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Health Headlines - March 26

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
China Confirms Woman's Bird Flu Death

A woman who died in Shanghai tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, China announced Saturday. Indonesia awaited confirmation of tests showing that a dead 1-year-old girl in Jakarta had the virus.

In Hong Kong, the government said a dead peregrine falcon found in a housing complex tested positive for the H5N1 strain.

The woman who died in Shanghai was the Chinese mainland's 11th human death from bird flu and the first in Shanghai, the country's biggest city, according to the World Health Organization.

The migrant worker, identified only by the common surname Li, died Tuesday after being hospitalized with fever and cold symptoms.

Blood tests by China's national Center for Disease Control confirmed Li had bird flu, the Health Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency. It said the tests were conducted in line with WHO standards and results were reported to the agency.

Authorities haven't said how the woman might have contracted the virus. No bird flu outbreaks in poultry have been reported in Shanghai since 2004.

People who had close contact with Li were placed under observation but none has shown disease symptoms, Xinhua said.

Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 100 people in eight countries, mostly in Asia, according to WHO.

Tests on the Indonesian girl, who died Thursday, showed she had the H5N1 strain, said Hariadi Wibisono, a Health Ministry director. He said she fell ill after coming into contact with dead poultry.

A swab and blood sample have been sent to a WHO-sanctioned laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmation, Wibisono said.

The girl would be Indonesia's 23rd human death from bird flu, he said.

The falcon in Hong Kong was found Tuesday near the border with mainland China, and laboratory tests confirmed it had the H5N1 strain, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Hong Kong hasn't reported a human case of bird flu since 2003.

More than 6,000 dead birds have been tested for bird flu in Hong Kong since late October, according to the government. Of those, two chickens and 14 wild birds were confirmed to have the H5N1 virus.

China has reported 16 human cases and dozens of outbreaks in chickens, ducks and other poultry in areas throughout the country. The government has destroyed millions of farm birds to contain outbreaks.

Most of China's human infections have been traced to contact with sick or dead birds. Experts say the virus might be spread by millions of migratory birds that cross China.

Allergies Spring Into Action

While budding trees and blooming flowers are among the delights of spring, the season also brings the threat of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms for more than 20 percent of Americans.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers the following 10 tips on how people with allergies can ease their symptoms:

* Spring clean. Do a thorough cleaning inside your home. Through the winter, windows, bookshelves, and air conditioning vents can collect dust and mold that can trigger allergy symptoms.
* Avoid pollen. Close the windows in your home when pollen counts are high. Avoid using window fans that may draw pollen inside. When mowing the lawn or gardening, wear a filter mask. Minimize outdoor activity when pollen counts are high. Peak pollen times are usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can get up-to-date pollen information for your area by going to the National Allergy Bureau's Web site at
* Be prepared. Take allergy medications at least 30 minutes before your go outside. Consult with an allergist/immunologist to ensure medications are helping you or when you suffer reactions to medications.
* Wash n' dry right. Wash bedding weekly in hot water. Dry laundry indoors -- sheets hanging on outside lines can collect pollen.
* De-pollinate. Shower and wash your hair before bed in order to wash off pollen that's collected on your skin and hair.
* Watch pets, too. Keep pets off furniture and out of the bedroom. Pollen can cling to dogs and cats who've been outside.
* Drive (and breathe) safe. During peak pollen season, keep your car windows closed. Use air conditioning and point the vents away from your face.

Young Smiles Can Fall Prey to Tooth Decay

Add cavities to the growing list of health problems plaguing American kids.

More than 25 percent of preschoolers suffer from tooth decay, a recent federal study found.

"National studies are showing that early decay is on the increase, and that's shocking, actually," said Dr. Mary Hayes, a Chicago dentist and a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. "It's really a silent epidemic."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than 4 million preschoolers are affected by tooth decay, a leap of more than 600,000 children in a decade.

Dental professionals suspect the problem is being spurred by the increased consumption of sugary drinks and snacks, as well as lax tooth cleaning.

"The science now is, we aren't worried about teeth being hard or soft," Hayes said. "The issue more is the bacteria living in your mouth, and how happy they are there."

Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on teeth from foods containing sugars or starches, according to the American Dental Association. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel, and the stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth. As the enamel breaks down, a cavity forms.

Parents need to realize that even though baby teeth are destined to be replaced by permanent teeth, they still need to be cared for, Hayes said.

For starters, a decayed baby tooth can cause pain and suffering for years if left untreated.

"Baby teeth are with us longer than people think," Hayes said. "People think if a baby tooth gets decay, that's OK because the tooth is disposable. But the last ones don't leave until kids are about 12."

