Health Highlights: Sept. 13, 2007

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

1,395 West Nile Virus Cases, 38 Deaths in U.S.

So far this year, there have been 38 deaths among the 1,395 reported human cases of West Nile virus in 38 states, a federal study found.

Of the 1,395 cases as of Sept. 11, the median age of patients was 49 and 770 (56 percent) of the cases occurred in males. There have been 136 reported cases of West Nile virus detected in blood donors, including 33 in California, 20 in Texas, 13 in Oklahoma, 11 in South Dakota, nine in Minnesota, and seven each in Missouri and North Dakota.

Of those 136 cases, two people subsequently had neuroinvasive illness and 31 later developed West Nile fever.

More than 1,200 dead birds with West Nile virus infection have been reported in 29 states and New York City, and infections have been reported in horses in 26 states, one dog in Oregon, 11 squirrels in California, and three unidentified animal species in Idaho and Montana.

The findings are published in the Sept. 14 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Reduce Meat Consumption and Help Fight Climate Change?

You can help fight climate change by eating less meat, says a paper in this week's issue of The Lancet medical journal.

The authors of the paper said agriculture accounts for 22 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions -- about the same as industry and more than that of cars and other forms of transportation. And livestock production accounts for nearly 80 percent of agricultural emissions, Agence France-Presse reported.

Currently, average meat consumption worldwide is 100 grams (3.5 ounces) per person per day. But the average in rich countries is 200 to 250 grams (7 to 8.8 ounces), compared to 20 to 25 grams (0.71 to 0.88 ounces) in poor countries.

The paper's authors said the global average should be reduced to 90 grams (3.17 ounces) per day per person by 2050. That means that people in rich countries need to reduce their meat intake to the equivalent of one hamburger per day, AFP reported.

Not only would that benefit the environment, it would also improve health by lowering the risk of heart disease, obesity, colorectal cancer, and perhaps other kinds of cancers, the authors said.

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Older Siblings May Stunt Younger Children's Growth

Having older siblings may stunt the growth of younger children, say researchers at University College London in England. This is especially true if older siblings are brothers.

The study found that children in larger families were likely to be shorter than average, BBC News reported.

The researchers analyzed data from 14,000 families and found that children with three siblings were 2.5 centimeters (one inch) shorter than the average height for their age.

Multiple siblings may spread thin the resources that parents can offer their children, the researchers suggested.

"If you are the oldest child, having younger siblings will not affect your development significantly but if you are one of the younger ones, then you can expect to be shorter than your older siblings," said study leader David Lawson, BBC News reported.

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U.S. Failed to Boost Salad Green Inspections After E. coli Scare

U.S. authorities failed to act on demands for increased inspections of salad greens prompted by last year's E. coli outbreak in spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200, according to an Associated Press investigation.

The failure to boost government oversight of U.S. producers of salad greens means that consumer safety depends on a hodgepodge of largely unenforceable regulations and the industry itself, the AP reported.

The news agency reviewed data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They found that, on average, companies that grow and process salad greens are inspected by federal regulators only once every 3.9 years.

Companies would be subjected to inspections at least four times a year under some proposals being considered by Congress, the AP reported.

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Trasylol Should Remain on Market: FDA Panel

Despite being linked with increased risk of death and other serious side effects, the drug aprotinin (brand name Trasylol) should remain on the market, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said Wednesday.

Trasylol-- sold by Bayer AG -- was approved by the FDA in 1993 to prevent excessive bleeding and the need for blood transfusions in patients undergoing bypass surgery for clogged coronary arteries.

The FDA appointed the advisory panel to review the drug's safety following the publication of studies within the past few years that linked the drug to an increased risk of death and serious side effects, including heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems, the AP reported.

The panel voted 16-1, with one abstention, to recommend that Trasylol remain on the market. The FDA is not bound to follow its advisory panels' recommendations but does so in most cases.

In December 2006, the FDA strengthened the "black-box" warnings on Trasylol to say the drug should be given only to bypass surgery patients at increased risk of blood loss and transfusion, the AP reported.

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Global Child Death Rate at All-Time Low in 2006

The number of young children who died around the world dropped to an all-time low in 2006, due to immunization programs, anti-malaria measures and increased rates of breast feeding, says Unicef.

The UN children's agency said that 9.7 million children under age five died in 2006, compared with nearly 13 million in 1990, BBC News reported. The figures are based on government-conducted surveys in more than 50 countries.

But experts noted that many young children still die of preventable causes and more needs to be done to reduce the death toll.

Morocco, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic had the largest improvement -- deaths of young children in those countries declined by a third, BBC News reported. The majority of young children's deaths in 2006 were in sub-Saharan Africa (4.8 million) and south Asia (3.1 million).

Posted: September 2007


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