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Here’s the latest for Tuesday, September 24: House Speaker calls for Trump impeachment inquiry; Trump to release transcript of Ukraine call; CDC says vaping illnesses will increase; Earthquake rocks Pakistan’s Kashmir region.

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CDC expects “hundreds more” cases of vaping illness

A top public health official with the CDC told House lawmakers Tuesday that the number of vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. could soon climb much higher. (Sept. 24)

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CDC warns against buying some vaping products

The CDC is warning the public to stop buying e-cigarettes of the street or “further manipulate them in ways not intended by the manufacturer” as it investigates an outbreak of illness and death associated with vaping. (Sept. 18)

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Louisiana Is Getting an Unlimited Supply of a $24K Hep C Cure (HBO)

Louisiana has struck a deal to improve access to a Hepatitis C cure so expensive that some people only acquire the drug once they already have liver damage.

Gilead Sciences, the owner of Hepatitis C cure Epclusa, will now provide an unlimited supply of the generic version of the drug to people covered by Medicaid and in Louisiana’s state prisons. Asegua, a subsidiary of Gilead making the generic, will supply the drugs.

The list price of Epclusa is $74,760; the generic is priced at $24,000. Medicaid receives a discount price, but in many states, including Louisiana, Medicaid only approves the treatment after Hepatitis C causes severe liver damage because of its astronomical cost.

Under the deal, dubbed the “Netflix model,” Louisiana will pay for the Hep C cure up to a negotiated spending cap in exchange for an unlimited supply of the drug over five years. The state will then receive a rebate from Gilead for all its expenses above that cap.

The Louisiana Department of Health first chose Gilead as a partner for the deal back in March, after three drug companies submitted proposals to the state. Since then, negotiations stalled, to the point that the agreement nearly fell through entirely. But this week, the deal closed, Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee confirmed to VICE News.

Gee said she hoped to not spend more than $30 million — the cost of treating only 326 people last year, according to the state’s Department of Health. The pricing cap won’t be announced until next week, but Gee told VICE News that Gilead agreed to a higher amount than that. Louisiana will hold an official signing on the deal next week, according to Gee.

“We need to get our money’s worth,” Gee said. “Our goal is 10,000 [treated people] next year, but we’ll have to hit a lot less than that to make it work.”

Gee estimated that around 40,000 people in Louisiana suffer from Hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease spread through blood. It’s the most widespread infectious disease in the U.S. The CDC estimates 2.4 million people in the U.S. were living with Hep C in 2016, the latest year with data available.

Louisiana hopes to use the deal to attempt to eliminate the disease entirely.

As Hep C most commonly spreads through shared needles, the opioid epidemic has only made its prevalence worse. The CDC estimates that 41,200 people were infected in 2016.

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CDC to parents: Vaccinate against measles

With this year’s U.S. measles epidemic now surpassing a 25-year-old record, experts say it’s not clear when the wave of illnesses will subside and are calling on parents of unvaccinated children to get their kids vaccinated against the disease. (June 3)

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CDC: US measles infections at 25-year high

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 971 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S. so far this year. That’s a 25 year high, and experts say it’s not clear when the wave of illesses will stop. (May 30)

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CDC: Vaccine, safe and effective to halt measles

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that there have been more cases of measles reported this year than in the past 25 years. (April 29)

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US measles cases hit highest mark in 25 years

The CDC said Wednesday that measles in the U.S. has climbed to its highest level in 25 years. Roughly three-quarters of those cases are in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York. (April 24)

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NY officials toughen response to measles outbreak

A NYC child care program has closed after the health department said the Williamsburg preschool repeatedly failed to provide access to medical records. The CDC says 2019 could be the worst year for measles since its eradication in 2000. (April 16)

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How One Washington State Senator Is Rationalizing The Measles Outbreak (HBO)

CLARK COUNTY, Washington — The United is currently home to six ongoing measles outbreaks. But with 70 confirmed cases, Clark County, Washington in particular, has gotten a lot of attention. It’s quickly become a classic example of what happens when parents hesitate to vaccinate their children. Still, the spread of a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease hasn’t been enough to change everyone’s minds about vaccines.

Washington State Senator Lynda Wilson told VICE News during a recent interview that she believes the measles vaccine has caused more harm than the disease itself — a statement that has been debunked by multiple peer-reviewed studies, including a massive study published this week. She also said she hasn’t actively reached out to any scientists or doctors to verify her opinion on the matter. “I’m kind of busy up here, and so I’m just dealing with what I’m getting from my constituents,” she said.

The measles is a nasty disease that can lead to serious complications, including swelling of the brain and pneumonia. It also kills around 1 or two children out of every 1000 who become infected. That’s why scientists recommend the vaccine, which is both safe and effective. But right now, Clark County has an unusually low vaccination rate.

So, Senator Wilson’s view of vaccines aren’t just emblematic of the crisis — they could also have an impact on upcoming legislation. A proposed bill would eliminate one of Washington’s non-medical vaccine exemptions, the philosophical exemption, and Senator Wilson has already said she plans to vote to keep the exemption. “I don’t believe that everyone should be having to do them,” she said, in reference to vaccines.

Despite having vaccinated her own children when they were younger, Wilson doesn’t think parents should be required to do so with their own kids — at least not American parents. “The cases are coming from out of the country,” she said. “So, you know, maybe what we should do is start thinking about requiring vaccinations if you’re coming into our country. Maybe they should be vaccinated instead of requiring all of our people to be vaccinated.”

The CDC says that the current measles outbreaks are linked to travelers. But there’s little evidence to suggest that vaccinating visitors to the United States would be at all effective. That’s because the measles vaccine, called MMR, is only 93 percent protective after a single dose, so people who aren’t vaccinated can still get sick. That’s why scientists say it’s important for communities to reach a certain vaccination rate — a concept called “herd immunity.” When a high number of individuals in a community are vaccinated, that limits the spread of disease and prevents those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated from becoming sick.

“Measles continues to exist in other countries and within the United States,” a spokesperson for Clark County Public Health told VICE News. “As long as measles is present elsewhere, it’s only a plane, car, train or boat ride away from our community and will continue to be a risk for our community or any community with large unvaccinated populations.”

Senator Wilson says the current outbreak is under control. Moreover, she says the people who were infected will benefit from the disease. “We didn’t have any deaths, and we didn’t have any hospital stays. So I don’t know that it’s unacceptable,” she said. “I mean, now these people have full immunity for the rest of their lives.”

VICE News went to Washington state to see how the measles outbreak is impacting a parent, a pediatrician, and a legislator.

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