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Medical records show severity of Cuba health attacks

August 23, 2017, 3:31 PM


More salmonella cases tied to backyard chickens, ducks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 10 separate multi-state outbreaks of salmonella infection in people who had contact with backyard chickens and ducks.

A reported 961 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia have been infected since the beginning of this year. Two hundred fifteen people have been hospitalized and one death has been reported.

CDC researchers say their investigation ties the outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as baby chicks and ducklings from multiple hatcheries. In nearly three quarters of the cases, those who were sickened reported contact with live poultry in the week before becoming ill.

According to the CDC, backyard chickens and ducks can carry salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean with no signs of illness. Contact with the infected birds or their environment can cause humans to become sick.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include nausea and vomiting, blood in the stool, fever, chills and abdominal pain.

The CDC offers the following advice for people who keep flocks at their homes:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Don't let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Don't let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch live poultry.
  • Don't eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Avoid kissing your birds or snuggling them, then touching your mouth.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.

When collecting and handling eggs from a backyard flock, follow these tips from the CDC to keep you and your family safe:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
  • Maintain a clean coop. Cleaning the coop, floor, nests and perches on a regular basis will help to keep eggs clean.
  • Collect eggs often. Eggs that spend a significant amount of time in the nest can become dirty or break. Cracked eggs should be thrown away.
  • Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth. Don't wash eggs, because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
  • Refrigerate

Could 2 common vitamins raise lung cancer risk?

Men, and especially male smokers, appear to be more likely to develop lung cancer if they take high doses of vitamins B6 and B12, new research suggests.

For men taking these vitamin supplements, the risk of lung cancer was nearly doubled. For men who smoked, the risk was between three and four times higher, the study found.

"High-dose B6 and B12 supplements should not be taken for lung cancer prevention, especially in men, and they may cause harm in male smokers," said study lead author Theodore Brasky. He is a research assistant professor at Ohio State University.

However, the study wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect between the vitamins and lung cancer; it only showed an association.

It's also not clear why only men and current male smokers seem to face an extra risk.

And a trade organization representing the vitamin industry cautioned against reading too much into the study.

Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B6 through their diets, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some people with certain health conditions may need supplements.

As for vitamin B12, the NIH reports that most Americans get enough from their diet. But some groups -- such as older people and vegetarians -- may be deficient and need supplements. The vitamin may also cause interactions with medications.

Dietary sources of vitamin B6 and B12 include fortified cereals and foods that are high in protein.

The new study included more than 77,000 adults, aged 50 to 76, in Washington state. The participants were recruited from 2000 to 2002, and answered questions about their vitamin use over the previous 10 years.

The researchers found that just over 800 of the study volunteers developed lung cancer over an average follow-up of six years.

The study found no sign of a link between folate (a type of B vitamin) and lung cancer risk. And vitamin B6 and B12 supplements didn't seem to affect risk in women.

However, "we found that men who took more than 20 milligrams per day of B6 averaged over 10 years had an 82 percent increased risk of lung cancer relative to men who did not take supplemental B vitamins from any source," Brasky said.

"Men who took more than 55 micrograms per day of B12 had a 98 percent increased lung cancer risk relative to men who did not take B vitamins," he noted.

Men who smoked at the beginning of the study period and consumed high levels of the B vitamins were three to four times more likely to develop lung cancer, he added.

"B6 is typically sold in 100 mg (milligram) tablets. B12 is often sold between 500 mcg (microgram) and 3,000 mcg tablets," Brasky said.

"In contrast, most multivitamins include 100 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is under 2 mg per day for B6 and 2.4 mcg per day for B12. People should really ask themselves if they need over 1,200 times the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of a substance.


Some U.S. diplomats in Cuba diagnosed with serious health conditions

According to medical records reviewed exclusively by CBS News, a U.S. doctor who evaluated American and Canadian diplomats working in Havana diagnosed them with conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury, and with likely damage to the central nervous system.

