Health Highlights: May 3, 2012

Topics: Press, Medical / Health Reporting

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

U.S. Health Officials Link Outbreak of Rare Eye Infection to Florida Pharmacy

Thirty-three cases of a rare eye infection spanning seven states were reported Thursday by U.S. health officials, who say they have traced the products linked with the outbreak to a Florida pharmacy.

Many of the eye infections have been traced to a dye and an injection including the corticosteroid triamcinolone from Franck's Compounding Lab, in Ocala. According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was published Thursday, 20 of the cases appear to be linked to the dye and 13 are connected with triamcinolone. All the products involved were bought from Franck's, the report stated.

Some type of eye procedure that included surgery or injections was involved in all 33 cases; 23 of the patients suffered vision loss and 24 had to have another surgical procedure, the CDC report indicated. California health officials first alerted the CDC in March after nine patients treated at one center in that state developed the rare eye infection late last year. Meanwhile, Franck's recalled the dye lots and a single lot of triamcinolone in March.

The ongoing investigation has involved numerous state and local health departments, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When FDA officials tested unopened bottles of dye and unused syringes at Franck's, numerous species of bacteria and funguses were found, according to the CDC report.

Officials from Franck's said in a statement that several changes have been made at the lab to assure product safety, including hiring a pharmacist to oversee quality assurance, the Associated Press reported.

While the investigation is continuing, federal health officials advise doctors and patients to avoid "compounded products labeled as sterile from Franck's," the CDC report stated.

According to the AP, health officials noted that Franck's had mixed supplements in 2009 that wound up killing 21 elite polo horses. The owners of the ponies have since filed a lawsuit against the company, which admitted to putting too much selenium in the horse supplement mix, the wire service reported.

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Ex-NFL Star's Death Likely to Spur Questions About Concussions

The apparent suicide of retired NFL star linebacker Junior Seau is likely to raise questions about the possible role of a brain disorder that results from repeated concussions, according to Scientific American.

Seau, 43, was found dead Wednesday in his California home after reportedly shooting himself in the chest. It's unknown what may have prompted him to commit suicide, authorities said.

Repeated concussions can cause a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can produce dementia and other types of cognitive dysfunction. The National Football League has had to contend with a growing incidence of CTE, Scientific American noted.

In 2011, former NFL safety Dave Duerson committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest and left instructions that his brain be used for research on CTE.

No reports have emerged so far that Seau suffered from dementia-like symptoms. Tests will be needed to determine if he had CTE, Scientific American reported.

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California Researcher's Death Under Investigation

A rare strain of bacteria may have caused the death of a researcher at a Veteran's Affairs infectious diseases lab in California.

The San Jose Mercury News said that the unnamed 25-year-old man died over the weekend shortly after he asked friends to take him to a hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Health officials are investigation the case and trying to locate everyone who had close contact with the researcher during the time he may have been infected.

Antibiotic were being given to the man's friends and co-workers, as well as about 60 health workers involved in his treatment, said San Francisco Department of Public Health spokeswoman Eileen Shields, the AP reported.

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Offspring of Cow With Mad Cow Disease Was Healthy: USDA

An offspring of the California cow with mad cow disease tested negative for the illness, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Wednesday.

The animal was found in another state, euthanized, and brain samples were sent to the national laboratory. Officials did not name the state where the offspring was found, the Associated Press reported.

It was part of the ongoing investigation into the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a 10-year-old cow that was euthanized at a Tulane County dairy in mid-April. That dairy and another associated with it are under quarantine.

The calf ranch where the diseased cow was raised before being sold into dairy production is being investigated, but officials said they haven't located for testing the cattle that were raised with the cow that became sick, the AP reported.

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