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Health Highlights: June 17, 2011

Health Highlights: June 17, 2011


Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. to Help Vietnam With Agent Orange Cleanup

The first phase of a joint U.S.-Vietnam plan to clean up environmental damage from the chemical Agent Orange began Friday at a former U.S. military base in central Vietnam.

The herbicide, which was used sprayed by U.S. aircraft to destroy North Vietnamese guerilla fighter's jungle cover, was stored at the base during the Vietnam War, the Associated Press reported.

The first step of the cleanup plan involves checking areas around the Danang airport for unexploded ordnance. Once that's done, dioxin will be removed from soil and sediment at the site.

Dioxin, a chemical used in Agent Orange, has been linked to birth defects and cancers.

As many as 3 million people in Vietnam have suffered health problems due to Agent Orange exposure, according to the country's Red Cross. But the U.S. has said the number is far lower, the AP reported.


Poor Adults Account for Most Rural ER Visits

Low-income adults accounted for 56 percent of the 8 million visits to emergency departments at rural hospitals in the United States in 2008, a federal government study says.

Of all the adult visits made to rural emergency departments, about 44 percent were either paid by Medicaid (28 percent) or were uncompensated or billed to uninsured patients (16.5 percent), according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Private health plans paid for 31 percent of the visits and 25 percent were covered by Medicare.

Leading reasons for adult visits to rural emergency departments in 2008 included abdominal pain (233,064), back pain (223,248), chest pain from unknown causes (220,647), open wounds (211,587), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis (159,002), which can cause breathing problems.


House Takes Action Against Genetically Modified Salmon

An amendment forbidding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption was passed Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The amendment to the farm spending bill, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska and approved by voice vote, would prohibit the FDA from spending money to approve an application by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty to sell genetically modified salmon that grow twice as fast as normal, the Associated Press reported.

Young said the modified salmon would compete with wild salmon from his state, and other detractors have called the modified salmon "frankenfish" that may cause allergies in humans and could eventually destroy the wild salmon population.

The FDA is scheduled to decide this year whether to approve the modified salmon. The Senate hasn't dealt with the issue, the AP reported.


Syphilis Screening Could Save Many Babies: Study

Screening all pregnant women for syphilis and treatment with antibiotics could save hundreds of thousands of babies' lives worldwide each year, according to a new study.

Researchers at University College London analyzed 10 previous studies that included more than 41,000 women in total and found that syphilis screening achieved a 58 percent decrease in stillbirths and a similar reduction in deaths in the first few weeks of life, BBC News reported.

The study appears in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Syphilis in pregnant women causes 500,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Even though screening is cheap and effective, it's done in fewer than one in eight women worldwide, BBC News reported.

Screening for syphilis should be done at the same time that pregnant women are tested for HIV, study author Dr. Sarah Hawkes said.


Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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.


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