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Health Highlights: Nov. 20, 2002

Lifestyle Changes Cut Diabetes Risk, Says National Campaign Food Poisoning Bacteria Grow Resistant to Drug Treatment Vaccine May Avert Cervical Cancer Experts: U.S. Psychologically Unprepared for Bioterror Attack U.S. Health System in Crisis, Panel Stresses Pork Products Recalled for Salmonella

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

Lifestyle Changes Cuts Diabetes Risk, Says National Campaign

America's first national diabetes campaign, launched today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stresses that people can help prevent the onset of Type II diabetes by making small lifestyle changes.

The campaign, called "Small Steps, Big Rewards," emphasizes that moderate exercise and healthier eating habits can reduce people's chances of getting Type II diabetes, which is the most common form of the disease.

About 17 million Americans have diabetes, 50 percent more than 10 years ago. At least 16 million more people have pre-diabetes, which increases a person's chances of getting the disease.

The campaign was inspired by a National Institutes of Health study that showed people with pre-diabetes who have elevated blood sugar levels but aren't yet diabetic can delay and possibly prevent the disease's onset by losing 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight through changes in diet and exercise.

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Food Poisoning Bacteria Grow Resistant to Drug Treatment

A common bacteria that causes food poisoning is growing resistant to the antibiotic used to fight it because poultry -- the source of the bacteria -- is being treated with similar drugs.

In a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Campylobacteria had a 19 percent resistance to Cipro, up from 15 percent in 1997. In 1990, there was zero resistance to the antibiotic, the Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning Cipro-like drugs for use on poultry. Bayer Corp., the German pharmaceutical company that makes the antibiotics farmers feed their poultry, is contesting the FDA's potential ban.

People mostly get infected by the bacteria after they've eaten undercooked poultry or handled raw poultry. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, and Cipro is the prescribed treatment.

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Vaccine May Avert Cervical Cancer

The likelihood that cervical cancer will become less of a killer has taken a huge step forward.

Researchers report a perfect success rate for a vaccine against a virus responsible for half of all cases of the disease, which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, HealthDay reports.

More than 30 varieties of the human papillomavirus (HPV) have a clear link to cancer. While most cases of HPV resolve on their own, the remaining ones are responsible for about 98 percent to 99 percent of all cervical cancers, says Dr. Carol Brown, an assistant attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

HPV-16, the variety for which the vaccine was created, infects 20 percent of adults. HPV-16 is also the strain most commonly linked to cancer, and is present in 50 percent of all cervical cancers.

The results appear in tomorrow's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Another article in the same issue of the journal, however, reports a lower level of effectiveness for a vaccine against herpes simplex virus type 2 (genital herpes): The vaccine was 73 percent to 74 percent effective for women.

Genital herpes affects one in five women in the United States, but does not lead to cancer.

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Experts: U.S. Psychologically Unprepared for Bioterror Attack

For every person who gets physically sick from a bioterrorism attack, at least 50 to 100 more will be psychologically unable to function properly, says Dr. Robert DeMartino, director of the Program on Trauma and Terrorism at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DeMartino and other federal officials say mental health issues have not been included in federal and state plans to deal with the ramifications of a bioterrorism attack.

"It's simply not on people's [radar] screen," Brian Flynn, a former assistant attorney general and an expert on traumatic stress, tells the Associated Press. "Terrorism only wins if you respond to it the way the terrorist wants you to," adds DeMartino.

The experts, who spoke yesterday at the BioSecurity 2002 conference in Las Vegas, also say government plans that ignore mental health concerns raise practical issues, such as traumatized people who could flood hospital emergency rooms.

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U.S. Health System in Crisis, Panel Stresses

The United States health care system is in crisis and the Bush Administration should immediately consider solutions, including universal health coverage and no-fault payments for physician malpractice, the National Academy of Sciences is recommending.

The NAS report, commissioned by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, warns that "the health care delivery system is incapable of meeting the present, let alone, the future, needs of the American public," The New York Times says in its analysis of the document.

Here's how the report defines the scope of the problem: "The cost of private insurance is increasing at an annual rate in excess of 12 percent. Individuals are paying more out of pocket and receiving fewer benefits. One in seven Americans is uninsured, and the number of uninsured is on the rise."

The report cites fiscally strapped states that continue to cut Medicaid eligibility and benefits.

Prepared by a 16-member panel of experts, the report suggests that a handful of states immediately begin a federally aided pilot project to provide affordable insurance coverage for all legal residents. Suggested methods include expanding tax credits, or widening Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

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Pork Products Recalled for Salmonella

Mahaffey's Food Products is voluntarily recalling 1,100 pounds of souse, a cooked pork product, that may be contaminated with salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service says. No illnesses have been reported.

The product, available in 12- and 36-ounce packages, bears the establishment number EST. 9656 inside the USDA mark of inspection. The company's name and address are also printed on each label.

The souse was produced Nov. 6 and distributed to retail stores in Pennsylvania. Consumption of food contaminated with salmonella can cause salmonellosis, which can be life threatening, especially for infants, the frail, elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.

To contact the company, call owner Erwin Mahaffey at 1-717-933-4950.

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