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Health Highlights: Sept. 6, 2012

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

Scientology Detox Method Used to Treat Agent Orange Victims

A detoxification treatment developed by the founder of the Church of Scientology is being used by the Vietnamese government to treat some people exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange.

The defoliant was used by American troops during the Vietnam War and contained dioxin, which has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases, The New York Times reported.

The treatment, which as been used on about 300 people in Vietnam, includes taking vitamins and minerals, doing strenuous exercise, and sweating in a sauna. Some doctors and others doubt that the treatment, known as the Purification Rundown or the Hubbard method, is effective.

"I would not expect that it would lower the body burden of dioxin in a given person," Dr. Marcella L. Warner, a research epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the long-term health effects of dioxin exposure, told The Times.

"We are not aware of any safe, effective detoxification treatment for people with dioxin in body tissues," Christopher Hodges, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Hanoi, said. "The best way to reduce health risks associated with dioxin is to prevent human exposure to dioxin."


Colorado Girl Recovering From Bubonic Plague

A seven-year-old Colorado girl is recovering after contracting a rare case of bubonic plague.

Sierra Jane Downing's father rushed her to hospital in their town of Pagosa Springs after she developed a high fever and suffered a seizure on Aug. 24., a few days after the family had gone camping in southwestern Colorado, the Associated Press reported.

Doctors struggled to diagnose what was wrong with Sierra Jane, who was eventually transferred to Denver. By the night of Aug. 25, she had a high rate, low blood pressure, and a swollen lymph node in her left groin was extremely painful. Sierra Jane was put on a specific antibiotic while doctors conducted tests that confirmed bubonic plague.

By Wednesday, Sierra Jane was well on the road to recovery and doctors say she could be discharged within a week, the AP reported.

Humans typically become infected with bubonic plague through the bites of infected fleas, but the disease can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected rodents and other animals.

So far this year, there have been two other confirmed cases and one probable case of plague in United States, according to federal officials. The confirmed cases were in New Mexico and Oregon and the probable case was also in Oregon. No one died, the AP reported.

Antibiotics are used to treat people with bubonic plague.


Yosemite Visitors in 39 Other Countries Warned About Hantavirus

Yosemite Park visitors from 39 countries outside the United States have been sent warnings about a hantavirus outbreak linked to some of the park's cabins, health officials said Wednesday.

Six cases of the potentially deadly rodent-borne disease have been reported among people who stayed at 'Signature Tent Cabins" in the park's popular Curry Village from early June to late August. Two of those infected have died, CNN reported.

Up to 100,000 people are at risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"All guests who made reservations to stay in the 'Signature Tent Cabins' from June 10 through August 24, 2012 (approximately 2,900 persons) were e-mailed or mailed a health advisory urging them to seek immediate medical attention if they or other persons in their party exhibit symptoms of HPS," or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the CDC said last week.

The syndrome is a rare lung disease that kills about one third of those infected, CNN reported.


Author Judy Blume Reveals Breast Cancer Battle

Author Judy Blume revealed Wednesday that she spent the summer battling breast cancer.

In a detailed blog entry, Blume describes her diagnosis and subsequent decision to have a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She says routine ultrasound in June revealed that she required an immediate biopsy, CNN reported.

Within the next few days, Blue was told she had "invasive ductal carcinoma." The diagnosis left her shocked and questioning how she could have breast cancer.

It's been one month since her surgery and Blume said she is "feeling stronger every day," CNN reported.


NFL Donates $30 Million for Brain Research

The NFL is donating $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to conduct brain research designed to benefit athletes, members of the military and the general public.

The announcement was made Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Associated Press reported.

Under the grant, potential areas of research include chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), concussion management and treatment, and investigating the link between traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, later in life.

The NIH, considered one of the world's leading medical research centers, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the AP reported.


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Posted: September 2012