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Health Highlights: June 11, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

CDC Calls Emergency Meeting on Heart Inflammation Link to COVID Vaccines

An emergency meeting will be held June 18 to discuss rare reports of heart inflammation in people who've received the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The agency said it's identified 226 reports so far that may meet its "working case definition" of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccinations. Most of those patients have recovered, but three remain in intensive care, 15 are still hospitalized and 41 have ongoing symptoms, CBS News reported.

The CDC is analyzing the cases in advance of the meeting, and also plans to assess the overall risk of heart inflammation caused by COVID-19, according to Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a CDC vaccine safety official.

The 226 known cases remain extremely rare, having occurred among nearly 130 million Americans who've been fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, CBS News reported.

Shimabukuro noted that "these are preliminary reports. Not all these will turn out to be true myocarditis or pericarditis reports."

He said the CDC's findings were mostly "consistent" with rare cases of heart inflammation investigated in Israel and cited by the U.S. Department of Defense earlier this year, CBS News reported.

Previously, the CDC said heart inflammation occurred mostly in younger men and teen boys after their second dose, with a "higher number of observed than expected" cases in people ages 16 to 24, and instructed health care providers to ask patients with symptoms of heart inflammation if they'd received a COVID-19 vaccine.

CDC Issues Alert About RSV Spread in Southern U.S.

The southern part of the United States is seeing an unusual late spring wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections and health care providers should be on alert, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday.

The virus is spread via small droplets and contaminated surfaces. It's most common in fall and winter, but cases fell sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no specific treatment for it, CNN reported.

The recent spread of the virus has occurred in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

"Due to this increased activity, CDC encourages broader testing for RSV among patients presenting with acute respiratory illness who test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC alert advised.

"RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age in the United States. Infants, young children, and older adults with chronic medical conditions are at risk of severe disease from RSV infection," the agency said. "Each year in the United States, RSV leads to on average approximately 58,000 hospitalizations with 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths among adults aged 65 years or older."

The CDC also warned that due "to reduced circulation of RSV during the winter months of 2020-2021, older infants and toddlers might now be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they have likely not had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months," CNN reported.

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