The latest local news

Doctors find 526 teeth in boy’s mouth in India

WQAD News -

A 7-year-old boy complaining of jaw pain was found to have 526 teeth inside his mouth, according to the hospital in India where he was treated.

The boy was admitted last month in the southern city of Chennai because of swelling and pain near his molars in his lower right jaw.

When doctors scanned and x-rayed his mouth, they found a sac embedded in his lower jaw filled with “abnormal teeth,” Dr. Prathiba Ramani, the head of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at Saveetha Dental College and Hospital, told CNN.

While the surgery to remove the teeth took place last month, doctors needed time to individually examine each tooth before they could confirm their findings.

After discovering the sac, two surgeons removed it from the boy’s mouth. Then Ramani’s team took four to five hours to empty the sac to confirm its contents and discovered the hundreds of teeth.

“There were a total of 526 teeth ranging from 0.1 millimeters (.004 inches) to 15 millimeters (0.6 inches). Even the smallest piece had a crown, root and enamel coat indicating it was a tooth,” she said.

The boy was released three days after the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, Ramani said.

Ramani said the boy was suffering from a very rare condition called compound composite odontoma. She said what caused the condition is unclear, but it could be genetic or it could be due to environmental factors like radiation.

The boy actually may have had the extra teeth for some time. His parents told doctors that they had noticed swelling in his jaw when he was as young as 3, but they couldn’t do much about it because he would not stay still or allow doctors to examine him.

Dr. P. Senthilnathan, head of the hospital’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department and one of two surgeons who operated on the boy, detailed the procedure to CNN.

“Under general anesthesia, we drilled into the jaw from the top,” he said. “We did not break the bone from the sides, meaning reconstruction surgery was not required. The sac was removed. You can think of it as a kind of balloon with small pieces inside.”

Dr. Senthilnathan said the discovery showed it was important to seek treatment for dental issues as early as possible.

Awareness about dental and oral health was improving, he said, though access in rural areas remained problematic.

“Earlier, things like not as many dentists, lack of education, poverty meant that there was not as much awareness. These problems are still there.

“You can see people in cities have better awareness but people who are in rural areas are not as educated or able to afford good dental health.”

In Ravindrath’s case, all has turned out well; the boy now has a healthy count of 21 teeth, Dr. Senthilnathan said.

Woman wakes from coma to find legs, arms partially amputated after infection from dog saliva

WQAD News -

CANTON, Ohio – An Ohio woman was hospitalized for more than 80 days and had multiple limbs partially amputated after catching a severe infection from dog saliva.

The last thing Marie Trainer remembers is feeling sick and lying down on the couch.  The Stark County wife and mother woke up from a coma ten days later with both arms and legs partially amputated.

“When I opened my eyes I didn’t know where I was,” said Marie. “It was very hard to find out that they had to remove my legs and my arms ... very hard to cope with.”

Marie and her husband, Matthew Trainer, had just returned home from a vacation in the Caribbean. They thought it was the flu because Marie felt nauseous and had a bad backache. But then suddenly her temperature spiked and plummeted.

“Her temperature went up then went down to about 93 degrees, that’s when we rushed her to the hospital,” said Matthew.

Aultman Hospital’s critical care team began aggressive treatments, but within hours Marie was developing sepsis and her condition continued to deteriorate.

“So we were getting new symptoms and worsening symptoms very rapidly,” said Gina Premier, Marie’s stepdaughter and a nurse practitioner at Aultman Hospital in Canton.

Premier said in just a couple days Marie was put into a medically-induced coma as her limbs began turning necrotic and then gangrenous.

Blood tests and cultures at both Aultman Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed the surprising diagnosis of capnocytophaga.

Dr. Margaret Kobe, Medical Director of Infectious Disease at Aultman, said capnocytophaga is a bacteria commonly found in the saliva of dogs and a smaller percentage of cats.

“Fairly common in the oral flora or the mouth of a dog and it can be transmitted through a bite or sometimes just contact with saliva,” said Dr. Kobe. “That organism is very virulent.  It has the ability to induce your immune system to do some pretty horrible things.”

