Health Highlights: Jan. 31, 2014

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

New Food Safety Rule Proposed by FDA

A new regulation to keep human and animal food safe during truck and train transportation has been proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It would define proper sanitation practices during transportation, such as proper refrigeration and protection of food, and adequate cleaning of vehicles between loads.

"This proposed rule will help reduce the likelihood of conditions during transportation that can lead to human or animal illness or injury," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in an agency news release.

The regulation would be take effect one to two years after it's finalized, depending on business size. Three public meetings on the rule will be held between Feb. 27 and March 20, and the rule will be open for public comment until May 31, 2014.

This is the seventh and final major rule introduced under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.


FDA Approves Drug for Sleep Disorder in Blind

Hetlioz, a new type of drug to treat a sleep disorder that mostly affects blind people, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Because they can't detect light, people who are blind are prone to a condition known as "non-24-hour disorder." It's estimated to strike up to 100,000 Americans, most of whom are blind, according to the Associated Press.

Given in capsules, Hetlioz is the first FDA-approved drug for the condition, the AP reported Friday.

Headache, nightmares and respiratory and urinary tract infections are among the most common side effects, and the label warns it may cause drowsiness and interfere with mental alertness. The drug is made by Washington, D.C.-based Vanda Pharmaceuticals.


Another Cruise Ship Hit by Illness Outbreak

Another cruise ship voyage has ended early due to an illness outbreak, the second such incident in a week, and the third this year.

The Caribbean Princess is returning to Houston a day early after a confirmed outbreak of norovirus. At least 165 passengers and 11 crew members on the vessel became ill, according to Princess Cruises and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NBC News reported.

On Wednesday, the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas returned early to New Jersey after nearly 700 people were sickened by what CDC officials confirmed on Friday was norovirus.

Earlier this month, the Norwegian Star cruise ship had an outbreak that sickened 130 passengers and 12 crew members, NBC News reported.


Merck Ends Chimp Research

Drug maker Merck & Co. says it will no longer use chimpanzees for research.

The drug maker joins two dozen other pharmaceutical companies and contract laboratories in promising not to use chimps for research, a trend that could lead to about 1,000 chimps in the U.S. being sent to sanctuaries by 2020, the Associated Press reported.

For several years, the Humane Society of the United States has been pushing for an end to chimp research.

"It's been a long road in trying to end the use of chimpanzees in research, and we're now at a turning point," Kathleen Conlee the group's vice president of animal research issues, told the AP. "We're going to keep on (advocating) until the chimpanzees in laboratories are all in sanctuaries."


Gynecology Board Says Members Can Treat Men

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has reversed a previous decision and now says that its members are allowed to treat men.

The ban on treating men was announced in September 2013 and caused an uproar. That led to a series of partial concessions by the board in November and December, The New York Times reported.

Board members did not grant interviews about the complete reversal of the decision, but the group issued a statement from executive director Dr. Larry Gilstrap.

It said: "This change recognizes that in a few rare instances board certified diplomates were being called upon to treat men for certain conditions and to participate in research. This issue became a distraction from our mission to ensure that women receive high-quality and safe health care from certified obstetricians and gynecologists," The Times reported.


Friday, January 31, 2014

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