Health Highlights: Nov. 15, 2007

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

Mutant Cold Virus Has Killed 10: CDC

A respiratory virus that's a variant of the bug that causes the common cold has killed 10 people and made at least 140 sick in the past 18 months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday.

The bug is among a family of viruses called adenovirus, which usually trigger non-lethal respiratory illnesses, the Associated Press reported. The more than 50 different types of adenovirus have been known to spawn respiratory ills ranging from pneumonia to bronchitis.

The new strain has caused at least 140 respiratory infections in New York, Oregon, Washington state, and Texas, the wire service said.

It was labeled "boot camp flu" when it made scores of military personnel sick at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio earlier this year. One 19-year-old trainee died from the virus, the AP reported.

Antiviral medications aren't very effective in treating adenoviruses, the wire service said, noting that infected people are normally prescribed bed rest, liquids, and aspirin.

The CDC said the earliest case of the lethal strain was identified in a New York City infant who died last year. The baby girl initially seemed healthy but quickly stopped eating and drinking. She died 12 days after birth, the wire service said.

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FDA Moves to Improve Advisory Committee Processes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a number of measures to strengthen its advisory committee processes, based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine.

Proposed measures include new guidance/procedures on advisory committee voting, disclosure of information on conflicts of interest, security, and appropriate conduct for participants at meetings.

The FDA also wants to improve the clarity of its advisory committee Web site.

"One of FDA's strengths is that we routinely enlist the nation's leading experts to give us public advice on complex medical and scientific issues. The new steps we're taking further enhance the transparency and reliability of our advisory committee processes," Randall Lutter, FDA deputy commissioner for policy, said in a prepared statement.

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U.K. Officials Order Culls at More Poultry Farms

U.K. officials have ordered precautionary culls of poultry on a number of Suffolk farms close to a farm with a confirmed outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, BBC News reported.

A slaughter of 5,500 turkeys at a farm within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the first farm is being completed, and culls of turkeys are also underway at three other farms within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) surveillance zone around the first farm.

In total, about 30,000 turkeys, ducks, and geese will be slaughtered at the five farms, which are operated by the same company and share the same staff, BBC News reported.

Tests are being conducted on birds killed in the precautionary culls, to determine whether the H5N1 virus has spread to those farms.

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Hunger Affected 35.5 Million People in U.S. in 2006

Single mothers and children were most likely to be among the more than 35.5 million people in the United States who went hungry in 2006, a slight increase from the 35.1 million who struggled to get enough food in 2005, according to an Agriculture Department report released Wednesday.

The annual hunger survey found that more than 1 in 10 (12.1 percent) of people in the U.S. didn't have enough money or resources to get food for at least some period of time during 2006, the Associated Press reported. The survey was based on Census Bureau data and didn't include homeless people. Federal government statistics suggest that about 750,000 people were homeless on any given day in 2005.

Of the 35.5 million people who went hungry in 2006, 11.1 million had "very low food security," which means they had a major disruption in the amount of food they typically consume, the AP reported.

Other findings in the survey:

  • Children accounted for 12.6 million of those who experienced hunger in 2006.
  • Among families, those most likely to report hunger were: single mothers (30.4 percent); black households (21.8 percent); Hispanic households (19.5 percent); and households with incomes below the official poverty line (36.3 percent).
  • States that had an increase in the number of families reporting hunger from 2004 to 2006 included: Mississippi (18.1 percent); New Mexico (16.1 percent); Texas (15.9 percent); and South Carolina (14.7 percent).

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Depression Raises Smoking Risk in Young Adults

Young adults ages 18 to 25 who've suffered depression within the previous year are about 60 percent more likely to start smoking than those who haven't been depressed (33.7 percent vs. 24.8 percent), concludes a report released Thursday by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report's release coincides with Thursday's Great American Smokeout -- an annual event where smokers are encouraged to make a plan to kick the habit. Smokers who want to quit can call the American Cancer Society's Quitline at 1-800-ACS-2345 or go to the Web site (www.greatamericansmokeout.org) to develop a personal plan to quit.

"Today is the Great American Smokeout -- a day when we pause to recognize ongoing efforts to draw attention to the health benefits of avoiding cigarettes. This study clearly reveals that too often people turn to cigarettes or other substances to try to deal with depression, creating a double jeopardy for their health and well-being," SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline said in a prepared statement.

In order to encourage smokers to take part in the Great American Smokeout, the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery point out that cigarettes and other tobacco products cause a number of health problems in addition to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

For example, cigarette and smokeless tobacco use is the leading cause of head and neck cancers. Smoking can affect hearing and aggravate conditions such as allergies and sinusitis.

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Americans Urged to Increase Recycling

Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day and everyone is being urged to expand their recycling activities and to remember that recycling is a simple, inexpensive way to go green, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2006, Americans generated 251 million tons of municipal solid waste and recycled and composted 82 million tons. That means that each American generated 4.6 pounds of waste each day, of which about 1.5 pounds (32.5 percent) were recycled. Another 31 million tons of municipal solid waste were burned for energy recovery in 2006.

Recycling helps conserve natural resources, save energy, and reduce climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA said. For example, recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the energy equivalent of 36 barrels of oil or 1,655 gallons of gasoline. Using recycled glass instead of new materials consumes 40 percent less energy.

Americans can also help by buying products with recycled content, less packaging and fewer harmful materials.

Posted: November 2007


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