Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Ban Handshakes in Health Care Settings: Experts
Patient handshakes with doctors, nurses and dentists should be
banned in order to reduce the risk of infections, experts say.
Instead of handshakes, health care professionals and patients
should use alternatives such as a hand wave, a bow or a
hands-together Namaste, according to an editorial in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
They also said that hospitals and other health care facilities
should post signs saying they are "handshake free zones,"
The editorial is calling for a handshake ban because rates of
hand washing among both patients and health care providers are too
low, despite ongoing public education efforts about the importance
of hand hygiene.
For example, rates of hand washing among doctors, nurses and
health care volunteers are around 40 percent, according to
Action Urged on VA Health Care Problems
Frustration is mounting about the lack of action over
allegations of problems at Veterans Affairs medical facilities that
may have led to the deaths of an unknown number of veterans while
they waited for care.
There have been reports of falsified patient appointment
documentation and treatment delays at Veterans Affairs health
centers. In one case, sources at the Phoenix VA hospital claim that
dozens of veterans died while awaiting treatment at the facility,
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars are outraged and
frustrated because nearly a month after the allegations about
problems at VA medical facilities became public "we still do not
know who the veterans are who may have died waiting for care," Ryan
Gallucci, the group's deputy director for national legislative
service, said at a hearing Thursday of the Senate Veterans Affairs
"If the system is failing, it is their duty to fix it," Gallucci said of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and his staff, the APreported.
The VA, which serves about 9 million veterans a year, operates
the largest single health care system in the nation.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., noted that reports of problems at VA
health centers date back at least 14 years, and that each account
of problems has been followed by promises of action, the
"We have come to the point where we need more than good intentions," Murray told Shinseki at the hearing. "What we need from you now is decisive action to restore veterans' confidence in VA, create a culture of transparency and accountability and change these system-wide, yearslong problems."
The VA is "suffering from an absence of public leadership and is
foundering as a result," Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said at the
The government has "has failed to respond in an effective
manner" to concerns raised about VA facilities, Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., said. "This has created in our veterans community a crisis
of confidence toward the VA."
Shinseki, who has led the VA since 2009, has pledged to release
a preliminary report within 3 weeks, and another report from the
VA's inspector general is due in August, the
In addition, deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors was
selected by President Barack Obama to review VA health care
policies and procedures.
At Thursday's hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told
Shinseki it was time to call in the FBI, "given that the (inspector
general's) resources are so limited, that the task is so
challenging and the need for results is so powerful."
If the VA director does not ask for the FBI's help, Blumenthal
said he "will almost certainly make the request on my own" to
Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey, the
Measles Virus Put Woman's Cancer into Remission: Study
A highly concentrated dose of measles virus has put a woman's
incurable cancer into remission, according to researchers.
Stacy Erholtz, 49, had undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy
and stem cell transplants to treat the blood cancer multiple
myeloma, but she suffered relapses every time,
Mayo Clinic scientists gave Erholtz and five other multiple
myeloma patients a highly-concentrated dose of lab-engineered
measles virus. Erholtz was cancer-free for nine months after
receiving the measles virus.
None of the other patients in the study went into remission, and
doctors recently used radiation therapy to treat a small tumor in
"The idea here is that a virus can be trained to specifically damage a cancer and to leave other tissues in the body unharmed," study author lead author Dr. Stephen Russell said.
The researchers noted that thousands of other cancer patients
have been treated with viruses, but this is the first time that
remission has occurred in a patient with cancer throughout the
"I think we succeeded because we pushed the dose higher than others have pushed it," Russell said. "And I think that is critical. The amount of virus that's in the bloodstream really is the driver of how much gets into the tumors."
Life Expectancy Rises Worldwide: WHO
People worldwide are living longer than ever before and there
have been significant gains in some poor nations, according to a
World Health Organization report.
The agency said the average girl and boy born in 2012 can expect
to live to ages 73 and 69, respectively, which is six years longer
than people born in 1990,
In the United States, life expectancy is now 81 for women and 76
for men. But the U.S. ranks 37th overall and is not in the top 10
for either gender. The longest life expectancies are for women in
Japan (87) and for men in Iceland (81.2).
The WHO said a number of countries have seen double-digit rises
in life expectancy since 1990, including Liberia (from 42 to 62),
Ethiopia (from 45 to 64), Maldives (58 to 77), Cambodia (54 to 72),
Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) (50 to 66) and Rwanda (48 to
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