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Health Highlights: April 15, 2013

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

Chinese Boy Infected With New Bird Flu Shows No Symptoms

A newly diagnosed case of bird flu in a 4-year-old boy who has no symptoms is adding to knowledge about the outbreak in China.

The boy in Beijing tested positive for the H7N9 virus and is considered a carrier of the strain. Officials said Monday that the boy has been placed under observation to see if he develops symptoms, the Associated Press reported.

The boy's infection was detected during a check of people who had contact with a 7-year-old girl who on the weekend was confirmed as Beijing's first case of H7N9. A neighbor of the boy bought chicken from the girl's family.

The boy's case "is very meaningful because it shows that the disease caused by this virus has a wide scope. It's not only limited to critical symptoms. There can also be slight cases, and even those who don't feel any abnormality at all. So we need to understand this disease in a rational and scientific way," Beijing Health Bureau Deputy Director Zhong Congpo said at a news briefing, the AP reported.

So far, the outbreak has caused 63 confirmed infections and 14 deaths in China.

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FDA Announces Safety Reassessment of Diabetes Drug Avandia

A safety reassessment of the diabetes drug Avandia announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration comes three years after the agency limited the drug's sales due to cardiovascular risks.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on Friday, the FDA said it plans to hold a two-day hearing of outside medical advisers in June to discuss the results of Duke University scientists' re-evaluation of earlier research on Avandia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The FDA did not say why it scheduled the hearing and said it is too early to know what options it will be considering.

This rare move by the FDA is not expected to make Avandia more widely available to patients, according to WSJ. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the drug, is not seeking to ease restrictions on sales of Avandia, according to a company spokeswoman. She noted that the company commissioned the Duke team's re-evaluation at the request of the FDA.

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La. Company Expands Meat Recall

A recall of meat products due to possible bacterial contamination has been expanded by a Louisiana-based meat packing company, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

The recall by the Manda Packing Company now includes 468,000 pounds of roast beef, ham, turkey breast, tasso pork, ham shanks, hog headcheese, corned beef and pastrami, the Associated Press reported.

The products, which were recalled due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, were shipped to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

No illnesses have been reported, according to the AP.

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Meningitis Case Causes Concern in L.A. Gay Community

Health officials in Los Angeles County are urging people to watch for any symptoms of a potentially deadly strain of meningitis that has left one man brain dead.

Early signs of the disease -- a bacterial infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord -- include a severe headache and stiff neck. If treated early, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Only one case has been confirmed in the Los Angeles area but it follows an outbreak of deadly meningitis among gay men in New York City. Since 2010, at least 22 men have contracted the disease and 7 have died, The New York Times reported.

So far, no link between the New York outbreak and the Los Angeles case has been made. However, the disease similarities have led to fears about outbreaks in both locations.

"The lesson we learned 30 years ago in the early days of HIV and AIDS is that people were not alerted to what was going on and a lot of infections occurred that didn't need to occur," John Duran, a West Hollywood city councilman and one of the few openly HIV-positive elected officials in the United States, told The Times. "So even with an isolated case here, we need to sound the alarms, especially given the cases in New York."


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