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Health Highlights: June 30, 2011

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

Seeds From Egypt Suspected Cause of Europe's E. Coli Outbreak

Fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt may have been the cause of the E. coli outbreak in Europe that's sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 47, according to officials.

While the fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt either in 2009 or 2010 are being fingered as a possible cause, further investigation is needed to confirm that suspicion, said the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Food Safety Authority, the Associated Press reported.

Fenugreek seeds are used to prepare pickles and curry powders as well as Ethiopian, Indian and Yemeni foods.

Germany was hardest hit by the E. coli outbreak, with 46 deaths reported there so far. One person had died in Sweden, the AP reported.


Fixes For Health Care Law Glitch Being Considered

The Obama administration is looking for ways to correct a glitch in the new health care law that would give some people who take early retirement a significant break on health insurance premiums.

This is because part or all of their Social Security benefits would not be counted as income in determining their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for coverage until they quality for Medicare at age 65, the Associated Press reported.

The glitch means that older adults of the same age and income with similar medical histories would pay much different rates for private health insurance.

"We are monitoring this issue and exploring options that would take into account the needs of Social Security beneficiaries, many of whom are disabled or individuals of limited means," Treasury Department policy official Emily McMahon said in a statement to AP.


Scalia's Pro-Tobacco Decision Overturned by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court this week overturned a member's decision last fall to let four major tobacco companies delay a $270 million payment to start a smoking cessation program in Louisiana.

The payment was awarded seven years ago in a class-action lawsuit filed by Louisiana smokers in 1996.

In making his solo decision, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a smoker, said he believed at least three other justices would want to hear the tobacco companies' appeal of the case and also predicted that the high court would strike down the verdict against the companies, the AP reported.

On Monday, the Supreme Court showed that Scalia's assumptions were wrong.

After the decision, Scalia said through a court spokeswoman that he had no comment on the matter, the AP reported.


Diet Sodas Help Cause Weight Gain: Study

Don't drink diet sodas if you're trying to lose weight.

A study that followed 474 diet soda drinkers, ages 65 to 74, for nearly 10 years found that their waists grew 70 percent or more than those who didn't drink the beverages, CBS News reported.

Another study in mice suggests that artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may trigger appetite but don't quench the appetite like regular sugars. In addition, artificial sweeteners may inhibit brain cells that make you feel full.

The studies were presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association.


Black and Hispanic Kids Most Apt to be Hospitalized For Severe Asthma

Black and Hispanic children in the United States were much more likely than other children to be hospitalized for a severe asthma attack in 2007, says a federal government study.

For every 100,000 children ages 2 to 17 who were hospitalized for asthma attacks that year, 384 were black, 135 were Hispanic, 94 were white, and 78 were Asian and Pacific Islander, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The study also said that poor children were twice as likely to be hospitalized than children from high-income families (231 vs. 102 per 100,000) and that boys were more likely to be hospitalized than girls (181 vs. 119).

Children ages 2 to 4 were more than six times more likely than children ages 15 to 17 to be hospitalized (310 vs. 50), and children in the Northeast had a higher rate of hospitalization than those in the West (196 vs. 102).


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Posted: June 2011