Tooth decay in baby teeth also tends to predict future tooth decay and orthodontal problems in permanent teeth, according to the American Dental Association.

Care for a child's teeth should start before the first tooth is even in the mouth, experts say. Parents can get infants used to having their teeth cleaned by running a wet washcloth around their mouth before the first tooth erupts.

Once the first tooth emerges, parents must be ready to kick-start dental-health habits that can help their children for a lifetime, said Dr. Kimberly Harms, a dentist in Farmington, Minn.

"Most people don't understand they have to start cleaning those teeth the minute they erupt into the mouth," Harms said. "Bacteria can form on that tooth, plaque can form on that tooth, as soon as that tooth erupts."

Parents can use a gauze pad to clean toddlers' teeth, or rubber brushes that fit over their fingertips. They also should clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless.

Early tooth decay also can be avoided by never allowing a child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids, according to the American Dental Association. Generally speaking, parents should avoid filling a child's bottle with sweet liquids such as sugar water or soft drinks.

"It's not the amount of sugar a child eats that causes the problem, but the number of exposures," Harms said. "Every time you expose your mouth to that, you get that bacteria active. Children sipping or drinking any drink other than water, every time they sip, it increases the amount of bacteria."

Parents should plan on taking their child to the dentist by the first birthday, to check for early signs of decay, Harms said.

And once all the baby teeth have grown in, flossing should be added to the regular dental health regimen. Harms said new devices like floss-on-a-stick have made flossing a little easier for parents.

"That has made a huge difference in getting kids to floss, because they love getting back in there with that little device," she said.

Once a child is 2 years old, parents can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush for cleaning. At that age, kids are able to spit out the toothpaste and not swallow it.

However, experts advise parents to continue brushing their child's teeth up to at least age 6 or 7, before handing over the task to the child.

"Most kids under 6 don't have the fine motor skills to brush their teeth," Hayes said. "The brush is in their mouth, but they aren't cleaning anything."

New Booklet Offers Free Pillow Talk

More and more people are sacrificing sleep to make more time for work, family and other demands. But cutting back on slumber can harm health, notes a new sleep handbook from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The new booklet is available in time for National Sleep Awareness Week, March 27 to April 2.

"Our brains are very active during sleep, and research has shown that adequate sleep is important to our overall health, safety, and performance," Michael Twery, acting director of NHLBI's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, said in a prepared statement.

"Scientists also have a better understanding of how a chronic lack of sleep or an untreated sleep disorder can impair health. Like good nutrition and physical activity, adequate sleep is critical for continued good health," Twery said.

The 60-page handbook includes information about how and why we sleep and offers tips on how to get enough sleep, such as adhering to a sleep schedule, relaxing before going to bed, and using daylight or bright light to adjust to jet lag and shift work schedules.

The booklet, called Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, also discusses sleep disorders and includes a sample sleep diary to help you track your sleep-related habits.

Each year, about 70 million adult Americans experience some type of sleep problem.

"Although there are times during the day when we are naturally likely to feel drowsy, in many cases, sleepiness is a sign that something is amiss," Twery said. "This handbook offers several ideas to help you improve your sleep, but if you feel that you regularly have problems breathing during sleep, wake up unrefreshed after a full night's sleep, or frequently feel very sleepy during the day, you should see your doctor to find out if you could have a sleep disorder."

Food Fact:
Apples: A core curriculum.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away -- too bad Americans only eat about one per week. Apples are packed with fiber: One medium apple (including skin) provides one-fifth (5g) of the average daily needs. Most of an apple's dietary fiber is pectin, a soluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol. Apples also promote a healthy heart. Apple skin is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals called flavonoids, which may slice the risk of coronary disease.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Calorie-burner, muy caliente!

Looking for a tasty low-calorie salsa? Get on the dance floor! If you're looking for a fun change in your Salsa dancing will burn more calories per half hour on the floor, than a brisk walk around the park -- about 200 calories for a 150-lb. dancer. And it's so much fun!

FAQ of the day:
Is apple juice safe for my toddler?

Apple juice is safe for toddlers, but don't overdo it. Too many calories from apple or other juices can crowd out more nutritious food. In one study of children ages 2 - 5, those who drank more than 12 oz. of juice a day tended to weigh more and be shorter than those who drank less. Pediatric experts advise that parents not feed fruit juice to an infant in his or her first year, and limit daily consumption afterward to less than 12 oz. Here's a tip: Dilute fruit juice with an equal part of water, so an 8-oz. bottle or cup delivers only 4 oz. of juice.
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