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Health Highlights: July 23, 2007

President Bush's Colonoscopy Found No Cancer Food Plant at Center of Botulism Recall Is Closed AirTran Passenger Diagnosed With Meningitis 25 Percent of NYC Adults Have Elevated Blood Mercury HIV Infections Said to Exceed Treatment Ability FDA Considers Osteoporosis Drug to Prevent Breast Cancer

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

President Bush's Colonoscopy Found No Cancer

Doctors found no cancer in the five small growths, called polyps, removed from President Bush's colon during a colonoscopy on Saturday, the White House reported Monday.

Tests showed the growths were benign -- in keeping with the White House's expectation that none of the five polyps appeared "worrisome," the Associated Press reported.

"The president is in good health," Bush spokesman Tony Snow said. "There is no reason for alarm."

The President, who had transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney early Saturday morning before undergoing the colonoscopy, which requires anesthesia, reclaimed his powers 9:21 a.m. Eastern time, the wire service reported.

The White House said the President took a bicycle ride at Camp David later Saturday and had spoken with his wife, Laura, by phone in Midland, Texas, the wire service reported.

Bush, who is 61, last had a colorectal cancer check on June 29, 2002.

Two polyps discovered during examinations in 1998 and 1999 make Bush a prime candidate for regular examinations. For the general population, a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer is recommended every 10 years. But for people at higher risk or if a colonoscopy detects precancerous polyps, follow-up colonoscopies often are scheduled in three- to five-year intervals.


Food Plant at Center of Botulism Recall Is Closed

The Augusta, Ga., plant at the center of last week's recall of hot dog chili sauce was closed by Castleberry's Food Co. on Monday after 16 more cans tested positive for botulism over the weekend, the Associated Press reported.

Castleberry's also hired a third-party company to aid in efforts to rid 8,500 retailers across the nation of any remaining cans that have been recalled, the wire service said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has four reports of illness from the recalled product -- Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original -- two from Indiana and two from Texas.

On Saturday, Castleberry's voluntarily widened the recall to include foods for both people and pets, the FDA said. The list was expanded to include canned chili, beef stew, and corned beef hash, as well as 12 different types of chili sauce.

The four recalled pet foods are branded as "Natural Balance Eateries." While botulism poisoning is rare in dogs and in cats, the FDA said, it is much more prevalent in ferrets.

A complete list of the suspected items can be found in a news release on the FDA Web site.

Botulism, caused by a bacterial toxin, causes muscle paralysis and can hospitalize victims for months. It is fatal in about 8 percent of cases, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.


AirTran Passenger Diagnosed With Meningitis

An unidentified girl who became ill on an AirTran Airways flight on Saturday has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The teen was listed in critical condition at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., the wire service said.

She traveled Saturday from Orlando Fla., to Atlanta on flight 862, then continued to Wichita on flight 687, an AirTran spokesman told the AP. The airline was trying to contact fewer than 20 passengers who sat near her. This illness is contracted by direct close contact with discharges of the infected person's nose and throat, not by breathing the same air, the wire service said.

During the flight to Wichita, the teen became sick and was unresponsive, the wire service said. The crew arranged for an ambulance to meet the plane when it landed.

AirTran informed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the incident on Sunday.

Bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, kills about 10 percent of its victims, the AP said. Symptoms include stiff neck, high fever, headache, and vomiting.

AirTran said the affected planes have been thoroughly cleaned and returned to service, the wire service reported.


25 Percent of NYC Adults Have Elevated Blood Mercury

One-quarter of adult residents of New York City have elevated levels of mercury in their blood, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Monday.

The higher mercury levels appear closely tied to fish consumption, the department said in a statement. Asians and higher-income residents eat more fish and have higher average mercury levels than others, both locally and nationally, the statement said.

For most adults, higher blood mercury levels pose "little if any health risk," the department said. But it said higher levels of mercury in pregnant women may increase the risk of cognitive problems in their children.

Among all women 20 to 49 years old in New York City, the average blood mercury level is 2.64 ug/L (micrograms per liter), three times that of women in the same age group nationally, the department said. The department's threshold for what constitutes higher-than-normal levels is 5 ug/L.

Among Asian women in New York City, 45 percent have blood mercury levels above the threshold.


HIV Infections Said to Exceed Treatment Ability

The rate of new HIV/AIDS infections worldwide continues to outpace the global community's ability to treat patients, President Bush's infectious diseases chief said at an international AIDS conference in Sydney, Australia, on Monday.

While more people in developing countries are receiving antiviral drugs than ever before, six new infections are reported for every new patient that's treated, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"So we're losing that game, the numbers game," the Associated Press quoted Fauci as telling the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Last year, 2.2 million people in developing nations received the anti-retroviral drugs that help treat HIV/AIDS, up from fewer than 300,000 people just three years ago, Fauci said.

"Although we are making major improvements in the access to drugs, clearly prevention must be addressed in a very forceful way," he said.

The Fourth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment runs through Wednesday.


FDA Considering Osteoporosis Drug as Breast-Cancer Preventive

Experts advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet Tuesday to consider whether to recommend the osteoporosis drug Evista as a way to prevent breast cancer in some women, USA Today reported.

The Eli Lilly drug was first approved in 1997 for osteoporosis. A company spokesman said Evista's effectiveness in reducing the risk of breast cancer in some women was evaluated in four clinical trials involving 37,000 women, the newspaper reported.

But in analyzing those trial results. the FDA experts found Evista seemed to lower breast cancer risk in women at normal risk, not those at higher risk, USA Today reported.

Lilly wants to market Evista to healthy women, the newspaper reported. More than 22 million women worldwide have taken the drug to treat or prevent osteoporosis, a Lilly spokesman said.

The only drug now marketed to limit breast cancer risk in women who have never had the disease is tamoxifen, USA Today said. But tamoxifen has risks of its own, including a higher rate of uterine cancer, blood clots, and stroke.

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