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Health Highlights: May 1, 2008

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

More People Fainting After Vaccinations

Since 2005, there's been a rise in reports of people in the United States fainting after receiving vaccinations, according the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The increase has occurred primarily among adolescent females and, in some cases, patients have suffered significant injuries.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration analyzed the data and identified 463 reports of post-vaccination fainting among people over age five between Jan. 1, 2005 and July 31, 2007, compared to 203 reports during 2002-2004.

In some 63.1 percent of the 463 reports during 2005--2007, fainting was associated with at least one of the following recently approved and recommended adolescent vaccines: MCV4, Tdap, and HPV.

The findings appear in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

The study authors said fainting-related injuries could be prevented if vaccine providers follow the recommended 15-minute post-vaccination observation and waiting period.


House Passes Genetic Anti-Discrimination Bill

A bill to protect people from discrimination based on their genetic information was approved by the House Thursday in a 414-1 vote. Last week, the Senate passed the legislation 95-0. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill would forbid companies from using genetic information to make hiring, firing or promotion decisions, and would prohibit insurers from using genetic information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility, the Associated Press reported.

The only member of Congress who voted against the bill was Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Proponents say the legislation will help ease people's fears about having genetic testing to determine if they're at increased risk for a wide range of hereditary diseases.


Pittsburgh Sootiest U.S. City: Report

Pittsburgh is the first city outside of California to be named the sootiest in the nation, but Los Angeles is still the all-around air pollution leader, says an American Lung Association annual report released Thursday.

Soot, or short-term particle pollution, is one of three air pollution categories looked at by the association. Los Angeles has long been the leader in soot and smog levels, but tough new pollution laws have led to a significant drop in L.A.'s soot levels.

"It's not that Pittsburgh has gotten worse, it's that Los Angeles has gotten better. If the trend continues, Pittsburgh will top two lists, and L.A. will only be leading the nation in ozone," Janice Nolen, the association's assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy, told the Associated Press.

The eight metropolitan areas with the worst overall air pollution were: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia-Porterfield, and Hanford-Corcoran, all in California; Washington-Baltimore; St. Louis; and Birmingham, Ala.

Fargo, N.D. and Salina, Calif. had the cleanest air in areas evaluated, the AP reported.


AED Maker Signs Decree Temporarily Barring Sales

A consent decree of permanent injunction related to automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) made by Physio-Control, Inc. has been signed by the company, its parent firm Medtronic Inc., and two top executives, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

AED's are portable devices used to restore normal heart rhythm in people who have had a heart attack.

The consent decree prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and export of specified AEDs from Physio-Control's facility in Redmond, Wash. until the devices and facility have been shown to be in compliance with the FDA's current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements.

FDA inspections of the facility in October 2006 and January 2006 identified a number of deficiencies, including failure to establish and maintain adequate procedures for validating the device design, and failure to establish adequate procedures for implementing corrective and preventive actions.

Previous FDA inspections in 2000, 2003 and 2005 showed similar violations. The FDA issued warning letters after the 2000 and 2005 inspections.

These problems don't necessarily mean that AEDs produced by the company and currently on the market will harm patients, the FDA said. The corrections it's seeking are meant to ensure the continued availability of safe, effective and reliable products, the agency said.


Hazardous Chromium Levels Found in Total Body Products

Final tests of certain flavors of Total Body Formula and Total Body Mega Formula dietary supplements detected hazardous amounts of chromium, in addition to high levels of selenium, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

In early April, the FDA reported that hazardous amounts of selenium were found in samples of the tropical orange and peach nectar flavors of Total Body Formula and in the orange/tangerine flavor of Total Body Mega Formula. Additional tests revealed that the products also contained chromium in amounts up to 17 times higher than the recommended adult daily intake.

Excessive levels of chromium can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, hyperactivity, hypoglycemia, renal failure, liver toxicity, and interfere with certain medications. To date, there have been 195 confirmed cases of adverse reactions among users, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The products have been recalled and the FDA is investigating how excessive amounts of chromium and selenium got into the products. Anyone who has used the products and has had an adverse reaction should consult their doctor, the FDA said.


Viral Outbreak in China Likely to Increase

An outbreak of an intestinal virus that's infected 1,884 children and killed 20 in China is likely to widen and claim more lives, Agence France-Presse cited Chinese officials as saying.

The outbreak of enterovirus 71 (EV71) in Fuyang city in Anhui province is believed to have started in early March, but reports of the epidemic only emerged on Monday.

"We estimate that the hand, foot and mouth disease (caused by EV71) in Fuyang city will continue for some time, the number of cases will continue to increase, and serious and fatal cases might still continue to happen," the Chinese Health Ministry said in a statement on its Web site, AFP reported.

In an attempt to calm fears, the health ministry said now that cases are now being discovered and treated in their early stages, "the successful treatment rate of the serious cases will markedly increase."

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization expressed concerns about the outbreak.

"Although enteroviruses infecting humans are found worldwide and enterovirus 71 has been reported in China over recent years, we believe the situation is still of concern, especially because of the current high reported case fatality rate compared to previous years," Dr. Cris Tunon, a senior WHO official, said in an email statement to AFP.

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Posted: May 2008