Health Highlights: Feb. 7, 2020

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

Chinese Doctor Who Was Among First to Warn About Coronavirus Dies From the Virus

The Chinese doctor who was silenced by authorities when he was one of the first to sound the alarm about the coronavirus has died from the virus, according to the hospital where he was being treated.

Li Wenliang died early Friday morning, according to the Wuhan City Central Hospital, The New York Times reported.

“We deeply regret and mourn this,” the hospital said on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

In a Feb. 1 story, the Times described Li’s efforts to raise concerns about a cluster of illnesses that were similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which ravaged China and spread to other countries nearly two decades ago.

The article also revealed Li’s summons by upset health officials.

“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” Li told The Times. “I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”

Li’s death is a sensitive issue for the Chinese government, according to the Times.

As authorities struggle to deal with the epidemic, they’ve attempted to muffle widespread criticism that they mismanaged their response to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in Hubei Province.

Censorship in China has increased in recent days following a flood of online criticism and stories by Chinese journalists exposing the mistakes that caused the government to underestimate the threat of the coronavirus, the Times reported.


Plant Therapy May Lower Workers’ Stress

Gazing at a plant at work could help ease your job-related stress, a new study suggests.

It found that looking at a plant for a few minutes and taking care of it led to slight drops in high levels of anxiety among workers at an electric company in Japan, and decreased resting heart rate in another 27% of employees, CNN reported.

The study was published in the HortTechnology journal.

The findings suggest that encouraging workers to take three minute “nature breaks” could improve their mental health, according to study author Masahiro Toyoda, a professor and horticultural therapy specialist at the University of Hyogo, CNN reported.


U.S. Flavored E-Cigarette Products Ban Will Have Little Effect: Experts

The U.S. ban on certain flavored e-cigarette products that takes effect Thursday will do little to stem teens’ use of nicotine, experts say.

Youth-friendly flavors such as mint and fruit are targeted by the ban, but menthol and tobacco flavors will still be legal. And the ban applies only to cartridge or pre-filled pod devices. All other devices will still be on the market, NBC News reported.

That includes highly concentrated, refillable nicotine vape products called Smok and Suorin Drops, and disposable vape pods called Puff Bars.

“I’m not very optimistic,” Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor at Stanford University who studies teen vaping, told NBC News. “We really do need to have enforcement of the law across all tobacco products, regardless of these loopholes.”

“The new policy does not solve the problem,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told NBC News. “Millions of flavored products will remain available.”


WHO Seeks $675 Million for Coronavirus Fight

The World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking $675 million to help countries deal with the expected spread of the new coronavirus that originated in China.

That’s a large amount, but is “much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Associated Press reported.

In the last 24 hours, WHO has recorded the largest increase in cases since the start of the epidemic, according to Tedros.

He also downplayed published comments by a WHO coronavirus emergency committee member who called China’s initial response to the outbreak “reprehensible” and said that cases were reported too slowly.

“I don’t think it helps now,” to speculate about early mistakes in the epidemic, Tedros said, the AP reported. “Let’s take the action we can take today to prevent this outbreak from spreading all over the world.”

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