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Health Highlights: Feb. 19, 2009

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:

Kansas Gov. Leading Candidate for U.S. Health Secretary

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is a leading candidate for the post of U.S. health and human services secretary, according to White House advisers, The New York Times reported.

Along with her eight years of experience as her state's insurance commissioner and six years experience as a governor running a state Medicaid program, Sibelius is seen as someone who can work across party lines. She's a Democrat in one of the nation's most Republican states.

This could prove vital to President Barack Obama as he turns his attention to health care next week with a plan designed to advance his ideas about covering the uninsured, the Times reported.

If she is appointed health secretary, Sibelius would be welcomed by health advocates.

She "knows health care as well as any governor in the United States," Ronald F. Pollack, executive director of the consumer group Families USA, told the Times.

Former Senator Tom Daschle was Obama's first pick for health and human services secretary, but Daschle withdrew over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.


14,000 Americans Lose Health Insurance Daily: Report

As many as 14,000 Americans a day lose their health insurance and two million have become uninsured since jobs began disappearing in the recession, adding to the 46 million who were already without insurance, according to a report released Thursday.

As jobs continue to vanish, the rate of coverage loss is accelerating, warned the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The number of newly uninsured Americans would be much higher if it werent for people enrolling in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, the group said in a news release.

The growing number of uninsured Americans is one of the major economic challenges facing the country, said the report, which called on politicians to support health care reform that provides coverage for everyone and slows the growth of health care costs.


China Probing New Kidney Stone Illness in Babies

Chinese parents are blaming a growing number of cases of kidney stones in babies on dairy products made by Dumex Baby Food Co., a subsidiary of France's Groupe Danone SA, the Associated Press reported.

But the company says its products are safe and health officials said tests showed the products do not contain the industrial chemical melamine, which was found in tainted formula that caused kidney problems in hundreds of thousands of children and killed at least six babies last year.

China's Health Ministry has launched an investigation and told all local health bureaus to start monitoring kidney problems in children and to look at their eating habits and living environment, the China Daily newspaper said Thursday, the AP reported.

It's not known how many children have become sick, when they became ill, or what pushed the Health Ministry to launch an investigation into the latest outbreak.

"We're trying to find out why the number of kidney ailments among babies has risen drastically," Ma Yangchen of the ministry's press office, was quoted in the China Daily, according to AP.


FDA Experts Suggest Change for Next Season's Flu Vaccine

A panel of experts advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended changing one of the three strains of flu included in this season's influenza vaccine for next season's version, the Dow Jones news service reported Wednesday.

Each annual vaccine typically has two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B that are most likely to strike during the upcoming season. But the decision about which strains to include is made months in advance.

The FDA panel said next season's vaccine should include the same strains of influenza A as this season's shot, but that a newer "B" strain be included in the upcoming vaccine, Dow Jones said.

In a typical season, one or two of the three strains included in the annual vaccine are changed from the prior season, although all three changed in the 2008-2009 flu shot from the year-earlier vaccine, the news service said.

The strains used in the vaccine are grown in chicken eggs. The process of creating the next season's vaccine typically starts in January or February. It takes about eight months to create the 130 million doses needed, Dow Jones said.

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