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Health Highlights, Dec. 8, 2020

By Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster HealthDay Reporters

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the Healthday staff:

U.K. Starts Coronavirus Vaccinations

The world's first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were given Tuesday in the U.K., with the first shot given to grandmother Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week.

Keenan said she felt "so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," CBS News reported.

The initial phase of U.K. vaccinations will be conducted at a network of hospital hubs, with those at highest risk -- people over 80 who are either hospitalized or already have outpatient appointments scheduled and nursing home workers -- being given priority for the first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Most people will have to wait until next year to receive their free vaccination, CBS News reported.

Mystery Illness Strike Hundreds in India

More than 300 people in India were hospitalized with a "mystery illness" over the weekend, and there was one death.

The patients in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh had symptoms similar to those associated with epilepsy, including headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures, CBS News reported.

Dozens of people in Eluru city started falling ill on Saturday night, with some losing consciousness. By Monday morning, 315 people with the unexplained illness were in a local hospital. None of them tested positive for COVID-19.

More than 150 of the patients were released after treatment, CBS News reported.

Blood tests, brain scans or cerebral spinal fluid tests have not revealed the cause of the illness, and doctors were still waiting on some blood cultures and tests to check for E. coli bacteria.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the illness might be infectious. Leading health experts from across India were expected to arrive in Eluru this week to help investigate the illness, CBS News reported.

California Introduces Smartphone Coronavirus Exposure Alert Tool

A smartphone tool to alert people of possible coronavirus exposure will become available in California on Thursday.

Officials said the voluntary tool uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of each other for at least 15 minutes, the Associated Press reported.

If a user tests positive for the new coronavirus, they'll receive a verification code they can use to send an anonymous alert to other users who may have been exposed over the past 14 days.

The tool's introduction comes as California's coronavirus cases soar and new restrictions are imposed, the AP reported.

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