Tracking the Wuhan coronavirus: 5 things doctors must know

A man hospitalized in Everett, Washington, has been diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) after returning to the U.S. from travels to Wuhan, China, the city of 11 million people. At this article’s deadline, the infectious respiratory disease had already killed 18 people and spread to nine countries since first being identified last month.

Because there’s so little known so far about 2019-nCoV, there’s no vaccine or specific treatment available and the care is primarily supportive rather than curative. The World Health Organization is declining, for now, to declare a public health emergency of international concern but will meet again in early February and has offered recommendations to China and other countries.

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New Jersey rejects bill to weaken doctors’ role as care team leaders

Lawmakers in New Jersey this week opted against moving forward with legislation that would have allowed advanced practice registered nurses (APRNS) to prescribe without any physician oversight. The legislation (Senate bill 1961 and the identical Assembly bill 854) would have also given APRNs full signatory authority, meaning they could have signed off on any document requiring a physician signature by law.

The New Jersey Senate’s health committee moved the bill to the floor in June 2019, but the state’s physicians were able to persuade lawmakers against taking up the bill to weaken the physician-led health care team during the 2018–2019 legislative session that closed Monday. Most states do not allow APRNs to prescribe independently.

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Distracted driving: Most states aren’t cracking down on deadly practice

Eight Americans are killed every day in a car crash involving a distracted driver, and more than 1,000 are injured daily in such accidents, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Six percent of drivers in fatal crashes were distracted at the time, the NHTSA says, yet most states are coming up short when it comes to cracking down on a major cause of distracted driving.

While 48 states bar texting and driving, only 20 states ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones entirely while operating a motor vehicle, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Vaping: Move to ban some flavors only 1st step in addiction fight

Amid pressure from the AMA and other physician and public health organizations, the Trump administration is moving to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges used in closed system e-cigarettes such as those made by Juul, a subsidiary of Marlboro owner Altria Group Inc.

However, the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement leaves untouched—for now—the sale of tobacco- or menthol- flavored cartridge-based products, as well as open systems in which users refill their e-cigarette devices with exotic flavors of nicotine juices widely sold at vaping shops.

The “new policy to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic by limiting flavors in some vaping products is a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA. “The AMA is disappointed that menthol flavors—one of the most popular—will still be allowed, and that flavored e-liquids will remain on the market, leaving young people with easy access to alternative flavored e-cigarette products.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.