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Health Highlights: Aug. 23, 2010

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

White House to Revise New Medical Privacy Rules

New medical privacy rules have been withdrawn by the Obama administration and will be rewritten in response to criticism that the regulations don't adequately protect patients' rights.

The new rules were submitted in May for approval by the White House Office of Management and Budget. They specified when doctors, hospitals and insurers must tell patients about the improper use or disclosure of information in their medical records, The New York Times reported.

But consumer groups and many members of Congress said the rules failed to provide sufficient protection for patients. The Department of Health and Human Services withdrew them and hopes to issue final rules this fall.

In the last 18 months, more than five million people in the United States have been affected by breaches of medical information, according to the watchdog group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, The Times reported.

These breaches occurred in a number of ways, including the loss of paper records, the posting of data on Web sites, and the theft of laptop computers.


Drugs Protect Monkeys Against Ebola, Marburg Viruses

New research suggests it eventually may be possible to protect people against bioterrorist attacks that use the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses, say U.S. scientists.

They found that injecting synthetic nucleotides called morpholino oligomers into monkeys blocked replication of the Ebola and Marburg viruses. The monkeys become very sick but most of them survive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

These are the first anti-Ebola and Marburg virus drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trial testing. The trials will be limited to monkeys before any tests are conducted in humans.

While the results are encouraging, the scientists still have a long way to go before they have a product that can be used with confidence in humans, said Alan L. Schmaljohn, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the research, the Times reported.

He noted that the drugs were given to the monkeys within an hour after infection with the Ebola or Marburg viruses. The drugs could be much less effective if given later or against a more virulent strain of the viruses.


Mental Woes Still Trouble Kids Displaced By Katrina: Study

Children displaced by Hurricane Katrina are nearly five time more likely than other children to have severe emotional problems, but fewer than half of youngsters believed to need psychological help receive it, finds a new study.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, killing about 1,600 people and causing an estimated $80 billion in property damage.

"A significant number of children are still living under dangerous and traumatic conditions of persistent displacement," said study co-author Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, USA Today reported.

He and his colleagues found that emotional and behavioral problems afflict nearly 60 percent (20,000) of children whose families had to move into trailer parks, hotels or other types of group housing.

They also found that more than one-third of children in middle school or high school were one or more years older than their classmates, which suggests that transient living conditions have caused many children to fall behind academically, USA Today reported.

The study appears in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

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Posted: August 2010