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Health Highlights: April 20, 2012

160 Now Sickened in Tuna-Linked Salmonella Outbreak U.S. Women Trail Men in Life Span Gains: Study Vietnam Seeks Help With Mystery Illness That's Killed 19 Health Care Disparities Persist for U.S. Minority Groups: Report Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat: FDA U.S. Team Heads to Everest to Study Effects of High Altitude Starbucks Eliminating Bug-based Dye From Products

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

160 Now Sickened in Tuna-Linked Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak linked to a frozen yellowfin tuna product has now sickened 160 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Tuesday.

In a statement, the agency said 26 people have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths reported.

On Monday, nearly 59,000 pounds of the product, labeled Nakaochi Scrape AA or AAA, was recalled by Moon Marine USA Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. The product, which is scraped off fish bones, was sold to grocery stores and restaurants to make dishes such as sushi, sashimi and ceviche.

As reported by the Associated Press, many people who became ill reported eating raw tuna in sushi as "spicy tuna."

As of Friday, the CDC said illnesses linked to the recalled product had been reported in: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (6), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Illinois (14), Louisiana (3), Maryland (14), Massachusetts (23), Mississippi (2), Missouri (4), New Jersey (8), New York (30), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (6), Rhode Island (5), South Carolina (3), Texas (4), Virginia (9) and Wisconsin (14).

The CDC noted that salmonella illness is often serious for infants, older adults, pregnant women and persons with impaired immune systems, and these individuals should not eat raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish.


U.S. Women Trail Men in Life Span Gains: Study

American men's lifespans increased by an average of 4.6 years between 1989 and 2009, while women's increased by only 2.7 years, a new study says.

It also found large variations in average county-to-county life spans across the nation, ranging from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86 years for women, USA Today reported. In many counties, women's life spans are shorter than they were 20 years ago.

Even though women are still expected to outlive men by 4 years, these finding are cause for concern, according to the study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

"A gain in life expectancy should be equal among men and women," said research team director Ali Mokdad, USA Today reported. "This is a wake-up call for all of us. It's tragic that in a country as wealthy as the United States, and with all the medical expertise we have, that so many girls will live shorter lives than their mothers."

Preventable causes of death, such as smoking, obesity and alcohol, are key reasons for the differences between men and women.


Vietnam Seeks Help With Mystery Illness That's Killed 19

Vietnam's health ministry has asked international health experts for help after a mystery illness killed 19 people and sickened 191 others in a poor district in the central area of the country.

Children and young people have been hit hardest by the infection, which begins with a high fever, loss of appetite and a rash that covers the hands and feet. If not treated early, patients can develop liver problems and eventually suffer multi-organ failure, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

Nearly 100 people are still in hospital, including 10 in critical condition. Patients with milder symptoms are being treated at home.

Vietnam's Ministry of Health sent a team to the Ba To district earlier this month but they couldn't determine the cause of the illness. The ministry has asked for help from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Health Care Disparities Persist for U.S. Minority Groups: Report

Access to health care did not improve for most racial and ethnic minorities in the United States between 2002 and 2008, says a report released Friday by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The National Healthcare Disparities Report looks at about 250 health care measures and found that about half of the measures that track disparities showed no improvement, while 40 percent got worse.

Compared to whites, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives had worse access to care on more than 60 percent of the access measures, blacks had worse access on slightly more than 30 percent, and Asian Americans had worse access on 17 percent.


Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat: FDA

Despite continuing concerns about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. officials insist that Gulf seafood on the market is safe to eat.

Two years after the massive BP oil spill, some scientists say that lesions and other deformities on some Gulf fish indicate lingering environmental damage.

"It's important to emphasize that we're talking about a low percentage of fish," Dr. Robert W. Dickey, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, told the Associated Press. "It doesn't represent a seafood safety hazard."

He noted that wholesalers and seafood processors must follow FDA rules on what constitutes a safe and usable catch. Fish with lesions or signs of parasites or disease can't be sold.


U.S. Team Heads to Everest to Study Effects of High Altitude

U.S. researchers plan to establish a laboratory at the base of Mount Everest in order to study the effects of high altitude on humans.

The Mayo Clinic team flew to the Mount Everest region on Friday and plans to monitor nine climbers attempting to conquer the world's highest mountain, the Associated Press reported.

Learning more about the effects of high altitude on the heart, lungs, muscle loss and sleep could help patients with heart conditions and other health problems, the researchers explained.

The team's laboratory at the Mayo focuses on lung congestion in heart failure patients and lung congestion often kills mountain climbers, team leader Dr. Bruce Johnson told the AP.


Starbucks Eliminating Bug-based Dye From Products

A crimson food dye made from crushed bugs will be phased out of four food and two beverage products, Starbucks says.

Instead of using the bug-based dye called cochineal extract, the company says it will use lycopene, a natural tomato-based extract using for coloring, CBS News reported.

Starbucks was the target of a social media campaign after it became known that the company used cochineal extract in some of its products.

Cochineal extract is safe and food and cosmetic product labels must state if the dye is present, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. They dye, which has been used for thousands of years to color fabrics, is often found in yogurts, candies, ice creams, ketchup, fruit drinks, lipsticks, nail polish, eye shadow and other pink and red products, CBS News reported.


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