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Health Highlights: Nov. 30, 2018

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

Congo Ebola Outbreak Now 2nd Largest in History: WHO

The Ebola outbreak in Congo is now the second largest in history, the World Health Organization says.

The country's health ministry says the number of cases has reached 426, including 379 confirmed cases and 47 probable ones. There have been 198 confirmed deaths and 47 probable ones, the Associated Press reported.

The outbreak of the deadly disease was declared on Aug. 1 and WHO's emergencies chief, Dr. Peter Salama, previously predicted that it would last at least another six months before it can be contained.

The deadliest Ebola outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, the AP reported.

Efforts to fight the Congo outbreak have been hampered by a number of problems, including hostility from local residents and attacks by rebel groups.

Ebola vaccinations have been given to more than 37,000 people, and the first-ever trial to test the effectiveness and safety of four experimental Ebola drugs has been launched in the country, the AP reported.


President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Will be Extended

Legislation to extend the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is expected to be signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation to extend for five years the 15-year-old program. The House passed an identical measure in mid-November, the Associated Press reported.

Since PEPFAR began in 2003, the U.S. has spent more than $80 billion to prevent HIV infection and deliver life-saving treatment to millions of at-risk people around the world, mostly in Africa, Pence said Thursday at a White House event marking World AIDS Day on Saturday.

The program has saved more than 17 million lives and helped keep millions more from contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the AP reported.

As of September, nearly 15 million people were receiving treatment under the program, according to Pence.

He also announced $100 million in funding for religious groups fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.


China Stops Work on Gene-Edited Babies

The work of a research team that claimed to have produced the world's first gene-edited babies is illegal and has been halted, the Chinese government said Thursday.

An investigation has been ordered into the research that led to the birth of twin girls earlier this month, Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping told state broadcaster CCTV, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, He Jiankui claimed to have altered the DNA of the twins to try to make them resistant to infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS virus.

The research "crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community and was shocking and unacceptable," Xu said.

There has been wide condemnation of the unproven claim by He, who appeared this week at an international conference on gene editing in Hong Kong.

In a statement released Thursday, the 14 leaders of the conference said it's irresponsible to attempt gene editing on eggs, sperm or embryos, except in lab research, because not enough is known yet about its risks or safety, the AP reported.

The conference leaders also called for independent confirmation of He's claim.

He was scheduled to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but has left Hong Kong. Through a spokesman, He issued a statement saying: "I will remain in China, my home country, and cooperate fully with all inquiries about my work. My raw data will be made available for third party review," the AP reported.

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