The Trainers have two dogs at home and suspect they might have accidentally licked a small scrape on Marie’s arm.

The organism causes dozens of large blood clots, that restrict blood flow and lead to necrosis and gangrene.  Doctors repeatedly removed dozens of clots from Marie’s limbs, trying to save them, but too much damage was already done to the tissue.

Without the amputations, doctors told the family Marie would die.

“It was so rapid in progression ... there was nothing they could do,” said Gina.

Dr. Kobe said this type of severe reaction is very rare and only happens to roughly one in a million people. It’s also unpredictable. A person can be exposed to the bacteria and/or the dog for years and never have had a previous reaction.

In 2018 a Wisconsin man also had partial amputations on all four limbs after being licked by a dog, but the same year, a different local patient recovered.

“Their immune system handled it differently,” said Dr. Kobe.

Both Dr. Kobe and Marie still love dogs and don’t want to terrify owners.  However they are encouraging people to be careful; Dr. Kobe says it’s a myth that dogs mouths are cleaner than humans.

“If you get bit by a dog you definitely need to go on antibiotics and to wash your hands when playing with a dog, especially with an open cut.”

Additionally, if you notice redness or signs of infection seek medical treatment immediately and be sure to tell the attending physician that you have pets.

“I’m still amazed at what it is. We still love our animals,” said Matthew and Marie, who have no plans to get rid of their dogs and can’t wait to be back at home as a family.

Although right now they’re focused on Marie’s recovery.  After eight surgeries and being hospitalized more than 80 days, the hair stylist and salon owner faces intensive physical rehabilitation and an uncertain future.

But she is grateful to everyone who fought to save her life; especially her brother, children and husband of 32 years.

“He’s here every day for me ... every day he feeds me, and dresses me here every day,” said Marie breaking down in tears. “I mean what do you do? I had to learn how to sit up, roll over, it’s been just very hard.”

To help with the massive medical expenses and much needed prosthetic limbs, loved ones started “Trainer Strong” fundraising campaigns and they’ve created a GoFundMe page.

UPDATED: Apartment building on fire and water main break in downtown East Moline

WQAD News -

EAST MOLINE, Illinois — Thick clouds of black smoke filled the sky as an apartment building burned and the streets flooded with water in the 1100 block of 15th Avenue in downtown East Moline.

Firefighters were working to put out the flames of the burning apartment building since around noon on Thursday, August 1. A main water break in the city also flooded the area near 12th street and 15th Avenue with water, according to the East Moline Police Department.

It is still unclear if the two incidences are related.

There are currently no reported injuries and there are no people inside of the building.

RIGHT NOW: Flames shoot out of an Apartment building in East Moline on 15th Avenue between 12th Street and 11th Street. (@wqad)

— Ryan Jenkins (@RyanJenkins_TV) August 1, 2019


There are six units inside of the apartment building, but only five had residents, according to the landlord. About 10 people were living in the building at the time of the fire.

The water break will not be fixed until tomorrow, according to East Moline Assistant Public Works Director, Todd Strickler.

Strickler said fire crews should have enough water to fight the fire.

Check back for updates as we hear more. WQAD News 8 Ryan Jenkins is reporting at the scene.

Video from Quad City Fire Wire Facebook page.

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BREAKFAST WITH… Moline’s New Police Chief and His Plans for the City, Safety

WQAD News -

There's a new leader in Moline, but he is not new to the Quad Cities.

Darren Gault was sworn in as Moline's new Police Chief on Tuesday, July 30th. 20 years prior to that, he was with the East Moline Police Department - serving as a Patrol Officer, Detective Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain. Chief Gault is now serving the city where he, his wife, and his three children have lived for the last two decades and he says he's ready to get to work:

"It's an exciting time to be part of law enforcement at one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the Quad Cities and I look forward to partnering with my fellow Police Chiefs in all the other cities to tackle the crimes that we face in the Quad Cities together," he told WQAD News 8 during his swearing in ceremony.

