Health Highlights: April 5, 2008

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

Olympics President: Beijing Smog May Affect Athletes' Performances

Talk about your good news-bad news scenario:

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told the Associated Press over the weekend that the bad air pollution in Beijing should not endanger the health of the athletes who compete in China this summer. But, he added, the smog may adversely affect their performances.

Chinese authorities have promised to solve the smog problem before the Olympic Games begin in August, the A.P. reported, but Rogge wasn't so certain. "It might be that some [competitors] will have to have a slightly reduced performance, but nothing will harm the health of the athletes. The IOC will take care of that," he is quoted as saying.

The world's most-acclaimed marathon runner, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, has said he won't compete in that event in the 2008 Olympics because of the smog, the wire service reported. Roggee told the A.P. that Gebrselassie is "slightly asthmatic," but that he might change his mind.

"I would say, wait and see ... when he sees the data that we are providing for them," the wire service quotes Rogge as saying. The Olympics Committee president has earlier said that there might be dealys in outdoor events if the smog gets too bad, the A.P. reported.

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Medical Archive Web Site Restores 'Abortion' as a Search Word

An alert California research librarian prompted Johns Hopkins officials to change a Web site dealing with population issues and funded by the U.S. government, so that the word "abortion" was restored as an option in the site's search engine.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Michael J. Klag, Dean of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Friday told POPLINE administrators to restore "abortion" as a search term "immediately." He also said he would launch an inquiry into why the decision was made to limit searches.

The Web site POPLINE (POPulation information onLINE), which is funded by the United States Agency on International Development (USAID), contains more than 360,000 items concerning health and population control worldwide, the Sun reports. The U.S. government denies funding for any program that promotes abortion as a method for population control internationally, the newspaper said, and this may be what promoted the decision to remove the word from the Web site.

Gloria Won, a librarian at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, sent an e-mail inquiry to POPLINE administrator Debra L. Dickson, asking why fewer responses were coming from the search engine when she entered the word "abortion," the Sun reports. Dickson responded that limiting the search was intentional.

"Yes, we did make a change to POPLINE," the newspaper quotes Dickson as answering the librarian. "We recently made all abortion words stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now." A stop word is one that a search engine ignores.

The reason, the Sun says is because USAID officials found two items in the POPLINE database concerning abortion advocacy. After that, someone made the decision to restrict the word "abortion" as a search option, the Sun reports.

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Sedentary Children Face Increased Risk of Heart Trouble in Adulthood

Sedentary children are up to six times more likely than active ones to be at serious risk for heart disease when they're older, according to a University of North Carolina study that included hundreds of children.

At ages 7 through 10, the children were checked for a number of key health indicators, such as height, body mass and fat, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, along with physical activity levels, Agence France-Presse reported.

The children were checked again seven years later to see if they'd developed any signs of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that point to increased risk of heart trouble.

Almost 5 percent of them had at least three core symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Those with these core symptoms were six times likelier to have had low aerobic fitness as children, and five times likelier to have had low levels of physical activity at the start of the study, AFP reported.

The study appears in the journal Dynamic Medicine.

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Human-to-Human Transmission of Bird Flu Confirmed in Pakistan

The first human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Pakistan has been confirmed by the World Health Organization.

The case late last year involved members of a family in northwest Pakistan. A poultry worker became infected and survived, but three of his brothers were infected and two died, BBC News reported.

Genetic-sequencing tests on bird flu virus samples collected from three of the four brothers confirmed human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.

While there was human-to-human transmission between the brothers, the "outbreak did not extend into the community, and appropriate steps were taken to reduce future risks of human infections," the WHO said.

The northwestern region of Pakistan has 85 percent of the country's poultry farms, BBC News reported. It was one of the regions hit by bird flu last year, and thousands of birds were killed to prevent the spread of the disease.

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Scientists Discover Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Soil

Hundreds of types of bacteria in soil that can eat antibiotics have been discovered by Harvard University researchers.

The discovery, published Friday in the journal Science, was made by scientists who collected soil samples from 11 locations in Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported.

Many of the bacteria from the soil samples could survive when put in laboratory dishes where antibiotics (18 different types) were the only source of nutrition. Some of the bacteria could survive levels of antibiotics 50 to 100 times greater than what would be given to a patient.

Researchers are now trying to learn more about how these soil bacteria can survive exposure to antibiotics, the AP reported.

Learning more about these bacteria is important because more and more disease-causing bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and there's concern that some infections may soon become untreatable.

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U.S. Identifies New Toys That Pose Choking Hazard

About 16,400 Imaginarium Multi-Sided Activity Centers and Jungle Activity Centers sold by Toys "R" Us are being recalled in the United States because small parts can detach from the toys and pose a choking hazard to young children.

There have been 12 reports of small parts detaching from the toys, but no reports of injuries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The Chinese-made toys were sold by Toys "R" Us from August 2007 through February 2008 for between $20 and $50. The recalled products have item numbers 69042 (multi-sided) and 69083 (jungle) printed on the back of the box, near the bar code.

These activity centers should be taken away from children and returned to the nearest Toys "R" Us store for a refund or store credit. For more information, contact Toys "R" Us at 800-869-7787.

Posted: April 2008


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