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Health Highlights: Jan. 11, 2019

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

U.S. Fertility Rate Drops to 30-Year Low

The United States' fertility rate dropped to a 30-year low in 2017, a federal government report says.

The rate was 16 percent below the level that's needed for the U.S. population to replace itself. Only two states -- South Dakota and Utah -- had fertility rates above replacement levels, ABC News reported.

There was a 57 percent difference between the highest fertility rate (South Dakota) and the lowest (Washington, D.C.), according to the National Vital Statistics report released Thursday.

National fertility rates have been declining and women generally have their first child at an older age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ABC News reported.


'Netflix Model' to be Used to Pay for Hepatitis Drugs in Louisiana

A so-called "Netflix model" will be used to pay for costly hepatitis C treatments in Louisiana, state officials say.

They claim the approach could significantly boost the number of people who can be cured of the liver disease, and that it could provide a model for other states, the Washington Post reported.

Instead of individual payments for each hepatitis C drug prescription, the state would basically pay a subscription fee to a drug company, giving the state unlimited access to hepatitis C medication.

The approach is similar to consumers paying a monthly fee to stream unlimited movies and TV shows, the Post reported.

"I've had conversations with a number of governors to make sure they're aware of what we're doing -- and if and when we're successful, we're going to have something worthy of emulation and replication around the country," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said.


Gastro Illness Strikes 277 on Cruise Ship

The Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship is cutting short a voyage after 277 passengers and crew members came down with gastrointestinal illness, the cruise line says.

The ship will return to Port Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, a day earlier than scheduled, CNN reported.

The ship left Sunday for a planned seven-night cruise that included planned stops in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

"All of the ship's guests will receive full refunds of their cruise fare paid," according to Owen Torres, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, CNN reported. "We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health."

Cruise line officials said lab tests are being conducted to determine if the outbreak was caused by norovirus, the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S.

There were 11 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruise ships in 2018, and five were caused by norovirus, CNN reported.


Doctors Question State Lawsuits Over Pelvic Mesh Products

State lawsuits over pelvic mesh products could scare women away from the products or even get them removed from the market, a group of doctors say.

The products, used to treat pelvic floor disorders and incontinence, are the subjects of lawsuits by Washington, California, Kentucky and Mississippi. The states claim that Johnson & Johnson did not fully disclose safety risks, the Associated Press reported.

But some doctors who specialize in female pelvic medicine oppose the lawsuits.

In Washington, 63 surgeons signed a letter to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson saying the lawsuit is misguided, the AP reported.

"We have served on national and regional medical societies in women's health," wrote Dr. Jeffrey Clemons, a pelvic reconstructive surgeon in Tacoma. "It is astonishing to us that the AG is proceeding with this lawsuit without first availing themselves of the significant experience and expertise of this group."

Doctors in California are drafting a similar letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The president of the American Urogynecologic Society, which has 1,900 members, has issued a statement expressing similar concerns about the lawsuits, the AP reported.

Pelvic mesh products became available in the U.S. in the late 1990s and have been used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. But in 2008 and 2011, the Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about serious complications with pelvic mesh products used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, including permanent incontinence, severe discomfort and an inability to have sex.

Most of the pelvic mesh products for organ prolapse have been taken off the market in the U.S., the AP reported.

Johnson & Johnson and other companies face liability claims from tens of thousands of women over the products.

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