Health Highlights: Aug.17, 2011

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

New Insurance Form Offers Clear Policy Details: Federal Officials

The new proposed standard summary form for health insurance will clearly spell out the details of each policy, U.S. officials say.

“Now, every consumer will have clear, easy-to-read, and concise information that tells them what they need to know,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The proposed form, which is scheduled to be made public Wednesday and is part of the health reform law, will provide facts ranging from deductibles to the likely cost of having a baby.

Currently, there are wide variations in state laws about what insurers must disclose to consumers, the Journal reported.

The proposed new form is expected to be quite similar to a draft version developed by a National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ committee. Following a public comment period, the form is expected to be finalized by Health and Human Services.


Plant Tied to Salmonella Outbreak Resumes Making Ground Turkey

Ground turkey production has resumed at an Arkansas plant linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Limited production began after additional anti-bacterial safety measures at the Springdale plant were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Cargill Inc. spokesman Mike Martin, the Associated Press reported.

As of Aug. 11, the salmonella outbreak had sickened 107 people in 31 states, according to federal officials.

The first illness was reported five months before federal officials asked on Aug. 3 that Minnesota-based Cargill recall about 36 million pounds of ground turkey, the AP said.


Big Tobacco Challenges New Cigarette Warning Labels

Four major U.S. tobacco companies launched legal action Tuesday to stop new graphic warnings on cigarette packages.

The warnings violate their free speech rights, the companies said in a lawsuit against the federal government filed in federal court in Washington, the Associated Press reported.

The warning labels, which include photos of diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker, will cost millions and unfairly advise adults to avoid their lawful products, according to the companies.

The new labels were announced in June by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who called them frank and honest warnings about the dangers of smoking, the AP reported.


Second Death From “Brain-Eating Amoeba”

Reports suggest that a “brain-eating” amoeba has claimed the life of another child in the United States.

Christian Alexander Strickland, 9, of Henrico County, Va. became infected after he went to a fishing camp and died from meningitis on Aug. 5, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, reported.

The suspected cause of the illness was Naegleria fowleri, sometimes called “brain-eating amoeba,” the boy’s aunt Bonnie Strickland told the newspaper.

The Times-Dispatch said state health officials couldn’t comment on a specific case but did confirm a case of Naegleria fowleri infection and meningitis, reported.

Naegleria fowleri enters the body through the nose and almost always causes meningitis. It’s usually found warm, stagnant water in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, and can also be found in wells, according to the newspaper.

Earlier this month, 16-year-old Courtney Nash of Florida died from a Naegleria fowleri infection she developed after swimming in the St. John’s River, according to ABC News, reported.


Early Elective Deliveries Banned at Some Oregon Hospitals

As part of what proponents hope will become a growing trend across the United States, some hospitals in Oregon will no longer offer elective early delivery to pregnant women.

All nine birthing hospitals in the Portland area and eight other hospitals in the state will refuse to do elective, non-medically necessary inductions and cesarean sections before 39 weeks of pregnancy, as of Sept. 1, reported.

The agreement between the March of Dimes Oregon chapter and the hospitals covers about half of the deliveries in the state.

The objective of this “hard stop” on the elective procedures is to give babies more time for important development in the womb and to reduce complications after birth, reported.

Bans on early elective deliveries have been adopted by six or seven hospitals in California, Illinois, New York and Texas, according to the March of Dimes. And the policy has been in effect for the last decade at Intermountain Healthcare, which has 23 hospitals in Idaho and Utah.