$2.5 Billion a Year Spent To Treat Birth Defects in U.S.
Birth defects lead to more than $2.5 billion a year in hospital costs alone, according to the first national studies to estimate their financial burden on U.S. families.
The reports give many families their first real idea of the expense of a baby born with serious birth defects, said Nancy Green, medical director for the March of Dimes, which campaigns for birth defects prevention. It estimates that the risk of having a child with a birth defect is three to four out of every 100 babies born.
The first study, released yesterday, was done by researchers at the University of Arkansas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and used 2003 data from 36 states.
The most expensive condition was hypoplastic left heart, in which an infant is almost or completely missing the two left chambers of the heart. Treatment is a heart transplant or a series of reconstructive surgeries, and the condition required a 29-day stay in the hospital that cost about $200,000.
A second study released this week, by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, based on 2004 data from 37 states, found the average age of patients was about 17 1/2 years, the average hospital stay about six days and the average per-stay cost was $18,600.
Smokers Now Inhaling More Nicotine Per Cigarette
The amount of nicotine that smokers typically inhale per cigarette rose by 11 percent from 1998 to 2005, perpetuating a "tobacco pandemic" that makes it harder for smokers to quit, a Harvard study found.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers analyzed data submitted by major cigarette brands to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The amount of nicotine that smokers typically consume per cigarette regardless of brand per year rose by an average of 1.6 percent between 1998 and 2005, according to the Harvard analysis of the state's health records.
To boost amounts of nicotine inhaled by smokers, cigarette makers intensified the concentration of nicotine in their tobacco and modified cigarette designs to increase the number of puffs per cigarette, the Harvard researchers said.
Staph Germ Can Kill In 3 Days, Researchers Find
A nasty staph germ circulating in the community and some hospitals produces a poison that can kill pneumonia patients within 72 hours, researchers said.
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria -- staph for short -- can pass one another the gene for the toxin and are apparently swapping it more often, the researchers report in today's issue of the journal Science.
Luckily, people infected with the bacteria quickly develop a high fever and astute doctors can identify it, said M. Gabriela Bowden of the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Houston, who led the study.
"This is a scary situation. We are trying to put the word out and to educate people about it," Bowden said in a telephone interview.
S. aureus is the most common cause of hospital-acquired infections and can cause inflammation of the heart, toxic-shock syndrome and meningitis.
-- From News Services