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Health Highlights: Oct. 10, 2002

Dozens Get Hep C Infection From Nurse's Needle Lemon Juice Found to Kill HIV, Sperm in Lab Tests Baby Walkers Recalled Gene Variants Linked to Congestive Heart Failure Effectiveness of Date-Rape Drug Detectors Questioned Poultry Producer Recalls Chicken, Turkey Products

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

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Dozens Get Hep C Infection From Nurse's Needle

An outbreak of hepatitis C among 52 patients at an Oklahoma hospital is being blamed on a nurse who repeatedly used the same needle and syringe when administering drugs to the patients, reports the New York Times.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Health say they don't believe James W. Hill, the nurse-anesthesiologist at Normal Regional Hospital, intended to cause any harm. It's theorized the infections occurred when Hill drew enough sedating medication into a syringe to treat multiple patients in a pain treatment clinic. He then used the same syringe and needle to inject the medication into the intravenous line ports for each patient.

The mistake came to light just last month, and the hospital has since contacted hundreds of patients treated since 1999 at the facility to urge them to be tested for the disease.

Some people's bodies naturally overcome the hepatitis C virus, but about 50 to 70 percent remain chronically infected, and in a small percentage, the virus can lead to serious liver damage or liver cancer.

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Lemon Juice Found to Kill HIV, Sperm in Lab Tests

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons -- researchers say they've found evidence that lemon juice may be a potent means of destroying both HIV and sperm.

The Australian researchers say that a solution of 10 percent lemon juice reduced HIV activity in a lab sample by 1,000 percent. In addition, a half a teaspoon of juice destroyed two teaspoons of sperm within 30 seconds, reports New Scientist.

Lemon juice's high acidity was said to be what wiped out the HIV and sperm. The researchers say that if further studies on humans and primates are successful, lemon juice could some day emerge as an ideal contraceptive for those without easy access to health care, but AIDS experts caution that until then, the safety and efficacy of using the juice for such purposes is unknown.

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Baby Walkers Recalled

More than 50,000 baby walkers are being recalled in several states because the walkers can fit through standard doorways and present the risk of serious injury or death if a child proceeded to fall down steps.

Most of the walkers - - about 50,000 - - are being recalled by the California-based company Bikepro. The walkers are for babies 6 months and older and are blue, green, pink and yellow, and feature a musical tray. The walkers were sold at Independent Discount Stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Michigan, Missouri and New York from January 2000 through August 2001. Prices ranged from $18 to $22, reports the Associated Press.

In addition, the Los Angeles-based Oriental International Trading Company is recalling about 3,500 walkers. The recalled walkers are the "Honey" model and are blue, yellow and pink. They have an activity tray and are for babies 5 months and older.

The walkers were also sold at Independent Discount Stores from May 2001 through June 2002 in Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and New York. Neither company has received any reports of injuries from the walkers.

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Gene Variants Linked to Congestive Heart Failure

People who inherit a combination of two variant genes are 10 times more likely to suffer congestive heart failure, according to research published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Some 5 million Americans suffer from the condition, and it's a leading cause of death. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati compared 159 patients with congestive heart failure to 189 people who didn't have the disease.

A variant in the first gene causes a five-fold increase in a person's chances of getting congestive heart failure. An abnormal second gene causes no problems by itself, but when combined with the first variant gene, it leads to a 10-fold increase, reports The New York Times.

African-Americans are more likely than whites to have the two variant genes by a 17 percent to 2 percent margin, the researchers say.

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Effectiveness of Date-Rape Drug Detectors Questioned

Critics are questioning whether a popular paper coaster that tests for "date rape" drugs in drinks is effective, the Associated Press reports.

Drink Safe Technologies, of Plantation, Fla., says the 40-cent coasters -- millions of which have been sold to colleges across the country -- are 95 percent accurate. But recent tests at a Michigan police crime lab showed the product failed to detect a major date-rape drug known as GHB, reports the AP.

Critics say the product could lead to more assaults by creating a false sense of security, a charge company president Francisco Guerra denies. He likens his product to a condom: While not 100 percent effective, it is a good prevention tool.

Guerra says the company has sold some 50 million coasters since March, mostly to colleges and convenience stores. A recent government estimate says some 70,000 sexual assaults annually are linked to college drinking, the AP says.

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Poultry Producer Recalls Chicken, Turkey Products

Pilgrim's Pride Corp., also known as Wampler Foods Inc., is recalling 295,000 pounds of fresh and frozen ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says.

All of the products bear the establishment code "P-1351" inside the USDA seal of inspection. They were produced Aug. 14 and distributed to retail stores and food institutions nationwide.

FSIS says there appears to be no link between this recall and a recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes in eight Northeast states. An FSIS investigation is continuing into the outbreak, which has been linked to more than 120 illnesses and 20 deaths.

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis, which can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. The elderly, very young and people with weak immune systems are most prone to food-borne illness.

Consumers with questions about the Pilgrim's recall can contact the company at 1-877-260-7110.

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