Health Highlights: March 23, 2008

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

Life Expectancy Gap Continues to Grow Between Richer, Poorer Americans

The disparity in life expectancy has almost doubled between more affluent Americans and its poorest residents over an 18-year period, the New York Times reports.

Citing new government data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 project, the newspaper says that U.S. residents at top income levels can expect to live an average of 4.5 years longer than the poorest Americans -- 79.2 years vs. 74.7 years. What's even more troubling, the Times reports, is that the information from 1998-2000 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows a dramatic increase from the same information from 1980-1982. During that period, the longevity disparity between the richest and poorest Americans was 2.8 years -- 75.8 vs 73.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Life Expectancy Gap Continues to Grow Between Richer, Poorer Americans
    • 50 Cases of Salmonella Poisoning Linked to Imported Cantaloupes
    • Drug Charges Against Ex-Army Nurse Tied to Hepatitis C Outbreak
    • China Orders Tighter Controls on Heparin Production
    • Toys Recalled for Lead Paint Danger
    • Health Canada Issues Advisory About Carbamazepine
    • Tap Water Suspected in Colorado Salmonella Outbreak

Why is this gap widening, despite advances in medical knowledge and better treatment options? According to the Times, medical experts give these explanations, among others:

Better-educated, more affluent people can take advantage of the latest advances in heart disease and cancer treatment than the poor.

Better-educated, more affluent people smoke less than poorer people.

Poorer people are exposed to unhealthier food and more dangerous living conditions, than better-educated, affluent people.

Poorer people are less likely to have health insurance and less likely to receive checkups and engage in measures to prevent the onset of some diseases.

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50 Cases of Salmonella Poisoning Linked to Imported Cantaloupes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is attributing the occurrence of 50 cases of salmonella poisoning in 16 states to cantaloupes imported from Honduras.

In a March 22 news release, the FDA says it has advised U.S. grocery companies, produce wholesalers and food service operators to remove cantaloupes from the Honduran grower and packer Agropecuaria Montelibano, because of the possibility they contain the bacterium Salmonella Litchfield, which can cause intestinal illness in humans. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

While it is difficult for consumers to determine the origin of fruit they buy, the FDA is asking people who have recently bought cantaloupes to check with the place of purchase to determine if the fruit came from the Honduran grower in question. If it was, consumers should throw away the cantaloupes, the FDA says.

Fifty cases of Salmonella poisoning have been reported in 16 states with 14 hospitalizations, the FDA says. There have been no fatalities. The affected states span the country: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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