DEA tracked every opioid pill sold in the US. The data is out—and it’s horrific

DEA tracked every opioid pill sold in the US. The data is out—and it’s horrific

Enlarge / Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters hold signs while protesting during the McKesson Corp. annual meeting at the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas, US, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.

As the epidemic surged over the seven-year period, so did the supply. The companies increased distribution from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012, a jump of roughly 50%. In all, the deluge of pills was enough to supply every adult and child in the country with around 36 opioid pills per year. Just a 10-day supply can hook 1 in 5 people into being long-term users,

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Mysterious illness that paralyzes healthy kids prompts plea from CDC

Mysterious illness that paralyzes healthy kids prompts plea from CDC

Enlarge / 13-year-old boy recovering in a Denver hospital from a suspected case of human enterovirus 68 during a 2014 outbreak. (credit: Getty | Cyrus McCrimmon)

After a record number of cases in 2018 of a rare, puzzling illness that causes paralysis in otherwise healthy kids, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging doctors to hasten reporting and boost data collection before the next big wave of illness hits—which is expected in 2020.

The illness is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and is marked by the sudden onset of limb weakness (usually upper limb), paralysis, and spinal lesions seen on MRI scans. It most often occurs in children. It’s unclear what causes it and why instances are increasing—though officials suspect that a relative of poliovirus is involved. There is no specific treatment, and doctors can’t predict how affected patients will fare; some regain

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Antivaxxers turn to homeschooling to avoid protecting their kids’ health

Antivaxxers turn to homeschooling to avoid protecting their kids’ health

Enlarge / A boy at school. (credit: Getty | Florian Gaertner )

Anti-vaccine advocates in New York are encouraging parents to homeschool their children rather than protect them from serious diseases, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.

The move by New York anti-vaccine groups comes just weeks after state lawmakers eliminated exemptions that allowed parents to opt their children out of standard school vaccination requirements on the basis of religious beliefs. Very few religions actually have objections to vaccinations, and the ones that do tend to have relatively few followers. But many parents who reject vaccines based on falsehoods and misinformation about their safety have claimed religious objections as a way to dodge immunization requirements.

As cases of measles in the United States have exploded in recent years—largely due to a small but loud band of anti-vaccine advocates misinforming parents—states are now cracking down on non-medical

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Hard-to-kill poop parasites that lurk in swimming pools on the rise, CDC warns

Hard-to-kill poop parasites that lurk in swimming pools on the rise, CDC warns

Enlarge / What’s going on in that swim diaper? (credit: Getty | BSIP)

Whatever you do this summer, don’t drink the pool water.

Outbreaks of the gastrointestinal parasite cryptosporidium have been spurting upward since 2009, with the number of outbreaks gushing up an average of 13% each year, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The germ spreads via the fecal-oral route and causes explosive, watery diarrhea that can last for up to three weeks. Most victims pick up the infection from recreational waters, such as swimming pools and water parks.

The main trouble is that crypto is extremely tolerant of chlorine and can happily stay afloat in well-treated pools for more than seven days. Thus, sick swimmers are the main source of infection—often young children who have yet to master toilet skills and also have more of a tendency to gulp pool water. An

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Deadly, drug-resistant fungus drips off its victims to spread to others

Deadly, drug-resistant fungus drips off its victims to spread to others

Enlarge / The director of the German National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungus Infections holding a petri dish of the yeast Candida auris in January 2018. (credit: Getty | Nicolas Armer)

Patients infected with a deadly, drug-resistant fungus are dripping with the dangerous germ, which pours into their surroundings where it lies in wait for weeks to find a new victim. That’s according to fresh data reported from the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology recently in San Francisco.

The data fills in critical unknowns about how the fungus, Candida auris, actually spreads. The germ is a relatively new threat, considered an emerging pathogen by experts—and it’s emerging quickly with an unusual ability to lurk and kill in healthcare settings.

It was first identified in 2009 in Japan. Studies since have tracked the globetrotting fungus backward and forward in time, from South Korea in 1996 to

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Hawaii warns tourists of parasitic worm that can burrow into human brains

Hawaii warns tourists of parasitic worm that can burrow into human brains

Enlarge / Male Angiostrongylus cantonensis (credit: Punlop Anusonpornperm)

Hawaii’s health department has released fresh warnings about a parasitic worm that can infest human brains after officials confirmed that three more visitors to the state picked up the infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three new cases in unrelated adults visiting Hawaii Island from the US mainland, the health department announced. The latest known victims—who became infected at different times—bring the state’s 2018 case total to 10 and the 2019 total to five.

While there were 17 confirmed cases in 2017, the state counted only two cases total in the prior decade. The new case counts indicate a sustained boom in the parasite’s population and spread.

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Andrew Wakefield, others hold anti-vaccine rally amid raging measles outbreaks

Andrew Wakefield, others hold anti-vaccine rally amid raging measles outbreaks

Enlarge / Andrew Wakefield, disgraced former doctor found to have committed fraudulent research. (credit: Getty | Peter Macdiarmid)

Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, and other prominent anti-vaccine advocates unleashed fear and toxic misinformation last night at a well-attended symposium in New York’s Rockland County. The area is currently grappling with one of the largest and longest-standing measles outbreaks in the country, mainly in its tight-knit, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The Monday, May 13 event was reportedly promoted by targeted robocalls and billed as being a “highly informative night of science and discussion addressing your concerns, fears, and doubts.” But according to reporters who attended the event, the speakers made numerous unsubstantiated and egregiously false claims—as usual. In one instance, Brooklyn Orthodox Rabbi William Handler reportedly made the unsubstantiated claim that getting measles, mumps, and chickenpox reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke by 60 percent. He

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What to know about measles in the US as case count breaks record

What to know about measles in the US as case count breaks record

Enlarge / A young child, seated in a bed in a clinical setting, who had presented with an extensive rash, which had developed due to a measles infection. The image was captured on day-3 of the rash, which is usually when the rash manifests, beginning on the face, then adopting a more generalized distribution. (credit: CDC)

This year’s tally of measles cases is now the largest seen this century—and it’s only April. As several outbreaks continue to rage around the country with no end in sight, officials fear the disease will once again take root, undoing a public health triumph that was decades in the making.

As of 3pm on Wednesday, April 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 695 measles cases across 22 states. That is the highest number of measles cases since the milestone date of 2000, when health officials declared measles eliminated (meaning

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