Health Highlights: April 5, 2012

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

Rising Painkiller Drug Sales Lead to Addiction Concerns

Soaring sales of two types of prescription painkillers in certain areas of the United States have triggered concerns about an addiction epidemic fueled by a push to relieve patients' suffering.

From 2000 to 2010, there was a dramatic increase in the distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OyxContin, Percocet and Percodan, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data. In some areas, sales increased 16-fold, the Associated Press reported.

The DEA data also revealed that the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, is rising in Appalachia and the Midwest.

The increases in the use of these opioid painkillers have coincided with rising number of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and other states, the AP reported.

In 2008, opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hyrocodone caused 14,800 overdose deaths and that death toll is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The increased use of these prescription drugs is partly due to pain issues in the aging U.S. population and doctors' greater willingness to treat pain, Gregory Bunt, medical director at New York's Daytop Village chain of drug treatment clinics, told the AP.

He added that sales of the drugs are also rising due to addiction. Users become dependent on the painkillers and start "doctor shopping" in order to continue receiving prescriptions for the drugs.


Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 93 People in 19 States: CDC

A total of 93 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Ten of the ill people have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The number of people affected in each state are: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (4), District of Columbia (2), Georgia (4), Illinois (8), Louisiana (2), Maryland (8), Massachusetts (4), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (6), New York (23), North Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island (4), South Carolina (3), Texas (3), Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (8).

The CDC has previously tied the outbreak to sushi/sashimi, but no one food source has yet been conclusively pinpointed as the source of illness. The CDC said it and Food and Drug Administration are working together to investigate the outbreak and will provide updates as soon as they are available.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most people recover within 4 to 7 days without treatment, but some cases are deadly if not treated with antibiotics. The elderly, the very young and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk of a severe illness from salmonella infection.

If you suspect you have eaten contaminated food, the CDC recommends contacting your doctor. "CDC will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available," the agency said.


Education Level Affects Longevity: Study

Americans are living longer overall, but better educated people are increasingly the main beneficiaries of gains in life span, according to a new study.

University of Wisconsin researchers analyzed data from more than 3,000 counties across the United States and found that rates of premature death (before age 75) differed sharply across counties, and that a lack of college education accounted for about 35 percent of that variation from 2006 to 2008, The New York Times reported.

That was an increase from 30 percent over an equivalent period seven years earlier.

The study also found that an average increase of one year in post-secondary education levels was associated with a 16 percent decrease in years of life lost before age 75, the Times reported.


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