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Consumer Reports Health News
Date:10/30/2007

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Welcome to Consumer Reports Health News for health and medical journalists. Consumer Reports and ConsumerReports.org cover issues pertaining to the efficacy and safety of prescription and non-prescription drugs (including natural medicines), mental health, diet and nutrition, food safety, and fitness. CR tests health and fitness products, rates the effectiveness and affordability of prescription drugs, and evaluates the claims made by drug companies and the health care industry --- all without commercial agendas or advertiser influence.

Copies of the reports highlighted below are available upon request.

DANGEROUS BACTERIAL INFECTIONS ON THE RISE

The November issue of Consumer Reports On Health features an in-depth report about the dramatic rise in bacterial infections with suggestions for consumers about what they can do to counter the trend and stay safe. Most antibacterial infections can be treated with at least one antibiotic. But there are emerging problems. For example:

-- Nearly 1 out of every 3 pneumococci--the bacteria responsible for many pneumonias--has become resistant to penicillin, and 1 in 10 is resistant to most other antibiotics.

-- An antibiotic-resistant strain of staphylococcus that triggers potentially deadly lung and bloodstream infections is spreading through hospitals in this country and, increasingly, into communities.

-- Few if any antibiotics work against a bacterium called Acinetobacter baumannii, which has infected the wounds of many soldiers returning home from Afghanistan, in some cases forcing doctors to amputate infected limbs.

Consumer Reports on Health notes that consumers have contributed to the growing crisis by not taking antibiotics properly and, in many cases, insisting that their doctor prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, such as the flu, ear infections, and the common cold, even though antibiotics work only against bacterial infections. The report provides several recommendations for consumers to guard against infections.

CU URGES HOSPITALS TO "COME CLEAN"

A new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 19,000 Americans died in 2005 from a virulent, antibiotic-resistant infection acquired mostly in hospitals. The study concluded that almost 95,000 people developed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that year, and that 85 percent of the infections were acquired in health care settings. The findings underscore the need for hospitals to improve patient care and for Congress to require public reporting of patient infection rates, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. Last week, CU urged hospitals to disclose their handwashing compliance rates. "Every day, fifty Americans die from MRSA because hospitals aren't doing enough to protect patients from these deadly infections," said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections campaign (http://www.StopHospitalInfections.org). "The public deserves to know which hospitals are doing a good job preventing infections and keeping patients safe."

Numerous studies have documented that hand hygiene compliance rates in most hospitals are unacceptably low - usually below 50 percent. That means, on average, doctors and other healthcare workers are failing to wash their hands properly with over half of their patients. According to the CDC, hospital acquired infections result in up to $27.5 billion in additional hospital-related expenses annually.

GRASS FED BEEF: WHAT IT MEANS

New government standards for the "Grass-fed" label on meat (but not poultry) will go into effect on November 15, 2007. "Grassfed" cattle will be considered "grassfed" if they get 99 percent of their total calories from grass and they may not eat any grain. While some claims may not be verified, producers can also elect to be "USDA verified" and consumers who want the most assurance should look for both labels. According to the November issue of Consumer Reports on Health, beef from only grass-fed animals contains about half the saturated fat of corn-fed beef, and higher levels of two potentially beneficial fats: omega-3 fatty acids, also found in fish, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies have suggested helps protect against obesity, clogged arteries, and possibly diabetes. Grass-fed beef is usually raised without antibiotics, hormones, or rendered animal byproducts, which may harbor mad-cow disease. Organic beef is always raised without those ingredients; however, the animals might eat grain, in addition, which would diminish the nutritive benefit described above.

WINTER BLUES: WHEN TO CONSIDER DRUGS

In a special report available online at http://www.ConsumerReports.org/health, Consumer Reports answers five questions about winter depression. CR has guidance for people concerned about the winter blues and best treatments. How can people tell if they're suffering from winter depression? CR notes that some symptoms are similar to those associated with other types of depression, such as sadness, fatigue, excessive sleepiness, social withdrawal, and trouble concentrating. But people with SAD also tend to move slowly, crave carbohydrates, and gain weight. Compared with those with conventional depression, people with SAD are less likely to have feelings of worthlessness or thoughts of suicide. Visit Consumer Reports online for the full report about winter blues and when prescription drugs can be helpful.

FIRST LOOK: BREYERS FAT FREE DOUBLE CHURN ICE CREAM

Consumer Reports last reported on "churned" ice cream in August, 2004, when CR gave a pretty good review of Dreyer's/Edy's light ice cream. Now Breyers has come out with a double-churned fat-free ice cream that claims to be "so rich and creamy you won't believe it's fat free!" The maker of Breyers claims to use a unique proprietary double-mixing process that gives the ice cream a rich and creamy texture. CR tested and evaluated the Extra Creamy Vanilla and French Chocolate flavors and compared them with their light and regular counterparts. In blind tastings among food and sensory staffers, CR found that the two flavors were "pretty darn good." Log on to http://www.ConsumerReports.org/health for the full report.

(c) Consumers Union 2007. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.


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