Health Highlights: Feb. 17, 201202/17/12
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
WHO Delays Decision on Controversial Bird Flu Studies
A decision on whether controversial research into H5N1 bird flu
virus mutations should be published has been delayed by the World
After a two-day meeting in Geneva, it was decided that more
discussions are needed to determine if it's safe to publish in full
two research papers submitted to the journals
BBC News reported.
The papers describe how the H5N1 virus could relatively easily
mutate into a strain that could spread rapidly among humans. There
is concern that the information could be used by terrorists to
trigger a deadly pandemic.
But some scientists say redacting some sensitive parts of the
research would be an infringement of academic freedom, and some
noted that some of the researchers have given presentations about
their work at conferences and the details are already widely
BBC News reported.
Flu Season Officially Here: CDC
It's off to the slowest start in nearly 25 years, but the flu
season is finally here, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Until now, there haven't been enough flu cases in the U.S. to
signal the official start of the season, which usually begins in
December or January and is half over by late February, the
Associated Press reported.
CDC officials said Friday that California has had widespread flu
cases for the last two weeks and Missouri has seen a sharp rise in
reports of flu-like illness.
Officials don't know why the flu season started so late, but
said it could be due to a number of factors. This is the latest
start to a flu season since the 1987-88 season, the
Heart Attack Grill Owner Defends Artery-Clogging Menu
The owner of the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas is defending
his artery-clogging menu after a customer suffered an apparent
heart attack while devouring a 6,000-calorie Triple Bypass
Speaking on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning, Jon Basso
described his restaurant as "a place where you can live the way our
Founding Fathers intended us to live, and that is by our own
The restaurant features health warnings on the walls and staff
are dressed in white coats and nurses hats to represent doctors and
nurses. When patrons choose menu items such as a Bypass burger,
Flatliner fries and buttermilk shakes, they're given surgical gowns
After a customer suffered an apparent heart attack on Saturday,
the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sent a letter to
Basso asking him to "declare moral bankruptcy" and close the Heart
Basso has no plans to close the restaurant and lashed out
"There are intrusive busy-body groups that want to take away our right to have a simple hamburger, a coke, some fries and enjoy our lives the way we want to," he said.
FDA Panel to Consider New Diet Pill
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet
next week to discuss whether to recommend approval of a diet pill
The drug is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs, the
stimulant phentermine and the anticonvulsant topiramate. In 2010,
the FDA rejected Qnexa due to concerns about the risks of birth
defects and cardiovascular problems,
The New York Times reported.
However, many obesity doctors use a regulatory loophole to
prescribe phentermine and topiramate off-label in order to suppress
appetite in overweight patients.
Qnexa was developed by the company Vivus, which will present
additional data at the FDA's advisory panel meeting on Wednesday.
The FDA will have until April 17 to consider the panel's
recommendation and make a decision about the drug,
The Times reported.
It's been 13 years since a new prescription diet pill was
approved by the FDA.
Powered Toothbrush Could Cause Choking, Serious Injuries:
Problems with the brush head on all models of Arm & Hammer
Spinbrush powered toothbrushes have caused choking and serious
injuries, according to reports received by the U.S. Food and Drug
While turned on, the device's brush head has either "popped off"
or broken off in the user's mouth or near the face, causing cuts to
the mouth and gums, chipped or broken teeth, swallowing and choking
on the broken pieces, and injuries to the face and eyes.
Until 2009, the Spinbrush line was sold as the Crest Spinbrush,
the FDA said.
The agency advised consumers to inspect the Spinbrush for any
damage or loose brush bristles prior to using. Do not use the brush
if there is any damage or loose brush bristles.
Make sure the headpiece is connected properly to the handle of
the brush and test the brush outside of the mouth before use. Do
not use the brush if the connection between the headpiece and the
handle feels loose or if the headpiece easily detaches from the
Do not bite down on the brush while brushing. Supervise children
and adults who need assistance when using the Spinbrush, the FDA
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