Health Highlights: Aug 4, 2015
New Medical Scope Safety Steps Announced by FDA Death Toll Reaches 7 in NYC Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak Not Enough Evidence to Support Universal Screening for Autism: Expert Panel
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New Medical Scope Safety Steps Announced by FDA
Extra cleaning measures for specialized medical scopes that have been linked to bacterial infection outbreaks across the United States have been released by the Food and Drug Administration.
The devices are called duodenoscopes and are used to diagnose and treat blockages of the bile and pancreatic ducts. The scopes consist of flexible tube that is inserted into the digestive tract.
The added steps include sterilizing the scopes with toxic gas to kill bacteria, but the FDA said that even after the new measures, "the risk of infection transmission cannot be completely eliminated," the Associated Press reported.
FDA officials also acknowledged that not all hospitals have the staff, expertise or resources to implement the new safety measures, but said the scopes should remain available because they benefit "appropriately selected patients."
Duodenoscopes are used in about half-million procedures per year in the U.S., the AP reported.
Death Toll Reaches 7 in NYC Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak
The death toll from the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the South Bronx now stands at seven, and more than 80 people have been diagnosed with the illness, New York City health officials said Monday.
On the weekend, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials said four people had died of the bacterial infection. But officials said Monday that they learned Sunday about three more deaths that occurred on previous days, the Wall Street Journal reported.
All seven of the people who have died were older adults with "underlying medical problems," according to health officials.
The overall number of Legionnaires' disease cases since July 10 now stands at 81, including 64 who required hospitalization, WSJ reported.
Legionnaires' disease causes pneumonia-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle aches and cough. It can't be transmitted from person to person, but can spread through air conditioner cooling towers or hot water systems.
Not Enough Evidence to Support Universal Screening for Autism: Expert Panel
There is not enough medical evidence to recommend that all young children be screened for autism, according to a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force draft proposal released Monday.
The conclusion came as a shock to many autism experts who have long urged doctors to screen infants and toddlers for autism so that treatment could begin as early as possible.
"I was in a meeting when I read this, and I started feeling like I'd have chest pain," Dr. Susan Levy, a pediatrician who helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines urging universal screening of all babies at both 18 and 24 months, told The New York Times. "I would hate to see people stop screening."
About half of all American pediatricians routinely screen toddlers for autism.
The draft proposal is a call for more research and is not intended to change practices, task force vice chairman Dr. David Grossman explained.
"This doesn't mean 'don't screen.' It means there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation," he told The Times.
Grossman said the panel's conclusion applies only to routine screening of healthy children without autism symptoms. Children with autism symptoms should always be evaluated, he added.