Health Highlights: Oct. 13, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Staph Skin Infections Spreading in U.S. Schools
Schools across America are reporting outbreaks of Staphylococcus aureus skin infections, some of them drug-resistant, according to the Associated Press. Most infections are being spread in school gyms and locker rooms as athletes with minor cuts and abrasions share equipment, experts said.
"Most of these are mild infections," Nicole Coffin, spokeswoman at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the AP. "They can be as simple as a pimple or a boil, or as serious as a blood infection."
Most worrisome are cases of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which resists treatment with many antibiotics. In a Newport News, Va., high school, four students were infected with staph, one of them carrying the MRSA strain. That patient, a football player, was briefly hospitalized this week, the AP said.
Other outbreaks of a similar nature have occurred in schools in Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, the AP added.
Experts say the best way to minimize the risk of staph skin infections is through frequent and thorough handwashing, by covering any wounds, and by avoiding sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
FDA Approves New AIDS Medication
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new kind of pill to fight AIDS.
According to the Associated Press, Merck & Co.'s Isentress could be a valuable new weapon for patients battling tough-to-treat forms of AIDS, since it targets an enzyme produced by HIV called integrase.
Existing medications do not act on this enzyme, but they do target two other enzymes crucial to HIV's infection and spread. Adding twice-a-day Isentress to standard drug cocktails should boost overall treatment effectiveness, the AP said.
A Merck spokeswoman said Isentress will cost about $27 a day, similar to other HIV/AIDS medications, and the drug should be on pharmacy shelves within about 2 weeks. Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, headache and itching.
U.S. and China Discuss Product Safety
U.S. officials met with Chinese representatives Friday in an effort to develop a plan to ensure the safety of Chinese foods, drugs and other products exported to the United States, the Associated Press reported.
While he wouldn't disclose any details about measures that China agreed to take to improve the safety of its exports, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach did say that Chinese officials will travel to the United States later this month to finalize details of a "memorandum of agreement" between the two nations.
"They are as concerned about confidence in the quality and safety of food and drugs as we are in the United States," von Eschenbach said, the AP reported.
China has faced intense international criticism due to a large number of serious health and safety problems involving products it exports. On Thursday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee reported that China's food supply chain does not meet international standards.
Sen. Kennedy Has Surgery for Artery Blockage
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 75, underwent an hour-long operation Friday for a partial blockage in his neck's left carotid artery. The left and right carotid arteries carry blood to the head and blockages can cause a stroke.
A statement from Kennedy's office said the procedure was completed without any complications and Kennedy is expected to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital in several days, the Associated Press reported.
This kind of surgery, called a carotid endarterectomy, is performed on more than 180,000 people in the United States each year.
Kennedy's blockage was discovered during a routine examination of an old back injury he suffered in a 1964 plane crash, the AP reported.
"As part of a routine evaluation of Senator Kennedy's back and spine, MRI studies picked up an unrelated, asymptomatic blockage in the senator's left carotid artery," said the statement from Kennedy's office.
Report Raises Concerns About Lead in Lipsticks
Tests of 33 top-brand lipsticks sold in the United States showed that more than half had detectable levels of lead and 11 exceeded 0.1 parts per million, the federal lead limit for candy, says a report released Thursday by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
"The cosmetics industry definitely has a lead problem," Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the coalition of environmental and public health groups advocating toxin-free products, told the Houston Chronicle.
L'Oreal, CoverGirl, Christian Dior and Maybelline were among the brands found to have high lead levels. For example, L'Oreal Colour Riche True Red had a lead content of 0.65 parts per million, L'Oreal Colour Riche Classic Wine had 0.58 parts per million and CoverGirl's Incredifull Lipcolor Maximum Red had 0.56 parts per million.
The lipstick samples were randomly collected in four cities -- Boston, Hartford, Conn., San Francisco, Minneapolis -- and tested by Bodycote Testing Group in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., the Chronicle reported.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it's aware of past concerns about lead in lipstick and has no plans to take action in response to the report.
500,000 Women Die Each Year During Pregnancy, Childbirth
Each year, more than half a million women worldwide die during pregnancy and childbirth and that death toll is decreasing too slowly to meet a target set by the United Nations, warns a report released Friday by a number of groups including the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The document noted that 99 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries, Agence France-Presse reported.
In 2005, 536,000 women died of maternal causes, compared to 576,000 deaths in 1990. The rate of decline is far less than the target set out in the UN's Millennium Development Goals, which calls for a 5.5 percent decrease in maternal deaths per year until 2015. The decline in 2005 was less than one percent.
In 2005, the maternal death rate in developing nations was 450 per 100,000 live births, compared to nine per 100,000 in developed countries, said the report. It said more needs to be done to improve women's healthcare and access to reproductive health services in developing regions, AFP reported.
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