where a woman infected with Ebola went for care a few days before Christmas. The hospital’s staff hadn’t received the experimental Ebola vaccine, but the doctor and his colleagues were vaccinated the day after the exposure event. There was concern that if violence in the region worsened and the man became ill, it might be impossible to evacuate him. So he was sent for monitoring at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which has a high containment unit where it treated three Ebola patients in 2014.

Flu activity is picking up across the U.S. 

Flu is widespread across large parts of the U.S. right now — but it's not too late to get your flu vaccine. The CDC reports that an estimated 6 million to 7 million people have come down with the flu so far this season. Between 69,000 and 84,000 were hospitalized for their illnesses, according to data that stretches from Oct. 1 through Jan. 5. While flu activity is picking up, this season seems to be playing out more mildly than last season, which was one of the worst on record. But Dr. Alicia Fry of the CDC’s Influenza Division says that doesn’t mean people should be cavalier about the flu. “Where this season will turn up we just don’t know yet,” she told STAT.

Inside STAT: A debate over genetic sequences and national rights threatens to inhibit research

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(ILLUSTRATION: ALEX HOGAN/STAT; PHOTO: CDC)

Some infectious disease scientists are growing increasingly worried about an international treaty that could — depending on how negotiations go — make disease surveillance and international research collaborations difficult. Specifically, they’re concerned about an agreement known as the Nagoya Protocol, which is part of an international treaty aimed at protecting each country’s control over its own biological resources. Since the protocol came into force in October 2014, there's been a fierce debate about whether the genetic sequences of pathogens — the DNA that characterizes a circulating flu bug or an isolated Ebola virus — fall under that agreement. STAT's Helen Branswell has the story here.

State lawmakers look at mental health care, medical marijuana

State lawmakers in a handful of states are heading into new sessions today. Here's a look at some of the health care issues on state agendas:

  • Washington: The state's lawmakers will look at sweeping changes to the state’s mental health care system, which has long struggled with safety issues, bed shortages, and a lack of qualified health workers. Last year, the state's largest psychiatric facility was decertified and stripped of $53 million a year in federal funding after failing an inspection. Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a $675 million blueprint to add beds and train more providers.

  • Georgia: The legislature could consider bills that would make it legal to grow and sell medical marijuana. Currently, people with certain conditions can possess marijuana oil, but it's still illegal to grow, buy, or sell pot in the state.

  • Iowa: Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she'll push for a bill to let Iowans get birth control without a doctor's prescription. It's not clear yet whether state lawmakers will advance such a proposal.

Patients with invasive cancers are at an increased risk of suicide, study finds

A new study suggests that people with cancer are far more likely to die by suicide than their peers without cancer. Researchers at Penn State looked at decades of data on more than 8 million U.S. patients with invasive cancers. They found that certain groups were at a particularly high risk, including patients diagnosed at a younger age and patients with lung, head, and neck cancers. The study also found that for most cancers, the risk of suicide falls five years after a diagnosis. The researchers say their findings could be used to help develop screening guidelines, prevention strategies, and better support tools for patients with cancer.

What to read around the web today

  • Hospitals must now post prices. But it may take a brain surgeon to decipher them. New York Times
  • For minority students, the pipeline to an M.D. is leaky. Here’s how I managed to make it through. STAT
  • Bare-handed surgeries as Zimbabwe’s health system collapses. Associated Press
  • Meth's resurgence spotlights a lack of medicines to treat the addiction. Kaiser Health News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Monday, January 14, 2019

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