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South Korea’s Park postpones U.S. trip as MERS cases rise

By Jack Kim and Christine Kim SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Park Geun-hye postponed a U.S. visit on Wednesday to supervise the handling of an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as two more people died and 13 new cases were reported, lifting the total number of patients to 108. Park had been due to leave for the United States, her country's closest ally, on Sunday and meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday. First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Swiss biotech Actelion hits record high on potential Shire bid

Shares in Actelion , Europe's biggest biotech company, jumped 10 percent to a record high on Monday after a report Shire was considering a $19 billion takeover of the Swiss group to boost its rare diseases business. Shire, which is based in Ireland but has most operations in the United States, is a serial acquirer in a consolidating healthcare sector, which has seen a record $253 billion of deals so far this year. An informal approach by Shire was rebuffed several weeks ago by Actelion, according to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, citing unidentified financial industry sources.

California has three new measles cases, Arizona says outbreak winding down

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California public health officials have confirmed three more cases of measles in an outbreak that began in late December, bringing to 113 the total number of people believed to have been infected in the state. Health officials in Arizona, where seven cases of measles have been documented, said the outbreak would likely be considered over in that state if no further infections were reported over the weekend. Across the United States, more than 150 people have been diagnosed with measles, many of them linked to an outbreak that authorities believe began when an infected person from out of the country visited Disneyland in late December. The California Department of Public Health said 39 of the 113 people who contracted measles in the state were believed to have been exposed while visiting Disneyland.

African Union pledges Ebola fund, as Oxfam calls for ‘Marshall Plan’

The African Union plans to launch an Ebola Solidarity Fund, officials said Wednesday, as aid agency Oxfam warned the continent's leaders needed to keep their promises to boost healthcare. Oxfam called for a “massive post-Ebola Marshall Plan”, referring to the United States aid package to rebuild Europe after World War Two. “This disaster might have been avoided if African governments had made free public health care and spent more on their health systems, under the commitment they made 14 years ago in the Abuja Declaration,” Oxfam said in a statement. “It's clear that Africa’s existing architecture for early disease detection, response and control is wholly inadequate,” Oxfam added, calling for the AU to approve its own plans for an African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Ebola victim Thomas Duncan remembered at memorial in Texas

By Lisa Maria Garza DALLAS (Reuters) – Family and friends remembered Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States to die from Ebola, at a memorial service in Dallas on Saturday. About three dozen mourners gathered for an intimate ceremony at Wilshire Baptist Church, where Duncan’s fiancée Louise Troh, 54, is a member of the congregation. “I’m trying to find the right words to say about my son Eric on his funeral day,” said Nowai Korkoya, Duncan’s mother, in remarks read by a grandson. “It’s hard to accept that you are no longer here Eric, my beautiful boy. …

U.S. eyes China partnership on Africa power – sources

By Joe Brock JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The United States is considering partnering with China on improving electricity in Africa and the proposal could be part of bilateral discussions when President Barack Obama visits Beijing next week, two sources involved told Reuters. The proposal could include $5-$7 billion of commitments to improve electricity generation and transmission in several African countries, one source involved in the initiative said. …

U.S. scientists say uncertainties loom about Ebola’s transmission, other key facts

By Sharon Begley (Reuters) – Even as government officials express confidence that researchers know the key facts about Ebola, many questions crucial to preventing an outbreak in the United States remain unanswered, scientists told a workshop at the National Academy's Institute of Medicine in Washington on Monday. Virtually all the unknowns have practical consequences, participants emphasized, making it foolish and perhaps dangerous to base policy on weak science. …