Health Highlights: June 29, 2007

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

Veggie Snack Recalled for Salmonella Risk

A snack called Veggie Booty is being recalled nationwide due to possible contamination with salmonella bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported.

The product, made by Robert's American Gourmet Food Inc., of Sea Cliff, N.Y., is sold in foil bags of 4-ounce, 1-ounce, and half-ounce sizes.

Consumers are urged to throw any packages of the product away. Veggie Booty is often eaten by children, and parents are urged to watch for signs of gastrointestinal illness in any youngster who has already eaten the product, the FDA advised Thursday.

The agency has had 52 reports of illness in 17 states, beginning in March. Almost all of the victims have been children under age 10, mostly toddlers. Four were hospitalized with symptoms including bloody diarrhea. The FDA said it learned of the illnesses on June 27 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating the outbreak. The product also is sold in Canada.

In addition to bloody diarrhea, other symptoms of salmonella poisoning may include abdominal cramps and fever. Symptoms usually begin within four days of exposure, the FDA said.

People with weaker immune systems, including the young and elderly, are especially prone to salmonella poisoning.

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English Smoking Ban Begins Sunday

A ban on smoking in public buildings starts Sunday in England, to include pubs, restaurants, and even Buckingham Palace, the Associated Press reports.

Taxi and delivery drivers also face a £50 fine if they light up inside their cars, the wire service said.

England joins France, Spain, Italy, Iran, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Uruguay and New Zealand in passing federal legislation to restrict smoking. The United States has no federal policy, but some states, including New York and Florida, have imposed some of the globe's most stringent laws against smoking, the AP said.

Public smoking is already restricted in the rest of Britain, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Despite these bans, the World Health Organization predicts there will be an additional 2 billion smokers worldwide by 2030, the wire service said.

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Plane Travel Boosts Blood Clot Risk: WHO

Long airline flights of four hours or more double a passenger's risk of dangerous blood clots, a new World Health Organization (WHO) study concludes.

Clots called venous thromboembolisms (VTE) usually form in the legs and can be deadly if they travel to the lungs.

A similar risk applies to people who travel for long periods by car, bus or rail, the Bloomberg news service reported. Each year, more than 600,0000 people in the United States contract a VTE that travels to the lungs, referred to as a pulmonary embolism. About 10 percent of these people die, Bloomberg reported.

Other activities linked to such clots include the use of drugs such as estrogen and birth control pills, and childbirth within the past six months, the news service said.

In a statement, the WHO urged air carriers to provide passengers with information about these risks, including current prevention advice that encourages leg exercise and avoiding prolonged sitting.

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Bacterium's Genome Transplanted

Human genome sequencing pioneer J. Craig Venter and his colleagues say they have successfully transplanted the genome of one type of bacteria into another, The New York Times reports.

Venter directs a nonprofit research laboratory that bears his name in Rockville, Md. He said the achievement was the first step in creating a synthetic bacterium, which could ultimately be used to produce an alternative to fossil fuels and limit the effects of global warming, the newspaper reported.

Experts praised the Venter announcement as a landmark accomplishment, but said it was among a long series of steps required before synthetic chromosomes could be adapted to living cells, the Times said.

The research is published in the online version of Science.

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Respiratory Disorders Common Among Young ER Visitors

Nearly three of every 10 children and teens admitted to a U.S. hospital after visiting the emergency room have a significant respiratory disorder, including asthma, pneumonia or acute bronchitis, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported Thursday.

Of all child admissions with respiratory problems in 2004, asthma accounted for more than one-third of them, the agency said in a statement.

Among children ages 5 to 9, respiratory illness accounted for 26 percent of ER visits that led to a hospital admission. Among children 10 to 14, the rate fell to 12 percent, and among teens ages 15 to 17, the rate was 8 percent, AHRQ said.

Overall, about half of the 2.3 million hospital admissions involving children and teens each year begin in hospital emergency departments, the agency said.

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All U.S. Hospitals Privy to Infection Tracking System

All hospitals in the United States now have access to a system that lets them track institutional infections, including a deadly form of staph called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MSRA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

In a statement, the agency said it expected nearly 1,000 facilities to take advantage in the coming months of the National Healthcare Safety Network.

Eight states -- California, Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia -- have designated the network as a way to help comply with legislation requiring hospitals to report healthcare related infections.

To date, more than 600 institutions in 45 states participate in the network, the CDC said.

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