Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2014

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

Norovirus May Have Sickened Nearly 700 on Cruise Ship

Nearly 700 passengers and crew are now reported ill on the Royal Caribbean vessel Explorer of the Seas in what could turn out to be one of the worst norovirus outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years.

While health officials believe that norovirus is to blame, the cause of the outbreak still has to be confirmed. The ship's doctors said the symptoms experienced by patients were consistent with norovirus, the Associated Press reported.

The latest tally puts the number of ill people at 630 passengers and 54 crew members, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The vessel was scheduled to dock in Bayonne, N.J. Wednesday afternoon.

Most passengers who became ill are now up and about, according to Royal Caribbean. The CDC said that passengers who still have symptoms after leaving the ship should stay at nearby hotels or be assessed at medical centers, the AP reported.


Aleve May be Safer for Heart Than Other NSAIDs: FDA

The pain reliever Aleve may be safer for the heart than other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

On Tuesday, the agency posted a review online that said naproxen -- the main ingredient in Aleve and a number of generic pain killers -- may pose a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than ibuprofen, which is used in Advil and Motrin, the Associated Press reported.

The review -- which suggested that products with naproxen should be relabeled to highlight their heart safety -- was prompted by the release last year of an analysis that looked at 350,000 people taking different types of pain relievers. It concluded that naproxen does not carry the same heart risks as other NSAIDs.

The FDA review was released ahead of next week's meeting of a panel of outside experts who will discuss the new data and recommend whether naproxen should be relabeled, the AP reported. The FDA typically follows the advice of its expert panels.


Food Bacteria Toxin May be Linked to MS: Study

A poison created by bacteria in food may be a trigger for the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.

A toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens seems to attack the same cells that are damaged in people with MS, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, NBC News reported.

"What we've shown is the toxins target the cells that are targeted in MS," researcher Jennifer Linden said. She's presenting the findings Tuesday at an American Society for Microbiology meeting.

C. perfringens causes a million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year. The researchers analyzed a small number of food products and found that about 13 percent of them contained C. perfringens, and nearly three percent tested positive for the toxin that may be linked to MS.

While it's too soon to suggest that food poisoning may cause MS, the study does raise the possibility that C. perfringens might play a role in activating the disease, Bruce Bebo, associate vice president of discovery research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told NBC News.

About 400,000 Americans have MS.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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