Health Highlights: May 11, 2012

Flesh-Eating Disease Victim Likely to Lose Hands and Remaining Foot Turtle-Linked Salmonella Has Sickened 124 People in 27 States: CDC Blood Transfusions for Dialysis Patients Rose After Drug Payment Changes Words in Larger Fonts Cause Stronger Reaction: Study

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

Flesh-Eating Disease Victim Likely to Lose Hands and Remaining Foot

The 24-year-old Georgia woman who developed flesh-eating disease after a zip line injury will likely lose her hands and remaining foot, her family says.

Aimee Copeland suffered a gash in her left calf after falling from a zip line on May 1. She developed necrotizing fasciitis and her left leg was amputated at the hip three days after her accident, ABC News reported.

Despite the latest bad news, Copeland has shown signs of recovery and her family has remained optimistic.

"Aimee appears to have normal brain function at this time, which is something I'm celebrating because within Aimee we have a very compassionate heart and an incredible mind of intellect," her father Andy Copeland told ABC News.

The infection was caused by a common bacteria called Aeromonas hydrophila, which thrives in warm climates and fresh water.


Turtle-Linked Salmonella Has Sickened 124 People in 27 States: CDC

To date, 124 people in 27 states have been reported ill in salmonella outbreaks linked to small pet turtles, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an update issued Friday.

Here are the number of ill people in each state: Alaska (2), Alabama (1), Arizona (3), California (21), Colorado (5), Delaware (3), Georgia (3), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (6), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Nevada (4), New Jersey (7), New Mexico (3), New York (24), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (9), South Carolina (3), Texas (12), Virginia (3), Vermont (1), and West Virginia (1).

There have been no deaths, but 19 people have been hospitalized. Children age 10 or younger account for 67 percent of the reported cases of illness, the CDC said.

Since the previous update on April 5, two new multistate salmonella outbreaks linked to small pet turtles have been identified, bring to five the total number of multistate outbreaks.

Investigators have determined that the outbreaks were caused by exposure to the turtles or their environments, such as water from their habitats. Seventy-five percent of patients reported being exposed to turtles prior to their illness, and 93 percent of those patients said they had been exposed to small turtles (those with a shell length of less than four inches).

Small turtles are a well-known source of salmonella infections in humans and the sale and distribution of these turtles as pets has been banned in the U.S. since 1975, the CDC said.


Blood Transfusions for Dialysis Patients Rose After Drug Payment Changes

There's been a large increase in the number of U.S. dialysis patients undergoing blood transfusions since Medicare changed how it pays for drugs to treat these patients.

Federal regulators believed the changes introduced last year would save money and protect patient health by correcting what was believed to be a misguided financial incentive for dialysis centers to overprescribe anti-anemia drugs to patients, The New York Times reported.

Before the changes, Medicare paid dialysis centers for anti-anemia drugs separately from the actual blood-cleansing treatments. This may have encouraged overuse of the drugs by patients, which leads to increased red blood counts that boost the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The payment system was changed to reimburse dialysis centers for overall care, bundling together the cost of blood-cleansing treatments and drugs. This meant that the drugs became a drain on profits instead of a profit generator for dialysis centers, The Times reported.

In the first nine months of 2011, the proportion of dialysis patients covered by Medicare who received blood transfusions increased by 9 to 22 percent over the first nine months of 2010, according to the United States Renal Data System.

For example, there were 10,041 transfusions for dialysis patients in September 2011, compared with 8,259 in September 2010, The Times reported.

Between 2009 and 2010, there was virtually no change in blood transfusion rates for dialysis patients.

The research was to be presented Friday at a National Kidney Foundation meeting.


Words in Larger Fonts Cause Stronger Reaction: Study

Words in larger fonts trigger a stronger emotional brain response than those in smaller fonts, according to a new study.

German researchers monitored brain activity in 25 volunteers as they looked at 72 different positive, neutral and negative words in a variety of font sizes, ABC News reported.

Positive (e.g. holiday) and negative (e.g. disease) words printed in larger fonts prompted a stronger emotional brain response than the same words in smaller fonts. The font size of neutral words, such as chair, did not cause the same type of response.

"Our study showed that the effects of emotional meaning are boosted when words are presented in large fonts. In other words, more attention is captured by larger emotional words, probably explaining the power of large fonts in tabloid headlines or catchwords," lead author Mareike Bayer, of Humboldt University in Berlin, told ABC News.

The study was published in the journal PLoS One.


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