Health Highlights: Nov. 18, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Food Safety Bill Passed by Senate

A bill that boosts the Food and Drug Administration's ability to prevent foodborne illnesses in the United States was passed Wednesday by the Senate.

The bill, passed 74-25, gives the FDA more power to recall tainted products, require food producers to follow tighter food safety standards, and increase inspections of food processing facilities, the Associated Press reported.

A similar bill was passed by the House more than a year ago.

The push to improve the FDA's oversight of food safety comes in the wake of a number of outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated food, the AP reported.

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Bird Flu Case Confirmed in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's first human case of bird flu in seven years was confirmed Wednesday by health officials.

The 59-year-old woman tested positive for H5N1 bird flu after she returned to Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland, said Health Secretary York Chow. The woman was hospitalized and is in serious condition, the Associated Press reported.

The confirmation of the illness prompted officials to raise the bird flu alert to "serious."

Hong Kong officials planned to meet Thursday to discuss whether additional measures are needed to protect residents of the territory, said the AP.

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New Drug Fights Bone Tumors in Prostate Cancer Patients

An experimental drug called XL184 appears effective in treating prostate cancer that has spread to bones, according to early test results.

Researchers found that the treatment benefited 19 of 20 prostate cancer patients. In some cases, scans could no longer detect any cancer in the bones and patients were able to stop taking narcotics to control bone pain, The New York Times reported.

The findings were to be presented Thursday at a cancer conference in Berlin. The drug is made by California-based biotechnology company Exelixis.

In related news, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said Wednesday there was adequate evidence that the prostate cancer drug Provenge prolongs lives, The Times reported.

The drug is already approved in the U.S. but the panel's finding makes it more likely that Medicare will pay for the drug.

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HPV Vaccine Also Prevents Anal Cancer, FDA Panel Says

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that the Gardasil human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine -- already approved to prevent cervical cancer -- can also prevent anal malignancies in males and females.

The recommendation was based on a study of 4,000 men conducted by the vaccine's maker, Merck & Co, the Associated Press reported. The panelists said that the findings could also apply to women.

Gardasil is currently approved to help ward off cervical cancer and genital warts in females aged 9 to 26, and genital warts in males within the same age range. The vaccine blocks four common strains of HPV.

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Cholera Confirmed in Florida Woman

A Florida woman who visited family in Haiti returned home with cholera, but the disease is unlikely to spread because of better sanitation in the United States, say state health officials.

It's the state's first confirmed case of cholera linked to the Haiti epidemic.

The women, who cannot be identified due to privacy laws, visited family residing along Haiti's rural Artibonite River, where the cholera outbreak began in October. She returned to her home in Collier County in southwest Florida and has recovered from cholera, said Dr. Thomas Torok, of the Florida Department of Health, the Associated Press reported.

Other suspected cases of cholera are under investigation, said the health department. There have not been any reports of locally acquired cases of cholera.

Since an earthquake devastated Haiti in January, there has been increased travel between Florida's large Haitian community and the Caribbean country, the AP reported.

Florida health officials have asked doctors to report cases of watery diarrhea in people who recently went to Haiti and to submit specimens to state laboratories.

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Posted: November 2010


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