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Health Headlines - September 9

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:22pm

U.S. Dog Population Now Rabies-Free, Government Says

Although rabies is still found in North American wild animals, there have been no reported cases of canine rabies in the United States this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Commemorating Sept. 7 as World Rabies Day in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of other groups, the CDC formally declared rabies as having been eliminated in the U.S. dog population.

"The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years," Dr. Charles Rupprecht, Chief of the CDC Rabies Program, said in an agency news release.

There are still at least 55,000 rabies deaths worldwide every year, the CDC says. The last death reported in the United States was in 2006, when a Wisconsin teenager was bitten by a bat and didn't receive the rabies treatment inoculation in time.

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Alcohol Consumption Can Double Uterine Cancer Risk, Study Says

Two or more alcoholic drinks a day may double the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer, researchers at the University of Southern California have found.

According to a USC news release, the scientists found that the relationship between estrogen levels and alcohol in post-menopausal women is the key element. "Previous studies have shown that alcohol consumption has been associated with higher levels of estrogens in postmenopausal women, which could be the mechanism by which daily alcohol intake increases ones risk of endometrial cancer," Veronica Wendy Setiawan, assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, says in the news release.

The researchers used a huge database of more than 215,000 people developed in 1993 by Dr. Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Dr. Laurence Kolonel of the University of Hawaii. They examined the drinking habits of more than 41,000 multi-ethnic women from Los Angeles and Hawaii for an average of eight years.

The results are preliminary, Henderson said, but he added he was encouraged that "This discovery is important as it suggests that changes to certain lifestyle choices may potentially help alter risk of the disease."

The study will appear in a later issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

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U.S. Rejects N.Y. Effort to Insure More Children

The Bush administration has turned thumbs down on a New York state plan to allow more families to participate in the national State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), citing guidelines issued just three weeks ago, the Associated Press reported.

New York had proposed allowing more middle-income families to participate by expanding eligibility in SCHIP to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which translates to $68,680 for a family of three. But the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the plan, saying the state hadn't shown that it met new guidelines requiring 95 percent enrollment among all poor children before higher-income children could be admitted, the AP said.

"New York has not demonstrated that its program operates in an effective and efficient manner with respect to the core population of targeted low-income children," said Kerry Weems, acting administrator for the Medicare/Medicare agency.

State lawmakers said New York had made every effort to enroll more of its poor children in the SCHIP program.

"It is clear the [Bush] administration is spoiling for a fight and it's unfortunate [President Bush] has chosen children's health care," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.), who called the decision "unconscionable."

The House of Representatives in early August passed a measure to increase funding for SCHIP to $75 billion over five years, while a similar Senate bill raises the level to $60 billion. President Bush, whose administration has proposed spending about $30 billion over the span, has threatened to veto the House or Senate versions if either reaches his desk, the AP said.

The program is set to expire Sept. 30 unless Congress approves an extension, the wire service said.

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Dietary Supplement Recalled for Unapproved Ingredients

The maker of Zencore Tabs, marketed as a dietary supplement to enhance male sexual stamina, is recalling the product because it contains undeclared ingredients including aminotadalafil and sildenafil, chemicals whose derivatives are used in prescription medicines for erectile dysfunction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

These and two other chemical ingredients, sulfosildenafil and sulfohomosildenafil, may interact with nitrates found in certain prescription drugs and could lower blood pressure to dangerous levels, the FDA said in a statement.

Zencore is marketed by Los Angeles-based Bodee LLC.

Consumers who have this product are urged to stop using it immediately and to see a health-care professional if they notice any side effects, the FDA said.

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Most Imported Food Never Inspected: Report

More than 98 percent of imported food is never inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the two federal agencies charged with protecting Americans against tainted food, the Progressive Policy Institute said Friday. Imported food now accounts for about 13 percent of the average American's diet.

Some 76 million Americans get sick each year from eating spoiled, contaminated or tainted food, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, the Washington, D.C.-based group said in a statement.

While the FDA is responsible for 80 percent of the nation's food supply, 80 percent of the nation's annual food-safety budget goes to the Department of Agriculture, the PPI said.

"Currently, Americans are protected against tainted goods by a system of redundant, inefficient programs that let too many dangerous products through the cracks," the institute added.

The PPI offered the following remedies for what it said was an ailing food-inspection system:

  1. Grant food inspection authority to a sole agency, which should have stronger authority to recall unsafe food products, and would establish uniform standards for all domestic and imported foods.
  2. Focus attention on goods from nations with a history of problem imports. According to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the United States rejects twice as many food shipments from China as from all other foreign nations combined. Nonetheless, China exported $4.2 billion in food and agriculture to the United States last year.
  3. Create a stronger federal recall authority. Currently, only infant formula is subject to any form of mandatory recall authority.
  4. Use a program designed to prevent the import of terrorist weapons -- the Container Security Initiative -- to inspect food shipments. The infrastructure created for the program exists in more than 50 ports around the world.

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Chinese-Made Candles Pose Burn Hazards

Some 83,000 Chinese-made outdoor candles sold at Ace Hardware stores nationwide are being recalled because their unusually high flames pose burn and fire hazards to users, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday.

The Hayes citronella "Avant Yarde" decorative candles have glazed lower portions that are brown, blue or green. Item number 18134 can be found on a label on the bottom of the product.

The candles were sold from February 2006 through June 2007 for about $8.

Consumers should stop using the products immediately and return them to any Ace Hardware store for a refund. To learn more, contact the distributor, Hayes Co. Inc., at 800-838-5053.

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