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Health officials identify 35 in measles exposure

Georgia health officials say they have identified 35 people – most of them children – as susceptible to getting measles from the infant who was hospitalized in Atlanta for the disease.

The baby arrived at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston with measles on Friday. Officials said the child left the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on a flight and eventually landed in Atlanta.

Children’s Healthcare said Tuesday evening that the infant has been discharged from the hospital.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston

Public health officials said they have contacted more than 200 people overall in the wake of the arrival of the infant.

Of the 35 considered susceptible to measles, a large number are children, said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection for the Department of Public Health. These people either have not been immunized against the measles or have compromised immune systems, he said Tuesday.   full story

DUI convictions down, but causes are debated

DUI convictions in Georgia have been dropping dramatically over a five-year period, state figures show.

There may be multiple reasons to account for the decline in convictions, experts say.

But they note that this decrease in convictions has coincided with an increase in the number of people refusing to take a field sobriety test.

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State Department of Driver Services figures, presented to state lawmakers last year, show the downward trend: 44,017 DUI convictions in 2008 falling to 32,514 in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Driver Services data show that the number of people refusing the sobriety test doubled, from 5,608 in 2008 to 11,480 in 2013.

Barry Martin, state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told GHN on Tuesday that many people arrested for DUI are being convicted on other charges.

If a person refuses to be tested, he said, “it’s a lot harder to be convicted’’ of DUI in many jurisdictions. full story

Study: Decline in deaths for some preterm babies

Death rates for extremely premature infants decreased from 2000 to 2011, according to a newly published national study.

The decline “was largely due to fewer babies dying from breathing complications of prematurity,’’ said Dr. Ravi Mangal Patel, lead author of the study, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Patel, in this GHN video, discusses the reasons for the decrease in mortality for these infants, and about prematurity in general, which is still a leading contributor to newborn deaths in the United States.

The study results are published in the Jan. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The video was produced by Emory University.

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State gets poor grades on fight against smoking

An American Lung Association report released Wednesday gives Georgia failing grades on curbing tobacco use.

Georgia had plenty of company with the bad grades. Most other states also received an “F” on three measures: spending on tobacco prevention and control; smoking cessation programs; and tobacco taxes.

header-logoThe Lung Association has called for an increase of $1.25 in Georgia’s state cigarette tax, a move that would raise an estimated $350 million.

Georgia currently has the third-lowest state cigarette tax in the nation at 37 cents per pack. The average nationally is $1.54, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“A significant increase in the price of cigarettes reduces smoking rates,” said June Deen of the American Lung Association in Georgia. “The increased price is additional incentive for those trying to quit and deters kids who may pick up the habit.”

Raising the tax “can provide a consistent source of new revenue for critical state issues,” she added.

Georgia did earn a “C’’ on one of the four Lung Association measures: “smoke-free air.’’ The report notes that government buildings, day care centers and schools in Georgia prohibit smoking. And smoking is restricted in private workplaces, restaurants, bars and retail stores. full story

Bill would tighten state’s elder abuse law

Georgia legislators hope to close some loopholes in the state’s elder abuse law with a bill that would boost law enforcement tools in fighting these crimes.

Rep. Wendell Willard

Rep. Wendell Willard

State Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) told reporters Friday that House Bill 72 aims to build on legislation passed in 2013 to protect the state’s elderly and disabled adults from abuse and financial exploitation.

“We are on the leading edge’’ in fighting elder abuse, said Willard, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

State lawmakers and law enforcement officials recently have focused more attention on personal care homes that are unlicensed.

Georgia has about 1,800 licensed personal care homes, which provide food, lodging and some personal care services. Residents of these facilities include seniors and people with mental illnesses and disabilities.

The number of complaints about unlicensed facilities in Georgia rose from 253 in fiscal year 2013 to 293 in fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, lawmakers were told last year. Operators of these facilities often move residents to different locations to escape detection. full story

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