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Health Highlights: April 1, 2002

Pentagon Closing In on Anthrax Vaccine Decision Promising Heart Technology Hits a Snag New Technology Doubles Red Cells Available from Donors Evenflo 'Triumph' Car Seats Recalled Get Checkup for Any Snoring Child, Docs Urge Dutch Are First to Legalize Mercy Killing Quaker Apple Cinnamon Snacks Pose Severe Allergy Risk

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

Pentagon Closing In on Anthrax Vaccine Decision

Now that the nation's only producer of an anthrax vaccine can resume making the product again, the Pentagon says it is considering resuming its policy of vaccinating U.S. troops, the Associated Press reports.

The military was forced to cut back on the anthrax vaccination program when safety violations stalled production of the vaccine by its maker, BioPort.

But with BioPort's new manufacturing plant getting the thumbs-up from the Food and Drug Administration and research released last month indicating the vaccine is relatively safe (with more research recommended), the Pentagon is reportedly on the verge of reinstating the vaccination of U.S. troops.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that the program is likely to resume and that he is getting ready to make "final decisions about how it might be reinstituted and when and on what basis," reports the AP.

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Promising Heart Technology Hits a Snag

Perhaps the hottest prospect in cardiology today is the idea of keeping arteries open with a coated stent -- a tiny tube that releases chemicals that limit the regrowth of vessel-blocking cells.

However, a new Italian study seems to cast a shadow on the technology, reports HealthDay.

The performance of one type of coated stent in a special group of patients, while excellent after six months, deteriorated rapidly after one year, researchers found. In fact, most of the patients got restenosis -- reblockage of the treated arteries.

However, the finding, reported in tomorrow's issue of Circulation, "absolutely does not" apply to all coated stents and all patients, say the researchers behind the study. First, the stent used in the study was coated with a very thick plastic polymer, different from those of many other stents.

And secondly, the stents were implanted in a small group of patients, 15 in all, who already had conventional stents implanted after angioplasty, an artery-opening procedure, and whose arteries had begun to become blocked again. In the great majority of other cases, the stents are implanted immediately after angioplasty.

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New Technology Doubles Red Cells Available from Donors

The bad news for the nation's blood supply is that new restrictions are going to reduce the number of people who can donate blood, but the good news is that new technology can draw the amount of red blood cells from just one person that typically would take two donors.

The technology, already in use in a number of states, works by separating red cells from blood right on the spot, and putting the rest of the blood back into the donor's body. That way, banks can collect twice the number of red cells from a single donor without the donor feeling the additional loss, reports the Associated Press.

The process, called apheresis, is not new to medicine, but was applied to the collection of blood donations by the Massachusetts-based Haemonetics Inc.

Because of the work in separating the blood from the cells, the process takes longer about 35 to 45 minutes instead of the normal 15, and to be eligible, donors must be about 20 pounds heavier than is required for standard donations.

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Evenflo 'Triumph' Car Seats Recalled

Evenflo Company Inc. has announced a recall of 28,312 car seats due to a faulty harness system that may not adequately protect children in an accident, reports the Associated Press.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the internal harness system in the car seat model called the Triumph, may have defective links.

Seats that are being recalled involve those made between October 20, 2001 and January 31, 2002. The model numbers begin with 264 and the seats bear the name "Triumph" on the front.

Owners of the seats can obtain a free upgrade kit and repair instructions from Evenflo.

Until replacement parts are received, owners should continue to use the seats, however, because they are still considered safer than adult seats or no restraint at all, says the NHTSA.

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Get Checkup for Any Snoring Child, Docs Urge

Any child who snores should be checked for a potentially harmful condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), new pediatrician guidelines say.

OSA is characterized by frequent momentary lapses in breathing, which usually awaken the person briefly. The syndrome -- and its symptomatic loss of sleep -- have been linked to learning disorders, growing problems and high blood pressure. It's commonly alleviated by removing a child's enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say snoring doesn't always mean a child has OSA, though snoring is one of the syndrome's most common symptoms. OSA affects about 500,000 American children, most often ages 2 to 8, reports the Associated Press.

The academy published its first-ever guidelines on OSA in the April issue of its medical journal, Pediatrics.

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Dutch Are First to Legalize Euthanasia

The world's first law that makes mercy killing legal takes effect today in The Netherlands.

Under the legislation, people who experience unbearable suffering can ask their doctors to perform euthanasia. Provided the physicians follow strict guidelines, they can perform the mercy killing without fear of prosecution.

The country has unofficially tolerated the practice for decades, reports BBC News Online. The Dutch Parliament passed the law last April, but not without controversy. Critics say the edict gives doctors a "license to kill," a charge Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok calls, "bloody nonsense."

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Quaker Apple Cinnamon Snacks Pose Severe Allergy Risk

Quaker Oats is voluntarily recalling Apple Cinnamon Quakes crispy mini rice snacks, which may contain an undeclared dairy-based seasoning. The product poses the risk of life-threatening reaction to people with a severe allergy or sensitivity to milk products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The product is packaged in 3.52-ounce bags with a "Best Before" date of AUG 1202 CZ1XX, with the XX denoting numbers from 01 to 07. Quaker has asked retailers nationwide to remove the product from their shelves. No other Quaker products are affected.

Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase for a refund. For more information, contact Quaker at 1-800-856-5781.

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