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Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 2002

4.2 Million Pounds of Turkey and Chicken Meat RecalledThe Stronger the Religious Faith, the Stronger the ConfidenceSecond Cruise Ship Reports Virus OutbreakGovernment Steps Up Ecstasy Crackdown Girl Scout Chocolate Raisins Being Recalled Heart Failure Test Gets FDA OK

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

4.2 Million Pounds of Turkey and Chicken Meat Recalled

Just in time for Thanksgiving: a major turkey meat recall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has expanded a meat recall for the possible contamination of the deadly listeria bacterium to 4.2 million pounds, up from the original 200,000 pounds it recalled last Thursday.

The turkey and chicken meat is from the Jack Lambersky Poultry Company Inc., doing business as J.L. Foods Company Inc., Camden, N.J. The recalled products are mostly fresh or frozen turkey and chicken breasts, the USDA said, and the products have been produced for distribution back to last May 29 through Nov. 2.

"The sample that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes was collected on Nov. 14 as part of the continuing joint investigation by FSIS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into the cause of the outbreak of listeriosis that has sickened 52 people and resulted in seven deaths in eight Northeastern states, " a USDA press release says. "The sample is being further analyzed to determine whether or not it matches the outbreak strain."

Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea.

The company has established a hotline for questions concerning where the meat was sold: (800) 881-3250.

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The Stronger the Religious Faith, the Stronger the Confidence

It may follow logically that faith in God can build self-confidence. But does that self-confidence translate in the ability to heal?

That's the question Pennsylvania researchers are trying to answer after initial studies seemed to indicate that cardiac patients who have a strong religious faith have greater confidence in their ability to perform tasks and complete their rehabilitation.

According to a story by the Associated Press Researchers at Geisinger Medical Center and Bucknell University are expanding their study to determine whether those with a strong religious faith also show long-term improvement in their cardiovascular health.

A pilot study identified 21 patients who had recently had a first heart attack or undergone bypass surgery. Patients were surveyed to determine their spiritual beliefs and religious practices before beginning their rehabilitation regimens and again after the 12-week program was completed, the AP reported.

Chris Boyatzis, a psychology professor at Bucknell, presented the findings in September at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. "The more religious they were, the more they improved," Boyatzis said. "The more religious faith they had, the more faith they had in their own ability to complete tasks and to function."

Timothy McConnell, director of cardiac rehabilitation at Geisinger, a 437-bed hospital in Danville that is funding the study, said the next step is to expand the progam to 100 patients and to study any possible link between their religious faith and improvement in their health.

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Second Cruise Ship Reports Virus Outbreak

Officials don't know whether the incidents are related, but about 175 passengers and 12 crew members on a Disney cruise came down with a a contagious stomach virus yesterday, a week after more than 500 people caught the virus on another cruise ship.

The Disney ship Magic, carrying about 3,200 on a Carribean cruise, was due to return to Florida today. Passengers began coming down with the illness last Wednesday. The first ship to report the virus, which causes headache, nausea and vomiting, was the Amsterdam, owned by the Holland American line. That ship returned to its Miami port yesterday and was undergoing a stem-to-stern scouring and disinfection.

This procedure will also be performed on the Magic, Disney spokesman Mark Jaronski told the Associated Press. He also said sick passengers would be offered compensation.

The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is overseeing the investigation into how the outbreaks occurred.

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Government Steps Up Ecstasy Crackdown

U.S. officials are pledging to make the drug-of-choice Ecstasy anything but.

At a news conference Thursday, Asa Hutchinson, who heads the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), held up a satchel full of the euphoria drug and pledged to double the number of investigations into the nightclubs where Ecstasy is suspected of being used.

"The explosive use of Ecstasy and predatory drugs among our youth is fast reaching epidemic levels," CBS News quotes Hutchinson as saying.

CBS News cites DEA statistics saying that 8.1 million Americans aged 12 and older tried Ecstasy in 2001, up from 6.5 million the year before.

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Girl Scout Chocolate Raisins Being Recalled

Twelve-ounce cans of Girl Scout Chocolate Covered Raisins are being recalled because some packages may contain chocolate-covered peanuts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The product, manufactured by Ashdon Farms of Waukesha, Wisc., is marked with a code date of 2283A10 on the bottom of the can. The company also is recalling 7-ounce cans of the same product, marketed under the Ashdon Farms brand name, which are marked with a code date of 2305A6.

People with a severe allergy or sensitivity to peanuts could suffer a life-threatening reaction if they eat this product. No illnesses have been reported to date.

The products were distributed nationwide. You can contact the company at 1-262-832-8201.

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Heart Failure Test Gets FDA OK

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new lab test to help doctors diagnose congestive heart failure.

The Roche Diagnostics test, named Elecsys proBNP Immunoassay, detects elevated levels of a heart peptide, NT-proBNP, which could indicate congestive heart failure. The higher the peptide level, the more serious the condition.

The earlier congestive heart failure is treated, the better the chances a patient will survive. The just-approved test will allow doctors to quickly diagnose whether a person's symptoms indicate heart failure, or another condition such as lung disease.

The FDA cleared the test following clinical trials involving more than 2,000 people in the United States and Europe.

Congestive heart failure affects up to 2 percent of the population. It is often fatal, especially among the elderly.

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