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Health Headlines - November 16

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
China Confirms First Human Bird Flu Cases

China has reported its first three confirmed human cases of bird flu. Two cases were in the central province of Hunan and one was in the eastern province of Anhui.

The World Health Organization confirmed two human cases of bird flu in China, including a female poultry worker who died from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, CNN reported.

But WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said the organization does not have enough samples to confirm if a 12-year-old girl who died on Oct. 17 contracted the virus, because she had been cremated.

Thompson said the two confirmed cases include the girl's 9-year-old brother, who fell ill last month in Hunan but survived and a 24-year-old female poultry worker in Anhui who died from the virus last week.

Chinese officials had not previously disclosed any suspected human cases of bird flu in Anhui, where a bird flu outbreak in late October killed about 550 birds.

In other news, China announced Tuesday that it will attempt to vaccinate all of the country's estimated 4.2 billion chickens and billion ducks, geese and turkeys against bird flu.

No timetable for this ambitious vaccination effort was given. In terms of the number of animals, it would the largest single vaccination program every for any species, the International Herald Tribune reported.

This effort would require massive manpower because the birds would have to be vaccinated by one by one. China said it can produce 100 million doses a day of bird flu vaccine for birds.

U.S. to Lift Restrictions on Canadian Cattle

All mad-cow disease-related restrictions on Canadian cattle imported into the United States will be lifted within the next year, the U.S. Agriculture Department announced Wednesday.

Tight restrictions were put in place in 2003 when Canada reported its first case of mad cow disease. Some of the restrictions were removed earlier this year to allow Canada to ship younger cattle into the United States, the Associated Press reported.

However, Canadian cattle older than 30 months weren't allowed because it's believed that levels of infection from mad cow disease increase with age. In order to have that ban lifted, the cattle industry argued that rules that govern the slaughter of cattle would prevent mad cow disease from entering the animal or human food supply.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said it's currently drafting a rule that would remove remaining restrictions on Canadian cattle imports. The rule will be proposed in six to eight months, the AP reported.

Tougher New Steroid Policy for Baseball Players

It'll be three strikes and you're out for professional baseball players under a new policy that sharply increases penalties for steroid use.

Under an agreement reached Tuesday by major league baseball owners and players, the new policy will take effect next season, the Boston Globe reported.

It includes a 50-game suspension for a first offense, a 100-game suspension for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third transgression. The policy also includes mandatory random testing for amphetamines, a first in the history of major professional sports leagues in the United States.

The current Major League Baseball policy on steroid use includes a 10-day suspension for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense, and 60 days for a third, the Globe reported

"This is an important step to reaching our goal of ridding our sport of performance-enhancing substances and should restore the integrity of and public confidence in our great game," commissioner Bud Selig said.

Major league baseball has been plagued for months by embarrassing steroid and amphetamine scandals and has faced pressure from Congress to rid the game of performance enhancing substances.

Food Industry Must Step Up Obesity Fight: WHO

The global food and drink industry is not doing enough to improve the nutritional quality of their products in order to help combat childhood obesity, a World Health Organization (WHO) official charged Wednesday.

"The industry's efforts are commendable, but inadequate. They are only a drop in the ocean," Colin Tukuitonga, head of the WHO's global strategy on diet and physical activity, told the Associated Press.

Tukuitonga made his comments prior to a meeting with food and drink industry representatives.

Major changes in the way that food is processed and marketed are needed in order to counter the worldwide obesity epidemic, the WHO says.

Some food companies, such as Kraft, Nestle and Unileve,r have reduced the salt, sugar and fat content of some of their products and have also promised to change some of their marketing and advertising practices.

"These are selected companies doing one-off changes. They are making a genuine effort ... but we need an industry-wide approach," Tukuitonga told the AP.

Study Identifies New Neurons

Neurons that develop in the olfactory system and are especially sensitive to new stimuli have been identified by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School Center for Nervous System Repair.

The level of flexibility displayed by these neurons suggests that they may be capable of replacing brain cells lost to disease or injury. The research, using adult mice, appears in the Nov. 16 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"Our results show that these new neurons have a lot of plasticity and can contribute to important learning and memory functions of the brain, suggesting that similar, newly recruited neurons may be able to function in other parts of the brain," study leader Sanjay Magavi said in a prepared statement.

"Eventually we'd like to be able to redirect brain cell precursors or stem cells to make other types of neurons in regions of the brain that do not normally regenerate," Magavi said.

Food Fact:
Flipped burger.

What grills like a burger, tastes meaty on a bun -- but has a fraction of the fat? Grill up broad, flat portobello mushrooms, dress 'em up like burgers, and you'll enjoy a hearty sandwich that's far better for your heart than beef. Mushrooms have what the Japanese call umami, a meaty taste, and healthy cooks use that meatiness to advantage. And that meaty taste comes with a very impressive nutrition profile: No fat, no carbs and hardly any calories. Add sauteed cremini mushrooms to spaghetti sauce for depth of flavor and satisfying chewiness. Slice shiitakes for you next stir-fry.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Crunch time.

Great abs gives you more just a flat stomach. Here's how to get them. Develop your abdominal muscles by starting with basic sit-ups (knees bent) and work your way up to using an incline bench or ball. This powerful core of muscles provides strength for all of your other activities.

FAQ of the day:
What are the best carbs for diabetics?

The very best contain soluble fiber, such as oats, rye and beans. Soluble fiber forms a gel in the gastrointestinal tract, which slows the rise in blood sugar after a meal and gives insulin more time to clear sugar from the blood.
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