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

Hospital Infection Deaths Higher Than Reported, Says Newspaper

An extensive review of hospital records by the Chicago Tribune indicates that about 103,000 people died in 2000 due to hospital infections, a figure that is about 14 percent higher than government estimates.

Even worse, says the article, nearly 75 percent of the deaths were preventable.

According to the report, many of the deaths were caused by problems such as unsanitary facilities, unwashed hands and germs on instruments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that the number of deaths from such infections in 2000 was about 90,000, which still makes deaths from hospital infections the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

The Tribune says the problem has been exacerbated by hospital cutbacks and serious violations of infection control standards that have been documented at the majority of hospitals.

The newspaper got its information by analyzing records from 75 federal and state agencies, as well as internal hospital files, patient databases and court cases around the country, reports the Associated Press.


Drug Companies Trying to Undermine Prescription Legislation: Senator

Debate over prescription drug programs to be voted on by the Senate Tuesday heated up today with Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., accusing pharmaceutical companies of trying to defeat any program that would offer a Medicare prescription drug benefit to older Americans.

In the Democrats' weekly radio address, Wellstone said, "They (the drug companies) oppose allowing older Americans to come together to negotiate lower drug prices," reports the Associated Press.

"They continue to slip in special congressional loopholes to keep lower-priced generic drugs off the market," he added.

At issue are two competing plans to provide a prescription drug benefit. The plans are being proposed as amendments to a generic drug bill that Democrats are using for debate.


FDA Approves Use of Implanted Defibrillator

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruling this week that a top brand of implanted defibrillators is safe could affect millions of Americans at risk of cardiac arrest.

The ruling to authorize the widespread use of implants made by the Guidant Corp. came after the company proved that the devices reduced the chances of dying by one-third when implanted in heart attack survivors whose hearts had been damaged, reports the Associated Press.

About 220,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, which occurs when the electrical signals that pump the heart malfunction and the heartbeat stops.

While external defibrillators -- now found in many public places -- can deliver an electric jolt to restart the heart, implanted defibrillators, like the one used by Vice President Dick Cheney, offer a constant monitoring from within and automatically jolt the heart to restore its rhythm in case of cardiac arrest.

Many doctors had already begun recommending the implants on a wider basis following Guidant's study, but this week's ruling allows the company to advertise the defibrillator's benefits.


Anthrax Tests Send Out False Alarms, White House Says

Anthrax tests like those used in federal mailrooms and many other locations around the nation are prone to give either false-positive results or fail to reliably detect when anthrax is present. As a result, they should no longer be used, says the While House.

A White House memo to be sent Monday to more than 250 federal agencies and to firefighters, police and local officials across the country advises that agencies stop buying and using the field tests and to cancel any contracts that are pending, reports the Associated Press.

The memo is in response to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showing that all tests on the market are prone to miss small amounts of anthrax. Or they detect the potentially fatal germ when it's not present.

Instead of the tests, authorities are being advised to send samples to CDC-approved labs, which offer results of anthrax tests within about six hours.


Beef Recall Expanded After E.coli Contamination

An E. coli outbreak that has made 19 people ill has prompted an expanded beef recall that covers 21 states and involves 18 million pounds of meat, reports the Associated Press.

The recall involves the ConAgra Beef Co., of Greeley, Colo., and expands on a recall of 354,200 pounds of beef made last month after a positive E. coli test was found at the Denver packing house that had supplied the beef.

Agriculture officials say no E. coli has been detected at the plant since July 11, but the expanded recall is being taken as a precautionary measure.

The 19 illnesses were reported in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The recall is the largest since 1997, when 25 million pounds of ground beef were recalled by Hudson Foods after 15 people became ill from E. coli after eating hamburger from the company's Columbus, Neb., plant.


More Than 60,000 Grills Recalled

If you're planning a cookout this weekend, beware -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced two recalls of more than 60,000 grills because of their potential to collapse or cause burns.

Wal-Mart stores are reportedly recalling 60,000 of their Red Devil grills due to a problem in the air intake tube that can cause the grills to heat up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat not only poses the potential for burning, but of causing the grills to collapse.

The CPSC says there have been 44 reports of people receiving burns on legs, hands and fingers due to the problem. The grills say "Red Devil" and show an image of a devil cooking, reports the Associated Press.

And about 1,800 grills made by the Flat Rock Grill Co., of Powhatan, Va., are being recalled due to reports of glass in the grills' thermometers breaking. No injuries have been reported.

Those grills include Models 2000 and 3000 of the Flat Rock Grill Shoreline series. The grills were sold in the southeastern and south central United States and on the company's Web site from July 1999 to July 2002.

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