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Government tightening food safety standards

WASHINGTON (AP) — New safety standards aimed at reducing salmonella and E. coli outbreaks are part of a government effort to try to make food safer to eat.
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Scrub tech may have exposed thousands to hepatitis

DENVER (AP), A former surgery technician may have exposed thousands of Colorado patients to hepatitis C when she swapped her own dirty syringes for ones filled with a powerful narcotic, federal authorities said Thursday.

Kristen Diane Parker faces criminal charges for allegedly making the swaps while working at Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs and Rose Medical Center in Denver.

Authorities say Parker admitted to changing out syringes containing a saline solution with ones filled with the painkiller Fentanyl. Parker injected herself with the drug, according to a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

An affidavit by Mary F. LaFrance, an investigator for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says at least nine surgery patients at Rose have tested positive for hepatitis C, which is incurable. About 6,000 patients are being advised they may have been exposed and need to be tested.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that can cause serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer. The illness is treatable, but there is no cure. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, pain and jaundice.

Rose Medical Center officials told a news conference Thursday night they were working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine whether Parker was the source of the virus.

It could not be determined Thursday night whether Parker had an attorney.

Parker worked at Rose from Oct. 21, 2008, until April. Hospital officials say she was suspended April 13, before they learned of the cases, and then fired. She had failed a drug test by testing positive for Fentanyl.

Parker went to work for the Audubon surgery center shortly after being fired. She worked there from May 4 until Monday, Dr. J. Michael Hall, Audubon's medical director, told The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

If convicted of tampering with a consumer product and other charges, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine on the most serious charge of tampering.
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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Japan, HK report Tamiflu-resistant swine flu cases

TOKYO (AP), Japan and Hong Kong reported Friday that they have each found a patient with the type of swine flu that has proven resistance to Tamiflu, days after Denmark reported the first such case.
Meanwhile, China official Xinhua News Agency said a woman initially reported to be country's first swine flu death was actually accidentally electrocuted while taking a shower in a hospital.
In Japan, a strain of swine flu resistant to Tamiflu, the leading pharmaceutical defense against the virus, was found in a patient in western Osaka in mid-May, said Health Ministry official Takeshi Enami.
He said the strain developed in a Japanese patient who was on the drug to prevent the illness, and it has not spread to others. The patient, whose age and gender were not released, has since recovered after taking Relenza, another effective influenza drug.
In Hong Kong, a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu was found in a sample taken from a 16-year-old girl who tested positive to the flu upon her arrival from San Francisco last month, the territory's Department of Health said Friday. She has since recovered without taking Tamiflu or Relenza. The virus, however, showed sensitivity to Relenza.
Scientists have been worried that the new swine flu could swap genes with seasonal or other types of flu and perhaps mutate into a more dangerous or more infectious form.
But Enami said genetic tests on the virus from the Japanese patient found no trace of such crossing. Experts plan to conduct further tests on the virus at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo.
"We do not see it as an immediate threat to public health as long as the Tamiflu-resistant strain is not spreading from person to person," Enami said.
Until an effective vaccine is developed, the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza are considered the best available defense against the swine flu virus.
In China's coastal province of Zhejiang, police said an investigation confirmed Lou Yihong, 34, died accidentally Wednesday while showering, according to Xinhua. The report said an electricity leak in the shower bathroom was to blame.
More than 50 infuriated relatives stormed the hospital and threw rocks after finding out Lou had died, the report said.
As of Friday, 915 swine flu virus cases had been confirmed on the mainland by the Chinese Health Ministry, with no fatalities reported. Hong Kong reported 44 new infections of swine flu, bringing the city's total to 901. Japan has found 1,428 patients, but no deaths so far.
Elsewhere in Asia, Brunei reported its first swine flu-related death, a 12-year-old girl who had been battling a liver ailment, the only fatality so far among 93 patients in the tiny sultanate.
In Thailand, the Public Health Ministry reported the country's sixth swine flu death, a 30-year-old man who died Friday in a Bangkok hospital. It also reported 154 new cases Friday, bringing the country's total to 1,760. Prat Boonyavongvirot, the ministry's permanent secretary, said only 20 remained hospitalized, one in critical condition.
According to the latest report Wednesday from the U.N.'s World Health Organization, there have been 77,201 swine flu cases worldwide, and 332 deaths. The WHO report said seven of those deaths have been in Australia, three in Thailand and one in the Philippines.
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Associated Press writers Alexa Olesen in Beijing, Dikky Sinn in Hong Kong and Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Obesity among adults in US rises

