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Health Highlights: May 13, 2014

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

Ohio Measles Outbreak Largest Since Mid-1990s

A measles outbreak in Ohio has reached 68 cases, making it the largest outbreak in any state since 1996, when Utah had more than 100 cases, according to health officials.

Measles is a growing concern in the United States, which could end up having the worst year since home-grown measles outbreaks were eradicated in 2000, USA Today reported.

As of Friday, there had been 187 cases nationwide, which is close to last year's total of 189, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. California has had 59 cases so far this year.

All of the measles cases in Ohio have been among Amish people. The outbreak began after unvaccinated Amish missionaries returned from the Philippines, where there is a major measles outbreak. The California outbreak is also linked to the Philippines, USA Today reported.

A mumps outbreak is also hitting Ohio, with more than 300 cases. With the two outbreaks, state health officials want families to be sure they are up to date on vaccinations before kids head off to summer camp and people get together for large gatherings.


90 People Charged in Medicare Fraud Totaling $260M

Ninety people in six cities have been charged in Medicare fraud schemes involving at least $260 million in false billings, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.

The suspects charged after the nationwide crackdown by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force include health care company holders and 27 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The charges faced by the defendants include conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The alleged schemes involved different types of medical treatments and services, including home health care, mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, and medical equipment, officials said.

The suspects allegedly took part in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided to patients. In many cases, it's alleged that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and others were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to health care providers, who then submitted fraudulent bills to Medicare.

Nearly 400 members of different law enforcement agencies took part in the takedown in Miami (50 defendants), Houston (11 defendants), Los Angeles (8 defendants), Detroit (7 defendants), Tampa (7 defendants), and New York City (7 defendants).

Since it was formed in 2007, the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged nearly 1,900 defendants alleged to have falsely billed Medicare nearly $6 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has removed more than 17,000 health providers from the Medicare program since 2011.


5 More MERS Deaths in Saudi Arabia

Five more people in Saudi Arabia have died from the MERS respiratory virus, health officials said Monday.

The deaths occurred in the capital Riyadh and the western cities of Jiddah and Medina, according to the Saudi Health Ministry.

Since MERS was first identified in 2012, there have been 147 deaths and 491 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported. Most of the world's cases of MERS and deaths from the disease have occurred in the kingdom.

Two MERS cases have been confirmed in the United States. The latest case involved a resident of Saudi Arabia who was visiting Florida. The man is being treated in an Orlando hospital.

The patient in the earlier, unassociated case was released from an Indiana hospital late last week, the AP reported. That patient was a health care worker who'd had close contact with MERS patients in Saudi Arabia.

MERS kills about one-quarter of people infected with the virus, which can spread between people through close contact. It's believed that camels carry the virus and can transmit it to people.

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