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American Doctor in Liberia Tests Positive for Ebola

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- An American doctor working with an international relief organization in Liberia tested positive for the Ebola virus.

Dr. Kent Brantly had been working as the medical director for Samaritan's Purse, an organization working to provide aid to those affected by the spread of Ebola. Brantly is undergoing treatment in an isolation center and was reported to be sitting up in his isolated hospital bed and working on his computer after he contracted the deadly virus this week.

Samaritan's Purse released a statement saying that it was "committed to doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly during this time of crisis."

Later on Sunday, the organization announced another American contracted the disease. Nancy Writebol is employed by SIM in Liberia and was helping the joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse team that is treating Ebola patients at the Case Management Center in Monrovia.

SIM manages ELWA Hospital in Morovia, and the two organizations have been working closely to combat Ebola since the current outbreak began in Liberia in March.

Writebol is married with two children.

Also on Sunday, the disease took the life of a high-profile African doctor, Samuel Brisbane.

Ebola, a contagious and deadly disease, is spreading in part because of trade across the borders of three countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, health officials said. The World Health Organization reported at least 930 cases of Ebola in the three countries, with the virus causing over 580 deaths.

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Can a Jolting Wearable-Fitness Tracker Get You to Work Out?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  If you need a little incentive to get up off the couch, a new wearable device could give you just the jolt you need to get you to the gym.

The Pavlok device isn't on the market just yet, but its creator Maneesh Sethi said the device will have features to incentivize working out -- including a small zap for when you miss a workout.

While Sethi says the device will encourage people in a way normal fitness trackers can't, some workout professionals are apprehensive at the idea of having a painful incentive forcing people to work out.

However, Sethi stresses that the device is programmed by the user and the incentives are incrementally built. First a user will get a subtle vibration as a reminder to head to the gym. If the user still doesn't go, the alert turns into a loud beep.

Finally if the user doesn't make it to their pre-programmed workout at the gym, running trial, etc., then there is the option to get a nice sized shock, ranging from 30 to 340 volts, according to Sethi.

"It's nothing that's going to hurt you," Sethi said. "It's not pleasant but that's the point, to break you of these bad habits."

Sethi also said that because users can program the device, they set all the rules. If they just want a reminder, they can set the device to vibrate. They can also specify how often they plan to go to the gym or other workout center.

The device will also go past just workouts. If people want to set it up to keep them off the Internet, they can have their Pavlok monitor their time online.

For the hardcore users, Sethi said they can pre-program a Facebook message that tells their friends when they missed the gym and allow the friends to send in shocks of encouragement.

At least some workout professionals are concerned about the device or others like it. Jessica Smith, a wellness coach and fitness instructor who contributes to SHAPE magazine, said she found a shocking device as a "bullying" approach to fitness.

"As a wellness coach I've seen the best long-term success with health and weight loss come when clients initiate healthy lifestyle changes themselves, not because a mean boot camp instructor, spouse (or, in this case, a shocking wristband) made them do it," Smith told ABC News.

But Sethi said the Pavlok has some carrots and is not "all sticks." The Pavlok company is working on creating an online component, where users could win points for going to the gym (and lose them for missing a workout). If they get enough points, Sethi said, they could get gift cards or other rewards.

"It's really about the habits," Sethi said. "It's making your brain automatically do what it should be doing."

The Pavlok device will be available to pre-order later this year.

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Boy Battling Cancer Turns Six with 'Close to 100,000' Birthday Cards

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Danny Nickerson celebrated his 6th birthday with the one birthday present he had been hoping for: tens of thousands of birthday cards.

The 6-year-old is fighting an inoperable brain tumor and his mother made an appeal on social media to have strangers send him cards. On Friday, Danny visited the post office where close to 100,000 cards had been sent, according to a Facebook post from Danny's mother Carley Nickerson.

There were so many boxes, Danny was able to climb and play on boxes upon boxes of cards.

But Danny's birthday wasn't all about the cards. Earlier in the day, the family went to Legoland before meeting the owner of the New England Patriots, Bob Kraft, who gave Danny birthday presents.

The Massachusetts boy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma in October, one of the most chemotherapy-resistant cancers. Danny has since stopped going to kindergarten.

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American Red Cross Issues Urgent Call for Blood Donations

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Red Cross issued a call for blood donations this week, saying that donations are down eight percent in the last 11 weeks, creating thee risk of a shortfall of blood.

