Health Highlights: June 20, 2013
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Flu Shot Approved for Those With Egg Allergies
A new flu vaccine that is produced without eggs was approved by a federal advisory panel Thursday.
The unanimous vote of recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will give adults with egg allergies a way to protect themselves in the coming flu season.
Called FluBlock, the vaccine was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last January.
Using an insect virus and recombinant DNA technology, FluBlock is made by Protein Sciences Corp. of Meriden, Conn. The method used to produce the vaccine is also used in the manufacture of other vaccines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although officials do not know how many people might be allergic to eggs, an estimated one in every 66 children has the allergy. However, the new vaccine is currently only approved for use in people aged 18 to 49, the CDC added.
Side effects with FluBlock are similar to those seen with other flu vaccines, and include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue and muscle aches, the CDC said.
FluBlock has a shorter shelf life than other flu vaccines, and doctors should check the expiration date before giving it to patients, the CDC said.
U.S. Can't Force Aid Groups to Adopt Anti-Prostitution Stance: Supreme Court
The U.S. government can't force groups that receive funding for anti-HIV/AIDS programs in other countries to adopt its stance against prostitution and sex trafficking, the Supreme Court said Thursday.
A condition in the government's $60 billion program to fight infectious diseases worldwide withholds funds from groups that do not have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." But in their 6-2 decision, the justices ruled that the condition violates an organization's free-speech rights, the Washington Post reported.
"This case is not about the government's ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees," wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. "It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding."
Groups that challenged the requirement said it compromised their effectiveness because they most often work with those involved in prostitution. They also contended that it was an intrusion on their free-speech rights, the Post reported.
Illness Outbreak at Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park
A spike in cases of gastrointestinal illness among visitors at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks has led the National Park Service to tell people to make an extra effort when washing their hands.
In one case that occurred June 7, members of a tour group visiting Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone began complaining of stomach and other issues. Park employees who had contact with the group reported similar symptoms within 48 hours, CNN reported.
Tests revealed that the cause of the illnesses was highly-contagious norovirus.
In addition to visitors, suspected cases of norovirus have occurred among more than 100 Yellowstone employees and 50 Grand Teton workers, according to the National Park Service.
In response to the situation, the park service and businesses that operate in the parks are taking special measures, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection of public areas. Park workers who show signs of infection must be symptom-free for 72 hours before returning to their duties, CNN reported.
Restrict Use of Food Stamps to Buy Sugary Beverages: Mayors
The mayors of major U.S. cities want the federal government to examine ways to limit people's use of food stamps to buy soda and other sugary drinks.
In a letter sent to congressional leaders on Tuesday, the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 15 other cities said this would be a way to fight obesity and related diseases, CBS News/Associated Press reported.
"More than one third of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses," the letter stated. "As a result of obesity, this generation of American children is the first to face the possibility of a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It is time to test and evaluate approaches limiting SNAP's (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's) subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing to obesity."
"We need to find ways to strengthen the program and promote good nutrition while limiting the use of these resources for items with no nutritional value, like sugary drinks, that are actually harming the health of participants," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose office released the letter, said in a statement, CBS/AP reported. "Why should we continue supporting unhealthy purchases in the false name of nutrition assistance?"
The food stamp program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which declined to comment on the letter, which was addressed to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
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