Connecticut had the highest total number of foodborne illness outbreaks in New England from 2005 to 2014, according to federal data – a distinction that experts say is fueled by better reporting, while higher rates of certain pathogens also may contribute. An analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that Connecticut had 2,259 cases of foodborne illness in 154 single-state outbreaks in that 10-year period. For five of those years, Connecticut reported more single-state outbreaks than any other New England state. For eight years, its outbreak count exceeded that of its more populous neighbor, Massachusetts. And for nine of those years, it topped New Jersey.
Is this any way to fight an epidemic? The Zika virus, which if contracted during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain, has been reported in at least 45 states, including Connecticut. There is no treatment for the infection, neither in patients who are pregnant and those who aren’t—though work continues on a vaccine. Of course, that work could go more quickly if there was adequate funding. Federal officials have known about the seriousness of the Zika virus for more than a year, yet important funding has been tied up in the worst kind of Washington impasse.
Noting that 60,000 Connecticut children have been exposed to the toxin lead – and that more than 2,000 have levels high enough that they are lead-poisoned — U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Elizabeth Esty unveiled a bill Monday to help homeowners make their homes safer and better protect children. “We cannot kick the can down the road and hope the problem goes away. It will not,” DeLauro, a Democrat who represents the 3rd Congressional District, said at a press conference at the New Haven Health Department. In a May 7 story, C-HIT reported that figures from the state Department of Public Health show that tens of thousands of children are being regularly exposed to lead paint and lead dust – and that tens of thousands of children are not being properly tested for exposure to the toxin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday instructed the maker of Essure to conduct further studies on the controversial birth control device, and recommended that a warning be added to the product label. “While the FDA believes Essure remains an appropriate option for the majority of women seeking a permanent form of birth control, some women may be at risk for serious complications,” the agency said in a statement. “These may include persistent pain, perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes from device migration, abnormal bleeding and allergy or hypersensitivity reactions.”
Essure, approved by the FDA in 2002 for women ages 21 to 45, is a flexible coil that is inserted by doctors into the fallopian tubes. An estimated 750,000 women have received the product, manufactured by Bayer. Essure has been the target of thousands of complaints from women across the country, including in Connecticut.
When Alyson Hannan, 44, decided she was done having children, she chose Essure, a non-surgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The day the tiny metal coils were inserted into her fallopian tubes in her doctor’s office is one that she can’t forget, said Hannan, regional sales director for Met Life who underwent the procedure on Sept. 11, 2014. “I will never forget that date. None of us will.”
Hannan is among tens of thousands of women, now referred to as “E-Sisters,” who have banded together on Facebook to share their stories of adverse health problems, including allergic reactions, chronic pelvic pain, device migration, hair loss and headaches.
The federal government will pay for disabled veterans now residing in assisted-living facilities, under a bill passed by Congress in December. But the measure doesn’t cover veterans who may move to such places in the future. Disabled veterans living at retirement homes, including those at Seacrest Retirement Center in West Haven, HighVue Manor in Hamden, and Mattatuck Health Care in Waterbury, were told in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that coverage of their housing was a mistake and would end. The coverage began in 2010. U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro obtained extensions for the Connecticut veterans who sought her help and she proposed the language in the bill approved that ensured their coverage would continue.
Federal investigators have found that Medicare officials rarely enforce rules for private insurance plans intended to make sure beneficiaries will be able to see a doctor when they need care. It’s a problem many Connecticut seniors know too well. In 2013, UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurance company, dropped hundreds of health care providers from its Connecticut Medicare Advantage plan, including 1,200 doctors at the Yale Medical Group and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries scrambled to find new insurance or new doctors while the Fairfield and Hartford counties medical associations went to court to try to stop the terminations. The report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said that Medicare did not check provider networks to ensure that doctors were available to beneficiaries and cited Connecticut as a “case study” in what can go wrong.
As melanoma rates continue to rise nationally, particularly among young people, experts warn that skin cancer will become increasingly common unless community leaders and policy makers emphasize its prevention. More than 9,000 people nationwide die of melanoma each year, and the rate of new cases doubled between 1982 and 2011, according to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In 2011 alone, the most recent year for which CDC data is available, there were 65,000 cases diagnosed in the United States. In Connecticut, residents are diagnosed with skin cancer at the same rate as residents of Florida, CDC data shows. Outreach efforts and policy changes could prevent an estimated 21,000 new cases of melanoma each year, the CDC said.
As the federal government advocates increased use of generic drugs, concerns are mounting about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight and the quality or effectiveness of some generics. In the last eight months, the FDA has acknowledged that two generic versions of the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drug Concerta it approved may not work as effectively as the brand-name product. The agency told the drugs’ manufacturers to confirm their effectiveness or withdraw them from the market. The FDA also is looking into findings by a researcher at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital that generic versions of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor manufactured outside of the U.S. contains impurities that inhibit the drug’s therapeutic effect. The FDA said that, as a number of popular drugs come off patent through 2015, it lacks the resources to independently police generics.
Thousands of Connecticut children could potentially avert hunger and gain access to healthy foods under proposed legislation to raise a federal nutrition program’s age limit. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is co-sponsoring legislation that aims to change the age limit for children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) from 5 to 6. She recently introduced a bill with U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez of California. The bill – called the Wise Investment in our Children Act, or WIC Act – would help eliminate a prevalent “nutrition gap” among 5-year-olds in the United States, said DeLauro. WIC provides nutrition services for low-income children up until their fifth birthday when, according to DeLauro, it is assumed they will enter kindergarten and become eligible for free or reduced-priced school meals.