Health Highlights: May 21, 2014

Obama Vows Punishment if VA Misconduct Allegations Prove True End Bird Flu Animal Experiments: Experts Portable Bed Handles Recalled After Three Deaths Chinese-Made Pet Jerky Treats Pulled From Petco Stores

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

Obama Vows Punishment if VA Misconduct Allegations Prove True

In his latest public comments about allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals, President Barack Obama expressed his anger and said that VA officials and staff will be punished if investigations confirm misconduct.

"I will not stand for it," Obama told reporters Wednesday after a White House meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. "Not as commander in chief, but also not as an American. None of us should."

The president added that if "these allegations prove true," he would consider them "dishonorable," The New York Times reported.

Obama promised quick action if it's confirmed that VA employees manipulated data to conceal long wait times for patient appointments at VA hospitals.

"Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there was misconduct, people will be punished," the president vowed.

For the first time, Obama gave deadlines for investigations into the allegations. A preliminary report is expected from Shinseki next week, while a more complete assessment by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors is due by next month, The Times reported.


End Bird Flu Animal Experiments: Experts

Two American scientists are calling for an end to bird flu research in lab animals due to the possibility that the virus could escape and cause a worldwide outbreak.

The Harvard and Yale experts stated their objections in an opinion piece published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine. They said the potential rewards of creating a new strain of bird flu in ferrets do not justify the risks, USA Today reported.

One of the authors was Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He said mistakes have occurred before, and noted there is some evidence that a flu strain that's been common since the late 1970s was released by a Russian or Chinese lab.

"There really are a lot of things we can and are doing that are much more likely to yield benefits and also don't put anyone at risk," Lipsitch said, USA Today reported. "We should support safe and effective research rather than risky research."

However, researchers who conduct bird flu experiments with lab animals say their efforts improve understanding of bird flu in a way that would not be possible using other methods.


Portable Bed Handles Recalled After Three Deaths

About 113,000 portable bed handles for adults' beds are being recalled by Bed Handles Inc. because the products pose a serious risk and have been linked to three deaths, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

If attached to a bed without the use of safety retention straps, the handles can shift out of place and create a gap between the bed handle and the side of the mattress, resulting in a risk of entrapment, strangulation and death.

The three people who died became trapped between the bed handles and the mattress. They included two elderly women and a 41-year-old disabled woman, the CPSC said.

The recalled bed handles, which were sold from 1994 through 2007, do not have safety retention straps to secure them to the bed frame. The recalled models include the Original Bedside Assistant, the Travel Handles, sold as a set of two bed handles, and the Adjustable Bedside Assistant.

For more information, call Bed Handles Inc. at 1-800-725-6903 between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or go to the company's website. Bed Handles is offering free safety retention straps for the recalled handles.


Chinese-Made Pet Jerky Treats Pulled From Petco Stores

Dog and cat jerky treats made in China will no longer be sold at Petco stores, the company says.

It announced Monday that all such products will be pulled from the more than 1,300 Petco stores across the United States by the end of the year, NBC News reported.

Petco is the first national pet retail chain to take such action. It comes days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that jerky treats -- mostly made in China -- had been linked with more than 1,000 dog deaths, nearly 5,000 illnesses in dogs and cats, and some cases of illness in people.

The Chinese-made jerky treats will be replaced by products made in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and South America, NBC News reported.

Consumer News