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Health Highlights: Sept. 1, 2006

NYC Issues Health Guidelines for Ground Zero Workers California Man With Bad Habits Dies at 112 FDA Urges Testing for Tissue Recipients Judge Halts U.S. Sales of Generic Plavix U.S. Alcohol Industry Lax on Ad Guidelines: Report Pool Toys Pose Impalement Risk

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

NYC Issues Health Guidelines for Ground Zero Workers

Long-awaited guidelines to help doctors treat Ground Zero-related illnesses were released Thursday by the New York City Health Department, the Associated Press reported.

The medical advice is considered vital for the thousands of people who worked at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center (WTC). The health department had previously offered guidelines for treating mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse linked to the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But there were numerous complaints from politicians, health experts, and advocates that the city had shelved instructions on how to deal with physical problems caused by 9/11 and its aftermath, the AP reported.

The medical guidelines offer suggestions to doctors about particular questions to ask 9/11 patients, tests to give, and treatments. The guidelines also include a specific warning about tobacco, saying that tobacco use heightens the risk and severity of many WTC-related diseases.

The guidelines will be mailed to all doctors in New York City. Elsewhere in the United States, they will be distributed by the federal government, the AP reported.


California Man With Bad Habits Dies at 112

Even though he had a poor health habits that included a diet dominated by sausages and waffles, George Johnson of Richmond, Calif., managed to live for 112 years. Good genes may be the reason.

Johnson, the state's last surviving World War I veteran, died of pneumonia this week.

"A lot of people think or imagine that your good habits and bad habits contribute to your longevity. But we often find it is in the genes rather than lifestyle," Dr. L. Stephen Coles, founder of the Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Associated Press.

He took part in an autopsy Thursday on Johnson's body. Johnson had told his relatives that he was in favor of an autopsy if it would help science.

"All his organs were extremely youthful. They could have been the organs of someone who was 50 or 60, not 112. Clearly his genes had some secrets," Coles told the AP.

"Everything in his body that we looked at was clean as a whistle, except for his lungs with the pneumonia. He had no heart disease, he had no cancer, no diabetes and no Alzheimer's," Coles said.

Johnson, who was born May 1, 1894, continued driving until he was 102 but had to hang up the keys when his vision started to fail.


FDA Urges Testing for Tissue Recipients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urging doctors to contact patients who received tissue from a human tissue supply company in Raleigh, N.C. that was closed down a few weeks ago because of "serious deficiencies" in the way it operated.

The FDA said Wednesday that additional information from its ongoing investigation into Donor Referral Services and operator Philip Guyett Jr. "has heightened our concern," the Associated Press reported.

Tissue from the company was used across the U.S. and patients who received the tissue need to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis, health officials said.

It's estimated the fewer than 100 donors are involved in the Raleigh company's case, according to the American Association of Tissue Banks, an industry group. Each donor can provide 100 or more tissues.

A number of companies are voluntarily recalling tissues supplied by Donor Referral Services, the AP reported. They include: Alamo Tissue Services of San Antonio, Texas; Lost Mountain Tissue Bank of Kennesaw, Ga.; TissueNet of Orlando, Fla.; and U.S. Tissue of Cincinnati, Ohio. The U.S. Tissue recall is being handled by AlloSource of Colorado.

This was the second scandal to hit the U.S. tissue transplant industry in less than a year. In 2005, Biomedical Tissue Services of New Jersey was accused of using stolen bodies and of shipping about 20,000 potentially-tainted body parts.


Judge Halts U.S. Sales of Generic Plavix

Just three weeks after it was launched in the U.S., sales of a generic version of the popular blood thinner Plavix have been halted due to a patent dispute.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein of Manhattan said that Canadian drug maker Apotex Inc. must stop selling its generic drug in the U.S. The injunction was sought by U.S. drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and its partner Sanofi-Aventis of France.

While he agreed to halt sales of the generic version of Plavix, Stein rejected a request by Bristol-Myers and Sanofi that Apotex be forced to recall the drugs it had already sold to U.S. distributors, the AP reported.

In a statement, Apotex said it will appeal the court ruling to halt sales of its drug. The company also said it's filing an emergency motion with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to stay the injunction pending the appeal.

Since its U.S. launch on Aug 8, the generic version of the drug has captured a large market share, the AP reported.


U.S. Alcohol Industry Lax on Ad Guidelines: Report

The American alcohol industry isn't living up to voluntary standards on radio alcohol advertising and youth, suggests a study in Thursday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from the CDC and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) analyzed a sample of 67,404 alcohol ads that aired on 104 U.S. radio stations from June 15 to Aug. 5, 2004.

They found that 14 percent of the ads aired in programming where people ages 12 to 20 represented more than 30 percent of the listening audience. This was an improvement over 2003, when a similar study found that 28 percent of alcohol ads appeared to violate the guidelines. The rules were adopted voluntarily by the alcohol industry in 2003.

"Young people spend more time listening to the radio than they do reading magazines or surfing the net, so reducing youth exposure to alcohol ads on radio is critical," Dr. David Jernigan, CAMY executive director, said in a prepared statement.

"In September 2003, the alcohol industry made modest revisions to its voluntary code in order to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising. While progress is being made, the industry still has a long way to go," he said.


Pool Toys Pose Impalement Hazard

About 273,000 Jet Streamers Water Blasters pool toys have been recalled because they pose an impalement hazard to children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

When partially filled with water, the straight squirt gun can stand upright on the pool floor with the rigid narrow end pointed upward. The company, Wild Planet Toys, Inc. of San Francisco, has received one report of an injury to an 8-year-old girl who landed seat first on one of the toys in a swimming pool. She suffered a puncture wound.

The toys were sold as a 2-pack set, in packages with other pool toys, and with boys' swim trunks.

Consumers should immediately stop using the Jet Streamers and contact Wild Planet for a redesigned product that can't stand upright, the CPSC said.

For more information, contact Wild Planet at 1-800-247-6570 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

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