Those crimes include juvenile crime, car thefts, and gun violence. While having "Breakfast With..." Good Morning Quad Cities on Thursday, August 1st, Chief Gault talked about the best ways to tackle those issues and what he plans to do to regain confidence in the Police Chief position after a difficult year for the Moline Police Department. Click the videos below for a timeline of what's happened over the past year and Chief Gault's goals for the future:

‘Missing and Murdered’ podcast presents… Crime Chat: Trudy Appleby

WQAD News -

CRIME CHAT: From the host that brought you the podcast, “Missing and Murdered in the Midwest,” WQAD News 8 Executive Producer Toria Wilson, sits down with those with direct knowledge to the cases that left the Quad City area asking questions.

EPISODE ONE: Toria sits down with Moline Police Detective Michael Griffin, to talk about the Trudy Appleby case. We talk about the initial investigation into Trudy’s disappearance, and in hindsight, how things could have been handled differently. Detective Griffin also discusses the credible and not-so-credible tips that are still coming in to this day.


The two talk about the latest in the investigation, specifically the boat that is linked to the person of interest, William “Ed” Smith, in this case.

Trudy’s case has never gone cold, according to Griffin, and he works to try to bring closure for the Appleby family. He’s been seen passing out fliers on Campbell’s Island, posting on social media, and helped add billboards along two busy roadways in Rock Island County.

Detective Griffin, has spearheaded the search in the last few years to try to find the answers to numerous missing persons cases in Moline, not just Trudy’s. He’s been quoted countless times, saying there are people in the Quad Cities harboring secrets, and hopes those who have the key in unlocking these cases, come forward.

If you do have information on the Appleby case, contact Moline Police’s non-emergency line at (309) 797-0401 or Quad City Crimestoppers at (309) 762-9500. You can also submit at tip through the P3 app.

After delays Superintendent Kobylski hired for Davenport Community School District

WQAD News -

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- With the 2019-2020 school year starting in just three weeks, Davenport Community School District announced its new superintendent began Friday.

Robert Kobylski, Ed.D., finalized his paperwork before the August 15 deadline set by the Iowa Board of Education becoming the district's new superintendent on July 1. Kobylski follows Interim Superintendent T.J. Schneckloth.

Complications with Kobylski's certifications led to delay after delay as the board of education claimed "the classes he took in Wisconsin don't reflect Iowa's standards".

Kobylski formerly served as the superintendent of Nicolet High School and the Fox Point-Bayside School District in Wisconsin, according to a statement from the district.

Bettendorf Schools operations director dies in I-74 crash Wednesday

WQAD News -

HENRY COUNTY, Illinois-- Bettendorf Schools Communications Director Celeste Miller confirms their operations director, Chris Andrus, 36, was killed in an Interstate 74 accident Wednesday.

Andrus stopped his car in the shoulder of the Iowa-bound lanes and walked out in front of two semi-trailers, just after 8:30 a.m. on July 31, Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Wilson confirmed. It happened on I-74 Iowa-bound, just south of The Big X.

Andrus was the Director of Operations for the school district from 2015 to 2019, but had resigned from his position in July and was on medical leave for the remainder of the month, according to Miller.

School leaders say they have, "arranged for a grief counselor to assist staff with their grieving. If you would like to visit with the grief counselor, contact the district administration center to learn more (563) 359-3681."

The crash is still under investigation.

Iowa sales-tax free holiday begins first weekend of August

WQAD News -

Whether you need to go back-to-school shopping or just feel like treating yourself, you'll get the biggest bang for your buck during the first weekend of August.

The state of Iowa is sales-tax free from midnight Friday, August 1 through Saturday, August 2. The annual holiday applies to shoes and clothing that are less than $100 per item.

All businesses that are open are required to participate.

For more information visit the Iowa Department of Revenue website. 

WONDER WOMEN Podcast: Moline, Illinois Business Owner Talks About Picking What Your “Strong” Is

WQAD News -

Powerful Women. Powerful Positions.

WONDER WOMEN is a podcast that showcases the female movers and shakers running and leading businesses, non-profits, governments, and schools across the Quad City Area, Iowa, and Illinois.

