Health Highlights: Oct. 4, 2008

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

Norovirus Outbreak Strikes Georgetown University

More than 170 Georgetown University students in Washington D.C. have become ill from a norovirus that caused nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration during the past week, the Washington Post reports.

So concerned with the viral infection were school and health officials that Georgetown's football game Saturday against Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. was called off, according to the Associated Press.

There has been only one hospitalization for observation, the Post reports.

Norovirus infections have become notorious in recent years, occurring with some frequency on cruise ships and other places where the public gathers to eat and socialize. It is spread by direct huiman contact or through contaminated food.

In addition to nausea and diarrhea, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says other symptoms include stomach cramps and fever. The condition usually last about two days, according to the CDC.

Georgetown and District of Columbia officials haven't yet identified the cause of the outbreak, the Post reports, but the campus is being subjected to a decontamination designed to keep the outbreak from spreading.

"Our job now is to continue to treat the sick and, most importantly, to prevent the spread of the illness," James C. Welsh, assistant vice president for student health told the newspaper. "Hand-washing is going to be our mantra."

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Leading Psychiatrist Allegedly Failed to Disclose Pharma Payments

A leading U.S. psychiatrist allegedly failed to report to his university at least $1.2 million in pharmaceutical company consulting fees, The New York Times reported Friday.

Dr. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University is the latest physician to be involved in growing controversy over drug maker payments to physicians who speak or provide advice on the companies' behalf.

The newspaper cited, as an example, a letter Nemeroff signed in 2004 telling Emory officials that he thought he would receive less than $10,000 in such fees from GlaxoSmithKline. He went on to receive $170,000 in income that year from the British pharma giant, the Times reported.

Congress, led by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), is investigating the conflict-of-interest disclosures provided by many prominent U.S. physicians, comparing them with drug company documents to make sure the two sets of records agree.

"After questioning about 20 doctors and research institutions, it looks like problems with transparency are everywhere," the newspaper quoted Grassley as saying. "The current system for tracking financial relationships isn't working."

Nemeroff didn't respond to the newspaper's attempts to solicit comment. Emory spokesman Jeffrey Molter said the university was "working diligently to determine whether our policies have been observed consistently with regard to the matters cited by Senator Grassley," the Times reported.

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Chicken Soup Offers Stress Relief for Pandas

Your grandmother probably prescribed chicken soup if you had a cold, were run down or simply weren't feeling well.

Chinese zookeepers have taken a page from her recipe book, having fed a pair of stressed-out pandas some homemade chicken soup as a way to calm their nerves, the Associated Press reported.

Xiwang and Weiwei were said to be very tired and suffering from visitor shock at the end of the weeklong National Day holiday. More than 1,000 tourists flocked to the panda enclosure at the Wuhan Zoo in Central China, shouting to get the animals' attention, a zookeeper told the wire service. The pandas started pacing around their enclosure.

So in addition to the standard diet of bamboo, milk and buns, the pandas were given "giant dishes" of chicken soup.

"They drank it all like they drank their milk," the zookeeper said.

Grandma would approve.

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27 Bus Riders Sought in Canadian TB Probe

Canadian health officials are looking for 27 people who may have contracted tuberculosis from an infected passenger during a Toronto-to-Windsor bus trip in late August, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The infection risk is low, according to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, but those on the Greyhound bus who may have been exposed need to be evaluated. The Detroit-bound bus had 42 passengers aboard when it reached Windsor, just across the Canadian border from Detroit, and 27 passengers got off the bus there, the wire service said.

The infected person, according to Williams, had already tested positive for tuberculosis in the United States, was refused entry back into the country at the border, and was only identified as carrying a Canadian passport. Williams said officials don't know where the person was sitting on the bus or how many people sat close by, the AP reported.

Mark Nesbitt, an Ontario health spokesman, said doctors are monitoring the remaining passengers on the bus, but none appears so far ill. Passengers on the bus are being asked to contact their local public health office as soon as possible.

Williams said the infected person doesn't have the more serious forms of multi-drug resistant or extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis. TB can take three to eight weeks to incubate, officials said.

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Kids' Breakfast Cereals Way Too Sweet, Report Says

A Consumer Reports nutritional analysis of 27 popular children's breakfast cereals found only four of them could be rated "very good" because of low sugar content, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The good cereals were Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios and Life. Cheerios topped the list with just 1 gram of sugar and 3 grams of fiber per serving. The ratings were based on energy density and nutrient content on the labels' serving-size recommendations and confirmed by an outside laboratory, the paper said.

Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Golden Crisp, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Rice Krispies, Cap'n Crunch and Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch fell to the bottom of the list, with all of them rated as having too much sugar and sodium and very little fiber. Golden Crisp and Honey Smacks had more than 50 percent sugar, and another nine cereals had at least 40 percent sugar.

The analysis found that Honey Smacks and 10 other cereals contained as much sugar as there is in a Dunkin' Donuts glazed doughnut, the Post reported.

Rice Krispies garnered only a "fair" rating, because the cereal was found to be high in sodium and had zero dietary fiber. Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size was rated "good," because it was low in sodium and had six grams of fiber.

While the findings may not surprise parents, Consumer Reports added one more spoonful of thought to its findings. The magazine conducted a study of 91 youngsters between the ages of 6 to 16 and found that, on average, they filled their bowls with 50 percent to 65 percent more than the suggested serving size, according to the Post.

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Poor Ratings Given to 13 Child Booster Seats

Insurance industry and transportation researchers have cited 13 booster seats that don't put children in the best position to be protected in a car crash, but makers of the seats said their products meet or exceed federal regulations, the Associated Press reported.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducts crash tests of new vehicles, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute did not recommend: Compass B505, Compass B510, Cosco/Dorel Traveler, Evenflo Big Kid Confidence, Safety Angel Ride Ryte, Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega, Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit, Cosco Highback Booster, Dorel/Safety 1st (Eddie Bauer) Prospect, Evenflo Chase Comfort Touch, Evenflo Generations, Graco CarGo Zephyr, and Safety 1st/Dorel Intera, the news service said.

IIHS President Adrian Lund said the group did not review crash protection, because the seats merely elevate children so that lap and shoulder belts are positioned properly. Seat belts should fit across a child's lower hips and mid-shoulders instead of the abdomen, since injuries to the liver and spleen are possible, he said.

But manufacturers of the seats had a different view of the findings.

In a statement, Evenflo said that it conducts extensive seat testing and called the IIHS study "misleading as it fails to consider the real world use and performance of the seats tested." Dorel Juvenile Group said it welcomed the opportunity to review the evaluation, and Graco Children's Products responded that "safety is always a top priority, and nothing is more important than the well-being of the children who use our products."

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said that parents should not interpret the evaluations to mean that poorly rated seats are ineffective. "The biggest disservice this would do is to encourage people to move out of booster seats, because we know they're an effective restraint, we know they reduce the risk of injury and the risk of fatality," said Dr. Kristy Arbogast, who researches child passenger safety issues at the hospital. She suggested that parents buying booster seats try them out to see how seat belts fit on their child, the AP reported.

Posted: October 2008


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