The Red Cross says that because Independence Day fell on a Friday, many sponsors did not host blood drives in early July, as people took long weekends off. An average summer week features about 4,400 Red Cross blood drives, compared to just 3,450 on the week of Independence Day this year.

In particular, the Red Cross says donors with blood types O negative, B negative and A negative are "especially needed."

Since May, the organization has received 80,000 fewer donations than expected. As donations continue to decline, the Red Cross is concerned that it could experience an "emergency situation" within weeks.

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Playing Hard to Get May Not Work for Women, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to dating, some may tell women play it coy, but new research shows that more responsive females are successful in the mating game.

In a report published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers simulated an early dating experience with two strangers.

A man and woman sat in the same room together, during which half the time the male would discuss a negative event from the day before and the female was told to respond in her normal behavior. The other half of the time, researchers reversed the roles.

Participants were also asked to complete a survey on their partners receptiveness, how well they were categorized into gender norms, and their level of attraction.

The study found that men perceived more receptive women as more feminine and attractive, and that the same individuals would make better long-term mates.

Women, however, did not care as much about how receptive their partners were.

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Daughter, Terminally Ill Dad, Hold Early Walk Down the Aisle

iStock/Thinkstock(KINGSTON, Tenn.) -- It was a day she'll never forget, her dad dressed in a sharp black suit accented with bright pink bowtie -- her favorite color -- hooked arm in arm as they slowly and steadily make their way down the homemade aisle placed perfectly in the backyard of the Kingston, Tennessee, home she's lived in since the day she was born.

"We had an arch and a preacher who came and spoke some of his really sweet words," Whitney Moore, 20, told ABC News of the touching ceremony she and her father held with their family on June 14.

The occasion was so sentimental to Whitney's father, David Moore, not because he was giving his away his daughter's hand in marriage, rather, it was simply so this loving dad could walk his beautiful baby girl down the aisle, to share, relish in and celebrate this momentous occasion with her, before he leaves this world.

Moore, 68, has terminal liver cancer. Diagnosed last October, he's only expected to have a handful of months left, exactly the reason Whitney wants to cherish every moment.

"I hope that that people look at this and are inspired," she told ABC News. "If they're as close with their daddies as I am, this is something they should do. I'm a true Christian believer and I have so much faith and I believe everything happens for a reason. For this to happen, yes it's devastating news and I've questioned it and I've also gotten mad, but it's truly opened my eyes to a lot of things."

Whitney has always spent quality time with her father, but since his terminal cancer diagnosis, she says it has really reinforced what matters most.

"I have no regrets with my daddy," she explained. "I have said what I wanted to say. I told him what he needed to know. And there's no shame. I believe that everything happens for a reason and God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle."

As the two stood underneath a poolside white arch, they both read personal, handwritten words they had thoughtfully prepared for each other.

"I had written out on a piece of paper what I wanted to say, and he did the same," she recalled. "When he got his little letter out he had written to me, it was just so sweet. And in mine, I told him that no matter who I marry, he will always be my number one man. He was the first man that I loved. And honestly when my wedding day comes, it's going to be hard, but there's also no regrets and I know he'll be smiling because he's there."

To top off the perfect occasion, Whitney and her daddy shared a perfect father-daughter dance to the song, "Daddy Dance With Me."

But then, a surprise.

"I had no idea. I bawled my eyes out," Whitney said of the unexpected gift her dad had arranged. "He had given me a box- a little silver plated, heart-shaped box. And it had engraved on it, 'Daddy Loves You Sugar.' When I was younger, and still to this day, whenever we're on the phone, he's like, 'Hey, sugar.' That word always stuck with him."

Inside the box was a sparkling, silver-banded ring, one to always remind her of who loved her first.

Whitney is not engaged, therefore has no plans for wedding bells ringing in the near future, but one thing is for certain.

"I would always hope my dad lives to see that day come, but if not, the special day on June 14 was like I was getting married," she explained. "It was like my wedding day, so I know on my actual wedding day, it will feel the same. He'll be there with me."

And as for Moore, he has one last goal he'd still like to fulfill, only this time-with his 13-year-old son.

"He really wants to go to the beach," said Whitney. "But he especially, really wants to take my brother to the beach. They love fishing, and he wants to catch a shark."

The family has a vacation planned in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the week of August 10.

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Officials Issue Arrest Warrant for California Man with Tuberculosis

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif.) -- Officials in Northern California issued an arrest warrant for a man with tuberculosis who has refused treatment.

