Health Highlights: Nov. 22, 2013

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

FDA Approves Bird Flu Vaccine

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent H5N1 influenza, known as avian or bird flu. The vaccine will not be commercially available but will be added to the nation's anti-flu stockpile. It's specifically meant for use in people aged 18 and older at increased risk for H5N1 virus exposure.

Bird flu is typically spread among poultry infected by certain influenza A viruses. Outside the United States, however, there have been cases when people in close contact with infected poultry have died or become severely ill. About 60 percent of infected people die, according to the World Health Organization. Because wild birds continue to be infected, the potential for a human pandemic exists, according to an FDA news release.

"This vaccine could be used in the event that the H5N1 avian influenza virus develops the capability to spread efficiently from human to human, resulting in the rapid spread of disease across the globe," Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the news release.

The new vaccine is called Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Monovalent Vaccine, Adjuvanted. It contains an oil-in-water emulsion -- the adjuvant. Adjuvants enhance or direct the immune response of the person receiving the vaccination. The vaccine is made by ID Biomedical Corporation of Quebec (a division of GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals). It will be included in the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed by U.S. public health officials if needed.


Nearly 2/3rds of Americans Believe People Should be Allowed to Die in Certain Situations: Poll

A growing number of Americans believe that patients should be allowed to die in certain situations, according to a new survey.

It found that 62 percent of the nearly 2,000 adult respondents said that people who are in a great deal of pain and have no hope of improvement have a moral right to end their lives. That's up from 55 percent in 1990, CBS News reported.

The Pew Research Center poll also revealed that Americans are still divided on whether doctors should be able to help terminally-ill people end their lives, with 49 percent opposed and 47 percent in favor.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said doctors should always do everything possible to save a life, no matter what the circumstances are, the survey found. That number more than doubled since 2013, CBS News reported.


U.S. Lifts Ban on Transplantation of HIV-Infected Organs

Legislation lifting a ban on transplanting organs infected with HIV was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Under the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, transplants would only be allowed between patients already infected with HIV, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

The new act was welcomed by the American Society of Transplantation.

"The HOPE Act is a common sense policy proposal that will improve the lives of many patients in need of organ transplants," said society president Dr. Dan Salomon, CBS News/AP reported.

"The AST and its thousands of professionals worldwide strongly support this legislative proposal allowing for greater use of life saving donor organs and much-needed research in the area of HIV organ donation and transplantation," he added.

The White House website says the HOPE Act will establish "criteria and quality standards for the research and transplantation of such organs," and also allow "an exception to a Federal criminal prohibition on the knowing donation or sale of HIV infected organs."

The bill was first introduced to the Senate in February of this year, with bipartisan backing, CBS News/AP reported.

HIV can be spread through organ transplants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Hugh Jackman Treated for Skin Cancer

Actor Hugh Jackman said Friday that he has been treated for skin cancer on his nose and urged others to use sun protection and get checked for the disease.

In a note posted on Instagram, the 45-year-old "Wolverine" star revealed that he was diagnosed with a common form of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is rarely fatal. He also included a selfie of his bandaged nose, but did not say when his treatment took place, the Associated Press reported.

"Deb said to get the mark on my nose checked. Boy, was she right!" Jackman wrote, referring to his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness.

He added: "Please don't be foolish like me. Get yourself checked. And USE sunscreen!!!" the AP reported.


Deaths Lead to Recall of Baby Monitors

About 600,000 baby monitors are being recalled after two babies strangled to death on the device's cord, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The recall covers Angelcare Movement and Sound Monitors with Sensor Pads that were made between 1999 and 2013. The cord, which is attached to the monitor's sensor pad is placed under the crib mattress, poses a strangulation risk if the child pulls the cord into the crib and it becomes wrapped around the neck.

Two infant deaths linked to the monitors have been reported to the CPSC: a 13-month-old girl who died in San Diego in 2011 and an 8-month-old boy who died in Salem, Ore. in 2004. In both cases, the infants pulled the sensor pad cord into the crib.

Quebec-based Angelcare Monitors Inc. is providing consumers with a repair kit that includes rigid protective covers through which the sensor pad cords can be threaded, a new electric cord warning label about the strangulation risk, and revised instructions, CPSC said.


NFL Team Owner Funds Brain Injury Research

The owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks announced Thursday that he'll fund a two-year, $2.4 million study into whether repeated blows to the head can lead to brain diseases later in life.

The donation from Paul Allen -- a co-founder of Microsoft -- will be used by researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the University of Washington to examine donated brains for links between head injuries and later problems such as dementia and Parkinson's disease, the Associated Press reported.

The brains will come from the Group Health brain bank, which has more than 500 brains that were donated during the past 25 years by older Seattle adults.

Concussion-related brain damage among football players is a major issue. About 19,000 retired NFL players became eligible for money and medical testing under a recent $765 million deal reached with the NFL to settle concussion lawsuits. The Seattle study has no financial connection with that settlement, the AP reported.

Friday, November 22, 2013

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