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Health Highlights: July 31, 2013

Bill Would Make Anti-Allergy Drug Available in Schools Well-Known Hospitals Not Always Best for Surgery: Report Bagged Salad Mix May be Source of Cyclospora Outbreak Artificial Ear Created in Lab

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

Bill Would Make Anti-Allergy Drug Available in Schools

Legislation to make life-saving medicine available in schools to treat severe allergic reactions in students with food allergies was passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would provide grant preferences to states that implement policies to provide epinephrine in schools, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

In addition, the bill encourages schools to permit trained administers to give epinephrine to students believed to be having a severe allergic reaction and requires states to review their liability laws to ensure that the administrators have sufficient legal protections when they assist students.

The issue gained media attention this week with the sudden death of 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi at her summer camp in Sacramento, Calif. The girl, who has a severe peanut allergy, took a bite of a Rice Krispie square containing peanuts and died after her airways closed off in a reaction to the allergen.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, was sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and doctor, and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranked Democrat in the House, CBS News/AP reported.

"My granddaughter has a severe peanut allergy, and the presence of EpiPens (epinephrine) in schools can be lifesaving," Hoyer said.


Well-Known Hospitals Not Always Best for Surgery: Report

Big-name hospitals in the United States aren't always the best when it comes to surgery, according to a new report.

The Consumer Reports team analyzed federal government data to assess patient outcomes after surgery at nearly 2,500 hospitals. When it came to preventing infection and other measures of quality of care, some well-known hospitals did not always do well, while some big-city hospitals that care for the poorest and sickest patients did surprisingly well, NBC News reported.

For example, the poorest overall rating was given to Harvard Medical School-associated Brigham and Women's Hospital and to two of Washington D.C.'s flagship hospitals, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Sibley Memorial Hospital. Johns Hopkins Hospital received an average rating.

On the other hand, top ratings were given to urban hospitals such as the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, along with some regional facilities such as Nebraska Heart Hospital in Lincoln, NBC News reported.

"Consumers have very little to go on when trying to select a hospital for surgery, not knowing which ones do a good job at keeping surgery patients safe and which ones don't," Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, said in a news release. "They might as well just throw a scalpel at a dartboard."

While it's a good idea to provide patients with information about the quality of surgical care provided at hospitals, the data used in this report is flawed, Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins, told NBC News.


Bagged Salad Mix May be Source of Cyclospora Outbreak

Investigators suspect that a bagged salad mix was the cause of a cyclospora stomach bug outbreak that has sickened 372 people in at least 16 states.

Iowa had the most cases -- 143 -- and the state's health department determined that about 80 percent of the patients had been exposed to a prepackaged salad mix, CBS News reported.

State health officials have not disclosed the brand or manufacturer of the salad mix, but said it contains iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage. The salad mix is no longer available in the state.

It hasn't been determined if this same prepackaged salad mix is the source of the multi-state outbreak, said federal officials, who added that they are following other leads as well, CBS News reported.


Artificial Ear Created in Lab

Scientists who grew a human-like ear from animal tissue say the achievement moves them a step closer to being able to grow a complete human ear from a patient's cells.

The full-sized artificial ear has the shape and flexibility of a real ear, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital team, BBC News reported.

The researchers took living tissues from cows and sheep and grew them on a flexible wire frame in the shape of human ear. This was then implanted in a rat, where it grew for 12 weeks, according to an article in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The team is working on creating artificial living ears to help people with missing or deformed ears, BBC News reported.

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