Health Highlights: Sept. 14, 2011

By on September 14, 2011

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

Listeria Outbreak May Be Tied to Cantaloupes: CDC

U.S. heath officials say a food-borne bacterial outbreak blamed for four deaths may be linked to cantaloupes from Colorado.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said numerous cases of a strain of the germ Listeria have been reported in six states, including at least 11 in Colorado, 10 in New Mexico, two in Texas, and one each in Indiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The four deaths have been reported in Colorado and New Mexico, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC said it was the first time a Listeria outbreak has apparently been linked to cantaloupes in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had not recalled the melons, and it was working to locate the source. Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said the contamination might not be cantaloupes, but a truck or other source, the AP said.

Listeriosis is a foodborne illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes — bacteria found in soil and water. The germ can be turn up in a variety of raw foods as well as in processed foods and foods made from unpasteurized milk. Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms of infection include fever and chills, headache, upset stomach and vomiting. While anyone can get the illness, those most vulnerable include pregnant women and unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, the NIH said.


U.S. Testing of E. Coli Will Be Expanded

In an attempt to squelch outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to broaden its testing of E. coli in meat next year.

Beginning in March, the government, which now tests for one strain of E. coli, will test for seven strains of the pathogen in beef trimmings used for ground beef, the Associated Press reported. Eventually, other meats may be included.

“We are gratified that the Obama administration finally put public health ahead of industry interests by giving the USDA the authority to take action against these other pathogens,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of the Food & Water Watch advocacy organization, told the news agency.

It was expected that the USDA would announce the new testing policy Tuesday.

The decision follows a deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe this summer that was caused by a new strain. However, that novel strain is not among those that will be screened, the AP said.

The meat industry, opposing the decision, has said increased testing is too costly and will provide little benefit.


Ear Implants Recalled

Cochlear Ltd, an Australian maker of cochlear ear implants — used to improve hearing — is recalling its biggest selling devices because some units suddenly stop working, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Problems with the CI512 model of its Nucleus CI500 devices have led to a voluntary global recall of the entire line. Cochlear has said it will provide replacements for re-implantation.

The company said the defective devices were unlikely to cause any health problems, the AP said. And those who have the CI500 implants but have not had difficulties can continue using the artificial ear, the company advised.

In addition to the CI512 unit, the recall includes the CI513, CI551 double array implant and ABI 541 auditory brainstem implant, the AP said.

“We don’t know what the cause is,” Cochlear chief executive Chris Roberts said.

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