Health Highlights: May 24, 201105/24/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
USDA Says Pork Can Cook Safely at Lower Temp
Experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and
Inspection Service have tweaked longstanding guidelines and now say
that pork can be safely cooked at the same temperature that's safe
for beef, veal and lamb: 145 degrees.
Cooked pork should also be put aside and allowed to rest for 3
minutes after removal from the grill and before serving, giving
high temperatures a little more time to kill pathogens, the USDA
"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3-minute stand time, we feel it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," USDA Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen said in a news release, the AP reported.
Ceci Snyder, vice president of marketing for the National Pork
Board, based in Des Moines, Iowa, said pork producers first
proposed the change back in 2008, citing improvements in feed and
housing that had cut the risk for pathogens in pigs.
Snyder told the
AP that it's important that consumers use a digital
thermometer placed in the thickest section of the meat to make
certain it is being properly cooked, however.
The drop in the USDA safe cooking temperature guideline does not
extend to ground meats or poultry products, which should still be
cooked at 160 and 165 degrees, respectively, the
U.S. Abortion Numbers Fall, Except Among Poor Women
The number of American women having an abortion fell by 8
percent between 2000 and 2008, but among women in the lowest income
bracket it rose by almost 18 percent, a new study finds.
Experts attribute the seemingly contradictory findings to the
nation's struggling economy.
"In the middle of a recession, it's possible women have reduced access to contraception and have more unintended pregnancies," study author Rachel Jones, senior research associate at New York City's Guttmacher Institute, told ABC News on Tuesday. "It's also possible that women
confronted with unplanned pregnancies when they are out of work
decide to have abortions, even though they might have carried it to
term in more stable times."
The study, published in the June issue of
Obstetrics & Gynecology, was based on patient surveys. The Guttmacher team used the data to estimate the rate of abortion across the spectrum of race, ethnicity and income.
ABC News, one 2006 study published in
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that
about half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended and about half of
those are terminated by abortion.
Destruction of Last Smallpox Stocks Delayed for 3 Years
Global health officials on Tuesday decided to defer setting any
deadline for the destruction of the last reserves of smallpox for
at least three years, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
Experts at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making arm of
the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO), made the
decision after two days of heated debate on the subject. Smallpox
was eradicated over three decades ago, and a WHO panel in the early
1990s advocated destroying samples of the deadly virus kept in labs
in the United States and Russia.
However, those two countries, along with more than two dozen
others, have lobbied to keep the samples for at least another five
years. They argue that bioterrorists could use unknown stocks to
spread the scourge, or re-create the virus via synthesis, the
"This was a good outcome," Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and head of the U.S. delegation at the World Health Assembly, told the WSJ. "It didn't go as far as we would have liked, but the result is the research program central to the reason for maintaining the virus continues and we'll be three years closer to having the countermeasures we're aiming for."
Infant Deaths Spur FDA Warning Against Food Thickening Gel
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents to
avoid feeding a food-thickening agent, SimplyThick, to premature
babies. The gel is typically given to babies born prematurely
(before 37 weeks) to help them with problems swallowing.
The warning comes after the product was linked to 15 cases of
necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially lethal condition
involving inflammation and death of intestinal tissue. Two of the
babies in these cases died, the FDA said in a statement.
The agency said it first learned of the potential problem with
SimplyThick on May 13, with cases reported over the prior six
months in premature infants treated at centers around the country.
The babies were given SimplyThick to help with swallowing
difficulties linked to prematurity. Some of the babies fell ill
after using SimplyThick after discharge from the hospital, the FDA
NEC typically has symptoms such as bloated abdominal area,
trouble with feeding, green-colored vomiting (from bile), and
bloody stools. Parents and caregivers with any concerns about the
use of SimplyThick should contact their health-care provider, the
According to the agency, SimplyThick is sold at distributors and
pharmacies across the United States in packets of individual
servings or in 64-ounce dispenser bottles.
Crossing Your Arms Might Ease Hand Pain: Study
The simple act of crossing your arms in front of your body might
help lessen pain occurring in the hands, British researchers
According to the
BBC, the scientists studied 20 people who were given a brief laser-delivered pin-prick of pain to their hands.
Reporting in the journal
Pain, the team from University College London said that rates of self-reported pain declined when the arms were crossed over the body's "midline," an imaginary division running down the center of the body. Results from electroencephalogram (EEG) also suggested a weaker pain response after arms were crossed.
According to the authors, the act of crossing the arms seems to
confuse the brain's "maps" that tell it where the pain has
occurred, lessening the response. "When you cross your arms these
maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective
brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being
perceived as weaker," lead author Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti told
He said that his team, along with Australian researchers, is now
testing out this novel pain-reduction technique on people with
chronic pain conditions.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.