EPISODE FOUR: She began her career in the nonprofit world and is now an entrepreneur giving new business owners a platform for their passions. Katie Thompson is the Owner and Founder of THE Market: A Journey to Joy, a curated collection of vendors with handmade products and crafted items located inside the old Scottish Rite Cathedral – 1800 7th Avenue, Moline, Illinois – which is now the Spotlight Theatre and Event Center.

In this month’s podcast episode, this “Wonder Woman” explains how she came up with this unique idea, why she knows she was “born a boss,” and how she balances the work-life balance of being a mother, designer, community advocate, and more.

News 8’s Angie Sharp and Katie Thompson, Owner/Founder of THE Market: A Journey to Joy

We are digging deeper in this podcast, though. We ask Katie if being a woman factored into her taking that big step to become an entrepreneur and how it’s an attribute to her success. She talks about the difference between being busy and being tired, plus how to chase challenges and live adventurously as your own “Wonder Woman.”

Finally, she gives the next generation of the “Girl Power” Movement a mantra to keep in mind – “Pick what your strong is” – and reminds all of us to walk the walk and show our story, instead of just talking about it.

Click on the link above to hear our conversation.

Do you know some “Wonder Women” who are inspiring leaders of their organization, business, school, etc.? Let News 8’s Angie Sharp know about them! Click here to find her on Facebook and send her an email.

Iowa man drowns on Florida honeymoon during first ocean swim

WQAD News -

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Florida – An Iowa seminary student honeymooning in Florida drowned when he was swept out to sea on his first time in the ocean, officials said.

The Florida Times-Union reports 22-year-old Dalton Rae Cottrell of Malcolm, Iowa, was swimming with his newlywed wife off Crescent Beach in St. Johns County when the two ran into trouble with the current on Tuesday. His wife says as they were pulled out toward sea, Cottrell began to panic and was dragging her underwater as she tried to help him.

Cheyenne Pernice-Hedrick told authorities he was under for at least a minute before a St. Johns County lifeguard, assisted by a swimmer with a paddleboard, got Cottrell back to the shore. They were unable to revive him.

The St. Augustine Record flags a Facebook post made by Pernice-Hedrick. "3 days of wedded bliss turned into a nightmare very quickly," she wrote. "There is so much fear and uncertainty coursing through myself. My parents came down early this morning to be with me as I begin the next journey. Never did I think at 22 would I be a wife and then a widow so quickly. ... I love you so much Dalton Cottrell."

“It was devastating. Just so sad to hear a couple that we love, in a moment of such tenderness, just having that loss,” said the couple’s pastor, Daniel Vance.

Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, said in a statement that the couple were seniors at the school and had married Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri. Cottrell was training to be a pastor, the school said.

“We had a need in our children's department, and he loved children and Cheyenne loved children. A lot of their courtship was in serving together at this church,” said Vance.

On Wednesday the church held a memorial service. Vance says in times like these the congregation needs to lean on each other, and their faith.

“You know there's some people that have asked me that recently, why would this happen, he had so much in front of him, why would God do this? As Christians, we trust that God knows all things, he's always good, and he holds our days in his hands. So, we just trust that just as God was the one that gave Dalton life, he knew when his time was over,” said Vance.

Additional reporting from AP.

Didn’t catch the Democratic debate? Here are 5 takeaways from the second night.

WQAD News -

(CNN) -- Under relentless attack midway through Wednesday's Democratic presidential debateJoe Biden said: "Everybody's talking about how terrible I am on all these issues."

That was the night in a nutshell.

And the former vice president's next sentence -- "Barack Obama knew exactly who I was" -- is how he fought back.

The second night in Detroit featured the most bitter exchanges of the 2020 primary race yet, with former Obama administration colleagues unloading on each other over immigration, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey blasting Biden's record on criminal justice and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio facing criticism from both protesters and Democratic rivals for not yet having fired the police officer who was accused of fatally choking Eric Garner.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California -- elevated to the top tier of the race after a polling bounce that followed the first debate -- wore a much bigger target, too, with several candidates piling on her health care plan and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii launching a scathing attack on Harris' tenure as California's attorney general.

