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Virus tally nears 500,000 in Dominican Republic

The mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya has sickened nearly 500,000 people in the Dominican Republic, including 109 newborn babies, an official with the Caribbean country's health ministry said Friday.

The virus was transmitted to the newborns by their mothers, who had the illness when they gave birth, said Carmen Adames, who is coordinating the Health Ministry's response to the outbreak. None of the infants died, she said.

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U.S. Says no Ebola Patient Contact for Troops in Liberia

U.S. troops heading to Liberia to help fight the Ebola epidemic will help train health workers but will have no "direct contact" with patients infected with the virus, the Pentagon said Friday.

The 3,000-strong contingent due to deploy to Liberia will be focused on training health workers in the country and setting up facilities to help West African countries tackle the crisis, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

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Drugmaker GSK Says Fined $490 mn in China Graft Probe

A Chinese court on Friday fined British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline 3.0 billion yuan ($490 million) following a nearly year-long bribery probe, the company said.

The firm's former head of China operations, Mark Reilly who would be deported, and four other ex-officials were given suspended sentences of between two and four years in prison, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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Ebola Screening for Nigeria's Mecca-Bound Pilgrims

With some 76,000 Nigerian Muslims expected this year at the hajj in Saudi Arabia, organisation was always going to be a major logistical undertaking.

But after more than 2,600 deaths from Ebola in West Africa this year, including eight in Nigeria, the authorities have had to put in extra security measures to allay fears about its possible spread outside the region.

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U.S. 'Upgrades' Plan against Antibiotic Resistance

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday issued an executive order to ramp up the national response to the problem of antibiotic resistance and infections that cannot be treated.

The White House called for a task force that combines the government's health, defense and agriculture departments to deliver a five-year plan to the president by February 2015.

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Two Ebola Vaccines to Be Tested in Switzerland

Clinical trials of two experimental vaccines against the deadly Ebola virus are due to begin soon in Switzerland, the country's Tropical and Public Health Institute said on Thursday.

"Switzerland is playing a central role in the clinical trials of two vaccines against Ebola," Marcel Tanner, who heads the Basel-based institute, told Swiss public radio SRF.

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Anaesthesia Additive Blamed for Syria Measles Vaccine Deaths

Syria's opposition said Thursday that 16 children who died during a measles vaccination campaign in the mostly rebel-held province of Idlib had been given an anaesthesia additive by mistake.

"Reports point to the possibility of human error which led to atracurium being used in place of the solvent which should have been used with the vaccine," said opposition government chief Ahmad Tohme.

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Security Council: Ebola Threatens World Peace

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday declared the Ebola outbreak a threat to world peace and called on countries to provide urgent aid to West Africa, the epicenter of the growing crisis.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the number of Ebola infections -- already more than 5,000 -- was doubling every three weeks, notably in Liberia.

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MSF: First French Ebola Patient Still in Liberia Waiting for Airlift Home

The first French person to have been infected by the deadly Ebola virus was still in Liberia Thursday and was waiting to be airlifted home, according to the humanitarian group she works for.

The patient -- a female volunteer for Doctors Without Borders (MSF in French), which has been hugely active in the fight against the killer virus that is ravaging west Africa -- was placed in isolation on Tuesday after showing symptoms of the disease.

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Study: Sweeteners Boost Diabetes Risk

Promoted as an aid to good health, artificial sweeteners may in fact be boosting diabetes risk, said a study Wednesday that urged a rethink of their widespread use and endorsement.

Also called non-calorific artificial sweeteners, or NAS, the additives are found in diet sodas, cereals and desserts -- a huge market for people worried about weight gain and sugar intake.

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