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Health News: WHO declares Ebola epidemic an international health emergency, Obama administration setting up group on experimental Ebola drugs, and more

Friday, 8 August 2014 - 6:31pm IST | Agency: Reuters

WHO declares Ebola epidemic an international health emergency

West Africa's Ebola epidemic is an "extraordinary event" and now constitutes an international health risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said the possible consequences of a further international spread of the outbreak, which has killed almost 1,000 people in four West African countries, were "particularly serious" in view of the virulence of the virus.

Sierra Leone army blockades Ebola areas, Liberia declares emergency

The army blockaded on Thursday rural areas in Sierra Leone that have been hit by the deadly Ebola virus, a senior officer said, after neighboring Liberia declared a state of emergency to tackle the worst outbreak of the disease on record. Worried Liberians queued at banks and stocked up on food in markets in the capital Monrovia while others took buses to unaffected parts of the West African country after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced late on Wednesday the actions that will last for 90 days.

Obama administration setting up group on experimental Ebola drugs

The Obama administration is forming a special Ebola working group to consider setting policy for the potential use of experimental drugs to help the hundreds infected by the deadly disease in West Africa, U.S. officials said on Thursday. The group is being formed under Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, an administration official said.

U.S. orders diplomats' families to leave Liberia as Ebola spreads

The United States on Thursday ordered families of its diplomats in Liberia to leave and warned against non-essential travel to the West African country because of the growing Ebola outbreak. A State Department statement said U.S. staff would remain on active duty at the embassy and additional staff were being sent to help the government tackle the outbreak of the deadly virus.

British body rejects new Roche breast cancer drug over price

A new drug from Roche for women with an incurable form of breast cancer is too expensive for routine use on Britain's state-run health service even after a discount, the country's healthcare cost watchdog ruled on Friday. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said it was "disappointed" Roche had decided against offering Kadcyla at a price that would make it affordable for routine use on the National Health Service (NHS).

Obama signs bill to fix delays in veterans healthcare

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a $16.3 billion bill on Thursday designed to provide veterans with more timely medical care and fix problems in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs department. The plan passed Congress last week and aims to address what Obama on Thursday called "outrageous" misconduct at VA hospitals and clinics that included modifying records of delayed care.

Exclusive: U.S. cuts resources for project involved in Ebola battle in Sierra Leone

The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus. The National Institutes of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans-based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million.

Pfizer confronts surge of lawsuits over Lipitor

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is facing a mounting wave of lawsuits by women who allege that the company knew about possible serious side effects of its blockbuster anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor but never properly warned the public. In the past five months, a Reuters review of federal court filings shows, lawsuits by U.S. women who say that taking Lipitor gave them type-2 diabetes have shot up from 56 to almost 1,000.

Diabetes-related amputations more common in poor areas

People with diabetes who live in the poorest areas of California are about twice as likely to end up with their legs or feet amputated than those living in the wealthiest areas, according to a new study. Black people and those who spoke Spanish appeared to be at a considerable disadvantage when it came to the likelihood of diabetes-related amputations, the researchers found.

Asia on alert with thermal cameras, doctors as Ebola declared global risk

Asian nations are using thermal imaging cameras and posting doctors at airports to screen out sick travelers as health authorities scramble to avert any outbreak of the Ebola virus that has killed almost 1,000 people in West Africa. The four nations of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are struggling to combat the world's worst outbreak of Ebola, which has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, with no known vaccine or cure.

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