Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2014

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

Spanish Priest With Ebola in Stable Condition

A 75-year-old Spanish priest infected with the Ebola virus was reported in stable condition in a Madrid hospital after being airlifted from Liberia in West Africa on Thursday morning.

Father Miguel Pajares was "a little disoriented" and feverish, but wasn't bleeding, according to Rafael Santamara, a Spanish medical official, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The priest flew to Spain on an air force jet. In order to avoid exposure to the deadly Ebola virus, health care workers transporting Father Pajares wore protective body suits and carried the patient in a sealed-off bubble stretcher.

After landing in Spain, the priest was taken from the air force base to the hospital in a convoy of medical and police vehicles, WSJ reported.


VA Health Care Reform Bill Signed into Law

A bill signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama is meant to provide veterans with easier access to government-paid health care.

Under the $16.3 billion measure, the Veterans Affairs Department will be able to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health care providers at nearly 1,000 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics nationwide, the Associated Press reported.

The new law -- passed by Congress last week -- also makes it easier to fire senior VA officials who perform poorly or found to be negligent.

The legislation is the federal government's most significant response so far to outrage triggered by reports that veterans were dying while faced with long wait times to see VA doctors, and that employees covered up those long waits, the AP reported.

At the signing ceremony, Obama pledged further reforms to ensure veterans receive proper care.

"This will not and cannot be the end of our effort," he said. "We have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with the new demands."


Peanut Plant 'Not Fit' to Produce Food: FDA Inspector

A Georgia peanut plant linked to a 2008-09 salmonella outbreak that sickened 714 people in 46 states and killed nine was not "not fit" to produce food for people, a federal government food safety inspector says.

The Food and Drug Administration's Janet Gray made the comment Wednesday while testifying at the trial of Peanut Corp.'s former owner and two other company officials, the Associated Press reported.

The salmonella outbreak was traced to peanut butter produced at the company's plant in rural Blakely, Georgia. Gray's inspection of the facility revealed that a peanut roaster was not hot enough to kill bacteria and that the company failed to clean production equipment of possible contaminants.

"I felt the firm was not fit to produce products for human consumption," Gray told U.S. District Court jurors, the AP reported.

The plant was shut down after the outbreak and Peanut Corp. later went bankrupt. The defendants are company owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and food broker Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson, the plant's quality assurance manager.

Criminal prosecutions in food poisoning outbreaks are rare. The jurors in this case began hearing testimony last Friday and the judge has said it could take prosecutors up to eight weeks to present their case, the AP reported.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

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