Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

First two Ebola cases confirmed in Congo's South Kivu: officials

A woman and her child were the first two cases confirmed with Ebola in Congo's South Kivu region this week, opening a new front in the fight against the outbreak. Health officials said on Friday that the latest cases were more than 700 km (430 miles) south of where the outbreak was first detected.

Surgical training programs not supportive of new parents

Surgical residents say it's tough to have children during their five years of intensive training due to a lack of flexibility in program requirements and lack of support from peers and faculty. Based on a survey of U.S. trainee surgeons, or residents, researchers conclude in JAMA Surgery that national and institutional changes in parental leave policies could help trainees start families sooner.

FDA proposes graphic warnings on cigarette packs, advertisements

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed that cigarette packs carry graphic new health warnings including pictures and text outlining lesser-known risks of smoking like bladder cancer and diabetes as well as lung cancer. The FDA said the proposed changes, which also drastically increase the size of the warnings, could be the most significant to cigarette labels in more than 35 years.

Furniture flame retardants may not stifle deadliest home fires

Targeting the flammability of smoking materials like cigarettes, pipes and cigars, rather than fireproofing all furniture with hazardous chemicals, may be a more effective way of reducing the most deadly residential fires, a U.S. study concludes. Although fires that start on furniture account for only 2.2% of residential fires, they carry significantly higher odds than others for injury and death, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health. And among these furniture fires, those ignited by smoking materials are 3.4 times more likely to be lethal than those caused by open flames like candles.

China says pig herd shrinks by 32% in July amid swine fever outbreak

China's pig herd shrank by 32.2% in July from the same month a year ago, its agriculture ministry said on Thursday, as African swine fever continues to spread through the country. The ministry also said the number of sows declined by 31.9% in July, a year after the nation reported its first outbreak of the disease, which is fatal to pigs but does not harm people.

Genetic study implicates humans in demise of prehistoric cave bear

Genetic research that reconstructed the past population dynamics of the cave bear, a prominent prehistoric denizen of Europe, implicates Homo sapiens rather than climate cooling in the Ice Age extinction of these brawny plant-loving beasts. Scientists said on Thursday they obtained genome data from 59 cave bears from bones unearthed at 14 sites in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland.

Roche's personalized cancer treatment wins FDA approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Roche Holding AG's personalized cancer treatment, which targets tumors with specific genetic mutations, irrespective of where in the body the disease started, the agency said on Thursday. The treatment, Rozlytrek, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets patients who must be identified via genetic profiling. It is approved to treat certain types of solid tumors, which show rare genetic anomalies called NTRK fusions.

Surgeons not good at predicting benefit from knee operations

Surgeons are no better at determining which patients might benefit from operations to treat torn knee cartilage than if they just flipped a coin, a new study suggests. Researchers surveyed 194 surgeons to see whether they would recommend surgery or exercise therapy in 20 test cases with middle-aged patients who had tears in the meniscus, the cartilage that works as a cushion between the shin and thigh bones.

Thailand to ban pig imports from Myanmar over African swine fever

Thailand will ban the import of pigs from Myanmar for 90 days, the country's livestock department told Reuters on Thursday, after the neighboring country confirmed its first case of the African swine fever this week. The ban, expected to start next week, would cover live pigs and wild boars as well as carcasses from Myanmar, to prevent the disease from spreading into Thailand.

Disparities in access to best stroke treatment

Less than 10% of U.S. stroke patients get a treatment that evidence shows is most effective for a certain type of stroke – and the odds are even lower for patients who are black and Hispanic, a U.S. study suggests. Researchers focused on patients with ischemic strokes, the most common kind, which occur when a clot blocks an artery carrying blood to the brain. Patients have the best survival odds and fewer lasting impairments when they quickly receive anti-clotting drugs and a procedure known as mechanical thrombectomy to remove the clot and open blocked vessels, restoring blood flow to the brain.