Health Highlights: March 22, 2008

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

Drug Charges Against Ex-Army Nurse Tied to Hepatitis C Outbreak

The criminal case of a U.S. Army nurse charged with illegally possessing painkillers from an El Paso, Tex. military hospital has developed into a complex legal and medical puzzle, with additional lawsuits alleging the nurse caused at least 15 military service members or their relatives to be infected with an incurable type of hepatitis.

The Associated Press reports that federal prosecutors believe the nurse, retired Army captain Jon Dale Jones, may have spread hepatitis C in 2004 during surgeries at William Beaumont Army Medical Center when he stole a painkiller used as anesthesia.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Drug Charges Against Ex-Army Nurse Tied to Hepatitis C Outbreak
    • China Orders Tighter Controls on Heparin Production
    • Certain Motor Vehicle Features Benefit Seniors
    • Toys Recalled for Lead Paint Danger
    • Health Canada Issues Advisory About Carbamazepine
    • Tap Water Suspected in Colorado Salmonella Outbreak

It took three years of investigation for Jones to be charged with the theft, the wire service reported, and he worked as a nurse in Texas and Washington, D.C. after he left the Army. Just how the surgical patients -- including the son of a former commanding general, an active-duty soldier and the wife of a retired Marine Corps sergeant -- became infected isn't clear.

Jones has been federally charged with assaulting only three of the 15 patients, the A.P. reports, and possession of a controlled substance by fraud. But at least seven other people who became infected with hepatitis have sued him and the nursing agency that placed him at the Army hospital, claiming irreparable harm from hepatitis C.

Jones tested positive for hepatitis C in 2004, the A.P. reports. It is a blood-borne illness that can be treated but not cured and causes jaundice, abdominal pain, and tiredness.

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China Orders Tighter Controls on Heparin Production

China's drug agency has ordered local authorities to tighten control on the production of the blood thinner heparin. The move is a reversal of the agency's previous position that ensuring the quality of Chinese-made compounds was the responsibility of importers and importing countries, the Associated Press reported.

Tainted heparin has been linked to 19 deaths in the United States and hundreds of allergic reactions. Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had found a contaminant called oversulfated chondroitin sulfate in batches of Chinese-made heparin distributed by U.S. pharmaceuticals company Baxter International Inc.

In an order posted Friday on its Web site, China's State Food and Drug Administration said heparin producers must obtain the raw chemicals used to make heparin from registered suppliers, who must improve their product management and testing, the AP reported.

Both U.S. and Chinese authorities are continuing their investigations into how the heparin batches became contaminated with oversulfated chondroitin sulftate, which is not a naturally occurring substance. Officials haven't confirmed if the contaminant actually caused the dangerous allergic reactions.

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Certain Motor Vehicle Features Benefit Seniors

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