Friday, 17 February 2012 10:11

Health Highlights: Feb. 17, 2012

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

Flu Season Officially Here: CDC

It's off to the slowest start in nearly 25 years, but the flu season is finally here, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, there haven't been enough flu cases in the U.S. to signal the official start of the season, which usually begins in December or January and is half over by late February, the Associated Press reported.

CDC officials said Friday that California has had widespread flu cases for the last two weeks and Missouri has seen a sharp rise in reports of flu-like illness.

Officials don't know why the flu season started so late, but said it could be due to a number of factors. This is the latest start to a flu season since the 1987-88 season, the AP reported.


Heart Attack Grill Owner Defends Artery-Clogging Menu

The owner of the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas is defending his artery-clogging menu after a customer suffered an apparent heart attack while devouring a 6,000-calorie Triple Bypass burger.

Speaking on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning, Jon Basso described his restaurant as "a place where you can live the way our Founding Fathers intended us to live, and that is by our own accord," reported.

The restaurant features health warnings on the walls and staff are dressed in white coats and nurses hats to represent doctors and nurses. When patrons choose menu items such as a Bypass burger, Flatliner fries and buttermilk shakes, they're given surgical gowns to wear.

After a customer suffered an apparent heart attack on Saturday, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sent a letter to Basso asking him to "declare moral bankruptcy" and close the Heart Attack Grill, reported.

Basso has no plans to close the restaurant and lashed out against critics.

"There are intrusive busy-body groups that want to take away our right to have a simple hamburger, a coke, some fries and enjoy our lives the way we want to," he said.


FDA Panel to Consider New Diet Pill

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet next week to discuss whether to recommend approval of a diet pill called Qnexa.

The drug is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs, the stimulant phentermine and the anticonvulsant topiramate. In 2010, the FDA rejected Qnexa due to concerns about the risks of birth defects and cardiovascular problems, The New York Times reported.

However, many obesity doctors use a regulatory loophole to prescribe phentermine and topiramate off-label in order to suppress appetite in overweight patients.

Qnexa was developed by the company Vivus, which will present additional data at the FDA's advisory panel meeting on Wednesday. The FDA will have until April 17 to consider the panel's recommendation and make a decision about the drug, The Times reported.

It's been 13 years since a new prescription diet pill was approved by the FDA.


Powered Toothbrush Could Cause Choking, Serious Injuries: FDA

Problems with the brush head on all models of Arm & Hammer Spinbrush powered toothbrushes have caused choking and serious injuries, according to reports received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While turned on, the device's brush head has either "popped off" or broken off in the user's mouth or near the face, causing cuts to the mouth and gums, chipped or broken teeth, swallowing and choking on the broken pieces, and injuries to the face and eyes.

Until 2009, the Spinbrush line was sold as the Crest Spinbrush, the FDA said.

The agency advised consumers to inspect the Spinbrush for any damage or loose brush bristles prior to using. Do not use the brush if there is any damage or loose brush bristles.

Make sure the headpiece is connected properly to the handle of the brush and test the brush outside of the mouth before use. Do not use the brush if the connection between the headpiece and the handle feels loose or if the headpiece easily detaches from the handle.

Do not bite down on the brush while brushing. Supervise children and adults who need assistance when using the Spinbrush, the FDA said.