Archive | Human Health & Wellness

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Issues 22 Internet Warning Letters

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has issued warnings to 22 operators of Web sites about the illegal sale of unapproved or misbranded drugs.

Officials said the letters were part of a coordinated, week-long, international effort involving 26 nations. Called the International Internet Week of Action, the effort was intended to curb illegal actions involving medical products.

The FDA said it targeted 136 Web sites that appeared to be engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved or misbranded drugs to U.S. consumers. None of the Web sites were for pharmacies in the United States or Canada, the federal agency said.

In addition to the warning letters, the FDA said it notified Internet service providers and domain name registrars that the Web sites were selling products in violation of U.S. law.

“The FDA works in close collaboration with our regulatory and law enforcement counterparts in the United States and throughout the world to protect the public,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. “Many U.S. consumers are being misled in the hopes of saving money by purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet from illegal pharmacies. Unfortunately, these drugs are often counterfeit, contaminated or unapproved products, or contain an inconsistent amount of the active ingredient. Taking these drugs can pose a danger to consumers.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Massachusetts Efforts to Stop the Poor from Smoking Cigarettes Sees Results

BOSTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) — An effort to wean the poor in Massachusetts off cigarettes is working, with smoking among low-income residents down 26 percent, officials said Wednesday.

The state-funded smoking cessation program began two years ago. It was part of a healthcare reform bill passed in 2006 and is open to all those enrolled in MassHealth, the state insurance program for the poor.

Officials say they are already seeing the effect of lower smoking rates, including fewer trips to the emergency room and fewer smoking-related heart attacks, The Boston Globe reported. The poor have tended to smoke more than those with higher incomes.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the Massachusetts program should be a national model as Congress debates healthcare reform.

“These findings are extraordinary — they have major public health implications as Congress is debating healthcare reform,” Myers said. “These findings demonstrate that if Congress fully covers tobacco cessation, it has the potential to save literally tens of thousands of lives in the very near future and many more over the long term.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Health Care Reform Bill Price Tag is $849 Billion

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) — A healthcare package unveiled Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans, Reid said.

The price tag would be $849 billion over 10 years, covered by a number of new taxes and cuts in Medicare costs, Reid said during a presentation on Capitol Hill.

That would reduce predicted budget deficits by $127 billion by 2019, the largest saving of any of the plans currently being offered by congressional Democrats, The Washington Post reported.

Reid plans to file the legislation formally Friday evening. A procedural vote to place the measure on the Senate floor probably would occur Saturday, his office said.

The plan would provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans by dramatically expanding Medicaid and create options for people without access to affordable coverage, Reid said.

One of those options, Reid said, would be a government-run “public” option that liberals have demanded, although states could “opt out” of the public plan.

Republicans plan to fight the legislation, which they call a government takeover of healthcare that will increase taxes and healthcare costs for individuals, The New York Times reported.

“It’s going to be a Holy War,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said.

President Barack Obama called the development “another critical milestone in the health reform effort.”

“I was particularly pleased to see that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the bill will reduce the deficit by $127 billion over the next ten years and as much as $650 billion in the decade following, saving hundreds of billions while extending coverage to 31 million more Americans,” the president said in a statement released by the White House.

“Just yesterday, a bipartisan group of more than 20 leading health economists released a letter urging passage of meaningful reform and praising four key provisions that are in the Senate legislation: a fee on insurance companies offering high-premium plans, the establishment of an independent Medicare commission, reforms to the health care delivery system, and overall deficit neutrality,” Obama said. “The economists said that these provisions ‘will reduce long-term deficits, improve the quality of care, and put the nation on a firm fiscal footing.’ Those are precisely the goals we should be seeking to attain.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Secondhand Smoke Concerns Grow for Outdoor Smoking Areas

ATHENS, Ga., Nov. 19 (UPI) — Indoor smoking bans resulted in outdoor smoking areas but they may be creating a new health hazard, U.S. researchers suggest.

“Indoor smoking bans have helped to create more of these outdoor environments where people are exposed to secondhand smoke,” study co-author Luke Naeher, associate professor in the University of Georgia College of Public Health, says in a statement. “We know from our previous study that there are measurable airborne levels of secondhand smoke in these environments, and we know from this study that we can measure internal exposure.”

Naeher and colleagues recruited 20 non-smoking adults and placed them in outside bars, outside restaurants and, for the control group, outside the main library at University of Georgia. The county enacted an indoor smoking ban in 2005.

The team found an average increase of 162 percent in cotinine — a metabolite of nicotine — for the volunteers stationed at outdoor seating and standing areas at bars. There was a 102 percent increase for those outside of restaurants and a 16 percent increase for the control group near the library.

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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CDC: 35 Child H1N1 Deaths in One Week

ATLANTA, Nov. 13 (UPI) — Federal health officials said that 35 flu-related pediatric deaths were confirmed during the week ending Nov. 7, 2009.

Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Friday that overall flu activity in the United Sates remained very high last week.

Visits to doctors for symptoms of influenza-like illness nationally had decreased the week ending Nov. 1 over the week before. This is the second week of national decreases in influenza-like illness after four consecutive weeks of sharp increases.

All regions but one showed declines in influenza-like illness. However, Region I — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — continued to show sharp increases in influenza-like illness activity, the CDC report said.

Hospitalization rates continue to be highest in younger populations with the highest hospitalization rate reported in children ages infant to age 4.

Since April, CDC has received reports of 156 laboratory-confirmed pediatric H1N1 deaths, one influenza B death, and another 23 pediatric deaths that were laboratory confirmed as influenza, but the flu virus subtype was not determined.

