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Reuters Health News Summary

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

At least 265 dead in Niger meningitis epidemic

At least 265 people have died so far this year in a meningitis epidemic in Niger amid a shortage of vaccines needed to prevent the disease's spread, the West African nation's health minister said on Tuesday. Some 3,856 cases of meningitis were recorded between Jan. 1 and May 4, with five of the country's eight regions, including the capital Niamey, particularly hard hit, Mano Aghali said in an address broadcast on state-owned television.

Online info about braces can be improved

Internet information about orthodontic braces varies in quality and may not be entirely accurate, according to a new study from the Netherlands. Orthodontic patients may look for information on the Web, but some people have questioned the quality of that information, the researchers write in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Exclusive: U.S. boosts bird flu emergency funds as Hormel cuts jobs

The U.S. government approved the use of an additional $330 million in emergency funds to help contain the worst avian influenza outbreak in U.S. history, as infected bird cases soared and hundreds of Minnesota poultry workers learned they would lose their jobs. The funds became available after the federal Office of Management and Budget granted U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's request for additional emergency funds, USDA sources confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

Latest draftees could benefit from new-age concussion test

The 2015 NFL Draft class has now been welcomed into the league, one that could grow safer as their careers unfold through new-age research into identifying concussions. Following a final settlement of a lawsuit brought by former players over concussions that could cost the league $1 billion, and a stunning retirement by a young player concerned about brain injury risks, there is high-tech hope for the future.

IBM's Watson to guide cancer therapies at 14 centers

Fourteen U.S. and Canadian cancer institutes will use International Business Machines Corp's Watson computer system to choose therapies based on a tumor's genetic fingerprints, the company said on Tuesday, the latest step toward bringing personalized cancer treatments to more patients. Oncology is the first specialty where matching therapy to DNA has improved outcomes for some patients, inspiring the "precision medicine initiative" President Barack Obama announced in January.

WHO projections warn of burgeoning obesity crisis in Europe

Europe will face an obesity crisis of vast proportions by 2030, according to new World Health Organization projections, with many countries likely to see far more than half of adults above the healthy weight limit. The figures, which predict 89 percent of Irish men and 77 percent of Greek men will be overweight by 2030, present "a worrying picture of rising obesity across Europe", researchers said, with very few countries showing decreasing trends.

Fathers have big influence on teens' drinking habits

Parents' influence on teens' drinking varies in girls and boys, suggests a new study from Taiwan. While the drinking behaviors of both genders were mostly influenced by fathers, the behaviors of girls were also somewhat influenced by their mothers, researchers found.

Texas Senate passes measure to cut insurance payments for abortions

Health insurers would be prevented from covering the cost of abortions except in medical emergencies under a bill approved on Tuesday by the Republican-dominated Texas Senate. Private health insurance plans and those offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace could still provide coverage for abortions in cases where the woman's life is at risk.

UN hails progress on Ebola as new weekly cases below 20

The U.N. envoy on Ebola on Tuesday hailed "extraordinary progress" against the outbreak in West Africa after new cases last week fell below 20 for the first time since mid-2014, but he warned it would take time to end the epidemic completely. David Nabarro said that in the week to May 3 only nine new cases were reported in Guinea and the same number in neighboring Sierra Leone. Liberia once again had no new cases.

No problem with artificial heart fundamentals despite death: Carmat

The artificial heart fitted in a patient who died on Saturday malfunctioned due to a fault with the controls of its motor, but an initial analysis indicates there are no fundamental problems with the device, its manufacturer Carmat said in a statement. The patient, the second one to die while fitted with a Carmat artificial heart, suffered from a reduced flow of blood as a result of the malfunction, the company said.

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