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Health Highlights: Aug. 18, 2012

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

Cantaloupe Tainted With Salmonella Blamed for 2 Deaths

Cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana that was tainted with salmonella has been linked to two deaths and at least 141 cases of illness nationwide, the Associated Press reported.

Health officials in Indiana and Kentucky said Friday that they were investigating farms, distributors and retailers, and authorities recommended that all Indiana residents discard cantaloupes bought since July 7, the news service said.

Kentucky health officials urged residents not to eat cantaloupes after tests revealed that the fruit had the same strain of salmonella that killed two people and sickened more than 50 others in the state, the AP reported.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, salmonella -- a group of bacteria -- is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Salmonella occurs in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and sometimes on unwashed fruit and vegetables.

Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headache. Symptoms usually last four to seven days. Most people get better without treatment. It can be more serious in the elderly, infants and people with chronic conditions. If salmonella gets into the bloodstream, it can be serious, or even life-threatening. The usual treatment is antibiotics.

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FDA Orders Heart Device Maker to Study Defective Component

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday ordered medical device maker St. Jude Medical to conduct further studies on patients who received heart-device components that were subject to recall last year and have been tied to up to 20 deaths.

According to The New York Times, the FDA is also ordering that patients undergo X-rays or other scans to check for trouble with the Riata lead, a wire that connects a defibrillator to the patient's heart. The lead, which was discontinued in 2010, may be faulty because wires within the lead can break through the protective outer sheath and inadvertently shock patients. Defective leads might also prevent the defibrillator from working when needed, the Times said.

Over 128,000 patients around the world use the Riata lead, the Times said, and St. Jude last year sent an alert to doctors warning of the issue and saying it would investigate. The FDA on Thursday advised that doctors check patients for abnormalities in the insulation around the lead but, like St. Jude, the agency advised against routinely removing the leads.

"It is important to note that in published studies, the majority of leads with externalized conductors have continued to function properly," the company said in a statement.

 

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