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Health Highlights: Nov. 4 2016

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Strawberries Seven New Additions to Carcinogens List Suicide Now Kills More Middle School Students Than Traffic Accidents Generic Drug Makers Being Investigated for Price Collusion

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

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Strawberries

An outbreak of hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen strawberries is being investigated by U.S. health officials.

As of Oct. 20, 134 people in nine states had become ill due to the frozen strawberries and strawberry products recalled by The International Company for Agricultural Production and Processing (ICAPP), according to the Food and Drug Administration.

On Oct. 25, ICAPP recalled all frozen strawberries and frozen strawberry products it had imported into the United States since January 1, 2016, including whole, sliced and sugared, and diced frozen strawberries.

Five companies in the U.S. received the recalled products: C.H. Belt of Lake Forest, Ca. (sold under CH World Brand); Jetro/Restaurant Depot of College Point, N.Y. (sold under James Farm brand and unbranded "Bits & Pieces"); Sysco Corporation of Houston, Tex. (sold under Sysco brand); Patagonia Foods of San Luis Obispo, Ca. (sold under Patagonia brand); Reddy Raw of Woodridge, N.J. (sold under Regal brand).

The FDA said it is working with these companies to identify institutions and food service operations that received the recalled products from them.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. Severity can range from mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months, the FDA said.

Illness occurs 15 to 50 days after consuming contaminated food or drink, and symptoms in adults include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

In rare cases, particularly in people with pre-existing severe illness or weakened immune systems, hepatitis A infections can lead to liver failure and death.


Seven New Additions to Carcinogens List

Seven substances have been added to the list of known human carcinogens, bringing the total number to 248, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report says.

The new additions include five viruses: human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1); human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1); Epstein-Barr virus (EBV); Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV); and Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), CNN reported.

The HHS said these viruses have been linked to more than 20 kinds of cancer, including non-melanoma skin cancer, eye cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer and multiple types of lymphoma.

"Given that approximately 12 percent of human cancers worldwide are attributed to viruses, and there are no vaccines currently available for these five viruses, prevention strategies to reduce the infections that can lead to cancer are even more critical," Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, said in a statement, CNN reported.

The other two new additions are trichloroethylene (TCE), "an industrial solvent primarily used to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals," and the metallic element cobalt and cobalt compounds that release cobalt ions inside the body.


Suicide Now Kills More Middle School Students Than Traffic Accident

Middle school students in the United States are now just as or more likely to die from suicide as from traffic crashes, a federal government study says.

In 2014, there were 425 suicide deaths among children ages 10-14 nationwide, while 384 children in that age group died in traffic crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Times reported.

In 1999, the death rate for children ages 10-14 from traffic crashes was about 4.5 deaths per 100,000, quadruple the rate for suicide. By 2014, the death rate from traffic crashes had been cut in half, while the suicide rate had nearly doubled to 2.1 per 100,000, with most of the increase occurring since 2007.

In 2014, far more boys (275) committed suicide than girls (150), but the number of girls who kill themselves has tripled, compared with a rise of about a third for boys, The Times reported.

"It's clear to me that the question of suicidal thoughts and behavior in this age group has certainly come up far more frequently in the last decade than it had in the previous decade," Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren, a clinical psychologist in New York who works with adolescents, said.

"Cultural norms have changed tremendously from 20 years ago," she told The Times.

A number of factors can contribute to suicide in youngsters, but social media is a significant one due its wide public reach.

"If something gets said that's hurtful or humiliating, it's not just the kid who said it who knows, it's the entire school or class," Levy-Warren told The Times. "In the past, if you made a misstep, it was a limited number of people who would know about it."


Generic Drug Makers Being Investigated for Price Collusion

Generic drug makers are being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for suspected price collusion.

The criminal investigation was launched about two years ago and now includes more than a dozen companies and about two dozen drugs, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.

The antitrust probe is trying to determine if some executives agreed with one another to raise prices, and the first charges could be announced by the end of the year, the sources said.

The drugs under scrutiny inlcude a heart treatment and an antibiotic. Drug companies that have received subpoenas include: Mylan NV; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Actavis, which Teva bought from Allergan Plc in August; Lannett Co.; Impax Laboratories Inc.; Covis Pharma Holdings Sarl; Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Mayne Pharma Group Ltd.; Endo International Plc's subsidiary Par Pharmaceutical Holdings; and Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Bloomberg reported.

All of the companies, other than Covis, have said they are cooperating with the investigation.

Sharply rising drug prices in the U.S. have caused public outrage and attracted the attention of lawmakers. Most of the focus has been on branded drugs, but this investigation brings the generics industry into the mix, Bloomberg reported.

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