Health Highlights: Jan. 20, 2005

Spanish Catholic Church Reverses Condom Approval Prions Found in Rodent Body Organs Mother Gives Birth to "Giant Baby" CDC: Carbon Monoxide Deaths Jump During Winter Minnesota Cites 99 Hospital Medical Errors ADHD Drug Recalled for Overdose Risk

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

Spanish Catholic Church Reverses Condom Approval

Spain's Catholic Church leaders have reversed their edict approving the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.

The Spanish Bishop's Conference announced the initial approval on Tuesday. But just a few hours later, Spanish Church officials and the Vatican said the Roman Catholic Church remains opposed to condoms and that doctrine remained the same, the Agence France-Presse wire service reported.

The about-face was greeted with outrage by many groups and politicians, who said the Catholic Church's position was unreasonable.

"The surprise and hope felt by many lasted only a few hours. What is truly immoral is the Church's rejection of a method that saves human lives," said an editorial in the Catalan newspaper, El Periodico.


Prions Found in Rodent Body Organs

Swiss scientists say they've found rogue proteins like those that cause mad cow disease in the liver, kidney and pancreas of rodents. Previously, these proteins have only been found in brain, nerve and lymph tissues.

The finding suggests it may be possible for such proteins, called prions, to move into parts of the body outside the brain and nervous system, the Associated Press reported.

While there is no cause for alarm, the study suggests there may be reason to reassess current livestock processing and screening regulations, noted researcher Adriano Aguzzi at the University Hospital of Zurich.

"I think what is probably worth doing is to recheck whether all these regulations are implemented properly. But, I think this is nothing that should provoke a wave of panic," Aguzzi told the AP.

The study results appear in the journal Science.


Mother Gives Birth to "Giant Baby"

A Brazilian woman has given birth to a healthy baby boy weighing 16.7 pounds, the same weight as a normal six-month-old. One doctor referred to the infant as a "giant baby."

The 38-year-old mother, Francisca Ramos dos Santos, gave birth to the boy Tuesday at a hospital in the northeastern city of Salvador. The boy's name is Ademilton.

"Obviously the baby was born by Caesarean section. Both mother and baby are doing just fine," hospital director Rita Leal told the Associated Press.

The average birth weight for a baby in Brazil is 7.7 pounds for boys and 6.6 pounds for girls.


CDC: Carbon Monoxide Deaths Jump During Winter

Deaths and poisonings from carbon monoxide exposure are highest during the coldest months of winter and fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

During the years 2001-2003, about 480 Americans died each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 15,000 people were treated for exposure. The death and exposure rates peaked in the month of December.

Carbon monoxide -- a colorless, odorless gas -- is emitted by gas furnaces, heaters and generators. The most common symptoms from exposure are nausea, headache and dizziness, and more severe symptoms include shortness of breath and loss of consciousness, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Males who are more likely to work in enclosed spaces with generators and power tools are 2.3 times more likely to die from carbon monoxide exposure, the agency said. The death rate among both sexes was highest in people older than 65.

To minimize your risk, the CDC suggests performing annual maintenance on gas-burning appliances, avoiding use of unvented wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, and installing battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in your home.


Minnesota Cites 99 Hospital Medical Errors

Minnesota hospitals performed surgery on the wrong body parts, gave the wrong medications or made other mistakes that endangered patients 99 times in a 15-month period starting in the summer of 2003, according to the first such report in the nation.

The hospitals reported that 20 deaths were associated with the errors, including eight people who died after falls and four after medication errors, according to the Chicago Tribune. But they stopped short of saying the errors caused the deaths.

The report was released Wednesday by the Minnesota Health Department. For the first time, Minnesota hospitals were required by law to report 27 categories of mistakes known as "never events," which experts say should never happen, to a state registry. In all, 30 of the state's 145 hospitals reported at least one "never" event at their facilities between June 2003 and October 2004.


ADHD Drug Recalled for Overdose Risk

Alliant Pharmaceuticals is recalling one lot of medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, due to concerns that the tablets might contain up to three times the proper amount of active ingredient, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported on its Web site.

The company said the recall involved the 5 mg. strength of its methylphenidate HC1 chewable tablets (Methylin CT), lot number AMT50402A. The lot's expiration date is April 2006.

Of the 2,820 bottles from this lot, the company estimates fewer than 500 affected bottles are in distribution, the FDA notice said. To date, the company has received no reports of injury caused by the affected product.

Alliant said it is notifying doctors and pharmacists of the recall by letter. For more information, contact the company at 770-817-4500.

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