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Health Highlights: April 24, 2011

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

Giffords to Attend Astronaut-Husband's Shuttle Liftoff

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head by a gunman's bullet Jan. 8, will attend the liftoff Friday of her astronaut-husband's space shuttle mission, according to published reports.

Expected to attend the blastoff of the second-to-last space shuttle mission are the Obama family, many of Giffords' congressional colleagues, and an estimated 40,000 other NASA guests. In addition, hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to fill surrounding beaches and roadways, the Associated Press reported.

Until recently, it had been unclear whether astronaut Mark Kelly would command the April mission of the space shuttle Endeavour, but Giffords continues to make remarkable progress. Her husband attributes her recovery to previous good health, great care "and maybe a little bit of luck."

"Or maybe people really thinking about her and praying for her," added Kelly, who's aunt is a Catholic nun. Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make the first papal call to space during Endeavour's flight, the AP reported.

Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 while she hosted a political event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. The attacker killed six people and wounded 12 others. She has been recovering at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

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Mysterious Health Problems in Some Gulf Residents: Doctor

A variety of mysterious health problems are occurring in some Gulf Coast residents and clean-up workers one year after the BP oil spill disaster, a Louisiana doctor says.

"I'm dealing with a wide array of people and the symptoms are almost identical in all of them," Dr. Mike Robichaux, an ear, nose and throat doctor, told CNN.

"What's really unique about it is that patients have come in with a severe amount of memory loss," he said. "Very high blood pressure -- blood pressures that are going sky high and then coming down to normal, and then blood sugar levels that are fluctuating. Lastly would be some pulmonary problems and some fairly serious (gastrointestinal) problems."

Robichaux, based in Raceland, La., said he's treated about 60 people with some combination of these symptoms but believes there are many more with similar health problems, CNN reported.

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Measles Outbreak in Europe

Failure to vaccinate all children is responsible for a major measles outbreak in Europe, says the World Health Organization.

More than 6,500 cases of measles have been reported in 33 European nations between March and January, including 4,937 cases in France alone, the Associated Press reported.

Children and teens ages 10 to 19 haven't been getting immunizations as they should, said Rebecca Martin, head of WHO's Copenhagen, Denmark office for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization.

"There's been a buildup of children who have not been immunized over the years," she told the AP. "It's almost like a threshold. When you have enough people who have not been immunized, then outbreaks can occur."

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Botox Reduces Ability to Read Emotions: Study

Botox reduces a person's ability to understand other people's emotions, according to a new study.

Botox paralyzes certain facial muscles, impairing the ability to make some expressions. This is important because people read others' emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions, lead author David Neal told USA Today.

The study compared participants who used Botox and others who used a gel that boosts muscular signals. They were asked to identify emotions on computer images of faces.

"When the facial muscles are dampened, you get worse in emotion perception, and when the facial muscles are amplified, you get better at emotion perception," said Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, USA Today reported.

The study was published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Posted: April 2011


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