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Health Highlights: Nov. 13, 2007

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

Donors Organs Give 4 U.S. Transplant Patients HIV

Four people in Chicago have contracted HIV from organ transplants, in the first cases of that kind in more than two decades.

The patients also contracted the hepatitis C virus from the donor, the Associated Press reported.

The transplants took place in January at three Chicago hospitals -- Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Tests on the donor for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases came back negative, most likely because the donor was infected at some time during the last three weeks of life, medical officials said.

The transplant patients only found out about their infections in recent weeks.

Proper procedures were followed in testing the donor, Alison Smith, vice president for operations at Gift of Hope, told the AP.

The last time this kind of incident occurred in the United States was in 1985, when three transplant patients received organs from an HIV-positive man. All three patients eventually died of AIDS. Since that case, which led to more stringent guidelines, more than 400,000 organ transplants have been performed in the U.S. without a single reported case of HIV transmission through organs.


Deadly Strain of Bird Flu Confirmed in UK

An outbreak of bird flu in eastern England has been confirmed as the deadly HN51 strain, CNN reported Tuesday.

All 6,500 birds at the Redgrave Park Farm in Suffolk will be slaughtered as a precaution, the network said.

The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is trying to confirm where the deadly virus came from, and if any people might have been exposed. While it has been difficult for the H5N1 strain to pass from birds to people, experts have long predicted that the virus could mutate into a form that's more easily transmitted to humans, posing the danger of a global human pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization, 206 people have died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu since 2003.

A six-mile "surveillance" zone surrounding the British farm has been established, in which the movement of poultry is restricted and all domestic fowl will be isolated from wild birds, the government agency said.

The latest outbreak is the fourth case of bird flu in Britain this year, CNN said. Two of the outbreaks involved a less virulent strain.

The H5N1 strain also has been identified in the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, and Germany.


Norwalk Virus Sickens Hawaiian Cruise Passengers

About 225 passengers were sickened by the Norwalk virus during a seven-day voyage on the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Pride of Hawaii, the Honolulu Advertiser reported. None of the passengers were hospitalized.

The ship returned from that cruise Monday morning. U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials boarded the ship and reviewed guidelines while the vessel was being cleaned. The FDA officials concluded that everything was in order and gave the okay for the ship to set sail Monday night for another seven-day cruise.

In a statement, company officials said the Pride of Hawaii "has been carrying out an extensive range of preventative measures on board and does not expect this issue to carry forward into the next cruise."

In the United States, Norwalk virus (also called norovirus) causes about 23 million cases a year of acute gastroenteritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norwalk-related illness usually runs its course in 24 to 48 hours.


Kanye West's Mother Dies After Cosmetic Surgery

The mother of hip-hop superstar Kanye West died over the weekend after she had breast reduction and tummy tuck surgery. According to sources, 58-year-old Donda West probably died from uncontrolled bleeding after she went home following the surgery, the New York Daily News reported.

Such deaths are rare, occurring in only one of 51,459 cosmetic procedures, according to the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

"She was brought by paramedics to our emergency room on Saturday evening. She was in full arrest when she arrived," said a spokeswoman at Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina Del Rey, Calif. The Los Angeles County Coroner plans to conduct an autopsy by Wednesday.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Andre Aboolian of Beverly Hills was consulted by Donda West in June. Aboolian, who didn't do the procedures on West, recommended she have a cardiac stress test before surgery and told her he wouldn't permit her to recover at home following surgery, the Daily News reported.

"If, for God's sake, the surgeon tells you it's too risky, don't find someone else who will do it for you," Dr. Richard D'Amico, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told the Daily News.


Cities Must Prepare for Nuclear Attack

In the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a U.S. city, loss of medical resources and personnel would prove a major problem in efforts to treat survivors, say researchers who analyzed the effects of theoretical 20- and 550-kiloton nuclear detonations in Los Angeles and Houston.

"After a nuclear attack, the surviving health care community would be faced with an unprecedented burden of care for burn victims. This burden would be compounded by the loss of hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health professionals," study author Cham E. Dallas, director of the Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense at the University of Georgia, said in a prepared statement.

Dallas and a colleague calculated that a 550-kiloton attack in Los Angeles would result in 786,000 burn victims, with about 185,000 likely to survive. In Houston, a similar attack would cause 257,579 burn casualties, with about 59,000 likely to survive.

The researchers offered four recommendations on how cities can better prepare for a nuclear attack:

  • Increase the number of medical personnel trained in burn care, including non-physicians.
  • Develop plans for dealing with displaced people who will need shelter, food, water, clothing, basic health care and safety.
  • Pre-position secure stockpiles of narcotics for use in mass burn care.
  • Create regional mobilization systems, such as air transport, to move medical resources and personnel.

The study appears in the American Medical Association journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

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Posted: November 2007