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Health Highlights: July 19, 2013

Legal Challenge Over Vitaminwater Health Claims to Proceed as Class-Action Lawsuit Cyclospora Outbreak Likely Caused by Raw Vegetables: Officials HPV Vaccine Protects Against Throat Cancers: Study Salmonella Outbreak in 26 States Linked to Live Poultry: CDC

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

Legal Challenge Over Vitaminwater Health Claims to Proceed as Class-Action Lawsuit

An advocacy group's lawsuit against Coca-Cola Co. over misleading health claims on Vitaminwater beverages can move forward as a class-action lawsuit, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and consumers from several states accuse Coca-Cola of using deceptive labeling on Vitaminwater products, including claims that the drinks boost the immune system and reduce disease risk, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

In his ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy said the plaintiffs can seek injunctive relief, which would prevent Coca-Cola from making certain claims for Vitaminwater. The plaintiffs cannot seek financial damages, the judge said.

The CSPI first sued Coca-Cola in 2009 over Vitaminwater health claims. In 2010, a judge denied the company's attempts to have the lawsuit dismissed on technical grounds, CBS/AP reported.


Cyclospora Outbreak Likely Caused by Raw Vegetables: Officials

An outbreak of cyclospora infections that has sickened at least 81 people in Iowa and 53 in Nebraska may have been caused by a raw vegetable product, investigators say.

Cases of the illness began in early June and stopped occurring past mid-June. The culprit was likely a widely-distributed shipment of produce that's no longer on the market, according to officials.

"There are still several vegetables we're investigating," said Patricia Quinlisk, an epidemiologist for the Iowa Department of Public Health, reported. "We're looking for something that could have exposed people in a multitude of settings, so we're doing a lot of food traceback. Whatever it was, it's not still on the market in Iowa."

Investigators are also trying to determine if 37 people sickened by cyclospora in Texas and other cases in Wisconsin and Illinois are linked to the outbreak in Nebraska and Iowa, reported.

Cyclospora infection typically occurs after consuming food or water contaminated with human or animal feces containing the cyclospora parasite. Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, weight loss, stomach cramps and body aches.


HPV Vaccine Protects Against Throat Cancers: Study

The cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix also appears to protect women against throat cancers caused by performing oral sex, and would likely offer the same protection to men, a new study says.

The vaccine targets cancer-causing strains of sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). It had been assumed that along with preventing cervical cancer, the vaccine would also protect against throat cancer. This is the first study to provide evidence of that, The New York Times reported.

The study of more than 5,800 sexually active women, ages 18-25, in Costa Rica found that only one woman who received Cervarix had cancer-causing HPV 16 or HPV 18 in her throat four years after being vaccinated, compared with 15 women who had received a placebo.

Cervarix provided 93 percent protection against the two HPV strains that cause most throat cancers, the researchers concluded.

"We were surprised at how big the effect was," study lead author Dr. Rolando Herrero, head of prevention for the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, told The Times. "It's a very powerful vaccine."

These type of findings were expected and "that's why we want everyone to vaccinate both boys and girls. But there's been no proof," said Dr. Marshall Posner, medical director for head and neck cancer at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He was not involved in the study.

Rates of throat cancers linked to oral sex have surged in the past 30 years, particularly among heterosexual middle-aged men. About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are now caused by sexually transmitted viruses, compared with 16 percent in the 1980s, The Times reported.

The issue came to the public's attention last month when actor Michael Douglas told a newspaper that his throat cancer was linked to performing oral sex.



Salmonella Outbreak in 26 States Linked to Live Poultry: CDC

A salmonella outbreak that has sickened 125 people in 26 states has been linked to live poultry from an Ohio hatchery, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Nearly one-third of the patients have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths. Children ages 10 and younger account for 41 percent of the patients.

The number of cases in each state are: Alabama (3), Arizona (3), California (1), Colorado (2), Connecticut (3), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Kentucky (4), Maine (1), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (7), Minnesota (3), Mississippi (2), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (2), New York (10), North Carolina (10), Ohio (19), Pennsylvania (8), Tennessee (12), Vermont (2), Virginia (3), West Virginia (15), and Wisconsin (6).

Investigators have traced the outbreak to live poultry from the Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

The CDC reminds people to always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam, and never to let live poultry inside the house.

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