The candidates were more focused on attacking one another than they were on demonstrating how they'd take on President Donald Trump -- though Trump did come into play for pithy criticism, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York saying her first act as president would be to "Clorox the Oval Office."

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday night's debate:

1. The Biden pile-on

Biden's record was assailed by nearly every Democrat who shared the stage with him.

Gillibrand asked him, repeatedly, about an op-ed he had once written opposing a child care tax credit, which featured a headline claiming that Congress would be subsidizing "deterioration of family."

Biden deflected the question by touting his role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and fights for equal pay -- points in his record he was eager to highlight. But when moderators moved on to Harris, she was ready with another attack.

"Why did it take so long, when you were running for president, to change your position on the Hyde Amendment?" Harris said, pointing to Biden's reversal this year of his previous support for a measure that barred federal dollars from paying for abortions. Earlier in the evening, Biden was caught on a hot mic asking Harris to "go easy on me, kid."

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee attacked Biden's climate change plan. Several candidates hit the former vice president on immigration. And one of the most memorable exchanges came when Booker assailed Biden over the passage of the 1994 crime bill, which critics point out has contributed to mass incarceration.

After Biden's lackluster performance in the first debate, his campaign had promised the former vice president would be much more prepared to brawl Wednesday night. And without a doubt, he was. He even landed some sharp blows himself, particularly against Harris on health care and her record as California attorney general.

The question, though, is whether Biden was damaged by the number of attacks he faced. Even though he fended off many of them, their sheer volume could plant doubts about one of his strongest assets -- his perceived electability -- in the minds of Democratic primary voters.

2. Piercing Biden's Obama shield on immigration

Biden -- who has placed his time as Obama's vice president at the center of his campaign -- struggled to answer Democratic foes who criticized Obama-era deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Biden was attacked by Booker, de Blasio and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro -- who, like Biden, served in the Obama administration.

"It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't," Castro said to Biden. "We need someone who actually has guts on this issue."

De Blasio pressed Biden on whether he had counseled Obama to halt the deportations.

"Did you say those deportations were a good idea or did you go to the President and say, 'This is a mistake. We shouldn't do it'?" de Blasio asked.

Biden said he wouldn't talk publicly about the advice he had given Obama privately on the issue -- and that's when Booker piled on.

"You can't have it both ways," Booker said. "You invoke President Obama more than anyone in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not."

US Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district Tulsi Gabbard speaks to reporters in the spin room after the second round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Harris wears a bigger target

Harris' criticism of Biden's early-career opposition to federally mandated desegration busing rocketed her up in the polls after the first debate in June. And on Wednesday night, her Democratic rivals treated her as one of the front-runners.

Gabbard launched perhaps the most scathing attack of the night, knocking Harris' record as attorney general of California.

"There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana," Gabbard said.

Harris' response was similar to how Biden had defended himself on a range of issues: She argued that her record reflects she has a long history of working to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Biden, who entered the race decrying the "circular firing squad," showed he had been picking through Harris' record, too.

He faulted Harris for defending cases that were found to have involved prosecutorial misconduct and for not disclosing more quickly to defense attorneys that evidence in the San Francisco crime lab had been tampered with.

"Google '1,000 prisoners free Kamala Harris,' " he told viewers.

Campaigns sometimes talk about the perils of peaking too early. While most would rather be in Harris' position right now, the criticism she faced was a reminder that emerging as a top-tier contender comes with increased scrutiny.

4. Biden and Harris clash on health care

The debate opened with a fierce battle over health care that revealed how both Biden and Harris are approaching policy matters.

Biden defended his Obamacare 2.0-style plan, which would put in place a "public option" that would allow people to buy into a government-run program but also keep private insurance.

"No one has to keep their private insurance," he said. "They can buy into this plan and they can buy into it with a $1,000 deductible and never have to pay more than 8.5% of their income when they do it, and if they don't have any money they will get in free."

But Harris pointed out that Biden's plan would leave 10 million Americans without coverage.

