Health Highlights: April 13, 2006

Canadian Officials Checking Possible Mad Cow Case Doctors Reverse Heart Transplant FDA to Discuss Nano Materials Most People Satisfied with Their Medicare Drug Plan: Survey Fast Food Is Fattier in U.S. Airline Passengers May Have Spread Mumps

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

Canadian Officials Checking Possible Mad Cow Case

Canadian officials are investigating a suspected case of mad cow disease in a six-year-old dairy cow in British Columbia.

A final series of tests is being conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency after initial tests failed to determine whether the cow had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), CBC News reported.

Initial tests by provincial authorities were inconclusive. Samples from the cow, being raised on a farm in the Fraser Valley, were then sent to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, where further testing indicated "a preliminary positive result."

This third series of tests is expected to be completed over the weekend, CBC News reported. If confirmed, this would be the fifth native-born case of BSE in Canada.

Officials say the case does not pose any danger to humans. No part of the cow entered the human or animal food systems and the cow's entire carcass has been placed under control.


Doctors Reverse Heart Transplant

British doctors reversed a "piggyback" heart transplant in a 12-year-old girl after they determined her own heart was strong enough to pump blood on its own again.

Hannah Clark had received the donor heart 10 years ago, but doctors left in her diseased heart. She recently developed severe complications with her immune system, so doctors decided to remove the donor heart so the girl could be taken off immune suppression drugs that prevented her from rejecting the transplanted heart, the Associated Press reported.

After the donor heart was removed, Hannah's own heart was able to cope on its own. She made a quick recovery and went home a week after the operation.

"It is a very unique situation for a piggyback heart transplant to offer a window, a period of time, for the diseased heart to recover sufficiently to take over the circulation again 10 years later," said Dr. Victor Tsang, one of the surgeon's who removed the donor heart.

Even though Hannah is doing well at the moment, doctors said this is a unique case and could offer no long-term prognosis.


FDA to Discuss Nano Materials

The increasing use of nanotechnology in everyday products has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to schedule an October meeting to discuss new kinds of nano materials being developed for products the agency regulates, such as drugs, foods, cosmetics, and medical devices.

Because of their incredibly small size, nano materials can pose different safety issues than larger materials. The meeting will help alert the FDA to any scientific issues about nanotechnology.

The FDA's announcement about the meeting comes as German officials investigate why nearly 100 people suffered respiratory problems after using a new cleaning product that contains nano particles, the Associated Press reported. The product, Magic Nano, is not available in the United States and has been withdrawn from the German market.

"These incidents have demonstrated that the introduction of new technologies in consumer products must be coupled with an assessment of the possible risks arising from their use. It is incumbent on science to communicate this message to consumers as well," Andreas Hensel, president of Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, said in a statement.


Most People Satisfied with Their Medicare Drug Plan: Survey

Nearly eight out of 10 people enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan say they're satisfied, and only 20 percent said they felt like they were not saving money with their plans, according to a survey released Thursday by AARP.

It found that 63 percent of respondents felt their new Medicare drug plan is either better or as good as their previous coverage, while 17 percent felt it was worse.

Forty percent said they believed they would have needed to give something up if Medicare had not added the new drug benefit. Those sacrifices may have included groceries, reducing medication, finding less expensive housing, and cutting back on savings.

"Before Medicare added a drug benefit, more than half of those in the program either lacked drug coverage or had inadequate coverage that did not protect them from high out-of-pocket costs. The new plans fill a critical need for affordable prescription drugs," AARP Director of Health Strategy Cheryl Matheis said in a prepared statement.

As of March, more than 27 million people were enrolled in a new Medicare drug plan.


Fast Food Is Fattier in U.S.

Depending on where you are in the world, french fries and some chicken products at McDonald's or KFC restaurants may contain more dangerous trans fats than the same items at the chains' outlets in other locations, says a Danish report published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers analyzed McDonald's chicken nuggets, KFC hot wings, and both companies' french fries in dozens of countries in 2004 and 2005, the Associated Press reported.

At a McDonald's in New York City, a large fries and chicken nuggets combo contained 10.2 grams of trans fats, compared with about 3 grams in the Czech Republic, Russian and Spain, and 0.33 grams in Denmark.

A large order of KFC hot wings and fries in New York had 5.5 grams of trans fats, compared with 19 grams of trans fats in Poland and Hungary, and less than a gram in Denmark, Germany and Russia, the AP reported.

Even within the United States, there were major differences. A large order of french fries at a New York City McDonald's contained 30 percent more trans fats than the same item at a McDonald's in Atlanta.

Research shows that eating just five grams of trans fat a day increases the risk of heart disease by 25 percent. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is high in trans fats, is used by many restaurants to fry food.


Airline Passengers May Have Spread Mumps

Health officials suspect that two airline passengers may have played a role in spreading the Iowa mumps epidemic to six other Midwestern states.

"These people may have exposed other people on those planes or in these airports," Kevin Teale, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, told the Associated Press.

There have been 515 suspected cases of mumps reported in Iowa and: 43 reported cases in Nebraska; 33 in Kansas; four each in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin; and one in Minnesota. This is the first mumps epidemic in the country in 20 years. No deaths have been reported.

Iowa health officials have identified state residents who were potentially infectious when they traveled by air in late March and early April, the AP reported. No mumps cases in other states have yet been linked to the air travelers.

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