Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
New cigarette-pack images unveiled this week include graphic images of damage caused by smoking. The industry is suing to try to avoid having to use them. Scientists said this week that the E. coli outbreak in Europe is caused by a strain that combines traits of two other strains. Together, they have made the illness especially severe. Researchers reported this week that a new drug improves treatment of hepatitis C. The drug is called telaprevir (Incivek). A review of studies has found that potato chips are linked to the largest long-term weight gain of all foods. In San Francisco, a coalition of Jews and Muslims filed suit this week to block a vote planned for November. The vote would decide whether to ban circumcision of male children. In child health news, researchers said this week that drownings are common in small backyard pools and that 8% of U.S. children have food allergies.
This Issue: U.S. Unveils Graphic Cigarette-Pack Images Scientists: 2 Strains Combined in E. coli Outbreak Drug Improves Response to Hepatitis C Treatment Study Finds Chips Pack on Pounds Child Drownings Common in Shallow Pools Lawsuit Seeks to Block Circumcision Ban Survey: 8% of Kids Have Food Allergies
In the News:
U.S. Unveils Graphic Cigarette-Pack Images
New cigarette labels released this week pull no punches with the ugly health consequences linked to of smoking. Their graphic images include diseased lungs, people with rotting teeth and a man with a tracheotomy who is still smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the nine warning label images. They are part of the largest change to cigarette packs in 25 years. New rules say that the images must take up the entire top half of a cigarette pack. Warning labels must cover 20% of cigarette ads. Manufacturers have until fall 2012 to start using the new packaging. However, cigarette makers have sued over the new rules. They say the label designs will make brand names very hard to see. The Associated Press wrote about the label changes.
Scientists: 2 Strains Combined in E. coli Outbreak
Two types of E. coli bacteria combined to produce the strain that killed 39 people in Europe this spring, scientists reported this week. One strain made an especially potent toxin, they said. The other strain stuck to the gut in a way that might make the body absorb more of the toxin. The combined strain had both these traits. The result was the recent food poisoning outbreak. It was traced to sprouts from an organic farm. Officials don't know how they got contaminated. More than 3,600 people got sick in the outbreak. More than 800 developed severe kidney damage. Researchers described the strain of bacteria based on samples from 80 people. The journal Lancet Infectious Diseases published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Drug Improves Response to Hepatitis C Treatment
Adding a new drug to hepatitis C treatment improves results, two studies published this week show. The drug is telaprevir (Incivek). It received U.S. approval in May for treatment of the most common type of the hepatitis C virus. One of the new studies included 1,088 people with hepatitis C who had not been treated before. The other study included 663 people who had been treated but relapsed or did not respond. Everyone in both studies received standard drugs. Some people also received telaprevir. About 80% of people who were being treated for the first time or had relapsed had a sustained biologic response to treatment with telaprevir. This means they had no genetic material (RNA) from hepatitis C in their blood after treatment ended. This compares with less than half of people who received only standard drugs. People who didn't respond to previous treatment also did better with telaprevir. Most people who had not been treated before took the drugs for only 24 weeks. This is half the usual length of treatment. The New England Journal of Medicine published the studies. The New York Times News Service wrote about them.
Study Finds Chips Pack on Pounds
Potatoes, especially chips, are the biggest cause of gradual middle-age weight gain, researchers said this week. The study included more than 120,000 people from 3 long-running studies of health professionals. Every 4 years, they were asked about what they ate and how much they weighed. In 20 years, the average person gained nearly 17 pounds. Researchers said food choices contributed most of that. Potato chips did the most damage. People gained about 1.7 pounds every 4 years for each ounce of potato chips they consumed daily. Non-chip potatoes added 1.3 pounds in 4 years for someone who ate a daily serving. French fries were the biggest culprit within this group. The weight gain was about 1 pound for someone who drank a soda daily and 0.4 pounds for sweets or alcohol. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Child Drownings Common in Shallow Pools
More than 200 U.S. children died from drowning in portable backyard pools from 2000 through 2009, a study published this week finds. Another 35 came close to drowning. The new study looked only at portable pools, not the in-ground type. The depth was up to 4 feet. But 41% of the cases where the pool depth was known occurred in "wading pools." These pools are less than 18 inches deep. Almost half of the children who drowned were 1 year old. Nearly all were under 5. About 66% of children were supervised. But in 18% of these cases the attention lapsed. Most often this happened because the supervisor fell asleep, did chores or answered the phone. Researchers say keeping children away from the pool is the most important step. But they noted that many people may consider a fence not affordable for a portable pool. An industry spokesman told the Associated Press that supervision is the best protection against child drownings. The journal Pediatrics published the study.
Lawsuit Seeks to Block Circumcision Ban
Jews and Muslims joined forces this week in a lawsuit to block a vote on a circumcision ban in San Francisco. The measure is scheduled to be on the ballot November 8. It would prohibit the procedure on males under age 18. Supporters of the ban say circumcision is a form of mutilation. They say parents should not be able to force the procedure on their child. But parties to the lawsuit say a ban would infringe on their religious freedom. Jews have circumcised baby boys for centuries as a religious rite. Many Muslim boys also are circumcised, though it does not occur at a set age. The lawsuit was filed by five Jews, three Muslims and two doctors who perform the operation. The parties also include the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council. The Associated Press wrote about the suit.
Survey: 8% of Kids Have Food Allergies
More U.S. children may have food allergies than previously thought, a study published this week suggests. The new survey found that 8% of children are allergic to some food. Nearly 40% of those allergies are severe. The most recent U.S. government estimate is that 4% of children have food allergies. The new survey was done through online interviews. It included parents of more than 40,000 U.S. children under age 18. People who said their child had a food allergy were asked if a doctor had diagnosed it. The survey also asked about allergy symptoms. The Food Allergy Initiative paid for the study. This is an advocacy group funded by the parents of children with food allergies. The journal Pediatrics published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.