Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Expand Emergency Access to Life-Saving Allergy Medicine for Children PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 15 August 2011 12:50

Law Expands Options for Schools in Stocking, Administering Epi-Pens

CHICAGO – August 15, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to increase access to potentially life-saving medicine for children with severe allergies. House Bill 3294, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, allows schools to stock and utilize epinephrine auto-injectors (often known as ‘epi-pens’) in the case of life-threatening allergic reactions.

“When a child suffers a severe allergic reaction, every second counts,” Governor Quinn said. “With food allergies on the rise, we take action to help children with dangerous allergies. This law allows our schools to be prepared and for school nurses to take the immediate action that could save a child’s life.”

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) and Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston), the new law allows schools to keep a supply of emergency epinephrine auto-injectors for students. The supply can be used in an emergency if a child forgets their prescribed epi-pen, or when a severe reaction requires a second dose. In addition, the law allows school nurses to administer epi-pens to any child suspected of having an anaphylactic (life-threatening allergic) reaction, regardless of whether the child has been previously diagnosed with an allergy. The law also protects all school personnel from liability when an epi-pen is administered in good faith. It goes into effect immediately. 

A growing percentage of children in the United States are being diagnosed with food allergies. Recent studies suggest that one in 13 children are affected by food allergies. Nearly 40 percent of children with food allergies have a history of severe reaction, and 30 percent are allergic to multiple foods. The most common food allergen is peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish.

Under current law, students with severe allergies may carry their own personally-prescribed epi-pen at school and may allow specific school personnel to administer it in case of emergency. However, before House Bill 3294 was signed into law, schools were prohibited from administering epinephrine auto-injectors to children that had forgotten their epi-pens or to children that had never been diagnosed with a severe allergy. Schools were instead required to dial 911, potentially losing key moments during a life-threatening reaction.

A quarter of anaphylactic reactions amongst children involved individuals that had not been previously diagnosed with a severe allergy. Twenty-five percent of first-time reactions to peanuts or tree nuts among children occurred in a school setting. In instances of epi-pen administrations at schools, 20 percent involved students whose condition was unknown at the time.

“I keep an epi-pen with me because I have severe allergies,” Sen. Schoenberg said. “Quite a few children have food allergies, and many have reactions at school if they are unknowingly exposed to an allergen that triggers an attack. Schools should be able to respond quickly and appropriately to increase the child’s chance of survival in the case of a serious allergic reaction.”

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing due to swelling and/or spasm in the airways, loss of consciousness, and loss of heartbeat. Anaphylaxis results in the hospitalization of 300,000 children each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, administering an epinephrine auto-injector is the best response to a child having an anaphylactic reaction.

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Turkey Recall Is Reminder to Follow Food Safety Practices PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 11 August 2011 23:46

AMES, Iowa – As consumers check their refrigerators and freezers for recalled fresh and frozen ground turkey products, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach encourages following food safety best practices all the time.

“Food recalls and salmonella outbreaks certainly get people thinking more about food safety,” said Catherine Strohbehn, an ISU Extension specialist and professor in hotel, restaurant and institution management. “However, Iowans should always be mindful about food safety when purchasing, storing, preparing and serving food. That’s why Iowa State provides consumers, foodservice operators, students and educators with 24/7 access to research-based, unbiased information on food safety and quality at www.iowafoodsafety.org.”

On Aug. 3, Cargill initiated a voluntary recall of approximately 36 million pounds of ground turkey products produced at its Springdale, Ark., plant, as reported on the Cargill News Center website. As of Aug. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 78 people in 26 states had been confirmed with SalmonellaHeidelberg infections and that eating ground turkey was the likely source of this outbreak. One person from Iowa has been affected. CDC provides a summary of the situation at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg/index.html.

“Symptoms of most salmonella infections are the usual of any foodborne illness — diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps manifesting eight to 72 hours after ingesting the contaminated food. Affected individuals also may experience chills, headaches and sustained vomiting. Many of these symptoms are similar to those experienced with the flu, so often people don’t realize they have a foodborne illness,” Strohbehn said. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.

Cargill has posted a list of recalled ground turkey products at http://www.cargill.com/news-center/news-releases/2011/NA3047807.jsp, Strohbehn noted. Consumers should return opened or unopened packages to the store where purchased for a full refund.

