Health Highlights: Aug. 28, 2012

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

Legionnaire’s Disease Kills 2 Guests at Chicago Hotel

Two people who stayed at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Chicago have died from Legionnaire’s disease, CBS News reported.

There have been five new cases of the disease in addition to three reported cases last week, but health officials are hopeful that the worst of the outbreak is over, the network said.

The ages of the people infected ranged from 49 to 82. Both people who died were from out of state. It’s believed that the victims were exposed to the water-borne Legionella bacteria between July 16 and Aug. 15. About 8,500 people stayed at the hotel during that time, CBS News reported.

People who believe they may have been exposed to the bacteria and have questions are urged to call (312) 746-4835, Monday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT, CBS News said.

“We believe that there is no ongoing health threat at the hotel,” Dr. Kathleen Ritger of the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a news release. “Individuals who stayed at the hotel during this time period who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are encouraged to get in touch with a health-care provider because it is important that all potential cases are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, to shorten the recovery period and help prevent serious complications.”


FTC Hits ‘Your Baby Can Read’ With False Ad Charges

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed false and deceptive advertising charges against Robert Titzer, the man who created the “Your Baby Can Read” program.

Ads and product packaging for the program that utilized videos, flash cards and pop-up books claimed that they could teach infants as young as nine months to read. The program was advertised extensively on television, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the Associated Press reported.

Titzer founded the company Your Baby Can and was its president until March 2010. The company has agreed to settle the FTC charges. The settlement includes a $185 million penalty, but most of that would be suspended due to the company’s poor financial situation, the AP said.


High Levels of Toxins Found in Kids’ School Supplies

Children’s school supplies such as backpacks, lunchboxes, 3-ring binders, raincoats and rain boots contain higher levels of potentially toxic chemicals called phthalates than the U.S. government allows in most toys, an advocacy group finds.

About 75 percent of 20 back-to-school items tested by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice contained high levels of the chemicals, CBS News reported.

The products were purchased at New York City dollar stores and other retailers. The group found that Disney’s Dora the Explorer Backpack had phthalate levels more than 69 times higher than the allowable federal limit for toys. The Disney Princess Lunchbox contained 29 times the federal limit and The Amazing Spiderman Lunchbox had 27 times the limit.

Phthalates, which are used to soften vinyl plastic, are hazardous even at low levels of exposure, the CHEJ said. The chemicals have been linked to birth defects, early puberty, ADHD, asthma, obesity, diabetes and infertility, CBS New reported.

In response to the CHEJ’s findings, New York Sen. Charles Schumer called for new laws to regulate phthalates in children’s school supplies.


More Than 1,700 Yosemite Visitors May Have Been Exposed to Rodent-Borne Virus

At least 1,700 visitors to Yosemite may have been exposed to a rodent-borne disease already blamed for the deaths of two people who stayed in cabins at the national park, officials said Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that four people who stayed in tent cabins at Curry Village in June have contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

One of the people who died was from outside California. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the death within the past few days. Two other people were infected and are expected to survive. A fourth case is still being investigated, according to the wire service.

Hantavirus is a rare, rodent-borne disease, officials say.

Anyone who stayed in Curry Village’s tent cabins from mid-June through the end of August should watch for any symptoms of hantavirus, which include fever, aches, chills and dizziness, Yosemite officials said.

The park is trying to track down people who stayed in the tent cabins this summer.

Hantavirus symptoms may develop up to five weeks after exposure, federal health officials said. Yosemite visitors should watch for symptoms for up to six weeks, park officials advised, the AP reported.

There is no specific treatment for hantavirus, which has been fatal in about one-third of the 587 cases documented in the United States since 1993.