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Health Highlights: Jan. 23, 2011

FDA Proposes Tougher Safety Measures for External Defibrillators House Republicans Outline Health-Care Objectives World Leaders to Discuss Junk Food Ads FDA Reports Post-Flu Vaccine Seizures in Young Children Woman Regains Speech After Larynx Transplant

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

FDA Proposes Tougher Safety Measures for External Defibrillators

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is recommending tougher safety rules for external defibrillators, which are designed to shock back to normal the hearts of people who collapse with cardiac arrest, according to the Associated Press.

The agency's proposal -- posted online Friday -- follows years of reported problems with the emergency medical devices, which are widespread in schools, hospitals, airports and other public places. Device makers have issued 68 recalls of defibrillators in the last five years, and the agency has received 23,000 reports of malfunctioning devices, including some that failed during rescue attempts, the news service said.

Under the proposed measures, makers of external defibrillators would have to submit to regular inspections and turn in more clinical data before launching a new product.

The changes would not apply to implantable defibrillators, which function more like pacemakers and are designed for patients who suffer from abnormal heart rhythms that could lead to cardiac arrest, the AP said.


House Republicans Outline Health-Care Objectives

Following up on this week's vote to repeal the new U.S. health-care law, House Republicans plan to pass bills that include some of the same measures as the current law, but with more limits on the use of federal power.

On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House voted 253 to 175 to direct four committees to draft legislation to replace the Democrats' health-care law, signed by President Barack Obama last March. The GOP directive outlines 13 objectives, including lowering health-care premiums through increased competition and choice, providing access to affordable coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions, increasing the number of people with insurance, and giving states greater flexibility to operate their Medicaid programs, The New York Times reported.

House Republicans also want stricter limits on abortion in federal programs, including those created by the new law.

Republicans did not outline how they plan to achieve their health-care objectives, but emphasized that they do not want to force individuals, families, employers or states to be burdened with detailed federal requirements, the Times reported.

On the House floor Thursday, Democrats said it was strange to hear Republicans advocating consumer protections that are contained in a law they just voted to repeal.

Democrats who control the Senate say they'll block any effort to repeal the health-care law and Obama has vowed to use his veto power. But Obama did say this week that he was "willing and eager" to work with lawmakers from both parties to improve the current law.

Under the law, federal money is being offered to states to help them create health insurance exchanges.

"Begining in 2014, these marketplaces will allow individuals and small business owners to pool their purchasing power so the mom-and-pop shop can have the same negotiating clout as the big chain down the street," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

She said a number of states have started work to establish exchanges and it "would be a huge mistake to undo this progress" by repealing the new law, the Times reported.


World Leaders to Discuss Junk Food Ads

Efforts to reduce junk food marketing to children will be on the agenda when world leaders gather at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City in September, the World Health Organization says.

The agency said the heads of state will discuss how to limit the number and types of ads that children are exposed to, the Associated Press reported.

It's expected that voluntary rules meant to control junk food advertising will eventually evolve into laws that ban such marketing, similar to what has occurred with tobacco, Bjorn-Inge Larsen of the Norwegian Directorate of Health told reporters Friday.

About 43 million preschool children worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the WHO, the AP reported.


FDA Reports Post-Flu Vaccine Seizures in Young Children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday said it was investigating an apparent increase in fever-related seizures in young children after they got a flu shot.

The agency said there have been 36 reported seizures this flu season in children ages 6 months through 2 years. All the seizures happened within a day after the youngsters got a vaccine called Fluzone, which is made specifically for younger children, the Associated Press reported.

Ten of the children were hospitalized, but all recovered. The flu shot manufacturer said there's no obvious link between the vaccine and the seizures, and they may have been coincidental, the AP said.


Woman Regains Speech After Larynx Transplant

A 52-year-old California woman can speak again after undergoing the world's second successful larynx transplant, say her doctors.

Brenda Charett Jensen's transplant last October was led by doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and included experts from England and Sweden, the Associated Press reported.

During the procedure, surgeons gave her a new voice box, windpipe and thyroid gland that came from a donor who died in an accident. The operation lasted 18 hours over two days.

Jensen began speaking two weeks after the transplant and her ability to speak has become easier since then. Her vocal cords were damaged more than a decade ago after she repeatedly yanked out her breathing tube while under sedation in the hospital, the AP reported.

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