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Meningitis death toll up to 21 as U.S. outbreak widens

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The death toll in the United States from an unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a contaminated drug has climbed to 21 people, health officials said Friday.

The number of infections tied to the tainted steroid rose to 271 in 16 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its website.

Officials have said at least 14,000 people in 23 states could be at risk and that it could be weeks or even months before authorities have a final tally of the infections, due to the disease’s long incubation period.

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The southern state of Tennessee remains the hardest hit with 61 cases and eight deaths, followed by Michigan with 53 cases and five fatalities.

Other badly hit states include Florida, Virginia, Indiana, and Maryland.

The tainted steroid — typically injected into the spine to treat back pain — was produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, which has since shut down its operations and recalled all of its products.

Early tests had shown fungus in unopened vials of the medication, but it took until Thursday to confirm it was the type which causes the rare form of meningitis: Exserohilum rostratum.

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Health officials have widened their outreach efforts to include people exposed to other injectable and high-risk NECC products after three patients who had used different drugs produced by the firm also developed meningitis.

The outbreak has led to calls for tighter regulation of the loosely controlled pharmaceutical compounding industry.

Critics say drug manufacturers have found a way to sidestep costly and strict oversight by classifying themselves as pharmacies, which are given freer rein to mix drug compounds for patients.

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The rare strain of meningitis, which inflames the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, requires a lengthy hospital stay and intravenous medications. However, it is not contagious in this form.

Three of the cases are for joint infections.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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The Kurds have already rejected Trump’s ceasefire deal: Fox News reporter

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The military alliance defending ethnic Kurds in northern Syria has already rejected a purported "ceasefire" agreement being touted by President Donald Trump.

According to Fox News foreign correspondent Trey Yingst, the Syrian Democratic Forces are "rejecting the ceasefire" because it "achieves Turkey’s original goal of moving Kurds from the border and having them give up heavy weapons."

Yingst went on to say that Trump's deal with the Turkish government would essentially force the Kurds to give up territory that has for years been their home.

Not surprising that the SDF is rejecting the ceasefire.

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Turkey quickly undermines Trump as he boasts about his deal-making: ‘This is not a ceasefire’

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According to Turkey, President Donald Trump's so-called ceasefire in Syria isn't actually a ceasefire.

"Turkish FM Çavu?o?lu just now: 'We will suspend the Peace Spring operation for 120 hours for the PKK/YPG to withdraw. This is not a ceasefire,'" tweeted Turkey correspondent for The Economist.

https://twitter.com/p_zalewski/status/1184894093639475201

According to Vice President Mike Pence, the ceasefire will take place for just five days. It's unclear what will happen after those five days are up.

CNN's Matt Hoye noted the Turkish foreign minister's comments came around the same time that Trump was praising the deal.

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EU and Britain just struck a Brexit deal — here’s what’s in it

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"Fair and reasonable." That's how both Britain's Boris Johnson and the EU describe the new draft Brexit deal reached Thursday after days of intense haggling.

Here's what's in the accord -- and what each side gave up to get there.

- Northern Ireland -

Arrangements for the UK province of Northern Ireland were the trickiest part of the new deal, and the core of what has changed since last year's withdrawal agreement, which was rejected by British MPs.

The new protocol stipulates that Northern Ireland remains in Britain's customs territory, but in practice there would be a sort of customs border between the province and the mainland.

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