Health Highlights: Aug. 10, 2009

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

Antiviral Drugs Little Protection Against Flu Complications In Kids

The antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza rarely prevent complications in children with seasonal flu, a finding that calls into question the policy of giving the drugs to youngsters with swine flu, say U.K. researchers.

The medicines are the main line of defense against swine flu until a vaccine becomes available, possibly in the fall.

"Our research is finding for most children these antiviral drugs are probably not going to have much of an effect," said study author Matthew Thompson of the University of Oxford, BBC News reported.

He and his colleagues reviewed previous studies and found that Tamiflu and Relenza can shorten the duration of seasonal flu in children by up to 1.5 days. However, the drugs have little or no effect on flu complications such as asthma flare-ups, ear infections, or the likelihood of young flu patients needing antibiotics. They also found that Tamiflu increases the risk of vomiting.

The study appears in the British Medical Journal.

The findings aren't surprising, flu expert Professor Hugh Pennington told BBC News. "Tamiflu has a place but it's not a wonder cure," he said.

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U.S. Birth Rate Declined in 2008

Economic turmoil may be one reason why the number of births in the United States decreased by nearly two percent in 2008, the first annual decline since the start of the decade, the Associated Press reported.

There were 4,247,000 births last year, down about 68,000 from 2007, according to the report by the National Center for Health Statistics. In contrast, more babies were born in 2007 than in any other year in the nation's history.

Births in 2008 were lower in all but 10 states, the AP reported. Most of the states that had increases were in the northwest, including Idaho, North Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.

California saw a decline of 15,000 births while births in Florida were down by 8,000 in 2008.

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Collins Confirmed As NIH Director

Dr. Francis Collins was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the new director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday.

"Dr. Collins is one of our generation's great scientific leaders. A physician and geneticist, Dr. Collins served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he led the Human Genome Project to completion," Sebelius said in a news release. "Dr. Collins will be an outstanding leader. Today is an exciting day for NIH and for science in this country."

Collins is known for his landmark discovery of disease genes and was director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH from 1993-2008.

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Posted: August 2009


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