Health Highlights: April 2, 2018

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

Winnie Mandela Dies at Age 81

Winnie Mandela has died at age 81.

The South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former wife of Nelson Mandela "died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year," family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement, BBC News reported.

"She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones."

For three decades, Winnie and husband Nelson Mandela were central figures in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Nelson Mandela eventually became the country's first black president, but the couple divorced in 1996 and Winnie became entangled in legal and political controversies, BBC News reported.

-----

Sewage Leaks in ORs Continued at VIP Washington Hospital After Health Inspection

Sewage leaks in operating rooms at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center were still not fixed a year after health investigators first documented the problem, a District of Columbia health department report reveals.

The center is the go-to hospital for Congress and the White House, according to USA Today.

The health department report was noted in a lawsuit filed against the hospital by the family of Carol Leonard, 70, who died from an infection after having surgery at the hospital.

She had her surgery five months after an August 2016 health department report -- only recently released -- that described sewage leaks in several operating rooms. On a return visit August 18, 2017, investigators discovered continuing problems with sewage, USA Today reported.

On that second visit, investigators noted a "black, grainy foul-smelling substance" coating the floor of an operating room, and also said there was at least one "active leak" of sewage.

The health department report said that staff and contractors the hospital said were responsible for the cleanup told investigators they were not told about a leak in an operating room where several patients were operated on last July, according to USA Today reported.

The hospital's failure to protect patients put it in "immediate jeopardy" of losing is Medicare and Medicaid funding, according to the health department report.

"MedStar Washington Hospital Center has not experienced any new leaks, and we have completed all of the physical plant work identified in our 2017 action plan," Washington Hospital Center spokeswoman So Young Pak said in a statement, USA Today reported.

The hospital is the largest trauma center and busiest emergency room in the Washington, D.C. area. While it does treat federal lawmakers, the hospital mainly serves lower-income black patients.

"A hospital that is not correcting problems that could pose a real risk of infections to patients including leaking sewage unless prodded and required to do so under the threat of a state inspector's closure due to a declared 'imminent jeopardy' status is not what the public envisions or anticipates when seeking care," said infection control expert and consultant Larry Muscarella, USA Today reported.

-----

Dozens of Cases of Severe Bleeding in Illinois Linked to Synthetic Pot

The first known death in an outbreak of severe bleeding among users of synthetic marijuana in Illinois was reported on the weekend by state health officials.

No information about the patient's name, age or gender, or the county where the death occurred, had been provided as of Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

As of Saturday, at least 38 people in the Chicago area and central Illinois had been hospitalized for severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana. Three of those hospitalized tested positive for rat poison (brodifacoum).

The health department said the patients' symptoms included blood in the urine, severe bloody noses, bleeding gums, coughing up blood, bleeding from the eyes and ears, and heavier menstrual bleeding, the Tribune reported.

Synthetic cannabinoid -- often called Spice or K2 -- is a mixture of hundreds of chemicals that can come as a spray to coat plant material for smoking or as a liquid to be used in e-cigarettes or other devices, according to the health department.

It did not specify if any of the hospitalized patients were children or teens, but sent a memo about the outbreak to state school administrators and school nurses, the Tribune reported.

The Cook County sheriff's office is working with state officials to identify the source of the synthetic marijuana associated with the outbreak, said spokeswoman Cara Smith.

"If you use synthetic drugs, you're playing Russian roulette with your life," Smith said. "It's that serious."

Health officials advised that if someone suffers a reaction to synthetic marijuana, call 911 immediately or get the person to a hospital for immediate treatment, the Tribune reported.

------

TV Hit Show Creator Steven Bochco Dead at 74

Steven Bochco, the creator of TV hit shows Hill Street Blues, LA Law, NYPD Blue and Doogie Howser, M.D., has died at age 74.

The 10-time Emmy Award-winning producer/writer's death was confirmed Sunday by his representative Phillip Arnold, USA Today reported.

Bochco was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and underwent a stem cell transplant.

"Steven fought cancer with strength, courage, grace and his unsurpassed sense of humor," Arnold said in a statement, USA Today reported. "He died peacefully in his sleep with his family close by."

In a memoir published in 2016, Bochco wrote: "I think about life and death differently than before. I treasure life more, and fear death less. Life and its complications are simpler for me, now. I don't sweat the small stuff, as they say."

Copyright © 2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.