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Health Highlights: Jan. 28, 2008

Cordis Recalls Balloon Catheters Shiloh Farms Sesame Seeds Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns Health of Black and Hispanic Children in U.S. Improving: Study Bird Flu Spreads in India 2 Fatal N.Y. Meningitis Cases Not Linked, Officials Say

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

Cordis Recalls Balloon Catheters

A problem that could cause injury or death has prompted Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Cordis to recall about 132,000 Dura Star RX and Fire Star RX PTCA balloon catheters used to expand blood vessels, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

There have been no reported deaths associated with the catheters, which include about 57,000 sold in the United States. The recall was announced on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site.

The balloons don't inflate properly, a problem that could result in heart attack or death. The devices were made in Mexico and distributed worldwide between March 2007 and January 2008.

The recall does not affect Cordis' Cypher drug-coated cardiac stents, the Journal reported.


Shiloh Farms Sesame Seeds Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns

Possible Salmonella contamination has led to a recall of 12-oz. packages of Shiloh Farms Organic Unhulled Sesame Seeds, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in elderly people, young children and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with Salmonella can have symptoms including fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. No illnesses have been reported.

The recall includes 12-oz. blue and white 5" x 8" plastic bags with the Shiloh Farms logo and the USDA organic symbol. The UPC bar code number is 047593303545. The recall covers sesame seeds distributed between Nov. 1, 2007 and Jan. 25, 2008. Only product with lot codes 17503 and 17133 are affected, the FDA said.

The sesame seeds were distributed to 98 health food stores in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Arkansas.

Consumers should return the sesame seed packages to the place of purchase for a refund.


Health of Black and Hispanic Children in U.S. Improving: Study

Significant improvements have been made in terms of the health and safety of black and Hispanic children in the United States over the past two decades, according to a Foundation for Family Development-sponsored study to be released Tuesday, USA Today reported.

The gains have narrowed the gaps between white children and black and Hispanic children, who are now less likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, abuse drugs or commit suicide, the study said.

Among the findings:

  • Compared to white children, obesity rates among black and Hispanic children have increased less, but their rates remain much higher.
  • Poverty rates for black and Hispanic families dropped more than for white families, but are still much higher among those two minority groups.

"There's a long way to go, but this is an enormous closing of the gap," co-author Donald Hernandez, a sociology professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York, told USA Today.

The overall gap between black and white children closed by one-fourth, and between Hispanics and whites by one-third, Hernandez said.

The Foundation for Family Development is a philanthropy that funds research on children.


Bird Flu Spreads in India

A bird flu outbreak in India's West Bengal state continues to spread and health officials have boosted poultry culling efforts in an attempt to bring the H5N1 virus under control.

Officials said the bird flu spread to new areas of the state over the weekend and has now been confirmed in 13 of the state's 19 districts, prompting concerns that it may spread to the capital city of Kolkata, Agence France-Presse reported.

More than 1.5 million birds have already been destroyed and authorities said they may increase the number of birds to be culled up to three million.

"We are worried that the H5N1 virus was confirmed in samples from villages just 22 kilometers (13 miles) from Kolkata. If it is required, culling teams will work throughout the night," said Anisur Rahaman, West Bengal animal resources development minister, AFP reported.

West Bengal hasn't reported any human cases of bird flu, which can occur through direct contact with infected poultry. Since H5N1 first appeared in 2003, experts have been concerned that the H5N1 virus may mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans.


2 Fatal N.Y. Meningitis Cases Not Linked, Officials Say

Two fatal cases of bacterial meningitis struck a high school guidance counselor and a 17-year-old high school senior over a 24-hour period and within a few miles of each other in New York, but the deaths are most likely coincidental, The New York Times reported.

Both incidents occurred on Long Island, one of them in the New York City borough of Queens and the other a few miles southeast in the town of Massapequa. The Queens case involved 27-year-old LeeAnne Burke of Bellerose, who became ill earlier in the week, was hospitalized and died Friday. The Massapequa meningitis illness struck Michael Gruber, 17, a senior at Massapequa High School, Wednesday afternoon after he took a state exam and began exhibiting flu-like symptoms, the newspaper reported.

Gruber was rushed to the hospital Thursday morning and died that afternoon.

"We have to recognize that this is a scary disease for people, but you have to put into perspective how rare it is," Dr. Don Weiss, director of surveillance for the New York City Department of Health's bureau of communicable disease, told the newspaper. "It's a freak situation when it gets communicated."

Dr. Abby Greenberg, acting commissioner for the Nassau County Department of Health, told the Times that all people who had been in close contact with Gruber had received antibiotics.

About 10 percent of the 3,000 to 4,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis reported in the United States each year are fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include a sore neck, headaches, flu-like symptoms and a high fever.

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