Health Highlights: July 25, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Medicaid Law Aimed at Illegal Immigrants Isn't Working: Report
New rules designed to curb the numbers of illegal immigrants who file for Medicaid coverage appear to be affecting more people who are actually eligible for Medicaid, a federal assessment found.
The law, which took effect July 1, 2006, required states evaluating Medicaid eligibility to obtain proof of citizenship and nationality, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO), in a survey of 44 states, found that 22 states reported enrollment drops after the rule came into effect. But most of the declines involved delayed coverage or loss of coverage entirely among eligible citizens, the AP said.
Of the 22 remaining states, 12 said the new rules had no effect on enrollment and 10 others said they didn't know.
In response to the report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- the federal agency that oversees the program that provides health coverage to the poor -- said the states did not document their conclusions, the AP reported.
The GAO conceded that its review represented the views of state Medicaid officials, the wire service said.
Bus Passengers May Have Been Exposed to TB
A dozen or more passengers who took a Boston-to-Montreal bus in May might have been exposed to tuberculosis, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
While the Massachusetts Public Health Department said it is trying to find fellow passengers on the May 5 bus trip, a spokesman called the incident "a low-risk situation" because the unidentified passenger had a form of TB that wasn't drug resistant, the wire service reported.
Public Health Department spokesman Alfred DeMaria conceded that the American public has been on heightened alert since the high-profile case of Atlanta attorney Andrew Speaker, who flew to Europe for his wedding despite having been told he had a highly drug-resistant form of the disease.
Speaker's diagnosis was later downgraded to a slightly less severe strain of TB.
The Massachusetts man traveling on the bus discovered that he had TB a week after returning from Montreal, the AP reported. State health officials said they've since tracked down 10 fellow passengers and additional bus workers, and none has tested positive. The wire service report did not identify the bus company involved.
Discard Any Cans Linked to Botulism Outbreak: FDA
Consumers who have any of the 90 canned products linked to a botulism outbreak involving Castleberry's Food Co. should throw out the cans immediately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
"You're talking tens of millions of cans that may have been involved," Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told the Associated Press.
Castleberry's, which on Monday announced the closing of the Augusta, Ga., plant at the center of the outbreak, has hired an outside company to help rid the nation's 8,500 retail outlets of any affected product. A list of recalled items is provided by the FDA here.
Four cases of botulism -- two in Texas and two in Indiana -- have been linked to Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original. Other products, including additional brands of canned chili, beef stew, and corned beef hash, were produced at the same plant and are being recalled as a precaution, the company said.
The chili sauces are the only products that have tested positive for the bacterium Clostridium botulinum that causes botulism, a rare but deadly illness that can paralyze the breathing muscles. Symptoms, including blurred vision and slurred speech, generally begin within 36 hours of eating contaminated food, the AP said.
Botulism is normally prevented in canned food by sufficiently heating the product to a high enough temperature. Castleberry's Senior Vice President Dave Melbourne acknowledged that botulism developed in the chili sauce products because they were undercooked, the wire service reported.
Castleberry's said consumers should throw away any of the recalled product in doubled plastic bags. They should not bring the recalled product back to the grocery store, but instead should contact Castleberry's for a refund at 1-888-203-8446.
Latest Echinacea Study Finds It Fights Colds
The latest in a recent series of conflicting studies of echinacea finds the herb does have a substantial effect on preventing colds or limiting how long they last, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The latest findings, published in the July issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, combined the results of 700 prior studies to come up with a larger patient sample.
The analysis found that echinacea reduced a person's risk of catching a cold by 58 percent, the Times said. While the herb also shortened the duration of the average cold, the University of Connecticut researchers said they couldn't extrapolate by exactly how much.
"Our analysis doesn't say that the stuff works without question," said UConn professor of pharmacy practice Dr. Craig Coleman, senior author of the study. "But the preponderance of evidence suggests that it does."
The study authors said they had only evaluated echinacea's effectiveness in preventing colds, not the herb's overall safety.
Pottery Barn Recalls Crib Bumpers
Pottery Barn is recalling 31,000 Matelassé crib bumpers, which include decorative edge stitching that can come lose and pose an entanglement hazard to infants, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.
Pottery Barn Kids has two reports of the stitching coming lose, but neither involved an injury, the CPSC said.
The product, made in Portugal, was sold online and at Pottery Barn Kids stores nationwide from February 2003 through June 2007 for about $90.
Consumers are urged to stop using the bumpers immediately and to contact Pottery Barn Kids for a refund. The toll-free number is 877-800-9720.
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