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Health Highlights: May 30, 2004

U.S., Canada Adopt New Sun Radiation Risk Index FDA Announces Almond Recall Fla. Doctor Charged With Selling Diluted Cancer, AIDS Drugs Poll Finds Overweight Americans in Denial Second U.S. Human West Nile Case Reported in Arizona Surgeon General Links More Diseases to Smoking

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

U.S., Canada Adopt New Sun Radiation Risk Index

In a bid to reduce soaring skin cancer rates, the United States and Canada have joined other nations in adopting an international index that gauges the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to the World Health Organization.

The Global Solar Ultraviolet Index reports UV radiation levels on a scale of 1 (low) to more than 11 (dangerously high). The index is typically given during daily weather forecasts to help people avoid sunburn, the AFP news service reported.

"The adoption of the UVI by countries such as Canada and the United States, where there is a strong 'tanning culture', is particularly welcome," said Mike Repacholi, WHO's coordinator of radiation and environmental health.

Just one bad sunburn can "significantly" increase a child's risk of getting skin cancer later in life, according to the United Nations' health agency. More than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States and Canada every year.

Ultraviolet rays have increased in intensity in many parts of the world in recent years because the protective ozone layer in the earth's atmosphere is thinning due to pollution, scientists say, AFP reported.

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FDA Announces Almond Recall

The Germack Pistachio Co. of Detroit is voluntarily recalling its Germack Almond brand raw whole almonds, due to possible salmonella contamination, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company distributes the almonds in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut, and Florida.

The recall comes in response to a voluntary recall by Paramount Farms of California of Whole Brown Natural Raw Almonds, following reports of 20 possible cases of salmonella in Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as one case in Michigan. No salmonella has been found in any Germack or Paramount products, the FDA said.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with the germ often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare cases, salmonella infection can result in more severe illnesses such as arterial infections -- including aneurysms -- and arthritis, according to the FDA.

The Germack almonds are packaged in 1-pound packages that bear the Germack Pistachio Co. label, with code dates of 040806, 040807, 040819, 040824, 050105, 050421 and 050422.

The nuts should not be eaten; consumers can return them to the store of purchase for a full refund. For more information, call Germack Pistachio Co. at 800-872-4006, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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Fla. Doctor Charged With Selling Diluted Cancer, AIDS Drugs

A Florida doctor has been charged with selling diluted cancer and AIDS drugs in a scheme that netted nearly $60 million, state prosecutors said.

Dr. Paul Perito, a 42-year-old urologist from Coral Gables, and his business partner, Nicholas Just, 47, were charged Thursday with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, organized scheme to defraud, product tampering, vending of counterfeit drugs, and the purchase of prescription drugs from an unlicensed person, according to the Lakeland Ledger.

If convicted on all counts, Perito could face 250 years in prison and Just, 150 years, state Attorney General Charlie Crist said.

Perito was being held Friday at Miami-Dade County jail on $2,274,500 bond and Just was held on $2,271,000 bail, a jail spokeswoman told the newspaper.

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Poll Finds Overweight Americans in Denial

Weight problem? What weight problem?

That seems to be the attitude of many Americans, according to an Ipsos poll conducted for the Associated Press. The poll found that six in 10 Americans who are overweight according to government standards actually consider themselves to be at a healthy weight.

And only 25 percent of obese people feel that they're overweight.

The poll of 1,000 adults also found that 12 percent of the respondents are currently on a diet. Most of those who've been on diets said they regained at least some of the weight they shed and 23 percent said they gained back all their weight after being on a diet.

About two-thirds of the poll respondents attempted to start regular physical exercise programs within the previous year.

Most of the people singled out unhealthy eating habits as the health risk that posed the greatest threat to Americans. Fifty-six percent said they try to restrict fat intake in their diets and 33 percent said they try to restrict carbohydrates.

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Second U.S. Human West Nile Case Reported in Arizona

The second human case of West Nile virus in the United States this year has been reported in Maricopa County, Ariz.

An adult in the county developed symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus on May 8 and was admitted to hospital. The person is now fully recovered, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, New Mexico reported the first human West Nile case in the U.S. this year. The San Juan County man suffered only mild symptoms had has recovered.

The West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in New York in 1999. Since then, it's spread to many parts of the country and has killed more than 560 people in the U.S.

People infected with the virus usually develop flu-like symptoms, including nausea, muscle aches, headache and fever. Most people recover but the virus can be a deadly threat for some people, including the elderly.

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Surgeon General Links More Diseases to Smoking

A long list of diseases -- including acute myeloid leukemia and cancers of the kidney, cervix, stomach and pancreas -- have been added to the catalog of serious health problems caused by smoking.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm, pneumonia, periodontitis and cataracts are also among the diseases now linked to smoking, said a report released Thursday by U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

Current evidence doesn't offer conclusive proof that liver cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction are caused by smoking, the report said, adding that smoking may not cause breast cancer in women overall. But smoking may increase the risk of developing breast cancer, depending on a woman's genetics.

Carmona also reported that the number of Americans who smoke has dropped from about 42 percent in 1965 to about 22 percent in 2002, the last year for which such data is available, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, new government statistics also released Thursday show that while smoking has declined, the rate is not sufficient to achieve a 2010 national health objective of cutting smoking prevalence in adults to 12 percent.

The report, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covered the 1983-2002 period and found that men smoked more than women, young people smoked more than older ones, and smoking prevalence was higher for those below the poverty line and those without a college degree.

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