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Health Highlights: Sept. 25,  2009

Last Updated: September 25, 2009.

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

Possible Link Between Diabetes Treatment Januvia and Pancreatitis

There may be a link between the diabetes treatment Januvia and cases of acute pancreatitis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday.

The agency said that between October 2006 and February 2009, there were 88 cases of acute pancreatitis reported in patients taking Januvia, the Associated Press reported.

"It is recommended that health care professionals monitor patients carefully for the development of pancreatitis after initiation or dose increases," the FDA said in a news release. Januvia should be used with caution and with appropriate monitoring in patients with a history of pancreatitis.

The FDA is working with drug maker Merck & Co. to include new warning information on the drug's label, the AP reported.

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Whooping Cough Vaccination Recommended for Adults and Teens

Most adults and teens should be vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis), says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Many people believe that whooping cough is no longer a major public health concern in the United States, but health experts estimate there are up to 600,000 cases each year in adults alone, according to the AAFP.

The organization this week launched a public health initiative to promote awareness about the importance of whooping cough vaccination to protect adolescents and adults from this highly contagious respiratory disease.

"For protection against whooping cough, health experts ... recommend that most adolescents and adults get a single dose of the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine to replace Td (tetanus and diphtheria toxoids)," Dr. Ted Epperly, president of the AAFP, said in a news release.

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Toxins in Drinking Water at Thousands of U.S. Schools

Unsafe levels of lead, pesticides and other types of toxins have been found in drinking water at thousands of schools across the United States over the last decade, according to an analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data by the Associated Press.

Toxic contamination of drinking water is most common in schools with wells, which account for up to 11 percent of the 132,500 schools in the country. About 20 percent of schools with their own water supply violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in the past decade.

The number of violations increased over that time because of stricter standards for such contaminants as arsenic and some disinfectants, the EPA told the AP. The EPA doesn't have the power to require drinking water testing for all schools.

"It's an outrage," Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech who has been honored for his work on water quality, told the AP. "If a landlord doesn't tell a tenant about lead paint in an apartment, he can go to jail. But we have no system to make people follow the rules to keep school children safe?"

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Many U.S. Parents Underestimate Swine Flu Risk for Kids: Survey

Only 40 percent of American parents plan to have their children vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus even though the flu has become more active now that children are back in school, a new survey found.

A vaccine against the H1N1 virus has been tested and is expected to be available in October.

Among the parents who don't plan on having their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, 46 percent said they're not worried about their children getting swine flu and 20 percent said they believe the flu isn't serious, according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which surveyed 1,678 parents from Aug. 13 to 31.

"This information about parents' plans to vaccinate their kids against H1N1 flu suggests that parents are much less concerned about H1N1 flu than seasonal flu for their kids. That perception may not match the actual risks," Dr.Matthew Davis, director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release.

The survey found racial/ethnic differences. More than half of Hispanic parents said they've have their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, compared with 38 percent of white parents and 30 percent of black parents.

Rates of illness and hospitalization related to H1N1 flu are higher for children than for other age groups, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the survey found that only one-third of parents believe H1N1 flu will be worse for children than seasonal flu.

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House Passes Bill to Halt Medicare Part B Premium Hike

A bill to eliminate all premium increases next year for Medicare coverage of doctor visits was passed by the House Thursday in a 406-to-18 vote.

Supporters noted that older Americans aren't expected to get a cost-of-living increase from Social Security next year and therefore shouldn't have to pay higher Medicare Part B premiums, the Associated Press reported. In most cases, Medicare premiums are deducted from Social Security payments.

Most Medicare recipients are already exempt from Part B premium increases when there is no increase in Social Security payments. But the bill would prevent monthly premium increases of $8 to $23 for several million people.

The bill, which wouldn't affect scheduled premium increases for the Medicare prescription drug plan, now goes to the Senate, the AP reported.

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Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized Briefly

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized overnight Thursday after she fell ill at work after receiving a treatment for anemia.

Ginsberg, 76, was released Friday morning from Washington Hospital Center and was expected back in her office later in the day, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Ginsberg received an iron sucrose infusion to treat an iron deficiency anemia that was diagnosed in July. About an hour later, she became lightheaded and fatigued. She was found to have slightly low blood pressure, which can occur after the type of treatment she'd received earlier, the court said.

In February, Ginsberg underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. At the time, doctors said they found no spread of the cancer elsewhere, the AP reported. Ginsberg later said the surgery completely removed the cancer but that she was to undergo chemotherapy. Anemia is a common side effect of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.


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