Health Highlights: Aug. 31, 2017

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

FDA OKs New Antibacterial Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday gave its approval to Vabomere, a new intravenous bacteria-fighting drug for people with “complicated” urinary tract infections. Those UTIs include a kidney infection known as pyelonephritis, which is caused by specific bacteria, the FDA said in a statement.

Vabomere contains two agents: meropenem, an antibacterial; and vaborbactam, which curbs certain “resistance mechanisms” that bacteria use to thwart medicines.

Vabomere’s safety and effectiveness was tested in a clinical trial involving 545 adults with complicated UTIs, the FDA said. At the end of treatment, about 98 percent of patients who got the drug had either a cure or an improvement, compared to 94 percent who took another therapy, piperacillin/tazobactam.

The most common adverse reactions with Vabomere were headaches, reaction at the site of IV infusion, and diarrhea. The drug also comes with a risk for serious allergic reactions and seizures, and shouldn’t be used by people with a history of such reactions to a class of drugs called beta-lactams, the FDA noted.

Vabomere is made by Rempex Pharmaceuticals.


Another Outbreak of Salmonella Traced to Pet Turtles

Thirty-seven people across 13 states have contracted salmonella infection from contact with pet turtles, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

The agency has for years warned Americans that reptiles such as turtles can be a potent source of the potentially dangerous bacterium, which attacks the gastrointestinal system.

In fact, the CDC notes that “since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to salmonella infections, especially in young children.”

In the latest outbreak, illnesses began to appear on March 1 and diagnoses continued until Aug. 3, the agency said. No deaths have yet been reported, but 16 people have required hospitalization. The CDC says the outbreak may not yet be over.

The agency’s advice? “Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts. All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean.”


Federal Prisons Must Now Make Free Tampons, Pads Available

New policy from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) now requires that all facilities make feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, available for free to prisoners who need them.

In an email memo issued earlier in August, FBP spokesman Justin Long said that “wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number. Prior to the (memo), the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution.”

Andrea James is a former lawyer and founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. In 2010 and 2011, she served 18 months in a federal prison.

Speaking with CNN, James recalled tough choices made by prisoners involving feminine hygiene products, which the prisoners themselves had to pay for.

“We were paid 12 cents an hour [for in-prison work],” she said, and that wage could be spent on other things, such as phone calls. “That’s the choice. Do I buy the tampons or do I call my children?”

According to CNN, the new policy arrives a month after Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act into Congress. Among other issues, the Act requires that women in prisons have access to multiple sizes of free tampons, pads and liners. Long said the new announcement had nothing to do with the proposed law, however.

In a statement, Harris said she applauded the memorandum, adding, “too many women reside in prison and jail facilities that don’t support basic hygiene or reproductive health, and that’s just not right.”