Eduardo Rosas Cruz is putting the public at risk, according to Stockton Police, as a result of his failure to comply with a medical order.

The 25-year-old missed his last appointment at San Joaquin County Public Health. Officials are raising concerns as Cruz comes from a part of Mexico known for a drug-resistant strain of the disease, the Los Angeles Times reports.

He is described as a 5'4" Hispanic man, weighing 130 pounds with brown eyes and black hair, according to law enforcement. A photo can be found on the Stockton Police Department's Facebook page.

"His disease may grow again and then he may become contagious and right now we actually don't even know if he is or is not contagious, because we haven't been able to find him," said Alvaro Garza of the  San Joaquin County Public Health Department.

Anyone with information on Cruz's location is asked to contact authorities or the health department at 209-468-3992.

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Baseball GM Keeps Promise, Has Public Prostate Exam During Game

iStock/Thinkstock(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) -- A minor league baseball executive in South Carolina made good on his promise to get a public prostate exam during the seventh-inning stretch of a game Thursday night.

Andy Milovich, general manager of the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, promised he would let a doctor give him the exam if a 10-year-old girl, who is battling brain cancer got 10,000 likes on her Facebook page. She did, so he did.

Milovich was featured live on the scoreboard -- from the neck up -- during the exam. He said the doctor was done 15 seconds into "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and the procedure wasn't so bad.

As part of its cancer awareness night, the team also handed out foam fingers to the first 1,000 male fans, 18 and older.

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Extreme Weight Loss: How They Lost 100 Pounds or More

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Growing up, Judith Anthony had no boundaries for snacking.

“I would literally go to the store and buy $3 worth of the 25 cent potato chips. And I'd just sit there and eat them,” the 26-year-old from Orange, New Jersey, said.

By the time she was a high school freshman, Anthony weighed 180 pounds. She ballooned to 257 pounds in college. Still, Anthony, who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, never saw herself as being overweight until she visited a doctor two years ago because she wanted a breast reduction.

She recalled the doctor recommending that she get gastric bypass surgery.

“It was very hard to hear,” Anthony, who works as an overnight support counselor, said. “I looked at myself saying, at 257 pounds I have to do something.”

Anthony joined Jenny Craig, started doing Zumba and ate healthy. She’s lost 117 pounds.

Anthony is featured in the latest issue of People magazine that tells the stories of she and four others who each lost 100 pounds or more. The magazine is out on newsstands Friday.

Also featured is Edwin Velez, a 28-year-old teacher from Albertville, Alabama.

“I'm Puerto Rican so that's rice, beans, and fried meat every day,” he said.

Money was tight when Velez was in college, and fast food was cheap. At 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Velez weight crept up to 320 pounds.

His turning point came when he went on a cruise with some friends in 2011. Looking at a photo of his group from their vacation, he said he was “shocked” to see himself.

“I’d let myself get too far,” he said.

He resolved to lose the weight. He exercised and ate several small meals a day and lost 101 pounds in four months. After that, he started lifting weights to build muscle and last year had skin removal surgery. He continues to eat five small, healthy meals per day.

As a child, Lori Filipiak always found comfort in food, including, she says, “the whole pizza with French onion dip, whole bags of chips, fast food I would get when no one was around.”

At her heaviest, Filipiak weighed 265 pounds. A bad marriage when she was 19 years old set the stage for her to make a change.

“I can remember being out with him and (him) introducing me as his cousin and not his wife,” Filipiak, now 42, said, speaking of her now ex-husband. “That was huge for me. I was done…and that was the day I got my life in order.”

The receptionist from Springfield, Illinois, who stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall, told People that she started out by walking, and then progressed to more demanding workouts, along with cutting out red meat, sugary snacks and fried foods.

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Report Raises Safety Questions on Popular Blood Thinner

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A scientific study released Wednesday suggests the makers of the blood thinner Pradaxa may have held back information that may have prevented serious bleeding complications among some of the million or so Americans using it.

Meanwhile, the maker of Pradaxa, German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim, vehemently denied that it held back important safety data.

Boehringer Ingelheim introduced Pradaxa in 2010 as a replacement for the older drug Coumadin, which had been in use for decades. A major selling point was that Pradaxa offered the benefits of stroke prevention without the hassle of frequent blood monitoring needed with Coumadin.

As with any blood thinner, the concern with Pradaxa was the increased risk of bleeding in patients taking it. Major bleeding with Pradaxa at its currently recommended dose occurs in 3.11 percent of patients taking it each year, according to the major trial that led to FDA approval of the drug. The total incidence of bleeding events with use of the drug, including minor and major bleeding, is 16.42 percent per year.

