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Health Highlights: Oct. 20, 2010

4 Deaths Prompt Graco Strollers Recall Men Have Lower Hospital Death Rate for Stroke: Study Potatoes Peeled From Child Nutrition Programs Gene Discovery May Help Fight Alcoholism Thyroid Cancer Patients May Pose Radiation Risk to Others

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

4 Deaths Prompt Graco Strollers Recall

Entrapment and strangulation hazards have triggered the recall of about two million Graco strollers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.

The agency has received four reports of stroller-related infant deaths between 2003 and 2005, along with five reports of entrapment in the strollers, resulting in cuts and bruises, MSNBC reported.

The recall includes Graco Quattro Tour strollers and travel systems made before November 2006 and MetroLite stroller and travel systems made before July 2007. For a complete list of recalled strollers and travel systems, go to the Graco Web site at

Consumers with the recalled strollers can contact Graco at 877-828-4046 or to go the company's Web site to obtain a free repair kit, MSNBC reported.


Men Have Lower Hospital Death Rate for Stroke: Study

Male stroke, heart attack and heart failure patients are less likely to die in a hospital than female patients with the same conditions, according to a U.S. government report.

An analysis of data from the 2000-07 Nationwide Inpatient Sample found that the hospital death rate for stroke fell 29 percent (from 123 to 87 deaths per 1,000) for men and decreased 24 percent for women (from 127 to 96 deaths per 1,000), said the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings:

  • Heart failure death rates fell by 52 percent for men and 46 percent for women. In 2007, the heart failure death rate was 28 per 1,000 for men and 29 per 1,000 for women.
  • Heart attack death rates fell by 39 percent for women and 37 percent for men. However, the 2007 heart attack death rate was 77 per 1,000 for women and 58 per 1,000 for men.

When they looked at insurance coverage, the researchers found that the largest decreases in death rates for heart attack and heart failure were among Medicare patients, followed by those with private insurance and Medicaid patients.


Potatoes Peeled From Child Nutrition Programs

U.S. government efforts to limit the use of potatoes in child nutrition programs are causing concern for growers.

Under an interim rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned participants in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program from buying potatoes with federal dollars. The agency plans to issue a final rule next year, the Associated Press reported.

The USDA made the decision based on a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It was determined that WIC participants were consuming enough potatoes, said Institute of Medicine spokeswoman Christine Stencel.

"The recommendation (to ban potatoes) was made to encourage consumption of other fruits and vegetables," she told the AP.

The institute also wants the USDA to limit the use of potatoes in its school lunch program. The agency is expected to release changes to the program by the end of year.

Potato advocates point out that tuber is rich in potassium and vitamin C.

"We're just really concerned that this is a misconception to the public that potatoes aren't healthy," Chris Voigt, head of the Washington Potato Commission, told the AP.


Gene Discovery May Help Fight Alcoholism

A gene that may make people feel the effects of alcohol sooner than others has been identified by American scientists.

The University of North Carolina researchers said that about 10 percent to 20 percent of people have the CYP2E1 gene, which helps speed the body's breakdown of alcohol, BBC News reported.

The finding may lead to new ways to prevent alcoholism.

It may be possible to develop CYP2E1-like drugs to make people without the gene more sensitive to alcohol, to discourage them from drinking to inebriation, the researchers explained, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.


Thyroid Cancer Patients May Pose Radiation Risk to Others

Members of the public may have been exposed to radiation from thyroid cancer patients who were sent home after receiving radioactive iodine to shrink their tumors, according to a congressional investigation.

After undergoing treatment and being released from hospital, patients have contaminated hotel rooms and set off radiation detectors on public transportation, the Associated Press reported.

It's unclear whether levels of radioactive iodine excreted through patients' urine, saliva and sweat are high enough to cause harm to other people.

"There's a strong likelihood that members of the public have been unwittingly exposed to radiation from patients," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., wrote in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that outlines the findings by his staff, the AP reported.

"This has occurred because of weak NRC regulations, ineffective oversight of those who administer these medical treatments, and the absence of clear guidance to patients and to physicians," Markey wrote.

He called for a number of rule changes including: keeping more patients who receive treatment with radioactive iodine in hospital; a ban on releasing patients to hotels or allowing them to use public transportation; and tighter oversight of medical facilities that provide this type of treatment, the AP reported.

The NRC was to discuss the issue at a meeting Wednesday.

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