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California sees high rate of flu deaths in unusually severe season

By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – An unusually severe flu season has claimed the lives of at least 147 young and middle-aged people in California – 10 times the number killed by influenza viruses by the same time last year, public health officials said on Friday. The California deaths were caused by a strain of the influenza virus that is sending sufferers across the nation to the doctor for flu-like symptoms at rates that are 50 percent higher than normal, said Lyn Finelli, head of the influenza surveillance and outbreak response team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That’s way above the norm for flu,” Finelli said. “It tells us we’re still in the middle of flu season, and in the Northeast and California it’s going up, up, up.” The flu strain responsible for the California deaths, H1N1, also predominates nationwide this year. Read More..

January 31st, 2014

California college to offer non-approved meningitis vaccine

By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – Students at a California public university where meningococcal disease broke out in the fall will be offered a vaccine not approved for use in the United States, public health officials said on Friday. The outbreak, which resulted in a student having his feet amputated, is similar to the one that struck eight students at Princeton University in New Jersey, where students won approval to use the same foreign vaccine in the fall. Bexsero, made by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG, is the only vaccine to protect against serotype B of the meningococcal bacteria, which can attack the nervous system as meningitis or cause a deadly blood condition. California health officials sought access to the vaccine for the Santa Barbara students in December amid renewed concern about meningococcal disease, which is highly contagious among people who live in close quarters, such as college students. Read More..

January 31st, 2014

Two Obamacare exchanges see more health insurer competition

U.S. President Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks on Obamacare at an Organizing for Action grassroots supporter event in WashingtonBy David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – At least two U.S. states running their own Obamacare health insurance exchanges expect new insurers to enter their marketplaces and bolster competition in 2015, officials said on Friday. Kynect, which is Kentucky's marketplace, and the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange have had separate talks about 2015 with health insurers that could opt to join the online marketplaces set up under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. Kentucky also expects an expansion of physician networks available within current plans. Increased competition would increase consumer choices and tend to put downward pressure on health insurance cost trends.

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January 31st, 2014

Bieber friend rapper Lil Za charged with drug possession

A friend of Justin Bieber’s has been charged with drug crimes in connection with a raid on the teen pop star’s home this month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said on Friday. Xavier Smith, 20, better known as rapper Lil Za, was charged with possession of MDMA and oxycodone and vandalizing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s jail where he was held, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the district attorney. Smith was arrested on January 14 during a Sheriff’s Department raid on Bieber’s home in Calabasas, about 30 miles northeast of Los Angeles. He is due to be arraigned in Los Angeles on February 4. Read More..

January 31st, 2014

White House acting fast on old crack sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder, speaks about the mandatory minimum policy at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 2013 annual legislative conference in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)President and AG Holder not waiting on Congress to grant clemency for some offenders.

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January 31st, 2014
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