Health Buzz: Salmonella Epidemic Declared Over and Other Health News

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Big Salmonella Outbreak Has Ended

It's safe to eat raw jalapeño and serrano peppers from Mexico again. U.S. health officials declared Thursday that the salmonella epidemic that sickened 1,442 people, hospitalized 286, and was implicated in two deaths since April is over. It was the largest outbreak of food-borne illness in the country in a decade, and was originally blamed on tomatoes until it was traced to two farms in Mexico that grew the two types of pepper, according to a report in the August 29 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Last year, U.S. News's Nancy Shute wrote about how you can take precautions at the grocery store and in the kitchen to help protect yourself from food-borne illnesses. More recently, she wrote about why you have to cook your veggies to fend off salmonella.

Mom's Smoking in Pregnancy Ups Risk of Death in Preemies

A Canadian study finds that premature babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy may be at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome than preemies born to nonsmoking mothers. The study, published in the first issue for September of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, compared the breathing reflexes of 12 preemies born to smokers and those of 10 preemies whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy. The babies born to smokers were more likely to have impaired recovery from pauses during breathing than the other babies, though there were no differences between the two groups in terms of respiratory rates and the number of pauses in breathing. The hope is that identifying preemies at a higher risk of SIDS will allow them to be more carefully monitored at home.

U.S. News wrote last year about research showing that the risk of SIDS recurring in a subsequent baby is overstated. And Nancy Shute has written about the search to pin down the causes of SIDS.

Would Obama's Healthcare Plan Cover More Uninsured Americans?

The Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution have come up with a "very, very, very preliminary" estimate for the number of uninsured Americans who would be covered by John McCain's and Barack Obama's respective healthcare reform plans. U.S. News's Michelle Andrews writes that based on their preliminary analysis, Democratic candidate Obama's healthcare reform proposal—which would require children to have coverage and provide subsidies to make health insurance affordable, among other things—would reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million in 2009 and 34 million by 2018. McCain's plan, which would eliminate the tax break employees get for employer-sponsored coverage and replace it with tax credits for people to buy their own coverage, would trim the number of uninsured by a much more modest 1 million in 2009 and 5 million by 2013. Researchers will come up with a more complete analysis next month.

Andrews also wrote recently about the return of Harry and Louise in a new healthcare reform ad campaign and explained what 401(k) plans can teach us about those consumer-driven, high-deductible health plans that many employers are promoting.

Dara Torres Gets Shoulder Surgery

You couldn't tell it from her smile, but Dara Torres was dealing with some serious pain during the Olympics. As I reported this week, she subsequently had surgery on her shoulder to shave down the end of her collarbone and relieve some of the pain from the degenerative arthritis she has developed in her acromioclavicular, or AC, joint. That joint is where the clavicle meets the top of the shoulder blade, and injuries to it aren't uncommon, especially among athletes who use overhead motions, like swimmers or tennis players.

I recently wrote about injuries common among female athletes and explored whether running causes joint problems.

—Katherine Hobson