Health Highlights: April 16, 2012

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

Salmonella Outbreak in 20 States Linked to Tuna

A salmonella outbreak linked to a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product has sickened 116 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Officials said 12 people have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly 59,000 pounds of the product, labeled Nakaochi Scrape AA or AAA, has been recalled by Moon Marine USA Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. The product, which is scraped off fish bones, was sold to grocery stores and restaurants to make dishes such as sushi, sashimi and ceviche.

The FDA said many people who became ill reported eating raw tuna in sushi as "spicy tuna," the AP reported.

As of Friday, illnesses linked to the recalled product had been reported in: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (5), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), As Georgia (5), Illinois (10), Louisiana (2), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (8), Mississippi (1), Missouri (2), New Jersey (7), New York (24), North Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (5), Rhode Island (5), South Carolina (3), Texas (3), Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (12).

In related news, possible salmonella contamination has prompted Dole Food Co. to recall 756 cases of bagged Seven Lettuces salad. The bags have a use-by date of April 11, 2012, UPC code 71430 01057, and product codes 0577N089112A and 0577N089112B, the AP reported.

The recall was announced after salmonella was discovered in a random sample of the salad tested by New York State officials. No illnesses have been reported, Dole said.

The bags of salad were distributed in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, the AP reported.


U.S. Nursing Homes' Disaster Plans Fall Short: Report

U.S. nursing homes' plans to protect frail residents in the event of a natural disaster such as a tornado, flood or hurricane are inadequate, according to a report by federal government investigators being released Monday.

For example, federal government-mandated emergency plans often fail to list specific measures such as coordinating with local officials, notifying relatives, or pinning name tags and medication lists to residents in an evacuation, the Associated Press reported.

"We identified many of the same gaps in nursing home preparedness and response," the investigators from the inspector general's office of the Health and Human Services Department wrote. "Emergency plans lacked relevant information. ... Nursing homes faced challenges with unreliable transportation contracts, lack of collaboration with local emergency management, and residents who developed health problems."

The investigators said Medicare and Medicaid should add specific emergency planning and training steps to the existing requirement that nursing homes have a disaster plan, the AP reported.


Alcohol Can Help Problem Solving, Doesn't Make You Smarter: Researcher

Media reports that alcohol makes you smarter are misinterpreting a study that found that a small amount of alcohol may encourage creative problem solving, the study authors say.

"There are times where having a bit of alcohol might help you with what you are trying to accomplish," researcher Andrew Jarosz, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told ABC News.

He and his colleagues found that a certain amount of alcohol could push your mind just enough out of focus to be able to consider unorthodox solutions to a difficult problem. The amount cited in the study would be enough to make you blow a 0.075 on a breathalyzer.

The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, received extensive media coverage, with headlines such as "Drinking Alcohol Makes You Smarter," ABC News reported.

Jarosz called that a "complete misinterpretation."

"We're not going to argue 'smarter' or 'intelligence' or anything like that," he told ABC News. "In some cases, it's beneficial. Is it beneficial in all cases? No, we're not saying that."


Drug Giant Hit With $1.2 Billion in Fines

Fines of more than $1.2 billion were slapped on Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals after a jury found that the companies minimized or concealed dangers associated with the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Experts said the penalty imposed by an Arkansas judge is one of the largest on record for a state fraud case involving a drug company, The New York Times reported.

The judge issued a penalty of $1.19 billion for nearly 240,000 violations of Arkansas' Medicaid fraud law and also fined the companies $11 million for violations of the state's deceptive practices act.

Earlier this year, Texas settled a similar case with Janssen for $158 million. Last year, Janssen was hit with a $327 million penalty in South Carolina and nearly $258 million in damages in Louisiana, the Times reported.


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