Health Highlights: Feb. 17, 2009

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

Food Banks Throwing Out Thousands of Pounds of Recalled Food

U.S. food banks are throwing out thousands of pounds of food products recalled in the nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to Peanut Corp. of America.

The discarded products include peanut butter, cereals, cookies, nut mixes and granola bars, items which are vital to food banks because of their long shelf life and durability, the Associated Press reported.

The Houston Food Bank has thrown out 3,000 pounds of recalled products. The Cleveland Food Clinic has tossed out 1,000 pounds of food and has put another several thousands pounds of food on snacks on hold until the recall list is finalized. More than 1,300 pounds of food has been discarded or quarantined at the Food Finders Food Bank Inc. in Lafayette, Ind.

    • Food Banks Discarding Thousands of Pounds of Recalled Food
    • Counterfeit Toothbrushes Pose Choking Hazard
    • U.K. Confirms First Case of Human Mad Cow Disease in Hemophilia Patient
    • Many Factors Can Contribute to PTSD Risk

"At a time when food banks are struggling, everything inevitably has an impact," Karen Ponza, spokeswoman for the Cleveland Food Clinic, told the AP.

So far, more than 1,900 products have been recalled due to the salmonella outbreak, which has sickened nearly 600 people and caused nine deaths.


Counterfeit Toothbrushes Pose Choking Hazard

Counterfeit toothbrushes that pose a choking hazard have been distributed across Canada and consumers should check their toothbrushes to make sure they're authentic, says Health Canada.

The agency said it has received at least one report of a counterfeit product's bristles becoming dislodged and caught in a person's throat, CBC News reported.

The counterfeit toothbrushes are labeled as Colgate Navigator, Colgate Massager, Colgate 360, the Oral B Classic 40 and Oral B Contura.

Authentic Colgate toothbrushes can be identified by the packaging, labeled in English and French only, that states "Distr. by/par: Colgate-Palmolive Canada Inc." They also have a lot code molded into the brush handle just under the brush head, CBC News reported.

Genuine Oral B brushes can be identified by the Oral B logo manufactured as part of the handle, while the fake versions may have the logo printed in silver test across a peel-away label.

Consumers who suspect they have a counterfeit brush should stop using it immediately, Health Canada said.


U.K. Confirms First Case of Human Mad Cow Disease in Hemophilia Patient

The first case of the human form of mad cow disease in a hemophilia patient has been confirmed by the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The male victim, who was over 70 years old, received plasma products before rules were introduced to limit contagion. A post-mortem showed he had variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), but he showed no symptoms of the disease while alive and died of other causes, BBC News reported.

This is the first confirmed case of vCJD in up to 4,000 hemophiliac patients in the U.K. who received blood plasma transfusions between 1980 and 2001. They've been told they have a low risk of developing the disease.

"This new finding may indicate that what was until now a theoretical risk may be an actual risk to certain individuals who have received blood plasma products, although the risk could still be quite low," Prof. Mike Catchpole of the HPA's Centre for Infections told BBC News. "We recognize that this finding will be of concern for persons with hemophilia who will be awaiting the completion of the ongoing investigations and their interpretation."

This is the first case of vCJD involving plasma products, but blood transfusions have been linked to three vCJD deaths in the U.K. Most of the 164 vCJD deaths in the U.K. are believed to have been caused by eating meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).


Many Factors Can Contribute to PTSD Risk

Stress hormones, genetics and childhood events are among the factors that could influence a person's risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

One study of U.S. military personnel who were exposed to highly stressful situations found differences in stress hormone levels.

"Interestingly, there are some individuals who, when confronted with extreme stress, their hormone profile is rather unique," said Yale University psychiatrist Deane Aikins, Agence France Presse reported. "It doesn't reach the same peak as the rest of us. So we are ready to scream in our chair, and there are certain individuals who just don't get as stressed. Their stress hormones are actually lower and the peptides that down regulate that stress are quite higher."

Low IQ as early as age 5, difficult temperament at age 3, and family factors such as growing up in poverty, having a depressed mother or being separated from parents at a young age could all increase a person's risk of developing PTSD, found Harvard University public health professor Karestan Koenen and colleagues, AFP reported.

Also, "some people have genetic variants that make them more vulnerable to the effects of trauma," Koenen said.

Another study found that Vietnam veterans who suffered injuries in a certain area of the brain didn't develop PTSD.