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Health Highlights: Sept. 13, 2017

Deaths of 6 Florida Nursing Home Residents Under Investigation Experts Urge Caution Over Study About Flu Vaccination and Miscarriages Infections Strike Young Heart Surgery Patients in New Orleans Smoking Reduction Foundation Announced by Tobacco Company CHIP Funding Deal Reached by U.S. Senate

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

Deaths of 6 Florida Nursing Home Residents Under Investigation

Six residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida died after being left without air conditioning in the aftermath of Irma.

The deaths on Wednesday morning at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills are under criminal investigation by police, the Miami Herald reported.

Precautionary checks will be made at Hollywood's 42 other nursing homes, Hollywood police chief Tom Sanchez said.

The nursing home had been without power since Irma struck the area. It had generator power to cook but no air conditioning, said kitchen worker Jean Lindor, the Herald reported.

There are no official causes of death yet, but a number of the victims were having respiratory problems, according to Hollywood Public Affairs Director Raelin Story.


Experts Urge Caution Over Study About Flu Vaccination and Miscarriages

A study that appears to connect flu vaccination during pregnancy and miscarriages should be viewed with caution, experts say.

Researchers found that 17 of 485 miscarriages they studied involved women who had two consecutive annual flu shots that included protection against swine flu, the Associated Press reported.

However, vaccine experts believe the findings may be due to older age and other miscarriage risks, not the flu shots.

The study was published in the journal Vaccine after being rejected by two other medical journals. Vaccine Editor-in-Chief Dr. Gregory Poland, who is director of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic, told the AP he doesn't believe flu shots caused the miscarriages.

There is no reason to change the federal government recommendations that all pregnant women get a flu shot, said health officials, who added that the flu itself is a much greater threat to women and their fetuses.

Two of the study authors were Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers. The CDC alerted the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists about the study so its members could prepare for a potential surge of anxiety among pregnant women, the AP reported.

"I want the CDC and researchers to continue to investigate this," said Dr. Laura Riley, a Boston obstetrician who heads a committee on maternal immunization. "But as an advocate for pregnant women, what I hope doesn't happen is that people panic and stop getting vaccinated," she told the AP.

Some of the study authors are conducting a larger study with more recent data to determine if a possible connection between swine flu vaccine and miscarriage can be confirmed, according to study author James Donahue, of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Minnesota.

He said the earliest that results would be available is next year, the AP reported.

In a statement following publication of the study, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said: "ACOG continues to recommend that all women receive the influenza vaccine. This is particularly important during pregnancy. Influenza vaccination is an essential element of prenatal care because pregnant women are at an increased risk of serious illness and mortality due to influenza. In addition, maternal vaccination is the most effective strategy to protect newborns because the vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than six months."


Infections Strike Young Heart Surgery Patients in New Orleans

Incision infections have been reported in at least a dozen children who had heart surgery at Children's Hospital New Orleans earlier this year.

The children are receiving intravenous antibiotics and are responding to the treatment, said Dr. John Heaton, the hospital's senior vice president and chief medical officer, the Associated Press reported.

Heaton said the mycobacteria infections were caused by contamination in a machine that regulates a patient's temperature during heart surgery.

Mycobacteria is common in water, soil and dust, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also said contaminated medical devices can cause infections in the skin and soft tissues under the skin, the AP reported.


Smoking Reduction Foundation Announced by Tobacco Company

A major tobacco company says it will provide about $1 billion over 12 years for a foundation to reduce smoking worldwide, but critics are skeptical of the move.

Philip Morris International Inc. said the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World will fund research, assess the effects of smoke-free alternatives, monitor progress toward snuffing out smoking, and look at how to prepare tobacco farmers for reduced demand, Bloomberg News reported.

The company has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to market its IQOS device -- which heats rather than burns tobacco -- as a product that may lower the risk of smoking-related health problems.

One anti-smoking group expressed doubt about the tobacco company's new foundation.

"The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking," Deborah Arnott, chief executive of London-based Action on Smoking and Health, said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.

"Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value," she added.


CHIP Funding Deal Reached by U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate has reached a deal to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Current federal funding for the program expires at the end of this month, and many states will run out of federal money for CHIP later this year or in early 2018, The New York Times reported.

The bipartisan agreement would provide federal funds for CHIP for five additional years, along with "increased flexibility for states to administer the program," according to the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.

He helped created the program in 1997 with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, The Times reported.

"Congress needs to act quickly to extend the funding for CHIP," Hatch said.

CHIP provides health insurance for nearly nine million children in families whose incomes are too high for them to quality for Medicaid, but not high enough to afford other coverage, The Times reported.

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