Strohbehn recommends the following general food safety best practices:

Cook foods thoroughly to recommended end point temperatures. For poultry, this is a minimum of 165 F. Use a meat thermometer rather than relying only on cooking times listed on the package, because oven temperature sensors will vary. Looking and touching are not good indicators of doneness — only a calibrated thermometer can tell for sure.

Keep cold foods cold either by refrigeration (below 41 F) or by freezing. Put cold foods away after shopping first, rather than after canned goods. Don’t leave potentially hazardous foods out at room temperature for more than two hours. In summer, don’t leave these foods out for more than one hour.

Separate raw from cooked or ready-to-eat foods, and separate clean from soiled — chefs use the term mise en place, or everything in its place. Be mindful of this concept when working in the kitchen.

Keep it clean. Keep hands clean and keep materials that contact food clean. Clean means washing and rinsing using cleaning cloths and brushes designated for food surfaces only. Consumers may wish to sanitize certain surfaces after cleaning, such as the cutting board. Use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach with 1 gallon of water and allow contact for at least 7 seconds. Let the product air dry.

More information is available from the ISU Extension Food Safety Project website, www.iowafoodsafety.org.

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Grant of $30,000 to Help Anhydrous Ammonia Facilities in Iowa Comply with Regulations PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Kris Lancaster   
Thursday, 11 August 2011 23:20

(Kansas City, Kan., Aug. 9, 2011) - EPA has awarded the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) $30,000 to assist with outreach, education and implementation of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program. All fertilizer facilities that handle, process or store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are subject to EPA’s chemical safety requirements. There are approximately 700 agricultural retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Iowa.

“This grant is designed to prevent releases and protect the health and safety of area residents, and enhance communications with local emergency responders and regulated facilities,” said Karl Brooks, regional administrator. “IDALS is receiving this funding to conduct on-site audits, workshops and follow-up safety assessments at agricultural retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Iowa.”

Anhydrous ammonia is generally safe provided handling, storage and maintenance procedures are followed. However, it is toxic and can be a health hazard. Inhaling anhydrous ammonia can cause lung irritation and severe respiratory injuries.

EPA Region 7 receives more accidental release reports for ammonia than for any other chemical.  In addition to releases caused by transportation accidents, human error and equipment failure, a number of releases have been caused by anhydrous ammonia thefts. Anhydrous ammonia is a key ingredient in the illegal production of methamphetamine. When stolen, the toxic gas can be unintentionally released, causing injuries to emergency responders, law enforcement personnel, the public and the criminals themselves.

Retailers were first required to be in compliance with the Risk Management Program in 1999.  EPA then started facility inspections and enforcement of the program, which includes five components: hazard assessment system, management, accident prevention, emergency response and submittal of a risk management plan.

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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Improve Health of Illinois Residents PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Thursday, 11 August 2011 23:19

New Laws Will Increase Coverage of Preventative Care, Patients’ Right to Know

CHICAGO – August 9, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed four new laws designed to improve the health of residents throughout Illinois. The new laws will: require insurance coverage of diabetes management education programs; improve dental care for children; increase education on the importance of preventative cardiovascular screenings; and allow patients to access a vast online database of information regarding Illinois’ 46,565 physicians and surgeons.

“Preventative care is the key to staying healthy. Cardiovascular checkups, proper diabetes management and good dental health for our kids will save and improve lives by helping people prevent minor health issues from becoming emergencies,” Governor Quinn said. “Another key to good health is a great doctor, which is why we’re ensuring that all of the important information needed to select a physician is online and available 24 hours a day.”

Governor Quinn today signed House Bill 2249, which requires insurance companies to cover education programs to help diabetics maintain their A1C levels within normal ranges. The A1C test measures how well diabetes is managed over time by calculating the percentage of hemoglobin that is coated with sugar. Patients with high A1C levels have poor blood sugar control, which raises the risk for complications. The A1C test has become the industry standard diagnostic test and is considered the most useful diagnostic tool available according to the American Diabetes Association. Sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) and Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), this law goes into effect Jan. 1.

“This new legislation will add educational programs to diabetes self-management training to ensure that patients are receiving the full scope of information they need to manage their disease,” said Rep. Hernandez, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Managing the body’s glucose levels, or A1C levels, is one more important way for those living with diabetes to reduce complications.”

The Governor also took action today to improve access to dental care for low-income children. Effective immediately, Senate Bill 1948 requires the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to work with the dental community to develop and promote “dental homes” for children covered under CHIP, All Kids and Medicaid programs. Under the dental home concept, dentists would collaborate to deliver comprehensive, coordinated and family-centered preventive and restorative oral health care services. The new law builds on a national campaign by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to address the dental needs of children in Head Start programs by creating partnerships with dentists and relevant organizations. The law was sponsored by Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero).

