Health Highlights: Aug. 29, 2017

Another Outbreak of Salmonella Traced to Pet Turtles Federal Prisons Must Now Make Free Tampons, Pads Available FDA: Serious Problems at Florida Stem Cell Clinic

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

Another Outbreak of Salmonella Traced to Pet Turtles

Thirty-seven people across 13 states have contracted salmonella infection from contact with pet turtles, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

The agency has for years warned Americans that reptiles such as turtles can be a potent source of the potentially dangerous bacterium, which attacks the gastrointestinal system.

In fact, the CDC notes that "since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to salmonella infections, especially in young children."

In the the latest outbreak, illnesses began to appear on March 1 and diagnoses continued until Aug. 3, the agency said. No deaths have yet been reported, but 16 people have required hospitalization. The CDC says the outbreak may not yet be over.

The agency's advice? "Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts. All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean."


Federal Prisons Must Now Make Free Tampons, Pads Available

New policy from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) now requires that all facilities make feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, available for free to prisoners who need them.

In an email memo issued earlier in August, FBP spokesman Justin Long said that "wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number. Prior to the (memo), the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution."

Andrea James is a former lawyer and founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. In 2010 and 2011, she served 18 months in a federal prison.

Speaking with CNN, James recalled tough choices made by prisoners involving feminine hygiene products, which the prisoners themselves had to pay for.

"We were paid 12 cents an hour [for in-prison work]," she said, and that wage could be spent on other things, such as phone calls. "That's the choice. Do I buy the tampons or do I call my children?"

According to CNN, the new policy arrives a month after Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act into Congress. Among other issues, the Act requires that women in prisons have access to multiple sizes of free tampons, pads and liners. Long said the new announcement had nothing to do with the proposed law, however.

In a statement, Harris said she applauded the memorandum, adding, "too many women reside in prison and jail facilities that don't support basic hygiene or reproductive health, and that's just not right."


FDA: Serious Problems at Florida Stem Cell Clinic

A Florida stem cell clinic has been cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for what the agency describes as serious problems that could pose health risks to patients.

The agency said Monday that it has cited US Stem Cell Clinic, of Sunrise, for marketing stem cell products without FDA approval and for "significant deviations from current good manufacturing practice requirements," including some that could affect the "sterility of their products, putting patients at risk."

"Stem cell clinics that mislead vulnerable patients into believing they are being given safe, effective treatments that are in full compliance with the law are dangerously exploiting consumers and putting their health at risk," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a news release.

The FDA said it recently inspected US Stem Cell Clinic and found that it was processing fat tissue into stem cells derived from body fat and administering the product both intravenously or directly into the spinal cord of patients to treat a variety of serious health problems. Those problems included Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease, among others.

The FDA said it hasn't approved any biological products made by US Stem Cell Clinic for any use.

During an inspection, FDA investigators also found evidence of "significant deviations from current good manufacturing practices" in the production of at least 256 lots of stem cell products. Those deviations included "failure to establish and follow appropriate written procedures designed to prevent microbiological contamination of products purporting to be sterile, which puts patients at risk for infections."

US Stem Cell Clinic also tried to hamper the FDA's investigation during a recent inspection "by refusing to allow entry except by appointment and by denying FDA investigators access to employees," the agency said.

Interfering with an FDA inspection is a violation of federal law, the agency said.

The FDA said it wants to hear from US Stem Cell Clinic within 15 working days, detailing how the problems cited in the agency warning letter will be fixed. If the problems aren't corrected, the company faces such enforcement actions as seizure, injunction or prosecutions, the agency said.

Any adverse events suffered by patients treated at US Stem Cell Clinic should be reported to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.

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