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Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Gout Drug Uloric Increases Risk of Death: FDA

The gout medicine Uloric (febuxostat) carries a higher risk of death than another gout medicine called allopurinol, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said its in-depth review of results from a safety clinical trial found that Uloric was associated with an increased risk of heart-related death and death from all causes.

Due to these findings, the FDA said it's updating Uloric prescribing information to require a Boxed Warning -- the most prominent warning -- and a new patient Medication Guide.

The agency is also limiting the use of Uloric to certain patients who are do not get effective results or suffer severe side effects when taking allopurinol.

The FDA approved Uloric in 2009 to treat adults with gout, a chronic disease that affects about 8.3 million U.S. adults. Only a few medicines are available to treat gout.

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when happens when uric acid builds up and triggers redness, swelling, and pain in one or more joints. Uloric lowers uric acid levels in the blood.


Japan Faces Worst Measles Outbreak in Years

Japan is battling its worst measles outbreak in years.

As of Feb. 10, a total of 167 cases have been reported in 20 of Japan's 47 prefectures, with the largest outbreaks in prefectures of Mie and Osaka, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Nearly all of the 49 reported patients in Mie Prefecture have links to Miroku Community Kyusei Shinkyo, a religious group that advocates for alternative healing, The New York Times reported.

This is the fastest that Japan has reached this many measles cases at the beginning of a year since 2008.

The United States is also dealing with measles outbreaks in Texas, New York and Washington. There have been more than 120 cases reported in those states so far, The Times reported.


Eight More U.S. Communities to be Assessed for PFAS Toxin Exposure

Eight additional communities near current or former U.S. military installations that will be included in assessments of human exposure to chemicals called per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were announced Thursday by federal officials.

The assessments, expected to begin this year and continue through 2020, will lay the groundwork for a future study examining the health effects of PFAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Some studies have suggested that PFAS pose a number of health risks, including: affecting the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children; lowering a woman's chance of getting pregnant; interfering with the body's natural hormones; increasing cholesterol levels; affecting the immune system; and increasing the risk of cancer.

The communities of Bucks and Montgomery County, Pa. and Westhampton, N.Y. were chosen for a pilot project of PFAS exposure assessment.

The additional communities selected for assessments are: Berkeley County, West Virginia, near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base; El Paso County, Colorado, near Peterson Air Force Base; Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, near Eielson Air Force Base; Hampden County, Mass., near Barnes Air National Guard Base; Lubbock County, Texas, near Reese Technology Center; Orange County, N.Y., near Stewart Air National Guard Base; New Castle County, Delaware, near New Castle Air National Guard Base; and Spokane County, Washington, near Fairchild Air Force Base.

Since the 1950s, PFAS have been used in industry and consumer products such as non-stick cookware; water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets; some cosmetics; some firefighting foams; and products that resist grease, water, and oil.

The main goal of the exposure assessments is to provide information to communities about levels of PFAS in their bodies. The results of these assessments will help communities better understand the extent of their environmental exposures to PFAS, officials said.

People in the selected communities will be randomly chosen to participate in the assessments. Blood and urine samples will be used to check participants' PFAS levels.

"The assessments will generate information about exposure to PFAS in affected communities and will extend beyond the communities identified, as the lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health," Patrick Breysse, director, CDC's National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in an agency news release.

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