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Health Highlights: April 8, 2016

New Details About VA Scheduling Scandal Revealed in Documents Citing Human Health Risk, FDA May Withdraw Approval of Drug Used in Pigs Many Americans Lack Knowledge About Zika: Survey

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

New Details About VA Scheduling Scandal Revealed in Documents

Supervisors told employees to falsify veterans' wait times for care at Veteran Affairs' medical centers in at least seven states, newly-released documents show.

The analysis of more than 70 investigation reports provides the first specifics of widespread patient scheduling manipulation, according to USA Today.

The reports -- released after numerous inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request -- show that employees at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly "zeroed out" veterans' wait times.

In some facilities, this had occurred for as long as a decade, while it others it was just a few years, USA Today reported.

The falsifications hid increasing demand as veterans returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as Vietnam War veterans grew older and required more health services.


Citing Human Health Risk, FDA May Withdraw Approval of Drug Used in Pigs

The process of withdrawing approval of the swine drug carbadox due to potential health risks in people has been launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said there could be a cancer risk to people who eat pork, especially pork liver, from pigs treated with the drug. It was first approved in the early 1970s to control swine dysentary and bacterial swine enteritis, but has been used to increase weight gain in pigs.

Pork liver is used to make liverwurst, hot dogs, lunch meat and some types of sausage

"The manufacturer of carbadox has failed to provide sufficient scientific data to demonstrate the safety of this drug given evidence that carbadox may result in carcinogenic residues," Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in an agency news release.

"As a result, FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine is taking legal action to remove this product from the marketplace," he added.

People do not need to reduce their pork consumption while the process to remove carbadox from the market is underway, the FDA said.

The company that makes carbadox has 30 days to request a hearing. If that does not happen, the FDA can proceed with withdrawing its approval for the drug.


Many Americans Lack Knowledge About Zika: Survey

About 4 in 10 Americans say they've heard little to nothing about the Zika virus, according to a new survey that reveals significant gaps in knowledge about the mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to serious birth defects.

Among people who've heard about Zika, 90 percent know mosquitoes can spread the virus, the Associated Press reported.

But even among those with some knowledge of the virus, many don't know if there is a vaccine or treatment (currently, there is not) or if the virus can be transmitted between people other than through mosquito bites, according to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.

Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, according to health officials.

More than half of the survey respondents backed mosquito-control efforts such as pesticide spraying or releasing genetically modified mosquitoes.

The federal government is considering a field trial in the Florida Keys of genetically altered male mosquitoes. When these males mate with females, their offspring quickly die. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents supported introducing these mosquitoes into areas affected by Zika, the AP reported.

Zika is sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean. Adults typically experience mild, if any, symptoms, but the virus has been linked with the birth defect microcephaly, an abnormally small head and brain.

Pregnant women and those trying to conceive should not travel to Zika-affected areas, U.S. health officials warn.

All of the more than 300 Zika cases diagnosed in the United States have involved people who traveled to regions where Zika is present. But, the mosquitoes that can spread Zika live in parts of the United States, the AP reported.

While experts say a Zika epidemic in the United States is unlikely, there is a strong chance that small clusters of cases will occur in states such as Florida and Texas, according to health officials.

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