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Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2009

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

Fish Pedicure Banned in Florida

Florida regulators have banned a pedicure treatment in which fish nibble dead skin from the feet or other parts of the body, a procedure that's popular in Asia and has spread to some U.S. cities, the Associated Press reported.

It's not even known if the treatment is offered anywhere in the state, but the Florida Board of Cosmetology said salons have been asking about the legality of the procedure. That prompted the board to take action before the issue became a problem.

A spokeswoman for the Florida board said there were concerns because there's no way to disinfect a pool of fish in between use by different patients, the AP reported.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas and Washington have also banned the treatment, in which clients put their feet, hands or other parts of the body in a bowl or pool so that small fish can consume soft decaying skin.


Mental Fatigue Affects Exercise Duration

Being mentally fatigued can make people feel more exhausted when they exercise, according to researchers at Bangor University in Wales, U.K.

Their small study included 16 volunteers who twice rode a stationary bike until they were exhausted -- once when they were mentally rested and once when they were mentally fatigued, United Press International reported.

On average, the participants stopped exercising about 15 percent earlier when they were mentally fatigued. But the researchers found that mental fatigue didn't affect the performance of the heart or muscles. It was the participants' "perceived effort" that determined when they reached physical exhaustion while exercising.

The researchers suggested that mental fatigue may lower the brain's inhibition against quitting exercise, or may affect the brain chemical dopamine, which plays a role in motivation and effort, UPI reported.

The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.


White House to Send $15 Billion to States for Medicaid

The Obama administration intends to distribute $15 billion within two days to help cash-strapped states cope with Medicaid payments to the poor.

The $15 billion is part of the newly passed $787 billion economic stimulus program, President Barack Obama told governors during a White House meeting Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Medicaid is underwritten jointly by states and the federal government.

"By the time most of you get home, money will be waiting to help 20 million vulnerable Americans in your states keep their health care coverage," Obama told the governors.

"Children with asthma will be able to breathe easier, seniors won't need to fear losing their doctors, and pregnant women with limited means won't have to worry about the health of their babies," the President said.


New Blood Thinner Approved by EU

A new blood thinner called prasugrel has just been approved by European Union regulators.

The drug will be launched in Europe in the coming weeks under the brand name Efient, Eli Lilly & Co. spokeswoman Carole Copland told the Associated Press.

Prasugrel is designed to prevent blood clots in heart disease patients who've have stents implanted to keep their arteries open.

Earlier this month, an FDA advisory panel recommended that the agency approve prasugrel, the AP reported. The FDA has twice delayed making a decision on the drug but usually follows the advice of its advisory panels.


Potato Items Pulled From Store Shelves

Several potato products that may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes have been pulled from the shelves of Giant Food and Stop & Shop supermarkets, the Associated Press reported.

The products are 20 oz. bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns, Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices and Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges. The products, which have "use by" dates ranging from March 29 to April 3, 2009, were recalled by Northern Star Co., a subsidiary of food processor Michael Foods Inc.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause flu-like symptoms and can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

No reports of illness or injuries related to the recalled potato products have been received by Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop or by Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, the AP reported.

Customers who bought the products should throw out any unused portions and bring the receipts to their stores for a full refund, the companies said.

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Posted: February 2009