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Health Highlights: Feb. 10, 2010

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

Boredom May Be Deadly

Bored people may be more likely to die early, according to English researchers.

They studied the responses collected between 1985 and 1988 from more than 7,500 London civil servants, ages 35 to 55, who were asked if they had felt bored at work during the previous month, the Associated Press reported.

When they looked at how many of the participants had died by April 2009, the University College London researchers found that those who said they had been very bored at work were 2.5 times more likely to have died of a heart problem than those who were bored. This increased risk was reduced when the researchers adjusted for other potential risk factors, such as fitness levels.

Boredom alone isn't likely to be dangerous, but it could be associated with risk factors such as smoking, drinking, using drugs or psychological problems, said the researchers, the AP reported.

The article will be published in the April issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.


Cribs Linked to Three Deaths Recalled

The deaths of three infants and numerous reports of safety problems have led to a recall of more than 500,000 drop-side cribs, U.S. safety officials said Tuesday.

Plastic hardware on the Generation 2 Worldwide and ChildESIGNS cribs can break and allow the drop side to detach. In addition, the mattress supports can break away from the crib frames. Both defects can create gaps where an infant can be trapped and suffocate or strangle, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Along with the three reported deaths, the agency has received 20 reports of incidents involving detached drop sides and eight reports of incidents involving detached mattress supports, the Associated Press reported.

The cribs were sold nationwide at furniture and other stores, including Buybuy Baby, Kmart and Walmart. The company that made the cribs, Generation 2 Worldwide, went out of business in 2005.

The CPSC said consumers should contact the stores where they bought the cribs for information about refunds, replacements and store credit. The agency said crib owners who encounter difficulty with stores should alert the CPSC, the AP reported.


Target Pulls Valentines Day Bears From Shelves

A warning about illegal levels of lead have forced Target Corp. to pull Valentine's Day "Message Bears" from store shelves.

The move comes after the company received a letter Monday from California Attorney General Jerry Brown saying that tests showed the Chinese-made toys had lead levels that violated federal law, the Associated Press reported.

Brown was alerted about the toys by the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health, which found that vinyl letters on the bears' chests contained lead levels well above the federal limit for children's products.

"We are removing the product from shelves as well as hard-locking them at the registers," Target spokeswoman Beth Hanson told the AP. "Target's initial investigation indicates this product had compliant testing results when it was shipped."

She wouldn't reveal how many of the toy bears the company had sold or purchased.


First Double Hand Transplant Patient Out of Hospital

A man who received the first double hand transplant in the United States was released from the hospital Monday after doctors treated a rash that indicated the patient might be rejecting the new hands.

Jeff Kepner, 58, received his new hands at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in May 2009 and went home in October. However, he developed a rash on both hands and was hospitalized last week, the Associated Press reported.

The rash went away after doctors treated Kepner's rash with immune-suppressing ointment.

Kepner lost his hands and feet a decade ago to bacterial infection. The new hands came from a 23-year-old male, the AP reported.


HHS Secretary Challenges Health Insurer's Rate Increases

The Obama administration wants a California health insurer to explain why it's raising rates for about 800,000 individual policyholders by as much as 39 percent.

In a letter to Anthem Blue Cross of California, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the company has a "responsibility to provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public," the Washington Post reported.

As part of that explanation, Anthem should tell policyholders what share of their premiums is going toward profits, Sebelius said. She noted that profits for Anthem's corporate parent, WellPoint, rose to $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"These extraordinary [rate] increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make health care unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy," Sebelius wrote.

California insurance commissioner Steve Poizner has said his department is investigating the rate increases, the Post reported.

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Posted: February 2010