Thursday, CDC officials said they estimated 540 children died from the pandemic in the first six months. While the smaller number of pediatric deaths are laboratory confirmed, the CDC is also using modeling to estimate the number of H1N1 deaths that occur outside the hospital where testing is not possible.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Canadian H1N1 Flu Deaths Increase Sharply

OTTAWA, Nov. 13 (UPI) — The second wave of infection from the H1N1 flu virus has caused a spike in deaths in Canada this month, public health officials say.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters that as of Thursday, the death toll from the virus originally called swine flu had reached 192, with a dramatic surge of confirmed infections in the last two weeks, the Globe and Mail reported.

“We haven’t seen the peak yet, in my view,” he said.

The agency recorded 66 deaths since Oct. 29, yet from Tuesday to Thursday, the death toll rose by 26, The (Montreal) Gazette said.

Officials said the H1N1 virus that emerged in April in Mexico is particularly lethal to younger people as it’s similar to a flu strain that appeared before 1957, to which older people have developed antibodies, the Globe said.

So far, the youngest confirmed H1N1 fatality was a two-month-old boy in London, Ontario, who died earlier this month, the report said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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CDC Estimates 22 Million Had H1N1 Swine Flu and 3,900 Died

ATLANTA, Nov. 12 (UPI) — An estimated 22 million people in the United States have become ill from H1N1 influenza and some 3,900 people have died, health officials said Thursday.

Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the CDC has been providing H1N1 fatality rates from laboratory confirmed cases until now but the new estimates cover April, when the virus emerged, through Oct. 17 — the first six months of the pandemic.

“Our estimates, we believe, give us a better estimate of how much disease, hospitalization and death there is than we would get by just counting individual laboratory confirmed cases,” Schuchat said at a media briefing in Atlanta. “Our estimates derive from our emerging infections probing network — a collaboration with 10 states, 62 counties in those 10 states that collect extensive information on hospitalizations from influenza including details about laboratory testing and age and so forth.”

The CDC are using data from aggregate state reporting of laboratory hospitalizations and death. Schuchat emphasized the increase in numbers was not from any jump in H1N1 in the last week, but estimates for the first six months of H1N1.

“With those two surveillance symptoms, we are then extrapolating to the whole United States and the entire period of this first six months,” Schuchat said.

The CDC estimates 63,000-153,000 people were hospitalized up until Oct. 17. Schuchat said the CDC estimates there were 3,900 fatalities in the first six months of the pandemic but the number could range from 2,500-6,100.

As of Nov. 6, national pediatric death notification system data indicated 129 children had died but Schuchat said the CDC now estimates 540 children died from the pandemic in the first six months.

“We know that a number of the deaths that we’re seeing are occurring outside the hospital where testing is not possible,” Schuchat said. “We know that not every patient with influenza gets a diagnosis of flu. We think our 540 number is a better estimate.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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H1N1 and Swine Flu Proves More Challenging to Control in Large Cities Like Mexico City and New York

ATLANTA, Nov. 11 (UPI) — H1N1 flu in Mexico City and New York may have helped health experts understand the challenges posed by disease response in large cities, researchers say.

David M. Bell and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said by 2025, almost three-quarters of the world’s population will live in cities.

“When millions of people are crowded together in huge cities, responses to disease outbreaks that have worked in rural areas or smaller towns may not work as well,” Bell said in a statement Wednesday.

“Several questions emerged. For example, how do you get many overlapping governmental agencies to cooperate? How do you get drugs and vaccines to people who travel, live in slums with no addresses, or are homeless? How do you separate ill family members from well ones in tiny one- or two-room apartments?”

U.S. health experts will need to answer these questions as the H1N1

pandemic continues, Bells said.

The findings are scheduled to be published to appear in the December edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Lack of Education May Increase H1N1 Risk

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Nov. 11 (UPI) — People without a high school diploma may be more likely to get H1N1 flu and the vaccine might be less effective in them, U.S. researchers suggest.

Researchers looked at the latent virus CMV — a latent virus in the herpes family — in young people, and the body’s ability to control the virus.

Study co-author Jennifer Dowd, who began her research while at the University of Michigan of Public Health, said the finding suggests that lower socioeconomic status may make it tougher for adults of all ages to fight new infections and may make the flu vaccine less effective in some.

Dowd, now an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hunter College, and co-author Allison Aiello, assistant professor of epidemiology at University of Michigan, say people of lower income and education lose immune control more easily.

Their weakened immune systems, which may be due to increased levels of stress, make them more susceptible to other infections as well, Dowd explains.

“What is going on (is that) the dramatic (downturn) in the economy could actually translate into people’s susceptibility to these diseases,” Dowd says in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, finds a person with less than a high school education had the same level of immune control as someone 15-20 years older with more than a high school education.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Human Movement Critical in Dengue Spread

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 11 (UPI) — Brazilian researchers say they’ve determined population movement is a key factor in the spread of the dengue virus in Rio de Janeiro.

Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation said their finding is based on data from a severe 2007-2008 dengue epidemic and contributes a new understanding of the dynamics of dengue fever, a major public health problem in many tropical regions.

The disease, transmitted most often by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, is prevalent in tropical areas of Asia and the Americas, with up to 100 million estimated cases occurring annually.

The new study combines data on dengue fever seroprevalence — a test for the disease based on blood serum — and recent dengue infection and vector density in three neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, specifically urban, suburban and slum areas. Blood serum surveys were conducted before and during the epidemic period, with weekly collections of A. aegypti eggs and adults from traps.

The scientists said their findings, that suggest significantly higher risk within areas of intense people traffic, might provide a basis for new studies that could further identify the higher risk areas and help to develop dengue-control programs.

The research is detailed in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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