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Health Headlines - April 9

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
9/11 Survivors Still Struggling With Health Problems: Report

Many survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center are still suffering respiratory problems and psychological symptoms, according to a new government study.

About 62 percent of the survivors were enveloped in the dust, smoke and debris spewed into the air as the towers collapsed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Friday said.

About 57 percent reported new or worsening respiratory problems after the attacks, and 21 percent have had severe headaches, the agency said according to a Bloomberg report.

More than 64 percent said they were depressed, anxious or had other emotional problems; almost 11 percent were in severe psychological distress at the time they were interviewed, the Daily News reported.

The collapse released particles of concrete, glass, plastic and paper into the air; fires at the 16-acre pile of rubble burned for about 3 months, and many people inhaled the fumes when they returned to work in lower Manhattan, the CDC report said.

Between Sept. 5, 2003, and Nov. 20, 2004, the city Health Department interviewed 71,437 who had been affected by the attacks in 2001. The CDC then sampled data from 8,418 people on the registry -- excluding those involved in rescue and recovery efforts.

The government plans to periodically monitor the physical and mental health of the 71,437 people for 20 years as part of its World Trade Center Health Registry program.

Feds Open Criminal Probe Into Calif. Liver Transplant Program

Federal investigators have launched a criminal probe into UC Irvine Medical Center's failed liver transplant program, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

While the focus of the probe was not made clear, a spokesman for the university confirmed Saturday that the hospital was served with a subpoena for documents by the FBI, which is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have received a Department of Justice administrative subpoena related to the liver transplant program," UC Irvine spokesman James Cohen said in a prepared statement released Saturday. Cohen declined to provide details but said the university would cooperate.

UCI closed its liver transplant program in November after the Times reported that 32 patients on its waiting list died in 2004 and 2005, during a period when the hospital was rejecting viable organs from a donor network.

By 2004, private insurance companies had begun steering their liver transplant patients away from UCI to other hospitals in the region. As a result, UCI was relying almost exclusively on patients whose insurance was provided under government coverage, the newspaper reported.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services withdrew certification of the program after the Times story, ending federal payments for the treatments.

Israel's Sharon to Be Declared 'Permanently Incapacitated'

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for three months following a massive stroke, will be declared permanently incapacitated Tuesday, Israeli officials said Sunday.

The declaration will officially signal the end of his reign, the Justice Ministry added, according to an Associated Press report.

Sharon, 78, was declared temporarily incapacitated following the stroke Jan. 4, but under Israeli law after 100 days an official replacement for him has to be named.

That deadline expires Friday, but because the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday begins Wednesday, the declaration has been moved up to Tuesday -- with the proviso that it not take effect if Sharon's condition improves before the deadline, Justice Ministry spokesman Jacob Galanti said.

Officials at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where Sharon is being treated, said Sunday that discussions were still under way on whether to move him to a long-term care facility. Hospital spokesman Ron Krumer defined Sharon's condition as "serious, but stable," a reflection that his life is not in immediate danger, the AP reported.

Experts say Sharon's chances of recovery are extremely slim.

Norovirus Outbreak Kills 3 at Washington Retirement Home

A third person died Friday from a viral outbreak at a retirement center in Vancouver, Wash., which has so far sickened more than 55 residents and workers, authorities said.

Forty residents and 19 staff members of the Cascade Inn were affected by the norovirus. Nine people have been hospitalized, Clark County health officials said, according to the Associated Press.

The first patient died late Wednesday and the second Thursday morning.

All three deaths involved elderly residents with other underlying medical conditions, health officials said.

The 180 residents of the Cascade Inn have been asked to remain in their rooms and their friends and families are being urged not to visit them. All social activities have been cancelled, the reported.

Norovirus is common and includes symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Silicone Implants Linked to High Platinum Levels in Women: Study

High and potentially dangerous levels of the metal platinum were found in the bodies of women who'd had silicone gel breast implants for many years, according to research published this week in the journal Analytical Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society.

The findings were released just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears poised to allow silicone implants back on the market, the Washington Post reported.

Platinum is used in the implants as a catalyst to transform the silicone into a gel-like form.

The study found high levels of platinum salts in the hair, urine and breast milk of 16 women who'd had silicone gel implants for an average of 14 years. The researchers concluded that the platinum in the women's bodies was in a form that made it a potential source of toxic or severe allergic reactions.

The FDA is "carefully reviewing the article, and we don't know how long that will take," spokeswoman Susan Cruzan told the Post.

Last year, the agency deemed two applications to sell silicone gel implants to be "approvable," but the FDA has not yet given final approval to those applications.

"This is the first time the research has found platinum in this possibly harmful form in implanted women," Marlene Keeling, president of Chemically Associated Neurological Disorders, told the Post. The Houston nonprofit group helped fund the research, and Keeling has filed a citizen's petition with the FDA requesting that the two applications be delayed until further research is conducted into the platinum issue.
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