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Health Highlights: Oct. 29, 2012

Last Updated: October 29, 2012.

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

Novartis Flu Vaccines Banned in Six Countries

A temporary ban on the import or use of Novartis' Fluad and/or Aggripal flu vaccines has been imposed by six European countries after the company reported small particles in the vaccines to Italian officials.

Other flu vaccines are available in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, but there could be supply problems in some regions, the Associated Press reported.

Switzerland-based Novartis knew about the problem with its vaccines since July but only notified Italian authorities this month. Company spokesman Eric Althoff would not say how long Novartis waited before telling health officials.

In an email, he said that "once the deviation was seen, an investigation was started and the findings were shared with the Italian Ministry of Health," the AP reported.


New National Health Insurance Plans Soon Available to U.S. Consumers

Consumers in every state will soon have access to at least two nationwide health insurance plans operated under contract with the U.S. government.

Supporters say the plans, which are part of the health care reform law, will boost competition in state health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by just a few companies, The New York Times reported.

The national plans will compete directly with other private insurers. The premiums and benefits will be negotiated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the agency that organizes health benefits for federal government workers.

The new plans will be offered to individuals and small employers through insurance exchanges being established in every state under the health care law. The Obama administration estimates that each national plan will have 750,000 people enrolled in the first year, The Times reported.


Cheap Test Detects HIV, Other Diseases: U.K. Researchers

Researchers who developed a cheap test that can detect even low levels of viruses and some cancers say the test could lead to more widespread testing for HIV and other disease in poorer parts of the world.

The test uses a liquid that changes color to indicate either a positive (blue) or negative (red) result, BBC News reported.

The team at Imperial College London in the U.K. said the test can be configured to detect a unique marker of a disease or virus, such as a protein found on the surface of HIV.

The test, described in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is in the prototype stage and requires further testing, BBC New reported.

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