Thursday, April 13, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking
Good morning, folks! This is Casey Ross filling in today for Megan. I'm here to get you ahead of the day's big news in science and medicine — let's get started. And for more in-depth coverage of biopharma, please check out our subscription site, STAT Plus.

Nonprofit sues LA schools for serving hot dogs

Sayonara, corn dogs? A physicians group is suing to prevent the Los Angeles school district from serving hot dogs and other processed meat to students, arguing it increases the risk of cancer. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says serving those foods constitutes a violation of California’s Education Code, which requires food served to students to be of the “highest quality” and provide “the greatest nutritional value possible.” In the lawsuit, filed this week, the group cites the World Health Organization’s 2015 determination that processed meats are carcinogenic to humans.

The Los Angeles district, which said it had not yet received the suit, is the nation’s second-largest, with more than 660,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12. The lawsuit also seeks the same ban for the Poway school district in San Diego County. The response from the meat industry? “We stand by the nutrition benefits that meat – both fresh and processed —provide for growing children,” a spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute told the Associated Press

Former CDC head on infectious disease preparedness

With infectious disease outbreaks straining resources worldwide, former CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding will give a speech today on ways to create a more resilient and ready global health system. Gerberding, now an executive vice president at Merck, argues the current system is undermined by reactive infusions of resources that leave the world ping-ponging from crisis to crisis. The event, at the University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, will also include discussions about bioterrorism response, climate change, and improving healthcare access in resource-constrained countries — in other words, your average Thursday talk on curing the planet. You can watch the event live here starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Inside STAT: Brazil's cities fear yellow fever outbreak

José de Moraes is one of hundreds of people who have caught yellow fever in Brazil this year. (Lianne Milton for STat)
A yellow fever outbreak in Brazil has killed 200 people since January and is raising fears of an epidemic in urban areas if not contained. The country typically experiences a “sylvatic” cycle, in which the disease is spread between mosquitoes and monkeys in the jungle, but this outbreak has already spread far beyond the Amazon. It has hit coastal communities and some fear it might be closing in on cities after authorities noted a rash of monkey deaths in urban areas. Last month, the WHO sent 3.5 million additional doses of yellow fever vaccine to Brazil from an emergency stockpile. But some rural families on the front lines of the outbreak remain skeptical of vaccines. STAT contributor Dom Phillips has the story from on the ground — read here

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Silky clothes don't soothe symptoms of eczema

Silk clothing that’s promoted as being beneficial for eczema doesn’t ease the itching and pain in children, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine. Patients with the skin condition often opt for silk and cotton clothing over wool. To test whether that makes a difference, researchers recruited 300 kids between ages 1 and 15 with moderate to severe eczema. Half received typical eczema care, and the other half also received silk clothing to wear. Six months out, there wasn’t any significant difference between eczema severity, quality of life, or skin medication use between the two groups. The researchers conclude that doctors and patients should stick with the standard of care as the most cost-effective means of managing eczema.

Trans fat ban cuts heart attacks in New York counties

Remember the movement to ban trans fats? Well, it turns out it might have been on to something. A new study in JAMA Cardiology reports that New York counties that enacted restrictions on trans fats in restaurant foods experienced a significant decline in cardiovascular events, including 7.8 percent fewer heart attacks, than counties that didn't. Starting next year, the FDA is implementing a similar ban on trans fats in processed foods nationwide — which could add up to tens of thousands of averted heart attacks and strokes. My colleague Leah Samuel has a more detailed write-up on the study here.

Childhood diabetes rates rising among minorities

More children are being diagnosed with diabetes every year — but the extent of those increases differs dramatically across ethnic groups. A new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the incidence of type 1 diabetes in kids rose by 1.8 percent annually between 2002 and 2012. But in Hispanic children the rise was 4.2 percent. A similar trend was seen with type 2 diabetes: The annual rise was .6 percent for white children, compared to 3.1 percent for Hispanics, 6.3 percent for blacks, 8.5 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 8.9 percent for Native Americans. The authors say that points to a growing disease burden that will not be shared equally, and they says ways to address these disparities are urgently needed. 

What to read around the web today 

  • Nancy Kerrigan goes public with story of six miscarriages. USA Today
  • Health care’s new rural frontier. Politico
  • A doctor warns how easy it is to be bribed. Washington Post

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! My colleague Max will be back with more tomorrow,

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