Health Highlights: April 25, 2012

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

Case of Mad Cow Disease Discovered in California

A fourth case of mad cow disease has been diagnosed in the United States, this time in California, but it poses no danger to human health, U.S. Agriculture Department officials said Tuesday.

"There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal [a dairy cow]," USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said during an afternoon news conference.

According to the Associated Press, Clifford did not say when the disease was discovered or exactly where the dairy cow had been raised. He said the animal was at a rendering plant in central California when mad cow disease was diagnosed during routine testing.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), can be fatal to humans who eat the tainted beef, but the wire service reported that the World Health Organization has said that tests show humans cannot be infected by drinking milk from diseased animals. In people, eating contaminated meat is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease.

There have been three confirmed cases of mad cow disease in the United States, in Washington state in 2003, in Texas in 2005 and in Alabama in 2006, the AP reported.

Only a handful of cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease have been confirmed in people living in the United States, according to the AP, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said those were linked to meat products in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.


Report Challenges VA Claims on Speed of Mental Health Care

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide mental health care to veterans as quickly as it claims, according to an inspector general's report.

While the VA says that 95 percent of first-time patients seeking mental health care in 2011 received an evaluation within the department's goal of 14 days, the VA Office of Inspector General found that only half of patients were seen in that time frame, the Associated Press reported.

A majority of patients waited an average of about 50 days before they underwent a full evaluation.

The VA also says that 95 percent of new mental health patients in 2011 began treatment within 14 days of their desired date. But the inspector general found that this was true for only 64 percent of patients and the rest had to wait an average of 40 days, the AP reported.


Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer

Emergency rooms in Los Angeles are treating teens who suffer alcohol poisoning after they try to get drunk on liquid hand sanitizers, which contain 62 percent ethyl alcohol.

In the last few months, six such cases have been seen in two San Fernando Valley emergency departments, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press reported.

Some of the teens used salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, resulting in a powerful drink similar to a shot of hard liquor. The teens can find distillation instructions on the Internet.

While there have only been a few cases so far, it could signal a dangerous trend, according to county public health toxicology expert Cyrus Rangan, the AP reported.


Meds Helping Many Overweight Americans Control Cholesterol: Study

Despite the fact that two-thirds of American adults are overweight, only 13 percent have high total cholesterol, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Tuesday.

Experts suggest this discrepancy is largely due to the fact that so many American adults take cholesterol-lowering drugs, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC findings are from interviews and blood tests of about 6,000 adults in 2009 and 2010.

A federal government goal of having no more than 17 percent of adults with high total cholesterol was achieved more than 10 years ago for men and about five years ago for women, the AP reported.

Too much cholesterol -- a fat-like substance in the blood -- increases the risk of heart disease.

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