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Health Headlines - February 23

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
U.S. Panel Recommends Flu Shots for Children Ages 2 to 5

U.S. children ages 2 to 5 should get flu shots, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended Wednesday.

The panel also recommended regular flu shots for people who provide in-home and out-of-home care for children ages 2 to 5. Committee members voted against encouraging all Americans to get a flu shot, citing the need for further study and planning, the Associated Press reported.

The committee's advice is normally accepted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issues vaccination guidelines to doctors and hospitals.

Currently, flu shots are recommended for children ages 6 months to 23 months, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people of all ages with chronic health problems. This recommendation would add 5.3 million healthy U.S. children to the list, the AP reported.

The panel's decision was welcomed by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

"This augmented vaccination approach is a positive step toward protecting an increased number of children from this serious respiratory illness and its dangerous complications," Dr. Carol J. Baker, NFID president elect, said in a prepared statement.

Metal Particles Prompt Baby Formula Recall

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a nationwide recall for some GENTLEASE powdered infant formula that may contain metal particles up to 2.7 millimeters in size.

The recall affects 41,464 24-ounce cans of formula with lot number BMJ19, use by 1 Jul 07, which can be found on the bottom of the can. Anyone with a can from this batch of formula should not use the product and should contact manufacturer Mead Johnson at 1-888-587-7275.

While no injuries have been reported, the presence of the metal particles could pose a serious risk to an infant's throat or respiratory system if an infant inhaled the formula, the FDA said.

Any injuries would likely show up within three to four hours after using the formula and symptoms would vary depending on whether there is damage to the throat or lungs. Coughing, difficulty swallowing or difficulty breathing may be signs of throat damage. Coughing and difficulty breathing could be signs of damage to the lungs.

Anyone who has fed formula from this batch to their baby and has concerns about their baby's health should contact their doctor for advice, the FDA said. The agency and Mead Johnson are investigating how the metal particles ended up in the formula.

Editors and Authors Clash Over Vioxx Study

In letters released Thursday, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine squared off with the authors of a disputed study that compared the Vioxx pain pill to another prescription painkiller called naproxen.

The letters, posted on the journal's Web site, give conflicting opinions about the accuracy of the study. They will appear in the March 16 print issue of the journal, Bloomberg news reported.

The disputed study was published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000. In their letter, the editors repeated their concern that the study was "misleading" because it had left out three heart attack cases, an omission the editors said skewed the study's findings.

The study "did not accurately reflect the potential for serious cardiovascular toxicity. We therefore reaffirm our expression of concern," the editors wrote.

The researchers rejected a request by the editors to correct the study, and wrote, "We stand by our original article, which was written in line with basic clinical trial principles. Cardiovascular events were not deleted from the manuscript, and there is no material difference in the conclusions that arise from the addition of the events" that occurred after the trial was halted.

Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004 after a study found that the painkiller doubled the risk of heart attack after 18 months of use.

American Infected With Inhaled Anthrax

A 44-year-old New York City man has been diagnosed with inhaled anthrax, which officials believe he probably contracted naturally by working with African animal hides used to make drums, the Associated Press has reported.

The case is not believed related to terrorism, and doesn't appear to pose a public health threat, New York City television station WABC TV quotes Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying. "We have every reason to believe this infection is an accidental ... case. No other cases have been reported whatsoever," Bloomberg said at a news conference.

The drum maker, identified as Vado Diomande, recently traveled to Africa and became sick last week upon his return to the United States, the AP said. At least four others who may have been exposed are being given antibiotics.

Officials were running tests on the man's rented workspace in Brooklyn, N.Y., his car, and his Manhattan apartment, Bloomberg told the AP.

The man was recovering at a hospital in Sayre, Pa., where he had been attending a dance recital and collapsed during the performance, the wire service said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the man's illness as inhalation anthrax, the AP said. Anthrax spores are found naturally in many parts of the world, and can be transmitted to livestock via contaminated soil or feed. People can acquire the infection by coming in contact with the animals or contaminated body parts.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several letters containing inhaled anthrax were mailed to various points nationwide, including to prominent media and congressional figures. The still unsolved attacks killed five people and sickened 17, the AP said.

FDA Approves First Generic Form of Flonase

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday it had approved the first generic version of the anti-allergy medication Flonase.

Like GlaxoSmithKline's brand-name equivalent, the new generic (Fluticasone Propionate Nasal Spray) is an inhaled corticosteroid approved for adults and children over 4 years of age for the relief of nasal symptoms linked to allergic or non-allergic rhinitis.

GlaxoSmithKline introduced Flonase in 1994, and its patents on the drug ran out in late November.

"Except for their price, which is much lower, generic drugs are in every way equivalent to their brand-name counterparts," Dr. Steven Galson, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a prepared statement.

FDA's iPledge Program to Begin March 1

Despite objections from dermatologists, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will stick to March 1 as the start date for iPledge, a program designed to prevent birth defects caused by an acne drug.

The iPledge goal is to register women of childbearing age who use the drug Accutane and its generic versions and to require them to have pregnancy tests before getting a prescription for the drugs.

Dermatologists argue that the program to prevent pregnant women from using the drug may keep the drug away from patients who need it to treat severe acne, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA already delayed implementation of iPledge, which had been scheduled to take effect last November.

Food Fact:
Super nova

Eating one meal of salmon a week can spawn a much healthier you. Salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel or bluefish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to a lower risk of heart attacks. As little as one weekly serving of fish can cut a middle-aged adult's chances of a fatal heart attack by as much as 50%. More good news: Eating fish rich in omega-3s helps reduce diabetes risk, in part by lowering blood triglycerides. Conversely, diets low in omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to insulin resistance, a risk for developing diabetes. Salmon also bolsters your body's ability to process serotonin, which can help relieve a tendency toward depression. Poach it. Grill it. Pan-sear it. Bake it. Just eat it.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Water on the knee?

Here's a tip for anyone whose exercise routine is hindered by sore knees. A water aerobics class is a perfect way to exercise while minimizing stress on your joints. The water provides a fair amount of resistance, yet at the same time it provides a vital protective cushion for sore joints.

FAQ of the day:
Why is fat so fattening?

Fat has more calories than carbohydrate, in part because it has a different balance of oxygen and carbon atoms; a gram of fat has 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrates has 4. Also, carbohydrate-rich foods absorb water while fat does not, which makes a big difference in calories. Apple slices, which are mostly carbohydrates and water, have 65 calories per cup. Lard, which is nearly pure fat, contains 1,850 calories in a cup.
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