Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2017

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

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Trump to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

In his first major speech Thursday on the opioid epidemic in the United States, President Donald Trump is expected to declare the crisis a national emergency.

He said Wednesday that doing so will give his administration the "power to do things that you can't do right now," the Associated Press reported.

Thousands of Americans are dying each year from opioid overdoses.

During his campaign for the White House, Trump promised to making fighting addiction a top priority.

But at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans expressed frustration as they grilled Trump administration officials about shortfalls in federal spending to combat the crisis, the AP reported.

"I don't understand why more resources aren't flowing to help out a rural state like West Virginia," said West Virginia Republican Rep. "People at home don't feel like they're getting help," said David McKinley. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat.

It's been nearly a year since Congress and President Barack Obama approved $1 billion to deal with the opioid crisis. That money is gradually reaching places in need, but there have been setbacks and delays along the way, the AP reported.

"It is a great opportunity, but it comes with a lot of angst," according to Tom Hill of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health, an addiction treatment provider advocacy group.

States are "just getting programs up and running right now," he told the AP.

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Expert Panel Recommends New Shingles Vaccine as First-Line Treatment

A new shingles vaccine that provides far more protection than its predecessor received the full blessing of a U.S. government vaccine advisory panel on Wednesday.

In a close 8-7 vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that Shingrix be chosen over Zostavax as the shingles vaccine of choice in adults aged 50 and older, the Washington Post reported.

Previously, a shingles vaccine had only been recommended for those aged 60 and older.

The panel went even further, and recommended that anyone who has been vaccinated with the Zostavax vaccine be re-vaccinated with the Shingrix vaccine -- that group numbers about 20 million people, the Post reported.

In total, more than 40 million people will be affected by the new recommendations, the newspaper said.

Shingles is an extraordinarily painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. It tends to strike older adults.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had just approved Shingrix last Friday, based on a study from its maker, GlaxoSmithKline. That research found Shingrix protected about 90 percent of patients, but Zostavax only protected 50 percent of patients. Shingrix requires two shots, while Zostavax only requires one shot.

"This represents a major advance for people who want to be protected against the disease and its complications," Kathleen Dooling, a medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Post.

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The CDC, which sets immunization schedules, typically accepts the recommendations of its vaccine panel. If approved by the CDC director, the new guidelines will be published as policy early next year, the newspaper said.


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