"This new law will help to address the issue of dental care for children who are part of the All Kids program or other state insurance program that cover our youth," stated Senator Delgado, Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee.  "Currently, there are very few dentists available in some areas of the state and even fewer who accept patients under the state insurance system."

“Providing a dental home for children goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to promote preventive health care measures for children and families that keep them healthy, instead of just paying the bills after they get sick,” HFS Director Julie Hamos said. “Our goal is to improve the oral health of children. Establishing a dental home will help assure that children receive comprehensive dental services – both ongoing preventive services and treatment, if needed.”

House Bill 3039 requires insurers to provide annual information regarding the importance and value of early detection and proactive management of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more women than the next five causes of death combined. Minority women are especially impacted; nearly half of African American women (45 percent) have some form of cardiovascular disease, compared to 32 percent of white women. The new law was sponsored by Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago) and takes effect immediately; doctors have 60 days to update their information.

“All too often we give more attention to uncommon causes of death and injury like plane crashes and tornadoes, than we do to the foremost cause of death and disability in our country: cardiovascular disease,” said Lilly.  “This important legislation will help raise the public’s level of awareness about cardiovascular disease and will encourage them to take preventive measures that will enable them to live a longer and healthier life.”

House Bill 105, the Patients’ Right to Know Act, requires the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to make physician profiles available for public inspection, including an online database. The database will compile a wide range of information, including: years in practice, hospital privileges, educational information, disciplinary actions, Medicaid participation, journal articles and translation services offered. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), the bill takes effect immediately.

“This is important information, and we wanted to make it as accessible and transparent as possible,” Rep. Flowers said. “Today, you can do your banking online, take a virtual tour of a home, and it’s important that we bring that technology to bear on one of the most important decisions you can make – who to choose as your doctor.”

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Grassley Urges Agency Not to Weaken Federal Health Research Transparency Rule PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 05 August 2011 09:26

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley today urged a key federal agency not to dilute a long-awaited transparency rule that would help disclose financial ties between medical researchers who receive billions of dollars in federal funding and the pharmaceutical industry.

"The public's business ought to be public," Grassley said.  "Transparency is a backstop against research that's compromised by doctors' self-interest, to the detriment of consumers.  Backsliding on transparency would undermine the good work done in recent years to shine a light on these financial relationships."

Grassley wrote to the Office of Management and Budget in response to a media report that the agency is proposing to weaken transparency rules proposed in May 2010 by the Department of Health and Human Services.  According to the article, the Office of Management and Budget is removing the requirement in the proposed rule for a publicly available website that would publish the outside financial interests of researchers funded by taxpayers. 

The Department of Health and Human Services includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the primary means of federal funding of medical research at universities and large medical centers.  The President's proposed budget for the National Institutes of Health for 2012 is $32 billion, with about 83 percent dedicated for research around the country.

In 2007, Grassley began looking into whether universities have disclosed their professors' outside financial interests and found several cases indicating that more transparency might be helpful, including:

--The chair of the Psychiatry Department at Emory University failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from a pharmaceutical company while researching that same company's drugs with an NIH grant.  The Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the matter.

--The chair of the Psychiatry Department at Stanford University received an NIH grant to study a drug while partially owning a company that was seeking Food and Drug Administration approval of said drug.  He was later removed from the grant.

--Three psychiatrists at Harvard University failed to report almost a million dollars each in outside income while heading up several NIH grants.  Harvard released a report on the matter, and a briefing has been scheduled with Grassley's office.

Also, the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the NIH doesn't adequately monitor its outside grants for conflicts of interest.

A law enacted last year through Grassley and Sen. Herb Kohl will require public disclosure of drug company and medical device manufacturer payments to doctors, starting in March 2013. 

The rule proposed for NIH grants would require the research institutions to determine potential conflicts of interest grant by grant, such as whether the doctor owns shares in a company that could cause bias in his or her federally funded research.  The details would have to be posted online for public access. The Office of Management and Budget is proposing to eliminate the online requirement, according to a media article. 

"If the online requirement is gone, it will be much harder for the public to see and use this information," Grassley said. "Without public scrutiny, we'd lose a valuable layer of oversight."

The text of Grassley's letter is available here.

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