Research on Pradaxa suggests that it carries a lower risk of bleeding into the brain than Coumadin does, along with a lower risk of life-threatening bleeds and minor bleeding. A large Medicare study published in May confirmed prior knowledge that Pradaxa carries a higher risk of major stomach and intestinal bleeding events.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) wanted to find out whether monitoring the levels of Pradaxa in the blood of patients using it would help doctors avoid bleeding complications. To do this, they looked at Boehringer Ingelheim’s own data exploring the impact of blood level monitoring in conjunction with Pradaxa use.

These researchers said the data show that up to 40 percent of all deaths and serious bleeding events related to Pradaxa could have been avoided by simple blood testing. Checking blood levels periodically, they said, might have allowed doctors to lower the dose of Pradaxa or temporarily stop it in patients with dangerously high levels. This in turn might have prevented some bleeding complications. The paper was published Wednesday in BMJ.

Additionally, the researchers say that Boehringer Ingelheim had this information before Pradaxa was approved in 2010, but that they left it out of the safety information presented to the FDA during the drug’s approval process. Specifically, they said they found internal reports showing that the company’s scientists raised safety concerns about serious bleeding, but that these concerns may have gone unheeded by their superiors

In a statement released Wednesday, Boehringer Ingelheim said that the simulations that served as the basis for these concerns were preliminary and not reliable, and that it would have been inappropriate to report the simulations. They said they did provide the raw data to the FDA.

When asked by ABC News, the FDA declined to comment on the BMJ report. It also did not say how often pharmaceutical companies choose not to report the results of simulations like these to regulators.

This May, Boehringer Ingelheim reached a settlement worth $650 million with about 4,000 people related to alleged bleeding problems with Pradaxa.  In a statement released in connection with the settlement, Boehringer Ingelheim’s counsel said the company stands behind that drug and believes the claims lacked merit, but decided to settle to avoid protracted litigation.

The study authors, Drs. Thomas Moore, Donald Mattison and Michael Cohen, have extensive backgrounds in drug safety, representing the senior leadership of ISMP. Moore and Mattison have testified against pharmaceutical companies in prior litigations and Mattison also works for a risk management firm.

Moore, the lead scientist behind the ISMP study, said the problem is that blood levels of Pradaxa can vary significantly from patient to patient. Even if both take the same dose, one person’s blood level could be more than 400 times higher than another’s.

Moore said he turned his attention to Pradaxa in early 2011, the first few months after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In those three months, there were 505 cases of significant bleeding linked to Pradaxa, according to ISMP data, compared to 176 cases of bleeding related to Coumadin during the same period. “The biggest surprise to me was that the FDA, which is overall an excellent safety regulator, chose to almost entirely ignore opportunities to reduce the bleeding risk of this treatment.”

According to the report, the information allegedly withheld by Boehringer Ingelheim at the time may have affected the drug’s chances of approval. As evidence, the report offers a 2011 draft of the company’s study on the drug. In it, the investigators note, “Monitoring of plasma concentrations or antithrombotic activity… would be required to identify these patients,” referring to those who would potentially have dangerously high blood levels of the drug even under normal dosing situations.

According to the new report, this information was omitted from the formal presentation to the FDA. The authors of the new report say emails sent between Boehringer Ingelheim employees show that the company knew that advertising the need for blood monitoring with Pradaxa would drastically reduce the number of people who used the drug instead of Coumadin.

In a statement released in response, Boehringer Ingelheim called the BMJ article biased and misleading. The company said the drug is safe , and that the report could lead to patients going off of their medications and potentially putting their lives at risk. The company further noted that the “FDA reaffirmed Pradaxa’s positive benefit-risk profile” following a study of 134,000 Medicare patients with atrial fibrillation.

“Boehringer Ingelheim made a robust effort to find ways to utilize plasma levels to further improve the risk/benefit profile of Pradaxa and it is irrational to suggest otherwise,” said Dr. Sabine Luik, Boehringer Ingelheim’s senior vice president of Medicine & Regulatory Affairs, in the release. “The truth is the totality of scientific evidence does not support dosing decisions for Pradaxa based on blood levels.”

The FDA stands by its communication from May of this year stating that Pradaxa has a favorable benefit-to-risk profile and there are no plans to change the labeling of the drug to require or recommend blood monitoring.

