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Health Highlights: Dec. 4, 2008

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

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

Melamine Found in More ChineseEggs

The industrial chemical melamine has been found in another Chinese brand of eggs, Hong Kong health authorities said.

The eggs from a farm in Dehui City in the northeastern province of Jilinwere distributed through a local importer in a wholesale food market. The importer has been told to stop selling the eggs and officials are trying todetermine where the eggs may have been sold. The eggs were distributed tosome bakeries but not to any other retail outlets,BBC Newsreported.

In October, Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety announced that melamine had been detected in Chinese produced eggs. In that case, it's believed the melamine came from tainted chicken feed. Since then, the center has tested 307 egg samples and found four of them had nearly twice the legal limit of melamine.

There's an allowable limit of 2.5 parts per million (ppm) of melamine in food. Tests showed the latest batch of eggs had 4.7 ppm of melamine, BBC News reported.

Earlier this week, Chinese health officials said a total of 294,000 children in China have fallen ill so far, after consuming melamine-tainted dairy products, and 154 of them remained in serious condition.


Bed Sore-RelatedHospitalizations Up 80 Percent: Report

Between 1993 and 2006 there was an 80 percent increase inhospitalizations for pressure ulcers -- better known as bed sores, according to the latest News and Numbers from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The agency's analysis of data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample found that of the 503,300 pressure ulcer-related hospitalizations in 2006:

  • Pressure ulcers were the primary diagnosis in about 45,000 hospitaladmissions, compared to 35,800 in 1993.
  • Pressure ulcers were a secondary diagnosis in 457,800 hospitaladmissions in 2006, compared to 245,600 in 1993. Most of these patients were admitted for pneumonia, infection or other medical problems and developed pressure ulcers before or after hospital admission.
  • Death occurred in about one in 25 of cases in which pressure ulcers were the primary diagnosis, and in about one in eight cases in which pressure ulcers were a secondary diagnosis.
  • Pressure ulcer-related hospitalizations last longer and cost more thanmany other hospitalizations. The overall average hospital stay is five days and costs about $10,000. The average pressure ulcer-related hospital stay is 13 to 14 days and costs $16,755 to $20,430, depending on medicalcircumstances.

Bed sores typically occur among patients who can't move or who have lost sensation. Older patients, stroke victims, and people who are paralyzed,have diabetes or dementia are at high risk for bed sores.


Medicare, Social Security Owe $52Trillion

Medicare and Social Security currently owe up to $52 trillion to people who have already earned these benefits, a figure that's up to 3.5 times greater than the entire U.S. economy ($14 trillion), according to a National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) study released this week.

According to the study, $9.5 trillion is owed to current retirees, anamount equal to almost $250,000 per person 65 years of age or older in 2008. Adding those aged 55 and older brings that figure to $20.6 trillion andadding in benefits earned by younger workers over the age of 22 brings thetotal to as much as $52 trillion.

Currently, Medicare and Social Security combined spend more than theyreceive in premiums and dedicated taxes. By 2012, one of every 10 income tax dollars will be needed to close the funding gap for Social Security andMedicare. That will increase to half of all income tax dollars by 2030 andalmost 80 percent of tax dollars by 2070, according to the study.

"Without reform, paying for elderly entitlements will crowd out otherfederal spending or will require substantial tax increases. The longer wepostpone reform, the worse the financial picture becomes," said study co-author Andrew Rettenmaier, a senior fellow at the NCPA, which promotesmarket-driven solutions to issues.


Americans' Health May Decline: Report

Americans' health improved by 18 percent between 1990 and 2000, but has leveled off over the past four years and may be about to decline, according to the 2008 America's Health Rankings report released Wednesday.

Weight gain, tobacco addiction and rising rates of chronic diseases are the most serious threats to previous advances in the nation's health, USA Today reported.

"This is a perfect storm," said Reed Tuckson, of the United Health Foundation, one of the report sponsors, along with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.

Researchers analyzed 22 health measures, including access to medical care, immunizations, prenatal care, infant mortality, heart disease deaths, infectious disease deaths, smoking cessation, violent crime, and occupational fatalities.

Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah were the healthiest states while Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana were the least healthy, said the health rankings report, USA Today reported.

Vermont, the healthiest state, had a lower smoking rate than the national average (17.6 percent vs. 20 percent), a slower increase in obesity than the national rate, and a higher percentage of people with health insurance.Louisiana, the least healthy state, had a high infant death rate, high cancer death rates, and high rates of racial disparities in health care, according to the report.


Cleveland Clinic to Disclose Doctors' Business Ties

In what's believed to be a first for a major U.S. medical center, the Cleveland Clinic this week started to publicly report business ties between its 1,800 staff doctors and scientists and drug and medical device makers.

Disclousure of such financial links are posted on the Web site of the clinic, one of the nation's leading medical research centers.

"They are breaking a new path here," Dr. David J. Rothman, president of the nonprofit Institute on Medicine as a Profession, told The New York Times. The Columbia University-based group studies potential conflicts of interest.

In the United States, doctors' and scientists' connections to industry are often kept secret, a practice that can harm the integrity of medical research and patient care, according to critics.

The Cleveland Clinic's move was praised by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R- Iowa), who's introduced legislation to force drug and medical device makers to disclose payments they make to doctors.

"Patients deserve easy access to information about their doctors'relationships with drug companies and the Cleveland Clinic is making that possible," Grassley said in a statement, the Times reported.

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