WASHINGTON (AP), Obesity rates among adults rose in 23 U.S. states over the past year and did not decline anywhere, says a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

And while the U.S. has long been bracing for a surge in the government-funded medical program for the elderly as the the generation born after World War II starts turning 65, the new report makes clear that fat, not just age, will fuel much of those bills. In every state, the rate of obesity is higher among 55- to 64-year-olds ‚ the oldest boomers ‚ than among today's 65-and-beyond.

That translates into a coming jump of obese elderly patients that ranges from 5.2 percent in New York to a high of 16.3 percent in Alabama, the report concluded. In Alabama, nearly 39 percent of the oldest boomers are obese.

Health economists once made the harsh financial calculation that the obese would save money by dying sooner, notes Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust, a nonprofit public health group. But more recent research instead suggests they live nearly as long but are much sicker for longer, requiring such costly interventions as knee replacements and diabetes care and dialysis. Studies show Medicare, as the program for the elderly is known, spends anywhere from $1,400 to $6,000 more annually on health care for an obese senior than for the non-obese.

"There isn't a magic bullet. We don't have a pill for it," said Levi, whose group is pushing for health reform legislation to include community-level programs that help people make healthier choices ‚ like building sidewalks so people can walk their neighborhoods instead of drive and providing healthier school lunches.

"It's not going to be solved in the doctor's office but in the community, where we change norms," Levi said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long said that nearly a third of Americans are obese. The Trust report uses somewhat more conservative CDC surveys for a closer state-by-state look.
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On the Net:
Trust for America's Health: http://healthyamericans.org/
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: http://www.rwjf.org/

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Greek law restricts public smoking

ATHENS, Greece (AP), Europe's most nicotine-addicted nation adopted a new public smoking ban Wednesday in a bid to stub out the Greek habit of lighting up practically everywhere. Exceptions have been made for mental patients and gamblers.

Unrestricted indoor smoking in restaurants, bars, coffee shops and workplaces is now against the law, in the third ban Greece has tried to impose over the past decade.

"We want to change the mentality of many years and adapt our daily habits ... to the practices in effect in all civilized countries," Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said. "Greek society is ready for this."

European Union figures show that 37.6 percent of Greeks aged over 15 smoke on a daily basis ‚ the highest level in the 27-nation EU. According to the Health Ministry, the habit kills 20,000 Greek smokers every year, and another 700 die as a result of passive smoking.

But the government has stopped shy of imposing a blanket ban, and critics say this will render the new law as ineffective as the two previous ones ‚ which were generally ignored by smokers and authorities alike.

Small establishments will be able to choose whether they will be exclusively smoking or nonsmoking, and bigger ones can set aside smoking areas.

And all hospitals and health services will be smoke free ‚ apart from mental institutions, where patients will be able to smoke under prescription "for purely curative purposes," according to the new law.

Smokers will also be free to indulge in casino gaming areas.

Offenders will face fines ranging from euro50 for smokers to a maximum euro20,000 for the owners of bars, restaurants and coffee shops caught for multiple infractions.

A poll earlier this year found that 95 percent of nonsmokers and 62 percent of smokers backed a public smoking ban.

"It's a positive measure," said Athens kiosk worker Pavlos Giannopoulos. "It's all a matter of habit, as long as (the law) is enforced."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Page 11 of 51
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