Dr. Sonal Singh, a Johns Hopkins cardiologist who was not involved with the BMJ report, said that though it raises important questions, it is too early for a final verdict on Pradaxa or the actions of Boehringer Ingelheim.

“We still don’t understand who bleeds,” he said. “Is it older people, are they younger people…the specificity questions have not been answered.”

Doctor’s Take:

Regardless of what this new report tells us, Pradaxa is a useful -- and often life-saving -- drug for those who take it. Importantly, this report should not cause people to stop taking their needed medications.

What the report does offer is an opportunity for patients to discuss their treatment and their concerns with their doctors. As with most conditions, there are options for treatment. Only through a one-on-one discussion with a medical professional can you determine the best treatment choice for you.

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Life's Rude Awakening Happens at 36

iStock/Thinkstock(BRISTOL, England) -- Life can seem like a party when you’re young, but eventually, most come to the realization that they can’t keep ignoring their mortality.

A new study out of the United Kingdom suggests that the magic age when people decide to reflect where the rest of their life is going is 36.

What does it take for this happen? Rob Anderson, director at Spire Bristol, says that it has to do with an event that shocks them into reality, such as a death in the family.

According to a study of 2,000 people, Anderson says, “By our mid-30s, health and well-being become a much bigger priority.” Fifty-six percent in the survey admitted that until the time they turned 36, they were more interested in living in the moment.

As for what made people change their minds about starting to take better care of themselves, here are the list of the ten “shocking moments” that became the tipping point in their lives:

  1. Getting older
  2. I had a health scare
  3. A close relative died
  4. A warning from my doctor
  5. Seeing a shocking photo of myself
  6. A close relative fell ill
  7. A TV program about bad eating habits
  8. Negative comments about my health that hit a nerve
  9. I had a serious accident
  10.  A public health message

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Multiple Chronic Illnesses Plague the Elderly

Purestock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Even with all the advances in medicine that occur with greater frequency than ever before in history, increases in life expectancy among older Americans is slowing.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say it has to do with the fact that close to 80 percent of people 67 and over are afflicted with more than one serious medical condition and, as a result, live shorter lives.

The study’s lead author, Eva H. DuGoff, goes as far as to say that, “Living with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure is now the norm and not the exception in the United States.”

Naturally, the severity of the disease affects life expectancy, according to DuGoff. For instance, someone with heart disease at age 67 is still expected to live 21 more years on average, while a 67-year-old person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will only live 12 more years.

Meanwhile, when multiple chronic diseases are involved, the study finds that each one shaves off an additional 1.8 years.

If there’s any one reason as to why the U.S. life expectancy is slowing down more than other developed nations, it’s most likely the obesity epidemic and all the diseases caused by it.

The Johns Hopkins study also conceded that the current system set up to deal with people’s medical problems isn’t equipped to handle those with so many different illnesses.

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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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Health Officials: Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccines

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of teens receiving vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) remains "unacceptably low," officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 17 are not being vaccinated for HPV, despite a slight increase in vaccination coverage since 2012, according to data from the CDC's 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

While it prevents various forms of cancer, the vaccine remains "underutilized," according to the agency. Experts cite a "substantial gap" between the number of adolescents receiving tetanus, diphteria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and those for HPV.

An estimated 57 pecent of teen girls and 35 percent of ten boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, while nearly 86 percent received a dose of the agent for Tdap.

“It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”

The study also showed that clinician recommendations played a large role in whether or not parents chose to get their children vaccinated. For those that decided to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV, 74 percent received a tip from a health care professional, compared to 52 percent who did not. For boys, 72 percent of parents who chose to vaccinate their sons received a recommendation, compared to 26 percent of parents who did not.

Not receiving information from a clinician on for HPV was one of the five main reasons parents listed for not choosing the vaccine.

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CDC Lifts Moratorium on Shipment of Tuberculosis Samples

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is resuming shipments of biological samples including tuberculosis bacteria, the agency announced Thursday.

The CDC lifted the moratorium on a specific type of material transfer for its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory, but is still keeping it in place for other high-containment facilities.

The decision follows a review from the agency's internal working group to make improvements to lab safety. Initially, such transfers of TB samples were prohibited after safety issues with anthrax and bird flu.

In addition to the lifting of the temporary ban, the CDC announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup to provide advice and guidance to the agency's director and the CDC's new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The group will work to identify potential weaknesses in labs, oversee training needs, and suggest ways to provide stronger safeguards for facilities, among other tasks. Members are scheduled to meet for the first time in early August.

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