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Health Highlights: Aug. 30, 2010

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

Ground Beef Recalled Due to E. coli: USDA

Concerns about possible E. coli contamination have led to the recall of about 8,500 pounds of ground beef distributed by Pennsylvania-based Cargill Meat Solutions, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said that three instances of illness in New York and Maine have been linked to the recalled ground beef, the Washington Post reported.

The beef was shipped in in cases of 14-pound packages to distribution centers in Connecticut and Maryland for further distribution in smaller packages for consumers sales under different retail brand names, said the service.

Officials said the recalled ground beef has a product code of W69032 and carries the establishment number EST. 9400 inside the USDA mark of inspection. The ground beef was produced on June 11 and comes in packages with a use-by/freeze-by date of July 1, the Post reported.

The ground beef should be eaten only if it has been cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the Food Safety and Inspection Service advised. The only way to confirm that temperature is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.


New Test Helps Determines Need For Cesarean

A new test to identify expectant mothers who will need a cesarean section is being introduced in a number of European hospitals.

The test is based on research findings that women with high levels of lactic acid in the amniotic fluid are unlikely to deliver vaginally, BBC News reported.

Like other muscles, the uterus produces lactic acid when it works hard during labor. When it reaches a certain level, lactic acid starts to inhibit contractions.

By measuring levels of lactic acid in the amniotic fluid, doctors could determine earlier when it's time to end a difficult labor and proceed with a cesarean, BBC News reported.

The test is a "nice idea," according to Professor Donald Peebles, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the U.K.

"I can definitely see the logic, and it would be straightforward to carry out. I would be interested in seeing a large prospective study where you could see the impact it had on the management of labor and whether overall outcomes were improved," he told BBC News.


Lower U.S. Birth Rate May Be Linked To Recession

The recession may be the reason why the U.S. birth rate declined for a second year in a row in 2009 and was the lowest in a century, according to experts.

There were 4,136,000 births in 2009, 2.7 percent less than the 4,251,095 births in 2008. There were more than 4.3 million births in 2007, more than any other year in the nation's history, the Associated Press reported.

The data released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics also showed that the birth rate in 2009 was 13.5 births for every 1,000 people, compared with 14.3 in 2007. The health statistics center is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2009 drop in births is "a good-sized decline for one year. Every month is showing a decline from the year before," Stephanie Ventura, the demographer who supervised the report, told the AP.

"There is quite possibly a connection between the decline in births and the economic downturn," says the CDC. "More details on the demographics of mothers who gave birth in 2009 are needed to more strongly make this connection."


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Posted: August 2010