Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Flu vaccine worked in just over half of Americans who got it
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. government analysis of this season's flu vaccine suggests it was effective in only 56 percent of people who got the shot, and it completely failed to protect the elderly against an especially deadly strain circulating during flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings underscore the need for more effective weapons in the fight against influenza, which kills between 3,000 to 50,000 people a year, depending on the severity of the flu season.
Medicare drug costs to fall in 2014, but donut hole widens
CHICAGO (Reuters) - There will be good and bad news next year for seniors using Medicare's prescription drug program. Overall, enrollees can expect a year of flat or decreasing Medicare prescription drug costs, according to data released last week by the federal government. The government said Medicare's per-beneficiary drug costs fell 4 percent last year. As a result, some of the most important numbers in the program's 2014 Part D will drop by roughly the same amounts.
U.S. funds 25 states to test new Medicaid models
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday that it would provide 25 of the 50 states with funding to test new ways to lower costs and improve care within the national Medicaid program for the poor. The first states to receive State Innovation Model awards are Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont, which will implement plans to transform their healthcare delivery system under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, which sets aside $300 million for the overall venture.
Experts issue guidelines for gene tests in kids
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Groups representing pediatricians and geneticists issued new recommendations on Thursday to provide doctors with guidance about when to test a child's DNA for genetic conditions. The recommendations are the first collaboration between the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. Neither organization has issued guidelines for genetic testing of kids in over a decade, according to one of the study's lead authors.
Psychological effects of bullying can last years
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids who were bullied and acted as bullies themselves were at higher risk for depression, anxiety and panic disorder years down the line, in a new study. Researchers have known that bullying can take a psychological toll on both bullies and victims, but it's been unclear just how long those effects would last.
U.N. says will not pay Haiti cholera compensation claims
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it would not pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation claimed by cholera victims in impoverished Haiti, where an epidemic has killed thousands of people and been blamed on U.N. peacekeepers. Cholera - an infection causing severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death - has killed some 7,750 Haitians and sickened almost 620,000 since October 2010. It occurs in places with poor sanitation.
U.S. indicts peanut processors in 2009 salmonella outbreak
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors said on Thursday they brought criminal fraud and conspiracy charges against peanut company employees tied to a 2009 salmonella outbreak blamed for nine U.S. deaths. The charges filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia on Wednesday included fraud, conspiracy and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce, according to court papers.
German Catholics allow morning-after pill in rape cases
BERLIN (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church in Germany said on Thursday it would permit certain types of "morning-after pill" for raped women, after two hospitals provoked an outcry for refusing to treat a rape victim. The German Bishops' Conference said church-run hospitals would now ensure proper medical, psychological and emotional care for rape victims - including administering pills that prevent pregnancy without inducing an abortion.
Adults cut back fast food, but U.S. kids still eat too much fat: CDC
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American adults have made a little progress in recent years in cutting back on calories from fast food, but children are still consuming too much fat, U.S. health researchers say. French fries, pizza and similar items accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. adults' caloric intake from 2007 to 2010, on average, down from about 13 percent between 2003 and 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in one of two reports released on Thursday.
Just say don't: Doctors question routine tests and treatments
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Now there are 135. That's how many medical tests, treatments and other procedures - many used for decades - physicians have now identified as almost always unnecessary and often harmful, and which doctors and patients should therefore avoid or at least seriously question.