Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2008

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

FEMA Agrees to Test Trailers for Formaldehyde Levels

People living in trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after hurricanes savaged the Gulf Coast in 2005 can file a request to get their units tested for formaldehyde contamination, the Associated Press reports.

This decision comes after results of testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that fumes from 519 trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi averaged about five times higher than levels found in most modern homes. In some trailers, the levels were nearly 40 times higher, prompting concerns that the residents could come down with breathing problems, the A.P. reported.

    • FEMA Agrees to Test Trailers for Formaldehyde Levels
    • Hepatitis A May Have Infected 'A List' Celebrities at Manhattan Nightclub
    • Insurer Ordered to Pay Breast Cancer Patient $9 Million After Canceling Coverage
    • Quitting Smoking More Difficult for Blacks, Hispanics: Study
    • Companies Agree to Halt Unapproved Health Claims About Products
    • More Countries Reporting Tamiflu-Resistant Flu Viruses

FEMA provided about 120,000 travel trailers to victims of the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2006, some occupants began reporting headaches and nosebleeds. The complaints were linked to formaldehyde, a colorless gas with a pungent smell used in the production of plywood and resins, according to the A.P.

FEMA announced late last week that it would allow free testing for anyone living in government-issued trailers associated with the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as people living in trailers associated with tornadoes, floods and other disasters during the past two years.

"We do not want people exposed to this for very much longer," Mike McGeehin, director of a CDC division that focuses on environmental hazards, told the wire service. About 200 trailers and mobile homes would be tested each week, FEMA officials told the A.P..


Hepatitis A May Have Infected 'A List' Celebrities at Manhattan Nightclub

In yet another instance of disease not discriminating, hundreds of guests who attended a 30th birthday party at a popular new York City nightclub for actor Ashton Kutcher early in February may have been exposed to hepatitis A and might have to be vaccinated.

The Associated Press reports that a bartender at the Greenwich Village hotspot Socialista has been diagnosed with the highly infectious disease, which is spread through simple physical contact, such as shaking hands, a kiss on the cheek or merely touching an object like a glass or a bowl held by someone with the disease.

More than 700 people -- many of them celebrities such as Kutcher's wife Demi Moore, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bruce Willis -- were reported to have attended the party, the wire service reported, although there was no confirmation that anyone had received a vaccination.

Hepatitis A is rarely fatal, the A.P. reports, but it can last a long time. It comes from fecal matter, and people exposed to it should get a vaccine injection within two weeks of exposure.


Insurer Ordered to Pay Breast Cancer Patient $9 Million After Canceling Coverage

A California breast cancer patient whose insurance company stopped paying for her chemotherapy treatments before they were completed has been awarded $9 million.

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