"In 2019 in America, for a Democrat to be running for president with a plan that does not cover everyone, I think, is without excuse," she said.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) (R) speaks while former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the Democratic Presidential Debate July 31, 2019. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Harris touted what she is calling a "Medicare for All" proposal that would, over 10 years, enroll all Americans in a program paid for by the federal government. Her plan would use private insurers as the vehicle to deliver that coverage and she says she would not increase taxes on middle-class Americans, both important breaks from Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Under their proposals, the private insurance industry would be eliminated.

Biden, though, tore into the argument by supporters of Medicare for All that the program would come without a deductible that Americans would have to pay.

"This idea is a bunch of malarkey that we're talking about here. The fact of the matter is that there will be a deductible -- there'll be a deductible in the paycheck," he said, referring to taxes he argued would be necessary to pay for a fundamental overhaul of the American health care system. He credited Sanders with acknowledging as much, but accused Harris and de Blasio, who also argued for Medicare for All, of fuzzy math.

He twisted the knife when criticizing the lengthy phase-in of Harris' plan, saying: "Anytime someone tells you you're going to get something good in 10 years, you should wonder why it's going to take 10 years."

5. Booker breaks through

Booker has languished at the bottom of the polls and needed to stand out. On Wednesday night, he did, delivering a commanding performance that placed him at the center of the action without turning himself into a target.

Early on, he stayed out of the fray on health care, arguing that Trump benefits from pitting progressive Democrats against moderates.

Later, he got the best of Biden during exchanges on immigration, criminal justice and climate change.

When Biden tried to defend himself by pinning blame on Booker for racist practices of the Newark, New Jersey, police department, Booker shot back: "There's a saying in my community. You're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor."

Later, when the candidates were discussing climate change, Booker retorted: "Nobody should get applause for rejoining the Paris climate accord. That is kindergarten."

He also won over the Detroit crowd by warning Democrats to be ready for an "all-out assault" on African Americans' ability to vote in the 2020 election.

"We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters," he said. "We need to say that."

Iowa-bound traffic backed-up on I-80 near Rapids City

WQAD News -

Interstate 80 Iowa-bound traffic was backed up beyond the Interstate 88 interchange on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

RAPIDS CITY, Illinois — Interstate 80 Iowa-bound traffic was backed up beyond the Interstate 88 interchange on Thursday morning.

Slow-moving traffic appeared to be directed into the left, west-bound lane around 7:30 a.m. on August 1.

Eastbound traffic was flowing smoothly.

Check back for traffic updates here at anytime.

Trump admin opens door to allow drug importation from Canada

WQAD News -

(CNN) -- The Trump administration took hesitant first steps Wednesday to allow the importation of certain drugs from Canada and other countries.

The historic proposal comes after President Donald Trump cast aside typical GOP opposition and backed a concept that has long been supported by Democrats, including many of those vying for the 2020 presidential nomination. Trump has pushed his health officials to find a way to approve the Republican governor of Florida's recent request to allow the importation of lower-cost drugs.

The President has made reducing drug prices a key priority for his administration -- especially in the run-up to the 2020 election -- but has yet to enact any significant changes.

Trump swiftly took to Twitter to announce the plan, saying "Lowering drug prices for many Americans - including our great seniors! At my direction, @HHSGov @SecAzar just released a Safe Importation Action Plan. Our Governors will be very happy too!"

However, it will likely take a while before cheaper medications make their way into patients' hands, if it ever happens at all. Both Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless noted hurdles lie ahead.

"We recognize there are operational challenges and questions that we need to overcome before these policies can be implemented," Sharpless said, stressing that patient safety is the agency's highest priority.

The Safe Drug Importation Plan describes two ways certain drugs from abroad could enter the US. It marks a major turnaround for Azar, who called importation a "gimmick" in the past.

"What we're saying today is we're open," Azar said of the proposed rule, which must still be finalized. "There is a pathway. We can be convinced."

Under one scenario, states, pharmacists or drug wholesalers could submit plans to the agency for test projects on how they would import drugs approved by Health Canada. But the method also sets up many restrictions, including saying the tests would be limited in time and require regular reporting to ensure safety and costs are being met.

