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Health Headlines - August 21

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Coretta Scott King's Condition: Partial Paralysis

Coretta Scott King is mostly paralyzed on the right side of her body from a stroke suffered earlier this week and faces a long, difficult recovery, her doctor told the Associated Press on Friday.

The 78-year-old widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. can't walk and has difficulty speaking. The stroke affected the left side of her brain, which controls speech, the wire service said.

Her personal physician, Dr. Maggie Mermin, said King would remain at Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital for at least another week. Mermin appeared to counter statements made earlier in the day by King's children that she was expected to recover fully.

"I'm not certain she'll have a full recovery . . . We certainly hope for that," Mermin told the wire service.

King, who was admitted on Tuesday, was listed in fair condition early Friday and was being given blood thinners to prevent more problems, said cardiologist Dr. Charles Wickcliffe. He said a blood clot had moved from King's heart and lodged in an artery on the left side of her brain, causing the stroke.

Nearly 2,000 People Believed Sickened at New York Water Park

Nearly 2,000 people have contracted a gastrointestinal illness that appears to have been spread at a New York state-run waterpark, the Associated Press reported.

At least 1,738 probable cases across 20 New York counties have been tallied, the wire service said. On Tuesday, state health officials closed Seneca Lake Park's "Sprayground" for the summer as a result of the outbreak.

At least 13 cases in four different counties have been confirmed as cryptosporidiosis, a contagious waterborne disease that causes symptoms that include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. Symptoms could last for weeks, the AP said.

The state Health Department has detected the bacterium responsible for the illness in two storage tanks that supply water to the park. A nearby beach was allowed to remain open when tests revealed no trace of the germ, the wire service said.

To prevent the illness from spreading, the Health Department advised the thorough washing of hands after using the bathroom, or coming in contact with child fecal matter in any way, the AP said.

U.S. Offers Millions in Grants to Combat Meth Abuse

The Bush administration has announced millions of dollars in federal programs and state grants to combat the growing problem of methamphetamine abuse, according to the Associated Press.

The grants will fund establishment of a national training laboratory for police agencies, and include $16.2 million for state addict treatment programs, the wire service said.

The street drug, commonly known as "meth," is easily made in makeshift home labs from chemicals found in cold medicines and other household products. The addictive stimulant can damage brain cells and, over time, may cause a Parkinson's disease-like disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The drug's growing popularity has led many states to pass laws moving popular cold remedies containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters, the AP said.

Ozone Levels Drop in 19 Eastern States

Ozone levels are on the decline in 19 Eastern states that often have bad air in the summer, according to a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report.

It said that reduced ozone levels are the result of a significant drop in emissions of nitrogen oxide, which reacts with sunlight and other factors to create bad air in the summer, the Associated Press reported.

In 2004, nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants and other sources in the 19 states were 30 percent lower than in 2003 and 50 percent lower than in 2000, the report said. This resulted in a four-year reduction in ozone of about 10 percent.

The 19 states in the report include New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

In response to the report, Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch, said, " it's fair to say we are making progress."

"At the same time, we haven't solved the ozone problem. This summer's air pollution shows how much further we have to go," O'Donnell told the AP.

Taxotere Bests Paclitaxel for Advanced Breast Cancer: Study

The drug Taxotere is more effective than paclitaxel in improving overall survival for women with certain kinds of advanced breast cancer, says a study in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The comparison study of the two most widely used chemotherapy agents for breast cancer found that women who received Taxotere had an increased overall survival of 15.4 months, compared with 12.7 months for women who took paclitaxel, AFX News reported.

The study, the first to directly compare the two treatments, examined women with advanced breast cancer whose cancer had progressed after the women had been treated with an anthracycline-based therapy.

Preclinical evidence suggested that the two drugs are different, and the results of this study provide oncologists with clinical evidence of these differences, said a news release from Sanofi-Aventis, the company that makes Taxotere.

The study found that response rates (tumor shrinkage) were 37 percent among women who received Taxotere, compared with 26 percent for women who received paclitaxel. Women taking Taxtotere also had a longer median duration of response -- 7.5 months vs. 4.6 months.

Drug Use in Schools Growing: Student Survey

Twenty-eight percent of middle-school students said drugs are used or sold in their schools, a 47 percent jump over a similar survey done three years ago, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

And the 12- to 17-year-olds who said drugs are kept or used in their schools were three times more likely to use marijuana or drink alcohol than those who attended drug-free schools, the latest Columbia University survey found.

Some 43 percent of the teens polled said they watched at least three R-rated movies in a typical month, and these teens were seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes and six times likelier to drink alcohol.

"If this survey does anything, it really shouts to parents: You cannot outsource your responsibility to law enforcement or the schools," said Joseph Califano Jr., president of Columbia's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which conducted the survey.

"I think when parents feel as strongly about drugs in the schools as they do about asbestos in the schools, we'll start getting the drugs out of the schools," he added.

Jury Awards Widow $253.4M in Vioxx Trial

The huge jury award to a plaintiff in the nation's first Vioxx case is likely to inspire thousands more suits on top of the 4,200 already filed against the drug's marker Merck & Co. and push liability estimates that reach $18 billion even higher, analysts said.

Merck & Co.'s stock sank $2.35, or 7.7 percent, to close at $28.06. The jury awarded $253.4 million in damages to a widow of a man who died in 2001 of heart arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat, after taking Vioxx for around eight months. The company plans to appeal.

Merck yanked the popular pain reliever from the market last September after a study found it doubled patients' risks of heart attacks and strokes after 18 months.

The loss is especially damaging because Merck initially had been expected to win what was considered a weak case because no studies have linked Vioxx to arrhythmia.

Food Fact:
Zest for life.

Don't toss away that orange peel -- it may help protect you against cancer. Grated citrus zest -- the outmost layer of the peel, not the white pith -- includes compounds may provide health benefits, such as inhibiting development of some cancers and lowering cholesterol. Scrub the rind with warm water and a drop of soap before starting to grate. Press a piece of wax paper onto the grater to make clean-up easier; the zest accumulates on the paper instead of getting stuck in the holes of the grater. Best of all, you can use the zest for a flavor boost in low-fat baked goods, pilafs, salad dressings, marinades and fruit salads.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Drink up.

By the time you feel thirsty during a workout, you may already be dehydrated! Your body requires constant hydration during exercise. Drink at least 8 oz. of water every 15 minutes while you are exercising.

FAQ of the day:
What's the "best" exercise?

Steve Blair of the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research says: Instead of looking for the "best" exercise, think about the best reasons to exercise. Take weight control. If you burn more calories than you consume you'll lose weight. It doesn't matter if you do it by running, washing your car or digging in your garden. Likewise, your heart and muscles aren't picky about the activity you choose; they'll be happy whether you choose to jog or play tennis. What matters is the regular physiological stress placed on the various body systems, which results in improved fitness. Even the "best" exercise program is worthless if you won't do it. A "lesser" program that you follow regularly is much better for you than no exercise at all. The bottom line is to find any activity you enjoy that gets you up out of your chair and moving. The best exercise is the one that you like to do!
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