Health Highlights: Aug. 27, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Asthma Rates Elevated Among Ground Zero Recovery Workers
Recovery workers who responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center have contracted asthma at 12 times the normal rate of the general population, the New York City Department of Health said Monday.
Some 3.6 percent of the 25,000 workers enrolled in World Trade Center Health Registry have developed the lung disease, the department said in a prepared statement. Workers who arrived at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, and worked on the site more than 90 days had the highest rate of asthma, at 7 percent.
The data were published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Workers who did not wear masks or respirators were two to three times more likely to develop asthma than those who did wear the protective equipment, the department added. However, asthma rates were above average even among workers who did wear the masks.
"The events of 9/11 were unprecedented," New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said in a prepared statement. "With the urgency of rescue operations and the difficulty of prolonged physical exertion with most types of respirators, there are no easy answers."
The study found no differences among rescue workers of different occupations, but found that asthma rates were significantly higher among those who worked on dust-laden debris piles, versus those who worked elsewhere on the Ground Zero site, the department said.
FDA Expands Recall of Raw Oysters
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded its Aug. 10 recall of raw oysters harvested from the Hood Canal region in Washington state.
Originally limited to "growing area 6," the recall now includes raw oysters harvested from neighboring "growing area 5," the agency said Monday. The oysters may be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria, which could lead to symptoms including diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Symptoms usually develop within 24 hours of eating the tainted food, and should last no longer than three days. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to this type of illness.
It has now been determined that raw oysters harvested from the newly identified growing area between July 31 and Aug. 20 sickened at least six people in Washington state, the FDA said in a prepared statement. Records indicate the oysters were distributed domestically in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington state.
The oysters were shipped internationally to British Columbia, Canada; Bali, Indonesia; Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand.
Both growing areas 5 and 6 have been closed, and companies that harvested any oysters from either region have been asked to recall them, the FDA said. Consumers who bought raw oysters should contact the place of purchase to ask if the oysters were harvested from affected growing areas.
Dunkin' Donuts Dumps Most Trans Fats
Dunkin' Donuts says it has dumped most harmful trans fats from more than 50 menu items and says its menu will be "zero grams trans fat" by Oct. 15, the Associated Press reported Monday.
About 400 of the 5,400 Dunkin' Donuts locations nationwide took part in a four-month switchover to a new blend of palm, soy and cottonseed oils, the wire service said. These included locations in New York City and Philadelphia, which are requiring restaurants to eliminate artery-clogging trans fats.
The donut chain isn't claiming that it will be entirely trans fat-free because federal regulations allow the "zero gram" designation provided levels fall below a half gram per serving, the AP said.
In related news, Baskin-Robbins plans to be "zero grams trans fat" by Jan. 1, the wire service said. The ice cream chain is owned by the donut company's parent, Dunkin' Brands Inc.
2 Dry Dog Food Brands Recalled After Salmonella Discovered
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued another alert for a pet food recall, this time because salmonella bacteria was found in test samples.
Two brands of dry dog food are involved. The first is sold in five-pound bags in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania under the name Krasdale Gravy dry dog food. The second is sold in 50-pound bags in Pennsylvania under the name Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula.
Both brands have been recalled by their maker, Mars Petcare US of Franklin, Tenn., the FDA says, because of tests that revealed the presence of Salmonella Schwarzengrund, a type of salmonella that can be resistant to traditional antibiotic treatment.
The FDA did not indicate that this recall had anything to do with a massive recall of scores of pet food brands in March. Those recalls were prompted by reports of illnesses in dogs and cats, possibly by their eating foods that contained melamine, a chemical used to make plastics.
Salmonella, which can cause fever and diarrhea in humans and can be particularly dangerous to the elderly and small children, could be acquired by humans handling contaminated pet food, the FDA says in a news release.
So far this year, 64 human cases of Salmonella Schwarzengrund have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention according to the FDA, but none of them has been connected to the two recalled pet foods.
The coding information on the pet food bags is UPC Code: 7513062596 with the Best By Dates of July 16 and July 17, 2008. Consumers can call Mars Petcare US, Inc. at 866-298-8332 for more information.
Avian Flu Reported on Farm in Bavaria
The deadly strain of avian flu that has caused the deaths of millions of birds worldwide has re-emerged in Europe, this time in Germany.
According to the Associated Press, tests on ducklings at a farm in northern Bavaria found the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, and about 160,000 birds were being slaughtered to keep the virus from spreading.
This is the first case of a flock of German farm poultry contracting bird flu, the wire service reports, although several cases of the virus were found in wild birds in Germany this year.
Health officials remain alert to the possibility that the avian flu virus could mutate and cause it to be transmitted from human to human. Although the World Health Organization puts the number of human deaths from avian flu at 190, none of them is ascribed to contagion between humans, the AP reports.
Since it first began its worldwide spread in 2004, the H5N1 avian flu virus has caused the deaths of millions of birds in Asia, Europe, the South Pacific and Africa.
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