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Health Headlines - March 8

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Spring Break an Excuse for Heavy Drinking and Sex: Survey

Spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking and increased sexual activity, said many of the 644 female college students and graduates, ages 17 to 35, who took part in a national online survey conducted by the American Medical Association.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents said heavy drinking was part of spring break, while 74 percent cited increased sexual activity. Seventy-four percent also said spring-break drinking was an excuse for outrageous behavior, such as public nudity and dancing on tables, the Associated Press reported.

The women's responses were based on first-hand experience and what they'd heard from friends and acquaintances. Many respondents reported getting sick or passing out from drinking, and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner.

More than half the women said they were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip, the AP reported.

The AMA said the survey results highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. The association also wants to draw attention to the issue of underage drinking by women. Because their bodies process alcohol differently, they're at greater risk for health problems, the AMA said.

10th Bird Flu Death Reported in China

Bird flu has claimed its 10th victim in China, the state Xinhua news agency reported. The victim was a 9-year-old girl from the southeastern province of Zhejiang who died Monday.

Chinese officials told the World Health Organization that the girl was infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus. She came into contact with sick chickens while visiting relatives in Anhui province in February. Shortly after that, she developed fever and pneumonia.

The girl is the second person to die of bird flu in China in less than a week. Last Thursday, bird flu killed a 32-year-old man in the southern province of Guangdong, BBC News reported.

Since late 2003, bird flu has killed at least 95 people, mostly in Asia. Almost all the human bird-flu infections are believed to have been due to direct contact with sick poultry. However, experts fear that the H5N1 virus may mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between humans, which could cause a pandemic.

While Australia, Canada and the United States have so far remained free of H5N1, the Organization for Animal Health warned that these three countries have a very high risk of experiencing outbreaks of the virus, Agence France Presse reported.

It's likely that migrating birds will carry the virus into northern Australia via Indonesia, while the virus will be carried into Canada and the United States from the north.

So far, H5N1 has been found in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Forever-Glo Nite Lites Recalled

About 35,000 Forever-Glo Nite Lites are being recalled due to a fire and burn hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.

An electrical shortcircuit in the lights can cause them to overheat and smolder or melt, which may result in a fire or cause burns to consumers. So far, there have been nine reports of these products smoking, burning, melting and/or charring. No injuries have been reported.

The recalled lights, distributed by American Tack and Hardware Co. Inc. of Saddle River, N.J., look like small picture frames that plug into the wall. The recall involves model numbers 75001 or 75002 with a manufacture date of April 2004 or later.

They cost about $3 and were sold across the United States from May 2004 through December 2005. Consumers with these lights should stop using them immediately. If the lights are plugged into an outlet, consumers are advised to turn off the power at the circuit box and remove the light from the socket.

For a full refund or two replacement night lights, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-420-7511 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.

U.S. Court Ruling Clears Way for Generic Versions of Flonase

Generic versions of Flonase nasal spray should be appearing on the shelves of U.S. pharmacies after Flonase maker GlaxoSmithKline lost a court bid to block the sale of generic products.

Following Monday's refusal by the U.S. District Court in Maryland to prolong a restraining order, generic makers Roxane Laboratories and Par Pharmaceuticals said they had resumed shipments of generic fluticasone propionate nasal sprays, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Roxane's generic product. However, GlaxoSmithKline went to court and won a temporary restraining order that stalled shipments of Roxane's product and of Par's Glaxo-authorized generic.

Last year, GlaxoSmithKline's worldwide sales of Flonase totaled nearly $1.2 billion. Typically, generic products cost between 30 percent and 80 percent less than brand-name items.

Fewer Medicare Drug Plan Choices by Next Year: Official

Fewer private plans are likely to offer prescription drug coverage under Medicare next year, which may simplify the choices facing elderly and disabled beneficiaries, according to Mark McClellan, administrator for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

However, he predicted this reduction would be the result of consolidation within the insurance industry, rather than federal government action.

"I think you'll see significantly fewer choices available next year, but they will be choices dictated by the market, by what consumers want," McClellan told the Associated Press.

Many elderly and disabled people have said the new Medicare drug program requires them to sift through too many plans in order to select one.

There is wide regional variation in the number of plans offered to Medicare beneficiaries. For example, there are 11 insurers offering 27 drugs plans in Alaska and 23 insurers offering 52 plans in Pennsylvania.

McClellan also said he opposes calls from many politicians to extend the May 15 deadline for enrolling in the new Medicare drug program.

Bowel-Cleansing Products Linked to Chronic Kidney Failure

Some bowel-cleansing products that are used prior to colonoscopies are linked to chronic kidney failure, says the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

In a new posting on its Web site, the Washington, D.C.-based group cites a recent study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology that shows bowel-cleansing products that contain sodium phosphate are an under-recognized cause of chronic kidney failure.

The research listed several factors that may contribute to the development of kidney problems as the result of using bowel cleansing products that contain sodium-phosphate. These include: inadequate hydration; a history of high blood pressure; and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and Celebrex.

For the study, researchers at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons reviewed all the kidney biopsies received at the facility between January 2000 and December 2004. They identified 31 patients with kidney damage consistent with phosphate toxicity. Of those 31 patients, 20 had taken oral phosphate solutions before a colonoscopy.

Food Fact:
Thrilla in vanilla

In low-fat desserts, high-quality vanilla can make you a champ. Vanilla imparts a warm, rounded flavor of its own and serves as a backdrop for other spices. Its quality is crucial in low-fat desserts, because without a lot of fat the other flavors stand out more. Avoid imitation extracts; they simply taste bad. Buy vanilla extract that is labeled "pure." Or better yet, make your own: Slit 4 whole vanilla beans lengthwise, place in a jar, cover with vodka or brandy, and let steep for at least 2 weeks.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Ice it down.

Running can place a great deal of stress on the knees; here's a tip for do-it-yourself massage packs. Simply fill small paper cups up with water and place in the freezer. Gently massage the area with the frozen cups for 15 - 20 minutes your knees will thank you for it!

FAQ of the day:
Are walking shoes a waste of money?

To find the right shoe, start with knowledgeable salespeople. If someone suggests a shoe designed for another sport as a walking shoe, move on. Ask a salesperson to measure your feet every time you buy new walking shoes -- foot size and width can change over time. Try on shoes after you've exercised and your feet are at their largest. Put on the socks you normally wear when you're walking. Make sure the shoe fits in the heel -- many women mistakenly choose shoes that are too small just because they feel secure in the heel as they walk. Replace walking shoes every 500 miles, or about twice a year.
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