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Health Highlights: June 9, 2011

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

More Illnesses, Another Death in E. Coli Outbreak

Another person in Germany has died in the E. coli outbreak and 160 more have been reported ill, the country's national disease control center said Thursday.

So far, 2,808 people have been reported sickened in Germany, including 722 with a serious complication that can cause kidney failure, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the Associated Press reported.

There have been 97 people reported sick in 12 other European countries, as well as three in the United States, the World Health Organization said.

Deaths from the E. coli outbreak total 27 -- 26 in Germany and one in Sweden.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified, the AP reported.


Boost Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS: Obama

Countries around the world need to do more to eliminate HIV/AIDS, U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a statement marking the 30th anniversary of the fight against the disease.

An aggressive global response has reduced the number of infections and deaths but tens of millions of people still live with the disease and about two million die every year, Obama noted, USA Today reported.

He said the United States is a global leader in the fight against AIDS and will continue to do its part, but added that more nations need to do their part.

"Together, we can resolve to meet our shared responsibilities. Together, we can come closer to our vision of a world without HIV/AIDS," Obama said.


Many Sexual Assaults Within VA System Unreported

Many sexual assaults that occur within the Veterans Affairs system aren't being reported to high level officials, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit released this week.

Investigators found that VA leadership officials and the VA Inspector General's Office were not informed about 284 of the 300 sexual assault incidents reported to VA police between January 2007 and July 2010, CNN reported.

The sexual assault incidents included rape, forced or inappropriate oral sex, inappropriate touching, and forceful medical examinations. Both men and women were the victims of these sexual assaults. Attackers and victims included VA employees, patients and people with no connection to the VA.

Of the 67 rape allegations, nearly two-thirds were not reported to the VA Inspector General's Office, as required by VA regulation, CNN reported.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Monday by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.


Sharp Rise in Workers' Share of Health Insurance Premiums

The share of health insurance premiums paid by workers at private-sector companies rose sharply between 2001 and 2009, says a U.S. government report.

The average annual premium share for workers with employee plus-one-coverage increased 121 percent, from $1,070 to $2,363. The average annual contribution for workers with family coverage rose nearly 100 percent, from $1,741 to $3,474, while there was a 92 percent increase for employees with single coverage, from $498 to $957.

During that same time, the total average premium for employer-sponsored health plans rose more slowly, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Premiums increased from $5,463 to $9,053 (66 percent) for an employee-plus-one plan, from $7,509 to $13,027 (73.5 percent) for a family plan, and from $2,889 to $4,669 (62 percent) for a single plan.


In Mice, Drug Helps Heart Repair Itself

A drug designed to help the heart repair itself after a heart attack proved successful in mice.

Researchers at University College London in the U.K. found that the drug, thymosin beta 4, was able to "prime" the heart for repair if it was given to mice before a heart attack, BBC News reported.

The ability of the heart to pump out blood increased 25 percent in the mice, scar tissue was reduced, and the walls of the heart became thicker, according to the researchers.

The findings appear in the journal Nature.

Currently, damage caused by a heart attack is considered permanent. Heart self-repair is the "holy grail of heart research," but any such treatment in humans is years away, the British Heart Foundation told BBC News.


All-Electronic, Home-Based Drug Study a First

Patients will use smartphones and computers to take part in a new drug trial believed to be the first all-electronic, home-based study of a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pfizer Inc. said the findings from the study of the overactive-bladder drug Detrol will be compared to a previous, traditional study of the drug that included 600 patients, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Patients for the new study are being recruited through Internet ads and directed to the study's website.

If successful, the methods used in the all-electronic study might eventually help reduce the high cost of getting new medicines to market, a Pfizer official told the Wall Street Journal.


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Posted: June 2011