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Health Highlights: Oct. 13, 2002

Massive Recall of Deli Meats Announced Sniper Attacks Affecting Americans' Anxiety Levels Refined Version of Troubled Alzheimer's Vaccine Offers New Hope Internet Therapy Shown to Help Tinnitus Sufferers Smokeless Tobacco Settlement Said to be First of Kind Workers Exposed to Low-Level Radiation at Fla. Nuclear Plant Middle East-bound Troops Likely to Get Smallpox Shots

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

Massive Recall of Deli Meats Announced

In the largest meat recall in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wampler Foods has recalled all cooked deli products made since May at a suburban Philadelphia plant and stopped production because the meat is possibly contaminated with listeria.

The recall follows an Oct. 9 recall of 295,000 pounds of turkey and chicken products at the plant in Franconia, Pa., the Associated Press reports.

"We want consumers to be aware of the recall because of the potential for foodborne illness,'' said Dr. Garry L. McKee, the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service administrator. "Diners may also wish to ask if their meals contain the recalled products."

Each package being recalled bears the plant number P-1351 inside the USDA mark of inspection and a production date. The deli products were sold to consumers in "retail groceries, delicatessens and food service distributors under the Wampler Foods and select private labels," the AP says.

Consumers with questions can call the company toll-free at 877-260-7110 or the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 800-535-4555.


Sniper Attacks Affecting Americans' Anxiety Levels

The wave of sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area have spread feelings of heightened anxiety across America, a new Newsweek poll shows.

Forty-seven percent of Americans questioned reported that they are "very or somewhat concerned about someone in their family being a victim of sniper violence." About 43 percent said they share similar concerns about a family member being the victim of a terrorist attack.

The poll also showed that the fear of being the victim of a sniper was particularly high among women and minorities: 56 percent of women and 58 percent of minorities reported being "very or somewhat concerned" about being a possible target.

Eight shooting deaths in the D.C. area during the past two weeks have been linked to a serial killer or killers.


Refined Version of Troubled Alzheimer's Vaccine Offers New Hope

Hopes may not be entirely dashed on research of a highly promising Alzheimer's vaccine that was abandoned last March when a serious side effect became apparent.

Elan Corporation's clinical trial of the experimental vaccine on 360 patients had been looking exceedingly successful, but it hit problems when 15 of the patients developed brain inflammation, reports New Scientist.

But in Tuesday's online issue of Nature Medicine, researchers in Canada and Germany report that a more refined form of the vaccine worked in mice, and may not produce inflammation in humans.

Elan's vaccine used a synthetic form of the type of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. The vaccine also had an agent designed to prompt the immune system to target the protein. The refined vaccine being looked at contains just a small amount of amyloid-beta, and the researchers say they hope that will prevent the inflammation side effects.


Internet Therapy Shown to Help Tinnitus Sufferers

Swedish doctors say patients suffering from the discomfort of tinnitus, which causes excessive ringing in the ears, may be able to get help for their condition over the Internet.

In a study of 120 patients with tinnitus, the doctors say that after a six-week program offering cognitive behavior therapy over the Internet, patients reported feeling less distressed or annoyed by their condition, compared to a control group who had not received the treatment.

In addition, the patients reported feeling less depressed and suffering less anxiety. Included in the online treatment was advice on how to relax, control their breathing and improve their sleep, reports the BBC.

While the gains weren't tremendous -- less than one-in-three reported substantial improvement -- the researchers say the program was still beneficial.

The study appears in a recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.


Smokeless Tobacco Settlement Said to Be First of Kind

In what appears to be the first time a tobacco company has agreed to compensate an individual for health problems allegedly caused by its products, a Connecticut smokeless tobacco firm has reached what it calls a "resolution" over a lawsuit filed by a former user who developed tongue cancer.

The unspecified resolution, which analysts call a "settlement in disguise," was confirmed yesterday. It involves smokeless tobacco giant UST Inc. and the Florida plaintiff, Michael L. McMullin, 29, according to The Los Angeles Times.

McMullin's lawsuit was to go to trial on Oct. 21.


Workers Exposed to Low-Level Radiation at Fla. Nuclear Plant

Federal investigators are trying to determine how 28 workers at a Florida nuclear power plant were exposed to low levels of radiation earlier this month.

The Oct. 6 exposure at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, owned by Florida Power & Light, was said to be "very low" level, and the company says none of those exposed reported becoming ill.

Plant employees and several outside contractors working above an area where two maintenance workers were pressure-cleaning the top part of a reactor apparently inhaled radioactive particles, according to the Associated Press. The two maintenance workers were the only ones wearing protective suits.

The inspectors say they are trying to see if government guidelines were followed in the maintenance procedure.


Middle East-bound Troops Likely to Get Smallpox Shots

Smallpox vaccinations for U.S. troops may be coming sooner, rather than later, as the possibility of military action against Iraq grows.

As soon as the newest batch of smallpox vaccine is licensed in mid-November, the Pentagon is expected to begin vaccinating as many as half a million troops, reports The New York Times.

Though not yet officially approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the vaccinations are all but certain and would be given primarily to troops expected to be sent to the Middle East, reports the Times.

While officials consider how to vaccinate health professionals and so-called "first responders" in the event of a smallpox bioterror attack back in the United States, debate also continues over whether to offer the vaccination to the general public due to concerns about potential side effects.

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