The diplomats complained about symptoms ranging from hearing loss and nausea to headaches and balance disorders after the State Department said "incidents" began affecting them beginning in late 2016. A source familiar with these incidents says officials are investigating whether the diplomats were targets of a type of sonic attack directed at their homes, which were provided by the Cuban government. The source says reports of more attacks affecting U.S. embassy workers on the island continue.

The doctor, one of several who reviewed their cases, included a warning in the medical records about the health risks of future exposures. The diplomats underwent comprehensive audiological evaluations and a battery of other tests. 

An American doctor also visited Havana in the spring to assess U.S. embassy workers, according to the source.

A number of diplomats have cut short their assignments in Cuba because of the attacks.

The source says American diplomats have also been subjected other types of harassment including vehicle vandalization, constant surveillance, and home break-ins. 

Although the State Department says it hasn't identified a definitive source of the attacks, it has reminded Cuban authorities of their international obligations to protect diplomats. The U.S. also expelled two Cuban embassy officials in Washington May 23.

"We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks on not just our diplomats but, as you've seen now, there are other cases with other diplomats involved," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters earlier this month.

Cuba has denied any involvement in the attacks.

"We remain in regular contact with the Cuban government to emphasize that we take these incidents very seriously and to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner," a State Department spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs tells CBS News.

But as the U.S. pledges publicly to hold Cuba accountable for the protection of its diplomats, there are signs the U.S. may be privately moving forward with plans to make it easier for Americans to visit and do business with the country.

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control removed hundreds of internet domain names primary focused on travel to Cuba from its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. The people, groups and entities on this list are restricted from doing business in the U.S.

"While there may be a legal basis for the removal of the domain names from the SDN/BP list, to remove so many at one moment has optical significance," says John Kavulich, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. It "is demonstrative of the distance between political rhetoric and practical implementation of policy." 

The Treasury Department has not responded to numerous requests from CBS News for comment.

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Some U.S. diplomats in Cuba diagnosed with serious health conditions

Researchers move closer to peanut allergy cure

Scientists say they have taken a major step forward in finding a cure for peanut allergies .

A new study, published in the journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health , finds that a new therapy being used to treat peanut allergies has kept patients from experiencing an allergic reaction to peanuts over a four-year period.

The report was a follow-up to a previous study that found a combination of probiotics and peanut protein significantly increased tolerance to peanuts in children who were allergic.

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies, which are on the rise in the U.S. and around the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  food allergies among children in this country increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. The number of children with peanut allergies specifically more than tripled to 1.4 percent of kids in 2008, up from 0.4 percent in 1997, a 2010 study from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found.

Food allergies result in 200,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the advocacy group Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) and are the leading cause of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that disrupts breathing and causes a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Experts say food allergies have a major impact on quality of life for both children and their families.

"Patients and families must be constantly vigilant about what they eat," Mimi Tang, of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, and lead researcher of The Lancet study, told CBS News. "They are constantly worried about the possibility of having a life-threatening allergic reaction, and they remain in constant fear of potentially dying from a serious allergic reaction , although this is very unlikely."

In the initial study, Tang and her team tested the effectiveness of the combination treatment in 56 children with peanut allergies. Some of the children were given the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus in conjunction with a small, carefully controlled dose of peanut protein every day for 18 months. The other group of kids received a placebo.

At the end of the study period, 82 percent of the children who received the study treatment gained tolerance to peanuts compared to only 4 percent of children in the placebo group.

For the latest study, the researchers followed up with 48 of these children four years after stopping the treatment to see if the effects lasted long-term.

"We found that most of the children who had gained initial tolerance following the treatment were still eating peanuts four years later," Tang said. "This is a major step forward in the way we might treat food allergy, as our findings suggest that tolerance is a realistic target to aim for when developing treatments for food allergy."

No other food allergy treatment in development has been shown to do this effectively in a large proportion of treated subjects, Tang points out.

In an accompanying editorial, Matthew Greenhawt of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of

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