Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2006

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Indonesia Reports 43rd Bird-Flu Death
Indonesian officials announced Monday that a 16-year-old boy had died of bird flu. If it's confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), it would bring that country's death toll to 43, the highest in the world.

The boy was admitted to a hospital on Saturday and died late Monday. Tests at a laboratory in Jakarta showed he had the H5N1 virus, said Dr. Santoso Suroso, director of the city's infectious diseases hospital.

Health officials said the boy had contact with sick chickens at his home, just east of Jakarta, the Associated Press reported.

If a WHO-accredited laboratory confirms this as a bird-flu death, it would be the 43rd in Indonesia since July 2005. A third of those deaths have occurred this year. Vietnam has recorded 42 bird-flu deaths, but has not had any this year.

Experts have criticized Indonesian officials for not doing enough to halt the spread of bird flu among the millions of backyard poultry in that country.

In related news, officials in Thailand have started visiting every home in 29 provinces to provide people with information about how to protect themselves from bird flu if they discover dead poultry, Agence France Presse reported.

Thailand reported its 16th bird-flu death on the weekend.

The virus has killed at least 135 people worldwide since it first appeared in Asia in late 2003. Most cases have been traced to contact with infected birds. But experts worry that the virus could mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between people.
Sexually Explicit Music Linked to Sex at Younger Age
Teens who listen to music spiced with raunchy, sexual lyrics start to have sex at a younger age than those who prefer more sedate tunes, says a U.S. study in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The study included 1,461 youngsters, aged 12 to 17, who were first interviewed in 2001 and again in 2002 and 2004. Most of the participants were virgins at the time of the initial interview.

Those who listened to a lot of music with degrading sexual messages -- depicting men as "sex-driven studs" and women as sex objects -- and explicit references to sex acts were more likely (51 percent) to start having sexual intercourse or other sexual activities within two years than teens who listened to little or no sexually charged music (29 percent), the Associated Press reported.

Study leader author and Rand Corp. researcher Steven Martino said heavy exposure to sexually degrading music gives teens "a specific message about sex." Boys learn they should relentlessly pursue women, and girls learn they're sex objects, he said.

"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful," about sexual decisions and may lead them to make choices they regret, Martino noted.
But one expert said parents and others shouldn't be too quick to pull the plug on this kind of music.
Elderly Should Take Probiotics: Experts
Elderly people should take probiotic supplements -- including drinks, capsules or yogurt -- to protect themselves against bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to experts.

People over age 60 have about 1,000-fold less "friendly" bacteria and more disease-causing bacteria in their guts compared with younger adults, scientists said at a briefing in London, England, BBC News reported.

Probiotic products, which contain live strains of bacteria, can help boost the amount of friendly bacteria in the guts of older people and help protect them against acute and chronic bowel diseases.

"The (scientific) literature has reported about 80 human studies with positive results against bowel conditions like traveler's diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and antibiotic-associated diarrhea," said Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology at Reading University.

He said that while probiotic products are useful for healthy adults -- for example, helping to fight bacteria that cause food poisoning -- they are even more beneficial for older people, the BBC reported.

However, Gibson and his colleagues said consumers need to carefully check products to determine whether they contain the correct strain of live bacteria -- such as bifidobacteria or lactobacilli -- and that there are at least 10 million bacterium in the product.
Castro Said to Be Recovering Quickly From Intestinal Surgery
Cuban President Fidel Castro, 79, is recovering quickly from intestinal surgery and may be back to work within a few weeks, according to Vice President Carlos Lage.

"In a few weeks he'll be recovered and he'll return to his duties," Lage told reporters Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Lage said Castro's return as leader of Cuba would expose a U.S. policy of "lies" behind speculation that Castro wouldn't recover. He also dismissed reports that Castro had stomach cancer.

"The operation that he underwent was successful and he is recovering favorably. Fidel's going to be around for another 80 years," Lage said.

There's been no sign of Castro since July 31, when it was announced that he'd undergone surgery and had temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Castro ally, said the Cuban leader was out of bed and talking after his surgery, the AP reported.
British Drug Trial Victim Says He Has Cancer
One of six men who became seriously ill earlier this year after volunteering for a drug trial in London, England, says he has early signs of cancer.

David Oakley told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that he's seeking compensation from Parexel, a clinical research organization that carried out the drug trial on behalf of German pharmaceutical company TeGenero, BBC News reported.

There's no evidence to confirm that Oakley's cancer was caused by the experimental drug, the newspaper said.
About two months ago, blood tests detected "cells that shouldn't be there," which indicates early signs of cancer, according to Oakley.

The drug in the trial, TGN 1412, has been under development for treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers.

British authorities investigated the incident involving the six men and concluded that Parexel failed to follow proper procedures, BBC News reported. Parexel has previously said that all guidelines were followed during the trial.

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