Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Milk Considered Source of Food Poisoning That Killed 2 in Mass.
Massachusetts health officials have warned consumers not to drink milk produced by a local dairy, saying it was probably the source of a bacterial illness that killed two men and sickened two others, the Associated Press reported.
Whittier Farms has suspended operations and distribution, said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state director of communicable disease control, the AP reported. The news service said calls to Whittier Farms seeking comment were not immediately returned on Thursday.
The state Department of Public Health issued the warning Thursday after identifying four cases of listeriosis. Two of the victims, a 78-year-old man and a 75-year-old man, died in June and October, the AP said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal problems such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.
Some steps to take to avoid listeriosis, according to the CDC, include:
U.S. Ruling Allows Insurance Cutbacks for Retirees Over 65
U.S. employers can cut or eliminate altogether health benefits for retired people over age 65, the Equal Opportunity Commission ruled Wednesday.
The agency's decision permits the creation of two classes of retirees -- people younger than 65 who are entitled to more comprehensive benefits, and people 65 and older who can be afforded limited health benefits from their former employers or none at all, The New York Times reported. At age 65, many retirees become eligible for Medicare.
Employer-sponsored health premiums have risen an average of 6.1 percent this year and a total of 78 percent since 2001, the newspaper reported, citing statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The commission said employers are not required by federal law to offer health benefits to either active or former employees. However, in issuing its edict, the commission noted, "The final rule is not intended to encourage employers to eliminate any retiree health benefits they may currently provide."
Nonetheless, the AARP and other organizations representing seniors condemned the decision. "This rule gives employers free rein to use age as a basis for reducing or eliminating health care benefits for retirees 65 and older, said AARP attorney Christopher Mackaronis, who said the ruling could affect as many as 10 million people.
In June, a U.S. Court of Appeals decision upheld the commission's right to establish this sort of exemption to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The AARP has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision, the Times said.