Health Buzz: Salmonella-Tainted Raw Alfalfa Sprouts and Other Health News

How to cope with depression when drugs don't work; a proposed link between low vitamin D and autism.

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FDA, CDC Issue Advisory About Tainted Raw Alfalfa Sprouts

The government is asking people to avoid eating raw alfalfa sprouts, including sprout blends that contain alfalfa sprouts, because of possible salmonella contamination. An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that some seeds for alfalfa sprouts may be contaminated. There have been 31 cases of illness reported since mid-March in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia; most of the illnesses happened in people who said they'd eaten raw alfalfa sprouts that were obtained at restaurants or bought in stores.

In March, the FDA advised consumers to forgo eating food containing pistachios because of possible salmonella contamination, and before that, tainted peanut products were the concern. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Diseases, told U.S. News why the peanut product outbreak, in particular, raised alarm. You can read more about how to reduce your risk of becoming ill and how irradiating food could help zap a salmonella outbreak. Also, try getting updates via Twitter and Facebook to track the effects of salmonella outbreaks online.

Depressed and Coping: Treating Depression When Medication Fails

What has become abundantly clear in the antidepressant age is that depression is terribly difficult, if not impossible, to cure. Antidepressant medications are now the most commonly prescribed medications in the country, Deborah Kotz reports. Many primary-care doctors, who treat 80 percent of depressed people, labor under the assumption that a prescription is a panacea. But antidepressants completely alleviate symptoms in only about 35 to 40 percent of people. And not all of that can be attributed to the drugs, since depression lessens in 15 to 20 percent of people who take a placebo—a fact not publicized in pharmaceutical ads. And about 70 percent of people who successfully beat one bout of depression can expect to face another.

Prescription medications may be an easy choice to treat sadness, but they're not necessarily the best option. Read about 4 health problems that depression can cause, and learn how depression affects African-Americans.

Exploring a Possible Link Between Autism and Vitamin D

Could autism be caused by low levels of vitamin D? That idea is just starting to emerge, sparked by the large number of autism cases among children of Somali immigrants living in Sweden and Minnesota, Nancy Shute reports. The mothers and young children are exposed to much less sunshine in their new homes than they were back in Somalia. Lighter-skinned people make more vitamin D than dark-skinned people do when both groups are exposed to the same amount of sunshine, so it's easy to imagine that the Somalis are getting relatively little vitamin D. And because most of the Somali immigrants are Muslim, they cover themselves when going outside, reducing their sun exposure even more. But there's as yet no clear connection to autism.

Having autism doesn't mean a person can't lead a full, productive life. See how one autistic young man runs a business. Here are tips for teaching autistic teens how to make friends. And here are 4 promising autism treatments, from vitamin B12 to the Alzheimer's drug Namenda.

January W. Payne

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