Health Highlights: Oct. 2, 2008

Oct. 3 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

27 Bus Riders Sought in Canadian TB Probe

Canadian health officials are looking for 27 people who may have contracted tuberculosis from an infected passenger during a Toronto-to-Windsor bus trip in late August, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The infection risk is low, according to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, but those on the Greyhound bus who may have been exposed need to be evaluated. The Detroit-bound bus had 42 passengers aboard when it reached Windsor, just across the Canadian border from Detroit, and 27 passengers got off the bus there, the wire service said.

The infected person, according to Williams, had already tested positive for tuberculosis in the United States, was refused entry back into the country at the border, and was only identified as carrying a Canadian passport. Williams said officials don't know where the person was sitting on the bus or how many people sat close by, the AP reported.

Mark Nesbitt, an Ontario health spokesman, said doctors are monitoring the remaining passengers on the bus, but none appears so far ill. Passengers on the bus are being asked to contact their local public health office as soon as possible.

Williams said the infected person doesn't have the more serious forms of multi-drug resistant or extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis. TB can take three to eight weeks to incubate, officials said.


Kids' Breakfast Cereals Way Too Sweet, Report Says

A Consumer Reports nutritional analysis of 27 popular children's breakfast cereals found only four of them could be rated "very good" because of low sugar content, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The good cereals were Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios and Life. Cheerios topped the list with just 1 gram of sugar and 3 grams of fiber per serving. The ratings were based on energy density and nutrient content on the labels' serving-size recommendations and confirmed by an outside laboratory, the paper said.

Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Golden Crisp, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Rice Krispies, Cap'n Crunch and Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch fell to the bottom of the list, with all of them rated as having too much sugar and sodium and very little fiber. Golden Crisp and Honey Smacks had more than 50 percent sugar, and another nine cereals had at least 40 percent sugar.

The analysis found that Honey Smacks and 10 other cereals contained as much sugar as there is in a Dunkin' Donuts glazed doughnut, the Post reported.

Rice Krispies garnered only a "fair" rating, because the cereal was found to be high in sodium and had zero dietary fiber. Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size was rated "good," because it was low in sodium and had six grams of fiber.

While the findings may not surprise parents, Consumer Reports added one more spoonful of thought to its findings. The magazine conducted a study of 91 youngsters between the ages of 6 to 16 and found that, on average, they filled their bowls with 50 percent to 65 percent more than the suggested serving size, according to the Post.


Poor Ratings Given to 13 Child Booster Seats

Insurance industry and transportation researchers have cited 13 booster seats that don't put children in the best position to be protected in a car crash, but makers of the seats said their products meet or exceed federal regulations, the Associated Press reported.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducts crash tests of new vehicles, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute did not recommend: Compass B505, Compass B510, Cosco/Dorel Traveler, Evenflo Big Kid Confidence, Safety Angel Ride Ryte, Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega, Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit, Cosco Highback Booster, Dorel/Safety 1st (Eddie Bauer) Prospect, Evenflo Chase Comfort Touch, Evenflo Generations, Graco CarGo Zephyr, and Safety 1st/Dorel Intera, the news service said.

IIHS President Adrian Lund said the group did not review crash protection, because the seats merely elevate children so that lap and shoulder belts are positioned properly. Seat belts should fit across a child's lower hips and mid-shoulders instead of the abdomen, since injuries to the liver and spleen are possible, he said.

But manufacturers of the seats had a different view of the findings.

In a statement, Evenflo said that it conducts extensive seat testing and called the IIHS study "misleading as it fails to consider the real world use and performance of the seats tested." Dorel Juvenile Group said it welcomed the opportunity to review the evaluation, and Graco Children's Products responded that "safety is always a top priority, and nothing is more important than the well-being of the children who use our products."

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said that parents should not interpret the evaluations to mean that poorly rated seats are ineffective. "The biggest disservice this would do is to encourage people to move out of booster seats, because we know they're an effective restraint, we know they reduce the risk of injury and the risk of fatality," said Dr. Kristy Arbogast, who researches child passenger safety issues at the hospital. She suggested that parents buying booster seats try them out to see how seat belts fit on their child, the AP reported.


Melamine Found in 31 Chinese Milk Batches

Twelve more Chinese dairy companies were named as violators after new tests found 31 batches of milk powder tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The contaminated products, ranging from baby formula to chocolate, have been blamed for four children's deaths, and 13,000 child hospitalizations.

So far, 27 people have been arrested in connection with the scandal. The new batches tested were mostly milk powder products for adults, ranging from full fat milk powder to milk powder called high in calcium and zinc. Tests have also found melamine in 24 batches of liquid milk produced by three of China's best known dairy firms, AP said.

The recent tests found that nine batches containing melamine were produced by Sanlu, the company at the center of the scandal. Sanlu is a state-owned joint venture with Fonterra, a New Zealand dairy cooperative. Meanwhile, in other developments:

  • Hong Kong's food safety agency said it found melamine in a sample of Lotte Cream Cheese Cake manufactured by Japan's Lotte China Foods Co. Ltd., in mainland China.
  • In Thailand, inspectors impounded 80 tons of Chinese milk powder. The importer denied any contamination.
  • Australian food regulators recalled Lotte Koala Biscuits, a popular line of cookies, as a precaution, following reports of melamine contamination.
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    Medicare to End Payments to Hospitals for Certain Medical Errors

    Starting Oct. 1, Medicare will no longer reimburse hospitals for the additional expense of treating patients who are injured while in their care.

    Medicare, which provides insurance coverage for older Americans and the disabled, has identified 10 "reasonably preventable" conditions for which it will no longer reimburse hospitals. They include patients who receive incompatible blood transfusions; patients who develop infections after certain surgeries; and patients who must undergo a second operation to remove a medical tool, such as a sponge, left inside them. Also on the list are serious bed sores, injuries from falls, and urinary tract infections caused by catheters, The New York Times reported.

    The new regulations, authorized by Congress, will also prevent hospitals from billing patients directly for procedures related to medical errors.

    The regulations could apply to hundreds of thousands of hospital stays; Medicare covers an estimated 12.5 million stays annually. They are expected to result in savings of approximately $21 million a year, a small slice of the $110 billion spent on inpatient care in 2007, the newspaper said.

    Still, they are viewed as another step in the Bush administration's drive to overhaul the nation's medical payment system, which has been criticized by many as driving up costs by rewarding the quantity of care, not the quality of care, the Times said.