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Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2013

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

Vaccination Rates High Among Kindergartners: CDC

Overall vaccination rates among American kindergartners are high, but there is still room for improvement, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

In the 2012-2013 school year, kindergartners in Mississippi had the highest overall vaccination rate at 99.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest at 82.9 percent, CBS News reported.

The researchers also found that the nation is closing in on the federal government's Healthy People 2020 campaign goal of having 95 percent of kindergartners receive four doses of the pertussis (DTap) vaccine, two or more doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) and two doses of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.

The study said that 94.5 percent of kindergartners received the MMR doses, 95.1 percent got the dTAP vaccine and 93.8 percent got the chickenpox vaccine doses, CBS News reported.

But the researchers also found that nearly 91,500 of the more than 4.2 million kindergartners in the study were exempted from receiving vaccinations. Oregon had the highest exemption rate at 6.4 percent, followed by Vermont and Illinois, each with 6.1 percent.

The study was published Aug. 1 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Steroid Nasal Spray Should be Sold Over-the-Counter: FDA Panel

Switching the prescription steroid nasal spray Nasacort AQ to an over-the-counter product has the support of a U.S. Food and Drug advisory panel.

In a 10-6 vote Wednesday, the committee backed a plan by Sanofi SA to make the nasal spray for allergies available in drug store aisles for use by adults and children ages 2 and older, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Some member of the advisory panel expressed concern about the possible negative impact that the spray might have on children's growth and suggested its OTC approval be restricted to adults.

On Monday, FDA staff said the Nasacort was a "good candidate" to be sold without a prescription, WSJ reported. The FDA typically follows the advice of it advisory panels.


Ground Beef Products Recalled for Possible Contamination

About 50,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 have been recalled by Kansas-based National Beef Packing Co.

The problem was discovered through routine monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The agency and the company have not received any reports of illnesses associated with the products.

The recall covers 10-lb. chubs of:

  • "National Beef" 93/ 7 fine ground beef, product code 0707
  • "NatureSource" 80/20 fine ground chuck, product code 7031
  • "NatureSource" 85/15 fine ground beef, product code 7054
  • "NatureSource" 90/10 fine ground beef, product code 7344
  • "NatureSource" 93/ 7 fine ground beef, product code 7004
  • "NatureWell" 80/20 fine ground chuck, product code 7484
  • "NatureWell" 85/15 fine ground beef, product code 7454
  • "NatureWell" 90/10 fine ground sirloin, product code 7577
  • "NatureWell" 93/7 fine ground beef, product code 7404

All the products bear the establishment number "EST. 208A" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were produced on July 18 and shipped in 40- to 60-lb. cases to retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors nationwide, the FSIS said.

E. coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness, FSIS said.

Consumers should contact their doctor if they are concerned about possibly having eaten contaminated beef. They can also call 1-866-761-9472 or go to National Beef Packing's website for details about the recall and the company's return and reimbursement policy.


Bill Would Make Anti-Allergy Drug Available in Schools

Legislation to make life-saving medicine available in schools to treat severe allergic reactions in students with food allergies was passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would provide grant preferences to states that implement policies to provide epinephrine in schools, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

In addition, the bill encourages schools to permit trained administers to give epinephrine to students believed to be having a severe allergic reaction and requires states to review their liability laws to ensure that the administrators have sufficient legal protections when they assist students.

The issue gained media attention this week with the sudden death of 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi at her summer camp in Sacramento, Calif. The girl, who has a severe peanut allergy, took a bite of a Rice Krispie square containing peanuts and died after her airways closed off in a reaction to the allergen.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, was sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and doctor, and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranked Democrat in the House, CBS News/AP reported.

"My granddaughter has a severe peanut allergy, and the presence of EpiPens (epinephrine) in schools can be lifesaving," Hoyer said.

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Posted: August 2013