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Health Highlights: Aug. 6, 2009

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

Seasonal Flu Vaccines Shipped Early

Concerns about the swine flu pandemic have led vaccine makers to start shipping seasonal flu vaccines to the U.S. market much earlier than normal.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG both started shipping seasonal flu vaccines Wednesday, while Sanofi Pasteur started on July 27, the Associated Press reported.

Novartis is "weeks ahead of schedule," Sanofi is about two weeks early, and Glaxo is slightly ahead of its usual mid-August start.

The companies said they expect concerns about swine flu will lead to increased demand of seasonal flu vaccines this year. They also want to complete production of seasonal vaccines to ensure capacity to make swine flu vaccine, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said Thursday that vaccine manufacturers are on track to start delivering the first batches of swine flu vaccine in September.

According to AP, WHO vaccine director Marie-Paule Kieny said several drugmakers have started testing the vaccine in humans and early safety results should be available next month. Those will clear the way for the vaccine's use.


Can't Force Gays to Become Straight: APA

Mental health professionals shouldn't tell gay and lesbian patients they can become heterosexual through therapy or other treatments, the American Psychological Association stated Wednesday.

The group said there's no evidence that so-called reparative therapy is effective and some research suggests that it could cause harm by bringing on depression and suicidal tendencies, the Associated Press reported. Reparative therapy is advocated by a small number of therapists, often allied with religious conservatives.

Instead of trying to force gays and lesbians to become straight, mental health professionals should consider other options, such as celibacy and changing churches, for gay and lesbian patients whose sexual orientation conflicts with their religious faith, the APA advised.

This approach on counseling gays and lesbians was outlined in a report that was endorsed by the APA's governing council, the AP reported.


U.S. Gov't Boosts Funding of Suicide Crisis Centers

The tough economic situation in the United States has apparently contributed to a sharp increase in calls to suicide crisis centers, so the federal government is offering the centers increased funding.

In July, there were more than 57,000 calls to suicide prevention lines and about one-quarter of them were related to economic worries, said Richard McKeon, lead health adviser for suicide prevention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Associated Press reported.

This year, SAMHSA will provide more than $1 million in additional money to help as many as 20 crisis centers cope with the increasing number of calls, as well as possible cuts in state and local funding.

"We know that every single day, there are people calling who are in the midst of a suicide attempt," McKeon told the AP. "Any delay in getting that call answered could be tragic."

Normally, SAMHSA provides a grant of about $2.9 million a year to help fund the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which directs calls to about 140 crisis centers across the country.

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Posted: August 2009