Health Highlights: June 2, 2021

First Human Case of H10N3 Bird Flu Reported in China

The world's first case of H10N3 bird flu in a person has been reported in China, but officials say chances are low that the virus will spread widely among people.

The patient is a 41-year-old man who was admitted to a hospital with fever in the eastern city of Zhenjiang on April 28 and diagnosed with H10N3 a month later, China's National Health Commission (NHC) said in an online statement, CBS News reported.

The man is in stable condition and his close contacts have no "abnormalities," according to the agency. It did not say how the man became infected.

"The risk of large-scale spread is extremely low," according to the NHC, CBS News reported.

While several strains of bird flu have been found among animals in China, large outbreaks in humans are rare. The last human epidemic of bird flu in China was caused by the H7N9 virus and occurred in late 2016 to 2017, CBS News reported.

Following recent avian flu outbreaks in Africa and Eurasia, the head of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week urged stricter surveillance in poultry farms, markets and wild birds.

COVID-19 was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Houston Methodist Workers Sue Over COVID-19 Vaccination Rule

A group of Houston Methodist workers are suing the hospital over its requirement that all of its 26,000 employees get COVID-19 shots by June 7.

"Methodist Hospital is forcing its employees to be human 'guinea pigs' as a condition for continued employment," according to the complaint by 117 unvaccinated employees that was filed in state court on Friday, CBS News reported.

The rule "requires the employee to subject themselves to medical experimentation as a prerequisite to feeding their families," the complaint alleges.

Houston Methodist, which includes a medical center and six community hospitals, is the first U.S. medical establishment to issue a vaccine mandate, and managers had to get their shots by April 15, CBS News reported.

"Mandating the vaccine was not a decision we made lightly, but science has proven that the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and very effective. Like I say to everyone who asks -- whether they are reporters, the public, patients or our employees, it is our sacred obligation to do everything possible to keep our patients safe. By choosing to be vaccinated, you are leaders -- showing our colleagues in health care what must be done to protect our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities," Dr. Marc Boom, Houston Methodist's president and CEO, told employees in late April in an email.

Boom added that he has "spoken to countless hospital leaders across the country who plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccination soon," CBS News reported.

The hospital system's new vaccination requirement prompted an online petition against the policy, started by registered nurse Jennifer Bridges, among those now suing her employer. She told CBS affiliate KHOU that she's ready to lose her job.

"I think our rights as human beings are more important than keeping that job," said Bridges, who has worked at Houston Methodist for more than six years.

"Many employees are scared that they will lose their job or be forced to inject the vaccine into their body against their will to keep their jobs and feed their family. We just want the power to choose for ourselves and not take this basic American right away from us! Please help our cause to fight for all the nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, pharmacy staff, phlebotomists, etc.," her petition states. It had more than 8,470 signatures as of Tuesday.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December that employers can legally require workers to get a COVID-19 shot. Exceptions can be made for workers with a disability or those with "sincerely held" religious beliefs that prevent them from getting inoculated.

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