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Health Highlights: Dec. 14, 2018

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

U.S. Gun Deaths Reach Record High

Gun deaths in the United States reached a record high of nearly 40,000 in 2017, according to a CNN analysis of federal government data.

There were 39,773 gun deaths that year, compared with 28,874 in 1999. The age-adjusted rate of gun deaths rose from 10.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 12 per 100,000 in 2017.

The numbers, which were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that 2017 had the highest number of gun deaths going back to at least 1979, when gun deaths started to be included in death data, CNN reported.

The new analysis revealed that 23,854 people died from suicide by gun in 2017, the highest number since 1999, when there were 16,599 suicide deaths by gun. The age-adjusted rate of suicide by gun rose from 6.0 in 1999 to 6.9 in 2017.

In 2017, white men accounted for 23,927 of the 39,773 suicides by gun, and white men had the highest age-adjusted rate of suicide by gun at 14 per 100,000, followed by rates of: 9.3 among American Indian or Alaska Native men, 6.1 among black men, 3.0 among Asian men, 2.2 among white women, 1.4 among American Indian or Alaska Native women, 0.7 among black women, and 0.5 among Asian women, CNN reported.

In 2017, the age-adjusted rate of homicide deaths by gun was highest among black men at 33 per 100,000, followed by rates of: 4.8 among American Indian or Alaska Native men, 3.5 among white men and black women, 1.4 among Asian men, 1.1 among white women, and 0.5 among Asian women.

"In 2017, nearly 109 people died every single day from gun violence. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that requires a public health solution, which is why we must immediately enact and implement evidence-based interventions -- like permit-to-purchase policies and extreme risk laws," Adelyn Allchin, director of public health research, Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, said in a written statement released last week, CNN reported.

An earlier analysis similar to CNN's was conducted by the non-profit gun policy advocacy group.

"Gun violence has been part of our day-to-day lives for far too long. It is way past time that elected leaders at every level of government work together to make gun violence rare and abnormal," Allchin said.

On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association tweeted that "gun control laws are not the answer," CNN reported.


Congress Approves Bill That Legalizes Hemp

A bill that removes hemp from the list of federally controlled substances could give an added boost to an already thriving market for the popular health product cannabidiol, or CBD.

Hemp is related to marijuana but has much lower levels of THC, the compound that provides the high to pot users. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp, the Associated Press reported.

Like marijuana, hemp is already legal in some states. The bill that received final approval in Congress on Wednesday would make it legal nationwide. It's expected that President Trump will sign the bill into law next week.

Legalization could triple hemp sales in the United States to $2.5 billion by 2022, including $1.3 billion from hemp-sourced CBD products, according to cannabis market research firm New Frontier Data, the AP reported.

Proponents of CBD say it has many health benefits, ranging from pain relief to reducing anxiety, but experts point out that there is a lack of research on how CBD affects humans.

Under the new bill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration retains its authority over products with CBD and it's unclear how the agency will react to hemp legalization, the AP reported.

In the past, the agency has sent warning letters to some companies selling CBD, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has stated that CBD products will be treated like any other products that make unproven health claims.


UNAIDS Head Resigns After Critical Report

A week after an independent panel slammed the "defective leadership" of UNAIDS, the agency's executive director said Thursday that he'll leave the position in June instead of the scheduled end of his term in January 2020.

Michel Sidibe made the announcement during a UNAIDS board meeting Thursday, according to agency spokesman Mahesh Mahalingham, the Associated Press reported.

A report released last Friday by a panel of independent experts looking into sexual harassment at UNAIDS described a culture of impunity and a toxic working environment at the agency that could not be changed if Sidibe remained in charge.

The panel said UNAIDS leaders did not prevent or properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power, the AP reported.


Canned Corn Recalled by Del Monte

More than 64,000 cases of canned corn have been recalled by Del Monte Foods Inc. because the products were under-processed and could pose a serious health risk.

No illnesses associated with the recalled corn have been reported, according to the company.

The recall is for 15.25-ounce (432-gram) cans of Fiesta Corn Seasoned with Red and Green Peppers. They have the UPC number 24000 02770 printed on the label and the following "Best if Used By" dates on the bottom of the can: Aug.14, 15 and 16, 2021 and Sept. 3, 4, 5, 6, 22, 23, 2021.

The products were shipped to 25 states and 12 countries outside the United States. The states include: Alaska, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

For more information, consumers can go to the company's website or call 1-800-779-7035, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

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