Health Highlights: Oct. 8, 201010/08/10
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of
New Rules Would Improve Medical Helicopter Safety
Stricter flight rules being proposed for helicopters in the
United Sates include many that would increase the safety of medical
The new regulations proposed by the Federal Aviation
Administration would require all air ambulance helicopters to have
an electronic warning system that alerts pilots about proximity to
the ground or other obstacles, the
Associated Press reported.
Other proposals for helicopter air ambulances include stricter
weather limitations for pilots flying under visual flight rules
(without the aid of navigational instruments). In addition, pilots
commanding medical helicopters would have to have instrument flight
The proposals represent "significant progress on a very
important public health issue," Gary Robb, an author and attorney
who specializes in helicopter safety, told the
"About 400,000 people are airlifted every year, and fewer of them will die," if these proposals become law, he said.
Alfalfa Sprouts Recalled
Possible salmonella contamination has prompted the recall of
bulk and retail-size packages of alfalfa sprouts distributed by
Michigan-based Living Foods, Inc.
The company said one package of the sprouts tested positive for
salmonella and it is working with federal and state officials to
determine the source of the salmonella, the
Associated Press reported.
The recall includes 4-ounce cups, 4-ounce bags, 5-pound bulk
containers, and boxes of four 1-pound plastic bags. All the
products have a sell-by date of Oct. 2. Consumers with these
products should discard them, Living Foods said.
No illnesses associated with the sprouts have been reported,
according to the company, the
Insights Into Molecule May Lead to New Cancer, HIV
New understanding about the structure of a molecule associated
with cancer and HIV infection could lead to the development of new
drugs to treat the diseases, say U.S. researchers.
They used a technique called X-ray crystallography to reveal the
structure and workings of the CXCR4 molecule, which is part of a
family of proteins that control practically every bodily process,
BBC News reported.
In normal conditions, CXCR4 helps activate the immune system and
stimulate cell movement. But when signals that activate CXCR4 are
not properly regulated, the molecule can spur the growth and spread
"This is exciting research as CXCR4 has been linked to the growth and spread of a variety of different cancers. Unraveling the structure of this molecule is a vital step towards designing new drugs to help treat cancer," Josephine Querido, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, told BBC News.
Pfizer Recalled Lipitor Because of 'Uncharacteristic Odor'
Drug maker Pfizer Inc. said Thursday that it recalled nearly
200,000 bottles of the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor in August
because of an unusual odor, but there was no risk to consumers,
according to published reports.
In a statement to
CNN, Pfizer spokesman Rick Chambers said the "uncharacteristic odor" involved bottles from a supplier company. He said a total of seven batches of Lipitor totaling 191,000 bottles were recalled in the United States and Canada, United Press International reported.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted a recall notice
"Pfizer has been working closely with the bottle supplier to determine the cause of the odor problem and to rapidly address it," Chambers said. "We don't anticipate a product shortage resulting from the recall."
Pfizer has determined there is no risk of health problems to
consumers because of the smell,
Obama Health Care Law Gets Boost From Michigan Ruling
A constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama's health
care reform package suffered a setback Thursday, with a Michigan
judge ruling that Congress did not overstep its authority in
passing legislation requiring people to purchase health insurance,
CBS News reported.
In his ruling, Federal Judge George Caram Steeh rejected claims
put forward by the Thomas More Law Center and a number of Michigan
residents who said they should not have to purchase a health plan
that could fund abortions. The decision hinged on two
constitutional issues: whether the legislation contravened the
Commerce Clause because it outstripped Congressional authority, and
whether it could be considered an unconstitutional tax.
CBS, Steeh rejected both arguments, saying that Congress did have the power to pass the law since it had an effect on interstate commerce and was an ingredient in broader regulatory action.
California Whooping Cough Cases Most Since 1955
California's whooping cough epidemic has reached 5,270 cases,
the highest number since the 4,949 cases reported in 1955, the
state's health department said this week.
The epidemic of the highly contagious bacterial infection has
claimed the lives of nine infants this year. All of them were too
young to be fully immunized against the illness, the
Associated Press reported.
Typically, babies receive a series of whooping cough
vaccinations, followed by booster shots between the ages of 4 and 6
and again after they're 10 years old. Booster shots are recommended
every 10 years for adults.
Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will
require all junior and high school students in the state to get
booster shots against whooping cough before the start of school in
2011. That requirement will be extended to students entering grade
7 in the fall of 2012, the
U.S. Lags in Life Expectancy Gains: Study
The United States is falling behind other nations when it comes
to gains in life expectancy, finds a new study.
For example, even though life expectancy in the U.S. rose
between 1975 and 2005, the life expectancy ranking for a
45-year-old man in the U.S. fell from third place to 12th during
that time, while 45-year-old American women were in last place,
United Press International reported.
The researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of
Public Health in New York analyzed data from the U.S., Australia,
Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands,
Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The study, which appears in the journal
Health Affairs, was conducted for the Commonwealth Fund.
The researchers said the U.S. decline in life expectancy ranking
may be due to reasons such as unregulated fee-for-service health
care payments and a reliance on specialty care,
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