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Children's Health

Enterovirus D68 outbreak documented in Georgia

The rare enterovirus that has caused a surge in emergency room visits nationally has been confirmed in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Monday that nine cases of enterovirus D68 have been identified in the state.

140px-US_CDC_logo.svg“There are additional specimens and more tests pending,’’ said Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for Public Health.

Enterovirus D68 has been linked to clusters of respiratory illness among children and teenagers in Kansas City and Chicago.

From mid-August to September 19, a total of 160 people in 22 states were confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by D68, the CDC says. full story

The sex hormone link in autism: New findings

A central fact about autism is that it’s much more prevalent among males than females.

Scientists of Georgia Regents University in Augusta say a sex hormone that helps protect females from stroke may also reduce their risk of autism.

The researchers have found that the expression of estrogen receptor beta is significantly decreased in autistic brains. The receptor also plays a role in locomotion as well as behavior, including anxiety, depression, memory and learning.

Dr. Anilkumar Pillai, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia at GRU and corresponding author of the study in Molecular Autism, says the findings about estrogen receptor beta as well as that of an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen could help explain the high testosterone levels in autistic individuals and higher autism rates in males.

Pillai says the study’s findings may possibly point toward a new treatment.

Here is a GHN video interview with Pillai, courtesy of Georgia Regents University.

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State health agency outlines spending increases

A state health agency is budgeting an extra $24 million this fiscal year, and a similar amount next year, to pay for costly hepatitis C drugs in Georgia’s Medicaid program.

clipboardThe state is also expected to pay $14.1 million more this year, and $37.9 million in fiscal 2016, for lengthening the time between eligibility reviews for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Those were among the financial projections made in a budget presentation Thursday for the board of the Georgia Department of Community Health, which runs the Medicaid and PeachCare programs in the state, as well as the state employee health plan. The presentation is the beginning of a long budgeting process for the agency.

The Community Health board approved the budget requests.

The hepatitis C drugs are considered breakthrough medications for patients. One drug, Sovaldi, has a 90 percent cure rate for newly infected patients — much better than previously available treatments for hepatitis C. full story

Board allows exemptions for bake sale fundraisers

In a decision that weighed federal school nutrition regulations against local districts’ efforts to raise funds, a state board has come down on the side of local autonomy.

John Barge

John Barge

By a 9-to-1 vote Thursday, the Georgia Board of Education approved giving schools a series of exemptions from a federal requirement that prohibits the sale of high-calorie, high-fat and high-sodium foods during fundraisers held during school hours.

The dispute had shaped up as a “bake sale battle” because calorie-laden sweets have long been staples of such fundraisers.

The board first heard testimony from opponents of the proposal to allow as many as 30 exemptions from the healthy food fundraiser policy – which could add up to a total of 90 days per school year.

The opponents gave passionate arguments against the proposed policy.

Marsi Thrash of the American Heart Association’s Georgia chapter said the exemption proposal “puts revenues over children’s health.” She noted that Georgia has a high rate of child obesity, and that obese children are more at risk of becoming obese adults. full story

Commentary: A life-or-death issue for children

On the last day of the 2014 General Assembly session, political differences blocked legislation on medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders.

Abe Hopkins

Abe Hopkins

The bill was introduced by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who was inspired by the plight of children with intractable seizures whose condition has been helped significantly by marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol oil.

In a new Commentary, Peake writes of the fate of Abe Hopkins, 6, who had a seizure disorder. “The Hopkins family worked to help pass the bill, and when it failed, they prayed that Abe would not have that final, fatal seizure before the next session in January 2015.’’ Peake says.

“Tragically, he did.”

Peake emphasizes the need for another legislative effort next year – and points out that a study committee on medical cannabis will be holding meetings in various locales over the next few weeks.

Here’s a link to his Commentary.


Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at




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