Health Highlights: June 26, 2014

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

Supreme Court Voids Mass. Law Restricting Abortion Protesters

A Massachusetts law requiring abortion protesters to keep at least 35 feet away from the entrances of abortion clinics was struck down Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices concluded that the Massachusetts rule denied protesters their First Amendment rights guaranteeing free speech.

"Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks - sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, according to NBC News.

The court felt that Massachusetts, which adopted the ruling because of previous abortion-related violence, had not tried other less intrusive means, the news network reported.

However, the court let stand an earlier Massachusetts law allowing smaller "bubble zones," which keep protesters at least 8 feet away from abortion-clinic entrances.

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NYC Can't Ban Large Sugary Drinks: Appeals Court

New York City's attempt to have its ban on large sodas and other sugary drinks reinstated was denied Thursday by the state's Court of Appeals.

The court upheld a lower court decision that overturned the city's 2012 ban on the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces, the Associated Press reported.

In its decision, the appeals court said the city's health department exceeded its powers when it restricted the size of sugary drinks in restaurants, delis, street carts, stadiums and movie theaters.

The city introduced the ban as a way to combat obesity and other health problems. Beverage makers, restaurants and theater owners sued to have the ban overturned, the AP reported.

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Dozens of Boston Concertgoers Hospitalized

Drugs, alcohol and heat led to the hospitalization of dozens of teens who attended an electronic dance music show in Boston Wednesday.

None of the health problems that occurred among at least 22 people, ages 16 to 19, were life-threatening, ABC News reported.

Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital said 13 patients were treated there, while Tufts Medical Center officials said at least nine people were brought to that facility.

In addition to the teens taken to hospital, dozens more concertgoers at the TD Garden arena were treated onsite. Due to the number of people involved, police described the situation as a mass casualty event, ABC News reported.

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Federal Panel Says Flu Vaccine Spray Better Than Shots for Young Kids

Spraying a flu vaccine up young children's noses is more effective than giving them a shot, a U.S. government panel ruled Wednesday.

The new recommendation, voted on during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, only applies to children aged 2 to 8, according to the Associated Press.

Currently, the only flu vaccine spray on the market is AstraZeneca's FluMist, and it is approved for people aged 2 to 49. Instead of using a killed virus, the spray is made from a live but weakened flu virus, the wire service reported.

The spray triggers a stronger immune response in children who may have never had the flu before, experts say. Kids within that age group are about half as likely to get the flu if they get the nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot, research has shown, the AP reported.

Although federal health officials usually adopt the recommendations of the committee, the nation's largest pediatrician's group objected to the new recommendation, the AP reported.

FluMist is more expensive, it can't be used for everyone and doctors have already ordered their vaccine doses for the fall flu season, a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics said during the meeting.

But health officials stressed that flu shots are perfectly fine to use, the AP reported. FluMist costs about $23; shots range from about $8 to $22.

Posted: June 2014


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