CDC Alerts Health Workers About the ‘Remote Possibility’ of Ebola Spreading to U.S.

With the Ebola death toll exceeding 670 in West Africa, concerns mount internationally. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk of Ebola spreading to the U.S. is low, but it issued a Level 2 health alert, advising health workers to be vigilant. The largest outbreak of the Ebola virus on record has spread across the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since being detected in March. Two Americans working in Liberia were diagnosed last week, raising fears the virus could be spread to the U.S. by those traveling from the region. The CDC played down the possibility. “The likelihood of this outbreak spreading outside of West Africa is low,” said an agency official. Still, he added, “the CDC has to be prepared for the remote possibility.” The alert advised doctors to check patients’ travel histories to identify those who might have recently traveled to West Africa. The Washington Post

EPA adopts plan to curtail largest coal-fired power plant in the West. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the owners of the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., could either shut down one of the plant’s 750-megawatt units or reduce power generation overall by one-third by 2020. The owners would have until 2030 to install pollution controls that would cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by 80 percent, and could close in 2044, unless the Navajo Nation opts to take over the operation. The plan is intended to improve visibility at Grand Canyon National Park and 10 other national parks and wilderness areas that have suffered from haze caused by nitrogen oxide emissions. It represents a compromise that will reduce pollution more than originally anticipated, but much of the cleanup will be delayed for many years. The Associated Press, Arizona Daily Star

Physicians alarmed by appellate court ruling on “docs vs. glocks” law. Friday’s 2-1 decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a Florida law that discourages doctors from asking patients about gun ownership. The ruling reversed a U.S. judge who struck down the law in 2012, saying the statute infringed on doctors’ free-speech rights. The appeals court last week found that the main purpose of the law, signed in 2011, isn’t to regulate speech, but to improve the quality of medical care. The law, the court said, doesn’t ban doctors from asking patients about guns, but only cautions against it “when doing so would be irrelevant to patients’ medical care.” Gun-control groups and doctors expressed concerns about the law inhibiting what physicians can discuss with patients. “Counseling the patients we care for helps prevent gun-related injuries and deaths,” the American Medical Association’s president said in a news release. The Wall Street Journal, Orlando Sentinel

Drug research firms recruit the ill, poor and homeless to be volunteer test subjects. Many volunteers in drug trials are destitute and are drawn by the pay. Not long ago, paying any volunteer was seen as problematic, even more so if the subjects were poor, uninsured, and compromised by illness. Payment, it was argued, might tempt vulnerable subjects to risk their health. As trials have moved into the private sector, this ethical calculus has changed. First came a hike in the sums that volunteers could be paid: Many clinical trial sites now offer over $6,000 for an inpatient drug study. Eligibility requirements have changed, too. For years, trial sites paid only healthy volunteers, mainly to test new drugs for safety. These days people with asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and other conditions can be paid to take part in trials. Matter

Pennsylvania’s manure management rules date to the 1970s, but many small farmers are unaware of the restrictions. Often these small farmers fail to prevent manure, soil, and commercial fertilizers from leaching into streams and groundwater, leaving bodies of water throughout the state vulnerable to agricultural pollution. A state spokeswoman said manure management plans are required, but admitted little is done to enforce them. State officials don’t collect the plans, track how many farms actually have plans or inspect farms regularly. In Pennsylvania, nearly 5,705 miles of polluted streams and rivers are linked to agricultural pollution, making farming the most widespread pollution source in the state. Similarly, as FairWarning has reported, a major pollution threat nationally is posed by factory farms that have taken over more and more of U.S. livestock production. The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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