Health Highlights: Nov. 4, 2010

By on November 4, 2010

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

Britax Recalls 23,000 Infant Car Seats

About 23,000 infant care seats that may have faulty harness clips are being recalled by Britax Child Safety Inc. of Charlotte, N.C.

The clip on the chest of car seats can break loose and pose a laceration or choking hazard, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Associated Press reported.

So far, Britax has received three reports of cuts and scratches and one report of a child placing a broken clip in his mouth.

The Chinese-made seats were sold across the U.S. and on the Britax website from June 2009 to October 2010, the AP reported.

Consumers can get a free repair kit by calling Britax at 888-427-4829.


Did U.N. Peacekeepers Trigger Haiti Cholera Outbreak?

The cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed at least 442 people may have been caused by United Nations peacekeepers, according to experts.

The outbreak involves a strain of cholera that matches strains found in South Asia, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the CDC, the United Nations and the World Health Organization claim it’s not possible to pinpoint the source of the outbreak and further attempts to do so would harm efforts to combat the outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

But experts say determining the source of the outbreak is possible and important in order to prevent future deaths.

The strain of cholera in the Haiti outbreak is a new, virulent strain previously not seen in the Western Hemisphere, according to cholera expert John Mekalanos, chairman of the microbiology department at Harvard University.

Evidence suggests that Nepalese soldiers with the U.N. peacekeeping force brought the strain with them when they arrived in Haiti in early October, Mekalanos told the AP.

“The organism that is causing the disease is very uncharacteristic of (Haiti and the Caribbean), and is quite characteristic of the region from where the soldiers in the base came,” Mekalanos explained. “I don’t see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred.”


Listeria Found in Texas Food Plant: FDA

A Texas food-processing plant has tested positive for bacteria linked to listeriosis-related illnesses, including four deaths, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The SanGar Fresh Cut Produce plant in San Antonio was ordered closed Oct. 20 by state health officials and the company was told to recall all products shipped from the plant since January, CNN reported.

Health authorities took the action after state health laboratory findings showed Listeria monocytogenes in chopped celery at the plant. The bacteria can cause severe illness.

The FDA inspected the plant on Oct. 26 and found the same bacteria in processed celery and in a number of locations throughout the plant. The FDA said the listeria it found “matches the DNA fingerprint of the clinical cases of listeriosis reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services,” CNN reported.

Tests conducted by an independent lab hired by SanGar came back negative for listeria, said a lawyer for the company.


FDA Gives Digital Mammography Lower Risk Rating

Digital mammography systems have been given a lower risk rating, which will make it easier for them to gain regulatory approval, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.

The devices, which produce computerized X-ray images of the entire breast, are an alternative to systems that produce X-ray film. When first approved by the FDA in 2000, digital mammography systems were classified as a Class III, or high-risk, device.

Since then, numerous studies involving tens of thousands of patients have provided more information about digital mammography. As a result, the FDA decided to reclassify the technology as a Class II, or medium-risk, device.

“Our decision to reclassify these devices is consistent with feedback we’ve received from public discussions with appropriate medical and scientific experts as well as our stronger understanding of how these systems work,” Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an agency news release.


Millions of U.S. Hospitalizations Preventable: Report

Nearly four million of the 40 million hospitalizations in the United States in 2008 were potentially avoidable, says a federal government report released Wednesday.

Appropriate outpatient care could have prevented these hospitalizations of patients with conditions such as diabetes, dehydration, and certain heart conditions and infections, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The analysis of data in the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample also found that preventable admissions were nearly twice as common in rural hospitals (16 percent) as in urban hospitals (9 percent).

Among the other findings about potentially preventable hospital admissions:

  • Rates were nearly one-third higher among people from lower-income communities (12 percent) than among those from higher-income communities (8 percent).
  • Rates were lowest in the West (8 percent) and highest in the South (11 percent).
  • Patients 65 and older accounted for 60 percent of such cases.

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