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Health Highlights: Aug. 15, 2014

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

Shortcuts Led to Bird Flu Virus Mistake: CDC

Shortcuts taken by a scientist at a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory led to the shipment of a deadly bird flu virus strain to the Department of Agriculture instead of a relatively harmless animal strain, the CDC said Friday.

No one became infected or ill after the incident earlier this year, and the dangerous virus was destroyed. However, CDC lab members waited six weeks to inform supervisors about the safety lapse, the Washington Post reported.

A CDC investigation revealed that the scientist involved in the incident did not follow best practices, and that there were no approved laboratory-specific operating procedures for the work being done.

It appears that the scientist was growing cell cultures from both virus strains at the same time at the same work station, and mistakenly sent the deadly virus to the Department of Agriculture's poultry research lab, the Post reported.

"We're pretty sure the person took short cuts," Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said. "In laboratory work, it's so important to follow every step, and when you're working with unusual pathogens, it's even more important that every single step is followed."

"This wasn't a question of someone who was poorly trained. There was substantial experience and knowledge," Schuchat told the Post.


Rejection of Gay Teen's Organ Donation Shows Need for Policy Change: Mother

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to repeal a policy that bans donations of certain tissues from gay men, says the mother of a gay teen whose eyes were rejected for donation.

Alexander "AJ" Betts Jr. died at age 16 shortly after he attempted suicide in July 2013. He asked that his organs be donated after he died, and his heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys were given to recipients, the Washington Post reported.

However, his eyes were rejected under an FDA guidance that says men who have had sex with men in the past five years "should" be ruled "ineligible" for donating certain tissues. The guidance reflects the FDA's ban on blood from men who have sex with men.

"My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn't understand why my 16-year-old son's eyes couldn't be donated just because he was gay," Sheryl Moore told KCCI after she learned her son's eyes had been rejected, the Post reported.

A letter sent to Moore explained that her son's eyes were rejected because she couldn't confirm that her son had not been sexually active in the five years before his death.

"This is archaic," Moore told KCCI. "And it is just silly that people wouldn't get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old."

"FDA's deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation," according to the agency.

Many experts have called on the FDA to repeal the policy, and last summer the American Medical Association voted to end the ban, the Post reported. AMA board member William Kobler said in a statement, "The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," according to Time magazine.

"We think it's time for the FDA to take a serious look at this policy, because it's out of step with peer countries, it's out of step with modern medicine, it's out of step with public opinion, and we feel it may be legally problematic," Glenn Cohen, a bioethics law professor at the Harvard Law School, told CBS, the Post reported.

There are significant contradictions in the FDA blood ban, said Cohen, who noted that men who have sex with HIV-positive women or sex workers are banned for only a year.


Applegate Chicken Nuggets Recalled

About 15,000 pounds of frozen, fully cooked chicken nuggets are being recalled by Perdue after it received complaints from people who found small pieces of plastic in the products.

The recall involves 8-oz. boxes of "Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets" that were produced on Feb. 5, 2014 and have a "best before" data of Feb. 5, 2015, and the establishment number "P2617" inside the USDA Mark of Inspection, CBS News reported.

There have been no reports of injury or illness from the recalled products, according to the company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The products were taken off the market on Aug. 8, but the recall was announced because consumers may still have them in their freezers, CBS News reported.


Overdoses From Synthetic Drug Spur State of Emergency in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has declared a state of emergency after 44 overdoses linked to a synthetic marijuana-like product sold in convenience stores as potpourri.

Nearly all of the overdoses that occurred in people who smoked or ingested a product called "Smacked" occurred in the Manchester area. None of overdose patients died, NBC News reported.

Under the state of emergency, public health authorities have the power to investigate stores and quarantine the product. So far, police have found Smacked in three convenience stores, which had their business licenses revoked.

Smacked is a potpourri-like substance sprayed with artificial substances similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, officials said.

In 2012, the federal government introduced a ban on compounds found in synthetic marijuana products and bath salts, and New Hampshire and most other states implemented similar bans. However, the laws are difficult to enforce because makers can make slight alterations to the chemical make-up of their products, NBC News reported.