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Today's Health Highlights: Nov. 24, 2001

Conn. Will Re-Check Other Deaths for Anthrax Medicaid Crisis Looms Study Finds Cloned Cows Grow Up Healthy

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

Conn. Will Re-Check Other Deaths for Anthrax

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland says the state will re-examine the deaths of other elderly people to determine whether they might have died of anthrax.

The state plans to pore over the death records of all the elderly people who have died of respiratory problems since Sept. 11, the New Haven Register reports.

The move comes in reaction to the death of Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old widow who succumbed to inhalation anthrax on Wednesday. The case has sent investigators scurrying for any leads because they cannot figure out why a woman who ventured to only a few places would come down with the disease.

So far, tests of her home, her mail and the two mail centers that serve the small town of Oxford where she lived have turned up negative.


Spiraling Medicaid Costs Strap States

Skyrocketing Medicaid costs and a stumbling economy mean bad news for the millions who count on the federally funded insurance program, the Los Angeles Times reports.

As medical costs and enrollments in Medicaid spiral upward, states are struggling to keep their budgets in balance by paring benefits to millions of poor people or slashing reimbursements to providers.

Medicaid programs tend to be the biggest expense for most states, yet they are also the most needed when hard times hit, the Times says.

Here are some examples of where states are cutting back: a growing deficit in Georgia will mean a delay in plans to add people with cystic fibrosis and children of the working poor to Medicaid rolls; Indiana has cut the rates it pays to nursing homes and hospitals; Michigan has cut off funding for 19 school clinics and extra money for rural hospitals; and Florida lawmakers may roll back eligibility for pregnant women and elderly and disabled people.

And matters will only get worse if recent unemployment predictions hold true, the Times adds. A report from the Urban Institute last month suggests that if the unemployment rate hits 6.5 percent next year, Medicaid rolls will jump by 3.2 million, to more than 43 million.


Cloned Cows Grow Up Nicely

A study in the latest issue of the journal Science found that 24 cloned Holsteins are still alive and healthy up to four years after they were born, the Associated Press reports.

The cows had healthy immune systems and normal puberties. Two of the cloned cows even gave birth to what appear to be normal calves, scientists say. Six of the 30 cows evaluated died shortly after birth, a slightly higher mortality rate than normal for cows. But those who survived showed normal behavior.

The researchers note their study is one of the first to examine the health of cloned animals well into adulthood. Animals were studied at various centers in the United States, and the findings precede a meeting Tuesday before the National Academy of Sciences where cloning and animal safety issues will be discussed.


Families Blame L.I. County in West Nile Deaths

The families of two Long Island residents who died of West Nile virus say Nassau County failed to spray for infected mosquitoes.

"My father's dead because they didn't spray," the New York Times quotes Charles Fink as saying. "We're definitely going to file a lawsuit."

Fink's father, Karl Fink, 77, died early Thursday after having fought the virus for nine weeks.

Fink says he plans to file a wrongful death suit along with the family of Adeline Bisignano, who died of West Nile virus on Oct. 26. The Times says the two families, who lived less than a mile apart, didn't get to know one another till their loved ones became ill.

Nassau County sprayed insecticide in 1999, when the virus first surfaced in the New York area, and did so again last year on a much more limited basis. The county says it decided against spraying this year because it didn't find any mosquito infestation, the Times reports. Surrounding counties did spray.


U.S. Moves to Consolidate Food Inspections

The U.S. government, concerned that the nation's food supply may be the next target of terrorists, plans to revive a plan to consolidate food inspections under one agency .

The Los Angeles Times reports the current system is a hodgepodge, and the food industry is comfortable with the familiar. A dozen agencies are responsible for inspecting food, and in odd ways, the Times says. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety of cheese pizza, but the responsibility falls to the U.S. Department of Agriculture if the pizza has pepperoni on it.

Tom Ridge, the new homeland security chief, says new concerns should prompt the creation of a single agency with food safety as its primary responsibility.

Critics have called the current system duplicative and inefficient, the report says.

The food industry, however, says no change is needed. "The truth is, the system is not broken," Kelly Johnston, executive vice president and lobbyist for the National Food Processors Association, told the Times.

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