Health Highlights: March 7, 2013

HealthDay SHARE
  • Arkansas Legislature Passes Strictest Abortion Law in U.S.
  • New Infections Occurring 6 Months After Tainted Drug Outbreak Began
  • Remove Yellow Dyes from Kraft Mac & Cheese: Petition
  • Sex May be Good for Migraines: Study

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

Arkansas Legislature Passes Strictest Abortion Law in U.S.

Opponents say they'll fight Arkansas lawmakers' move to impose a near-ban on abortion from the 12th week of pregnancy onward, which would be the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

The Republican-dominated House voted 56-33 on Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto. A day earlier, the Senate voted to do the same, the Associated Press reported.

Unless a lawsuit or court action halts it, the 12-week ban would take effect this summer. Women who have abortions after 12 weeks would not be prosecuted, but doctors who perform abortions after 12 weeks could have their medical licenses revoked.

Less than a week ago, the state Legislature overrode a veto of a separate bill banning most abortions in the 20th week of pregnancy. That bill took effect immediately, the AP reported.

Beebe said both measures will end up wasting taxpayers' money with the state defending them in court, where they are likely to be defeated. He noted that both bans are unconstitutional and contradict the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion until the point when a fetus can viably survive outside the womb, generally considered to be at 22 to 24 weeks.

Opponents immediately announced their intention to fight the new abortion restrictions.

"I think today, for whatever reason, the Arkansas House turned its back on the women of Arkansas and said, we don't think you're capable of making your own decisions," Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, told the AP.

She said the group planned to file suit in federal court in the next couple weeks.

The 12-week ban includes exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and deadly fetal disorders. The 20-week ban includes all of the same exemptions, except for fetal disorders, the AP reported.

-----

New Infections Occurring 6 Months After Tainted Drug Outbreak Began

Some people who originally tested clear are becoming sick nearly six months after the start of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States linked to contaminated steroid injections.

This raises concerns that the incubation period for illness may be longer than believed, NBC News reported.

The outbreak has killed 48 and sickened more than 700, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of new patients has slowed dramatically, but two or three people each week are still being diagnosed with infections from the mold-tainted steroids, which were given to treat pain.

Some of the new patients previously had MRIs or lumbar punctures that showed they were free of infection. These infections are not as severe as meningitis, but experts say they are still cause for concern, NBC News reported.

This week, CDC officials issued a health alert urging health professionals to keep alert for new infections, even in patients who show only minor symptoms, or none at all.

"We are seeing some patients with very long incubation periods," said Dr. Tom Chiller, associate director for epidemiological science in the CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, NBC News reported. "We expect to see people getting infections months after their injections."

The tainted doses of the drug methylprednisolone were prepared by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., which is now closed. Nearly 14,000 people in 23 states were exposed to the contaminated drugs.

-----

Remove Yellow Dyes from Kraft Mac & Cheese: Petition

Two women have started a petition to have yellow dye 5 and yellow dye 6 taken out of Kraft's Mac & Cheese sold in the United States.

The petroleum-based dyes add nothing to the product's flavor and may be dangerous to children's health, according to Lisa Leake and Vani Hari. They said the food colorings have been associated with hyperactivity in children, allergies, migraine, and perhaps cancer, ABC News reported.