Insulin, however, cannot be imported from Canada, likely disappointing diabetics, some of whom have to travel north to purchase the costly, lifesaving medicine there.

The second pathway would allow manufacturers to import lower-cost versions of the drugs that they sell in foreign countries. Agency officials said drug makers are interested in doing this but have not been able to because of contracts with other players in the supply chain.

In the proposal, HHS puts the burden on states and manufacturers to convince it that importing drugs would be safe for consumers and save them money. For instance, it would be up to states to negotiate with Canadian authorities to allow their drugs to be sent to the US, said Azar.

"It is a plan to make a plan," said Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University, noting that little to nothing has been heard from an FDA importation working group set up last year. "It seems to mitigate the federal government's role here."

Four states -- Florida, Vermont, Colorado and Maine -- recently passed laws to set up drug importation programs, though they all need approval from HHS. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, helped convince the President to support the idea earlier this year.

Azar, however, has not been quick to embrace importation.

"Canada simply doesn't have enough drugs to sell them to us for less money, and drug companies won't sell Canada or Europe more just to have them imported here," he said in remarks about the President's blueprint to lower drug prices in May 2018.

Also, he added at the time, the last four FDA commissioners have said there's no way to effectively ensure that the medication is really coming from Canada and not a counterfeit factory in China.

Asked by reporters Wednesday why he now thinks it's safe, Azar said the drug supply chain has become more international.

"The very large distributors [are] now playing in many countries who would be able to manage a very complex, but secure, drug distribution system across borders," he said. "We've seen pharmacy chains similarly expand across American borders."

Some experts, however, say importation is unlikely to ever happen. HHS' move is likely a "bluff" to get drug manufacturers to lower their prices in the US, said Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, who is working with the city of Philadelphia to try to get the agency to approve the city naloxone from the United Kingdom to treat overdoses.

It's still very difficult to guarantee that medication mail order companies based abroad are reputable and would provide the right drugs to Americans, Anderson said.

Another potential wrinkle: Canada isn't so willing to give up its drugs. A coalition of 15 Canadian medical professional and patient groups asked their government last week to protect their pharmaceutical supply. Canada already experiences drug shortages, the group says.

The request came days before Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a longtime supporter of importation, traveled north with American diabetes patients seeking cheaper insulin.

Canada's Office of the Minister of Health told CNN it continues to work to ensure Canadians have "uninterrupted access" to the medications they need.

"Our government would oppose any initiatives that could adversely affect the supply of prescription drugs in Canada or the costs for Canadians," said Thierry Bélair, the office's press secretary.

66 treated after fire breaks out at ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, Texas

WQAD News -

(CNN) -- Residents were urged to shelter in place for several hours after an explosion and fire broke out Wednesday, July 31 at a massive ExxonMobil plant in Texas, officials said.

City officials said via Twitter Wednesday afternoon that the advisory had been lifted after monitoring failed to detect "any levels of concern" in the air.

Officials said 66 employees and contractors were examined at a health clinic, with some receiving first aid. All were released.

The fire had been contained by the evening.

"We realize the people who live here in Baytown and our surrounding communities are worried," ExxonMobil spokeswoman Natasha Barrett told reporters. "We understand that and we've been working hour after hour to check on things, to monitor air quality."

The fire occurred at the company's Baytown Olefins Plant, ExxonMobil spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said. The company website describes the complex as one of the largest refining and petrochemical complexes in the world. It's located about 25 miles east of Houston.

Barrett said the fire began about 11:07 a.m. local time and the precautionary shelter-in-place was issued about 10 minutes later.

The blaze is in a unit that contains polypropylene material and Exxon asked that the shelter-in-place order be issued west of the plant and south of the Texas Spur 330 freeway "out of an abundance of caution," the city of Baytown said via Twitter.

Duncan said the fire broke out at a polypropylene recovery unit, where the plastic is purified for production. He said crews were working to shut down the units to isolate the fire source.

Duncan said the company is conducting air quality monitoring at the site and fence line, and cooperating with regulatory agencies. He said no adverse environmental effects had been detected.

Barrett said city and county officials were also monitoring the air.

The cause of the explosion is unknown, he said.


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