Health Highlights: Aug. 8, 2012

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

Don't Wait Too Long to Vaccinate Girls Against HPV: Study

A new study finds that more than half of girls aged 13 or older already carry the human papillomavirus (HPV), reinforcing recommendations to give girls the shot at an early age.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends vaccination against HPV -- the leading cause of cervical cancer -- by the time girls are 11 or 12 years of age. However, parents and doctors may delay the vaccine, thinking that preteen girls have a low risk of acquiring the sexually transmitted virus.

But according to a study published Aug. 7 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, waiting until the teen years may already be too late, ABC News reported.

A team led by Dr. Lea Widdice, assistant professor of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, tested 259 females aged 13 to 21. Among the 190 who said they were already sexually active, 70 percent were already infected. Even among girls who'd had sexual experience without intercourse, 11 percent were infected with HPV, the study found.

Widdice stressed that the HPV vaccine is only preventive -- it is useless in fighting HPV in already-infected women.

She also told ABC News that "HPV is different from other sexually transmitted infections in that it appears to be transmitted a lot more easily. Although it's most efficiently transmitted through sexual intercourse, it can definitely be transmitted through genital skin-to-skin touching."

Widdice believes the finding "supports the recommendation that the HPV vaccine be given to girls when they're 11 and 12 years old."

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Composer Marvin Hamlisch Dies at 68

Award-winning composer of stage and screen Marvin Hamlisch died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 68, The New York Times reported.

A statement said that Hamlisch, who composed the scores of musicals such as "A Chorus Line" and movies such as "The Way We Were," collapsed after a brief illness and died in Los Angeles. No other details were made available, the Times said.

Hamlisch was a 12-time Oscar winner for scores and songs from movies such as "Sophie's Choice," "The Sting" and "The Spy Who Loved Me." He also won four Emmys, four Grammys, and a Tony for "A Chorus Line."

Hamlisch never stopped working, and last month was busy on a musical adaptation of the Jerry Lewis film "The Nutty Professor," the Times said.

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No Rise in Medicare Drug Premiums in 2013

American seniors won't see any significant rise in their drug premiums under Medicare in 2013, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Monday.

In an HHS news release, the agency said that the average monthly prescription drug premium next year will be around $30, similar to costs for the prior two years.

"Premiums are holding steady and, thanks to the health care law, millions of people with Medicare are saving an average of over $600 each year on their prescription drugs," Secretary Sebelius said in the news release.

The annual enrollment period for Medicare's Part D drug plan begins Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, 2012. During this time, Medicare recipients can choose their plans for 2013, comparing rates and coverage of different plans. Any choice they make becomes effective Jan. 1, 2013.

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Posted: August 2012


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