Health Highlights: Aug. 11, 2009

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

Longest Single Heart-Transplant Survivor Dies of Cancer

An Ohio man who lived the longest of any American with one transplanted heart has died at age 51.

Tony Huesman died Sunday of cancer, his wife Carol Huesman, said, according to an Associated Press report.

In 2000 Huesman became the longest-surviving American with a heart transplant when a Tennessee man underwent a second transplant operation, the AP said.

Huesman, who received his heart 31 years ago at Stanford University, founded the Huesman Heart Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, which seeks to educate children about heart disease prevention.

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U.S., Canada, Mexico to Unite Against Swine Flu

U.S., Mexican and Canadian leaders announced a combined effort Monday to combat the return of H1N1 swine flu this fall, and those measures are unlikely to include border closings, the Agence France Presse reported.

"We will remain vigilant and pledge to continue our close collaboration in addressing the H1N1 pandemic," said U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a joint statement in Mexico.

General border closings probably could not contain the virus and might make social and economic consequences of the pandemic even worse, they said.

"We will look to enhance our exchange of information, ensure common understanding of the effectiveness of public health measures, and share expertise," the three leaders said.

It is thought that the H1N1 virus will pick up strength in winter. "We three countries are preparing to confront this virus responsibly and minimize its impact for our people," Calderon said. In Mexico, where the death toll from swine flu advanced in recent weeks, a new public campaign will begin in October, the AFP said.

Worldwide, swine flu has killed 1,008 people, according to the World Health Organization.

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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.

Posted: August 2009


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