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Health Highlights: Oct. 29, 2012

Some Hospitals Evacuated Patients Before Sandy Struck Novartis Flu Vaccines Banned in Six Countries

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

Some Hospitals Evacuated Patients Before Sandy Struck

Patient evacuations, postponing elective surgeries, ensuring backup generators were ready to go, and stocking up on supplies were some of the ways that hospitals along the U.S. east coast prepared for the massive storm Sandy.

For example, Hoboken University Medical Center evacuated patients early in the morning before Sandy struck New Jersey. There were fears that surges from Sandy could breach Hoboken's seawall and cause flooding. The hospital's emergency room and ob-gyn services for emergency deliveries remained open.

"Patient safety always is paramount, and although the risks of the hospital losing all power are small, all safety precautions must be taken," medical center CEO Paul Walker told ABC News.

Patients were also evacuated from VA New York Harbor Hospital and New York Downtown Hospital.

North Shore-LIJ Health System's 16 hospitals remained open, but dozens of critically ill patients who rely on mechanical devices, such as ventilators, were evacuated from Staten Island University Health Center and Southside Hospital. Both facilities are close to open water, ABC News reported.


Novartis Flu Vaccines Banned in Six Countries

A temporary ban on the import or use of Novartis' Fluad and/or Aggripal flu vaccines has been imposed by six European countries after the company reported small particles in the vaccines to Italian officials.

Other flu vaccines are available in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, but there could be supply problems in some regions, the Associated Press reported.

Switzerland-based Novartis knew about the problem with its vaccines since July but only notified Italian authorities this month. Company spokesman Eric Althoff would not say how long Novartis waited before telling health officials.

In an email, he said that "once the deviation was seen, an investigation was started and the findings were shared with the Italian Ministry of Health," the AP reported.


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