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Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2013

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

News Anchor Brian Williams to Have Knee Replacement Surgery

NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams will undergo knee replacement surgery on his right knee, which was damaged when he was a high school football player.

Willams has had three previous surgeries on the knee, but the 54-year-old said the pain was becoming more of an issue. When it started interfering with his sleep, he decided it was time to have a knee replacement, the Associated Press reported.

NBC News did not say when Williams will have the surgery. Spokeswoman Erika Masonhall would say only that Williams will anchor the news on Monday.

On the "Nightly News" Thursday, Williams revealed his upcoming procedure during a segment about knee replacement surgery by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the AP reported.

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Smoker's Family Awarded $37.5 Million in Damages

A Florida jury's decision to award $37.5 million in damages to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer will be appealed by cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds.

Attorneys for the family of Laura Grossman, who died in 1995 at age 38, said that she was targeted by tobacco companies when she was a teen. The company's lawyers argued that Grossman knew the dangers of smoking because cigarettes had warning labels when she started, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

The verdict included $22.5 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds.

This is one of thousands of cases filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 tossed out a $145 billion class action verdict. In that ruling, the court also said the smokers and their families needed only prove addiction and that smoking caused people's illnesses or deaths, CBS/AP reported.

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Vaccination Rates High Among Kindergartners: CDC

Overall vaccination rates among American kindergartners are high, but there is still room for improvement, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

In the 2012-2013 school year, kindergartners in Mississippi had the highest overall vaccination rate at 99.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest at 82.9 percent, CBS News reported.

The researchers also found that the nation is closing in on the federal government's Healthy People 2020 campaign goal of having 95 percent of kindergartners receive four doses of the pertussis (DTap) vaccine, two or more doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) and two doses of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.

The study said that 94.5 percent of kindergartners received the MMR doses, 95.1 percent got the dTAP vaccine and 93.8 percent got the chickenpox vaccine doses, CBS News reported.

But the researchers also found that nearly 91,500 of the more than 4.2 million kindergartners in the study were exempted from receiving vaccinations. Oregon had the highest exemption rate at 6.4 percent, followed by Vermont and Illinois, each with 6.1 percent.

The study was published Aug. 1 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Steroid Nasal Spray Should be Sold Over-the-Counter: FDA Panel

Switching the prescription steroid nasal spray Nasacort AQ to an over-the-counter product has the support of a U.S. Food and Drug advisory panel.

In a 10-6 vote Wednesday, the committee backed a plan by Sanofi SA to make the nasal spray for allergies available in drug store aisles for use by adults and children ages 2 and older, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Some member of the advisory panel expressed concern about the possible negative impact that the spray might have on children's growth and suggested its OTC approval be restricted to adults.

On Monday, FDA staff said the Nasacort was a "good candidate" to be sold without a prescription, WSJ reported. The FDA typically follows the advice of it advisory panels.

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Ground Beef Products Recalled for Possible Contamination

About 50,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 have been recalled by Kansas-based National Beef Packing Co.

The problem was discovered through routine monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The agency and the company have not received any reports of illnesses associated with the products.

The recall covers 10-lb. chubs of:

  • "National Beef" 93/ 7 fine ground beef, product code 0707
  • "NatureSource" 80/20 fine ground chuck, product code 7031
  • "NatureSource" 85/15 fine ground beef, product code 7054
  • "NatureSource" 90/10 fine ground beef, product code 7344
  • "NatureSource" 93/ 7 fine ground beef, product code 7004
  • "NatureWell" 80/20 fine ground chuck, product code 7484
  • "NatureWell" 85/15 fine ground beef, product code 7454
  • "NatureWell" 90/10 fine ground sirloin, product code 7577
  • "NatureWell" 93/7 fine ground beef, product code 7404

All the products bear the establishment number "EST. 208A" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were produced on July 18 and shipped in 40- to 60-lb. cases to retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors nationwide, the FSIS said.

E. coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness, FSIS said.

Consumers should contact their doctor if they are concerned about possibly having eaten contaminated beef. They can also call 1-866-761-9472 or go to National Beef Packing's website    for details about the recall and the company's return and reimbursement policy.

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