Health Highlights: Oct. 24, 2018

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

Hepatitis A Vaccinations Recommended for Homeless People

Hepatitis A shots should be a routine vaccination for homeless people in order to reduce future outbreaks of the contagious liver disease, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided Wednesday.

The unanimous vote marks the first time the committee has recommended a routine vaccination for homeless people, the Associated Press reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to adopt the recommendation, which would make it easier for shelters, emergency rooms and clinics that help the homeless to provide hepatitis A shots.

Hepatitis A spreads through contaminated food, dirty needles used for injection drugs, and through sex with an infected person, the AP reported.

Between January 2017 and October 2018, more than 7,500 hepatitis A infections were reported in 12 states, resulting in more than 4,300 hospitalizations and about 74 deaths, according to the CDC.

Homeless people accounted for a large proportion of the cases in San Diego and Utah. Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee have also had cases among homeless people, the AP reported.

Hepatitis A vaccinations were already recommended for children at age 1 and for people at high risk of infection, such as drug users, some international travelers and men who have sex with men.

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120 Salmonella Cases in 22 States in Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef

The number of illnesses in a salmonella outbreak linked to recalled ground beef has risen to 120 people in 22 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Since the last update on Oct. 4, there have been 63 illnesses reported and six more states reported cases. The most recent illness began on Sept. 28. Thirty-three people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC says consumers and retailers should not serve, sell or eat recalled ground beef produced by JBS Tolleson, Inc., of Arizona. The company recalled about 6.5 million pounds of beef products, including ground beef, that may be contaminated with salmonella.

The recalled meat was sold under many different brand names and many different stores. A complete list of stores and states where the recalled ground beef was sold is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website.

In most cases, salmonella infection results in diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment, according to the CDC.

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Progress Against U.S. Opioid Crisis, HHS Secretary Says

There may be progress in the fight against U.S. drug overdose deaths, according to health secretary Alex Azar.

“We are so far from the end of the epidemic, but we are perhaps, at the end of the beginning,” Azar said Tuesday at a health care event sponsored by the Milken Institute think tank, the Associated Press reported.

He said that from late last year through early this year, the number of overdose deaths “has begun to plateau,” meaning that such deaths appear to be rising more slowly than before.

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, according to preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer. That’s 10 percent higher than in 2016.

Other preliminary figures released earlier this month by the CDC suggest that the rate of increase in overdose deaths between December 2017 and March 2018 slowed to 3 percent, compared with 10 percent over the previous 12 months, the AP reported.

In his speech, Azar suggested that a number of efforts are helping bring the overdose epidemic under control.

These include an increase in treatment with medications such as buprenorphine and naltrexone, much greater access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, and a decline in misuse of prescription opioids as doctors are being more careful in prescribing the painkillers, the AP reported.

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Why Cancer Risk Is Higher in Taller Folk

Taller people are more likely than shorter people to develop cancer because they have more cells in their body in which cancer-causing mutations can occur, according to a new study.

Previous research has found that for every 10 centimeters (4-inches) of height within the typical range for people, there is a 10 percent higher risk of cancer, The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported.

A number of theories have been suggested to explain this, but this new study by Leonard Nunney, professor of biology at the University of California Riverside, suggests it just comes down to a person’s size.

Tall people simply have more cells in which cancer can develop, according to the study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Whether that comes from a better diet or the fact that your parents happen to be tall doesn’t matter it is purely a number of cells, however that comes about,” Nunney told The Guardian.

However, he noted that height differences don’t fully explain why men are at higher risk for many cancers than women.

Taller people don’t need to be concerned about their cancer risk, according to Georgina Hill, Cancer Research UK.

“A number of studies over the years have shown that taller people seem to have a slightly higher risk of cancer,” she told The Guardian. “But the increased risk is small and there’s plenty you can do to reduce the risk of developing cancer, such as not smoking and keeping a healthy weight.”

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