Health Highlights: Aug. 25, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Maternal Childbirth Death Rate Climbing
It's difficult to believe, but the rate of women who die from giving birth in the United States is rising, according to recent government statistics.
The U.S. government's National Center for Health Statistics gave a report last week showing that The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004, up one death per 100,000 from 2003. Statistically, that figure is significant, the Associated Press reports. What's even more alarming is that the 2003 figure was the first to exceed 10 deaths per 100,000 since 1977, according to the A.P.
The reasons for the hike? Obesity, increasing use of Caesarean sections and new reporting systems all are contributing factors, health experts told the wire service.
"There's an inherent risk to C-sections," Dr. Elliott Main, who reviews obstetrics care in California, told the wire service. "As you do thousands and thousands of them, there's going to be a price."
Obese Man Undergoes Weight Loss Surgery in Attempt to Win Adoption Case
A 558-pound man who was claims he was denied the right to adopt a child because of his obesity underwent gastric bypass surgery in Dallas Friday in hopes that the procedure would spur the weight loss necessary to increase his chances.
According to the Associated Press, 34-year-old Gary Stocklaufer and his wife had taken baby Max into their home since he was a week old. The infant, now 4 months, is related to the Stocklaufers, who live in Independence, Mo., the wire service said.
When it came time to proceed with the adoption, Max was given to another family, and the Stocklaufers told the A.P. they believe it is because of Gary's obesity, a charge on which Missouri officials declined comment. The Jackson County Mo. court is required "to consider the welfare and best interests of the child" which is a "complicated determination," court spokeswoman Kelley Carpenter said in an e-mail to the wire service.
"They have legally kidnapped this child," the A.P quotes Cindy Stocklaufer as saying Friday after her husband's surgery. "There's no guarantee losing the weight will change anything, but we have to try."
Fatty Diet Linked to Infertility
In mice, a high-fat diet damages eggs in the ovaries and prevents them from becoming healthy embryos, a finding that may help explain infertility problems in obese women, say researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
They discovered that the main cause of diet-induced infertility in mice is a protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated gamma -- found in cells that nourish eggs, Agence France-Presse reported.
"The behavior of this protein helps to determine the way in which the ovaries sense and respond to fats," said researcher Cadence Minge. "Being able to control this protein will be very important in the quest to reverse fertility caused by poor diets."
She and her colleagues found that the anti-diabetes drug rosglitazone helped counter the effects of this protein in mice, resulting in better rates of fetal survival and higher birth weights. However, due to potential side effects, this drug can't be used as a "quick fix" for infertile obese women, AFP reported.
Weight loss is the most effective way for obese women to restore fertility, Minge said.
Two New Norovirus Strains Identified by U.S. Health Officials
Two new strains of norovirus were identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during an outbreak late last year that made thousands ill and may have killed as many as 19 people.
So far, norovirus has been confirmed as the cause of death in only one case -- a 90-year-old nursing home resident in North Carolina, the Associated Press reported.
The two new strains may have played a role in the unusually high number of cases -- 1,300 outbreaks in 24 states -- reported last winter, says an article in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.
Noroviruses, sometimes called Norwalk-like viruses, are a group of highly contagious viruses that cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. In recent years, there have been a number of norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. During last winter's outbreak, many cases occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
False Lab Tests May Explain Rising Whooping Cough Numbers
False lab tests may be behind a reported surge in whooping cough (pertussis) cases in the United States, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They found that a regularly used lab test for whooping cough misdiagnosed cases among suspected outbreaks in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Tennessee, the Associated Press reported.
As a result of those false test results, thousands of people may have taken antibiotics unnecessarily. One New Hampshire hospital even limited the number of patients admitted because it was thought some hospital workers had the sometimes lethal respiratory infection.
Previously, U.S. federal health officials said the number of reported whooping cough cases in the country had tripled since 2001, reaching 26,000 in 2005. But nearly half those cases were diagnosed using this apparently faulty lab test, the AP reported.
Baby Carrots Recalled for Bacteria Contamination
Sweet baby carrots sold in 12 states are being recalled because they may be contaminated with Shigella bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
Infection with the bacteria -- especially among the very young, elderly, or people with compromised immune systems -- can trigger symptoms including diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Illness usually lasts four to 14 days, the agency said in a statement on its Web site.
The product was sold in packages with two labels. The first was branded "Los Angeles Salad Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots" and distributed by retail stores including Kroger, King Sooper, and Publix in Colorado, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida. Affected 7- and 8-oz. plastic bags had a sell-by date up to and including Aug. 16, 2007.
The second label was "Trader Joe's Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots," distributed by Trader Joe's stores in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Affected 7-oz. bags had a sell-by date up to and including Aug. 8, 2007.
The carrots were produced by the Los Angeles Salad Co. At least four people who ate the carrots were sickened in Canada between Aug. 4 and Aug. 6, the FDA said, although none was hospitalized. The source of the contamination is under investigation.
To learn more, contact Los Angeles Salads at 626-322-9017.
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