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Health Highlights: July 7, 2006

Spain Records 1st Case of Bird Flu Government Eases Citizenship Rules for Medicaid Johns Hopkins Named Best Hospital for 16th Year Magazine Tees Up Top 100 Golfer-Doctors Pavarotti Recovering From Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

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

Spain Records 1st Case of Bird Flu

Spain's Agriculture Ministry said it had recorded its first case of the deadly H5N1 bird flu, found in a migratory water bird in a marsh area outside the northern city of Vitoria.

A two-mile protective zone was declared outside the area where the bird -- a great crested grebe -- was found, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Spanish officials had said last year that it was only a matter of time before the disease made its way to their country, which is on the route of northern-bound migratory birds from Africa.

Officials have so far banned outdoor poultry farming within a 6-mile radius of marshlands where migratory birds gather, AP said.

Bird flu has killed at least 130 people worldwide since late 2003, and forced the destruction of tens of millions of poultry, many of them in Asian nations, according to the World Health Organization. Most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate, making it more easily transmissible among humans.

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Government Eases Citizenship Rules for Medicaid

Federal officials are relaxing a requirement for about 8 million Medicaid recipients to prove they're citizens before they can receive benefits.

The rule, which took effect Saturday, requires Medicaid recipients to prove U.S. citizenship with a passport, birth certificate, or similar record.

It was intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving benefits. Critics, however, said that many older Americans, the mentally ill and the poor might be unable to produce the paperwork needed. At least two lawsuits have been filed to block the requirement, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Under the newly relaxed rule, citizenship won't have to be proven by Medicare recipients who have already provided documentation to receive Medicare or Supplemental Security Income.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, called the exemptions "a commendable development," but said that the action still will not help beneficiaries such as foster children and the homeless. "This should be corrected," he told the newspaper.

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Johns Hopkins Named Best Hospital for 16th Year

Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Hospital earned top spot for the 16th consecutive year as "Best of the Best" in the U.S. News & World Report annual survey of American hospitals.

Hopkins placed first in five of 16 ranked medical specialties, according to the survey, to appear on newsstands Monday. The survey ranks the top hospitals nationally based on reputation, mortality rates and other care-related factors.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

  • Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
  • New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, New York City
  • Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
  • Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis
  • University of California, San Francisco Medical Center
  • University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle

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Magazine Tees Up Top 100 Golfer-Doctors

A Savannah, Ga., pulmonary specialist and a San Francisco hematologist were named top male and female winners in the Golf Digest "Top 100 Golfer-Doctors in America" list, due on newsstands Tuesday.

To make the rankings, doctors were required to have a United States Golf Association (USGA) Handicap Index of 6.0 or better.

Ranked highest was Dr. Doug Hanzel, 49, who has qualified eight times for the U.S. Amateur and was a prominent junior and college golfer in his native Ohio and while at Kent State.

Hematologist/oncologist Dr. Patricia Cornett, seventh overall on the list, led the women's field. She played on the Stanford University golf team and has competed in more than 60 USGA events.

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Pavarotti Recovering From Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti is "recovering well" after surgery for pancreatic cancer, his manager told the Associated Press Friday.

The 70-year-old singer was preparing to leave New York last week to resume his farewell world concert tour in Britain when doctors discovered a malignant tumor, spokeswoman Terri Robson said. He had surgery within the past week at an undisclosed New York hospital and remains hospitalized.

"Mr. Pavarotti is recovering well, and his physicians are encouraged by the physical and emotional resilience of their patient," Robson said in a statement.

Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage. Less than 4 percent of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis, and most die within a year, the AP reported.

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