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Health Highlights: Nov. 25, 2006

Thousands of Pounds of Ham and Turkey Recalled After Listeria SuspectedStaph Infection Making its Presence Felt in the Locker Room Unsafe Abortions Take Heavy Toll in Developing World Obesity Damages Children's Feet: Studies U.S. EPA to Regulate Germ-Killing Nanotechnology Surgery a Success for Baby with External Heart

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

Thousands of Pounds of Ham and Turkey Recalled After Listeria Suspected

HoneyBaked Foods Inc., a Toledo, Ohio based food processor and distributor, has recalled almost 47,000 pounds of cooked ham and turkey sold during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

The reason, the company said, is that both the ham and turkey could contain Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause fevers, nausea, headaches and diarrhea. It is particularly dangerous to the elderly and very young. No cases have been reported, but the company voluntarily made the recall as a precaution.

According to HoneyBaked Foods' Web site, the ham and turkey were sold between Sept. 5 and Nov. 13 and have the following label codes: Ham codes include 6261 through 6310 and Sliced and Glazed Turkey Breast Codes include 6248 through 6258. The company says the products were sold in kiosks in the Toledo area, online and through the company catalogue.

HoneyBaked Foods also as a phone number for more information: 800-461-3998.


Staph Infection Making its Presence Felt in the Locker Room

A serious bacterial infection, once found almost exclusively in hospitals, is making its way into the environment of athletes -- locker rooms, training facilities and gymnasiums -- the Associated Press reports.

The bacterium, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has long been a problem in hospitals and health care facilities, especially for patients recovering from surgery. Staph infection can cause surgical incisions to become infected, bringing about high fevers and sometimes resulting in death.

Health officials aren't certain as to why the germ has begun making its presence felt in the environment of the athlete, the A.P. says. "We don't know why," the wire service quotes Dr. Steve Gordon, the Cleveland Clinic's department chairman of infectious disease, as saying. "It's why we encourage everyone to practice proper hygiene, especially athletes who can be more at higher risk."

According to the A.P., since 2003, at least three NFL teams and one major league baseball team have reported outbreaks of MRSA. The Cleveland Browns, the St. Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins have documented "multiple cases" of staph, the wire service says, and two members of baseball's Toronto Blue Jays also reported coming down with the infection.

While an investigation is being carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, professional athletes are being advised to intensify their personal hygiene, including reporting cuts and lesions to their team trainer or doctor, cleansing and dressing any injured tissue and being careful about using team communal facilities, such as whirlpools.


Unsafe Abortions Take Heavy Toll in Developing World

A team from Guttmacher Institute in New York has found that 68,000 women in developing countries die each year during unsafe abortions, and up to 5 million women wind up in the hospital with infections and other complications from botched procedures.

The study, which was funded by the pro-abortion Hewlett Foundation and published in the Nov. 24 issue of The Lancet, looked at data from 13 countries. The final tally included both "back-street" pregnancy terminations and legal abortions.

"The most effective way of eliminating this highly preventable cause of maternal illness and death would be to make safe and legal abortion services available and accessible," lead researcher Dr. Susheela Singh told the BBC. "A second, more immediately achievable, goal is to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place through improved contraception use."

However, Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the findings were guesses at best.

"The burden of the study is clearly to promote the killing of more unborn babies in poorer countries, regardless of the fact that women do not want abortions,: Tully told the BBC.

In the study, the highest annual rate of hospital admissions was in Uganda, with 16.4 per 1,000 women, while the lowest hospitalization rate was in Bangladesh, with 2.8 per 1,000 women. The study noted that complications from abortion procedures in developed countries was rare, while the average range in developing countries was 5 to 7 per 1,000 women.


Obesity Damages Children's Feet: Studies

Two British studies find that obesity causes children's feet to grow both longer and wider, affecting their walking ability, the BBC reported Thursday.

In one study, podiatrists examined the feet of 200 Scottish children aged 9 to 12. Fifty-four were obese, 15 were severely obese, and another 30 were overweight. The researchers found that severely obese kids had feet that were up to 15 millimeters wider and 18 millimeters longer than normal weight children.

A second study, this time of 44 youngsters aged 9 to 11 -- half of whom were obese -- found that the heavier kids spent more time balancing on two feet when walking and less time on one foot compared to normal-weight kids. They also walked slower than normal-weight children.

"The findings are interesting because previous research suggested that foot problems limit obese children's ability to take part in physical activity -- so encouraging them to carry out exercise might not be the best thing," Dr. Stewart Morrison, a lecturer at the University of East London, told the BBC.

Both studies were presented at a meeting of the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists.


U.S. EPA to Regulate Germ-Killing Nanotechnology

Extremely small particles of silver used in certain products to kill germs are pesticides, and as such will be regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency announced Wednesday.

Environmentalists are concerned that these "nanotechnology" particles -- which measure one-millionth the head of a pin -- might be released into the environment and kill helpful bacteria or aquatic organisms when products are discarded.

According to the Associated Press, germ-killing nanosilver is already an ingredient in over 200 products marketed to consumers, including shoe liners, food-storage containers, air fresheners, washing machines and other products.

The EPA announcement is a reversal of an agency decision last year that washing machines containing nanosilver were not covered by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act because they were devices.

However, the agency reviewed the evidence and has now decided "that the release of silver ions in the washing machines is a pesticide, because it is a substance released into the laundry for the purpose of killing pests," EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood told the AP.


Surgery a Success for Baby with External Heart

A nearly month-old boy born with his heart lying outside his chest underwent successful surgery in Miami on Wednesday, with doctors easing the organ inside his body, the Associated Press reported.

Naseem Hasni was born Oct. 31 with a condition called ectopia cordis, where the heart develops on the outside of the chest. The heart has been beating normally and its aorta grew under the skin to deliver blood to the body.


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