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Health Headlines - October 11

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Diabetes in Pregnancy Increases Risk of Stillbirth: Study

Babies born to women with diabetes are nearly five times more likely to be stillborn and nearly three times likelier to die in their first month of life, says a British study that's the largest to examine the effects of diabetes in pregnancy.

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) study also found that babies born to diabetic mothers are nearly twice as likely to have major congenital malformations, BBC News reported.

Of 2,356 babies born to women with diabetes over a one-year period, there were 63 stillbirths and another 22 of the babies died before they were a month old.

The study also found that pregnant women with diabetes had higher-than-normal rates of Cesarean section and pre-term delivery, BBC News reported.

Diabetes affects about one in every 250 pregnancies and is the most common complication of pregnancy, the researchers said.

"The evidence is that type 2 diabetes is becoming more common and, contrary to what many people have believed, is just as likely to lead to a baby's death or a malformation as if the mother as type 1 diabetes," Dr. Mary Macintosh, CEMACH medical director, told BBC News.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Generic Drug Case

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on Tuesday in a case involving a generic drug company's appeal to speed up licensing of a cheaper substitute for the Pfizer antidepressant drug Zoloft.

Without comment, the justices denied a review of Teva Pharmaceuticals' appeal to reverse a lower court ruling in favor of Pfizer. Teva, an Israeli company, had argued that Pfizer deliberately delayed release of generic Zoloft. One of Pfizer's patents on the drug expires next year, the Associated Press reported.

Three Supreme Court justices did not participate in the case -- new Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer. While justices don't have to give reasons for excusing themselves, personal investments are often the reason, the AP reported.

Generic drugs typically are cheaper than brand-name medicines. An attorney for the Generic Pharmaceutical Association told the wire service that drug companies deliberately drag out legal fights over patents to "perpetuate paralyzing uncertainty that allows them to continue selling their branded drugs at monopoly prices."

The AP report did not include a reaction from Pfizer.

Bean Bag Furniture Poses Choking Hazard

Design Ideas Ltd. of Springfield, Ill., is recalling about 1,100 sets of beanbag chairs and ottomans that lack locking zippers. The pellet-like filling poses a choking hazard to young children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.

The two-piece furniture sets, sold under the brand name "Lily," were distributed in ivory/white, ivory/blue, ivory/black, and ivory/orange colors. Sold at gift and furniture stores nationwide for about $170, the products were distributed between January 2004 and July 2005.

Consumers should immediately prevent young children from getting near the recalled products and contact Design Ideas at 1-800-426-6394 to arrange for a full refund.

Glowing Male Mosquitoes May Help Combat Malaria

Using a gene-altering technique, British scientists have created male mosquitoes with glowing gonads, which may help combat the spread of malaria.

The genetically modified male mosquitoes produce a green fluorescent protein in their gonads, making it easy to identify them at the larval stage, Bloomberg news reported. These laboratory-bred mosquitoes can then be sterilized and released into the wild, which would help reduce the mosquito population. Female mosquitoes, which mate only once before they die, are as likely to mate with infertile males as fertile males.

Mosquitoes transmit malaria to humans. The idea behind this Imperial College London research is that reducing the mosquito population will help fight the spread of malaria in humans.

"By forcing females to breed with sterile males, we can stop them creating additional mosquitoes and, at the same time, reduce the population. In the past, sexing mosquitoes has been one of the major obstacles to using this technique," Andrea Crisanti, professor of molecular parasitology at Imperial College London, told Bloomberg news.

The research appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Earthquake Destroyed About 1,000 Hospitals in Pakistan: WHO

The earthquake in Pakistan destroyed about 1,000 hospitals and that loss is causing major problems in providing urgent medical treatment for thousands of injured survivors, the United Nations said.

In the aftermath of Saturday's 7.6-magnititude quake, Pakistan has made an urgent request to the international community for field hospitals, along with antibiotics, surgical equipment, fracture treatment kits, anti-typhoid drugs, and other medical supplies, Agence France Presse reported.

"The devastation has created major obstacles in urgently helping the thousands of injured people to get the medical help they need," said a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO). "Many health workers -- including doctors and nurses -- have died or been seriously injured."

The WHO also said there's an urgent need for measles vaccines for children, as well as clean water and sanitation.

"We need to coordinate a massive health-relief effort to ensure people get urgent care, and to prevent a bad situation from getting even worse," Alan Alwan, a senior WHO official, told AFP.

Health Tip: Controlling Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is more common than you may think. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, more than 5.5 million Americans suffer from the inability to control bowel movements.

Ironically, constipation may be one of the causes of fecal incontinence, as well as muscle and nerve damage and diarrhea.

After being diagnosed by a physician, there are many treatments for this condition, depending on its severity. Dietary changes are the simplest to act on. If stools are hard to control because they are watery, a person can add fiber to the diet.

Foods can also contribute to fecal incontinence, including caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, dairy, greasy foods or foods with sweeteners.

Eating smaller meals more frequently, eating and drinking at different times, and increasing consumption of water may help alleviate the condition.

Health Tip: Hiding Ugly Scars

Scars are found on almost everyone's body. Although scars can't be erased, there are many ways to minimize their appearance, the American Academy of Dermatology says.

The academy recommends a consultation between the patient and dermatologist to decide the best treatment.

Here's a list of possible treatment options:

Dermabrasion: a machine is used to remove the top layers of skin.
Surgical scar revision: best suited for wide or long scars, a method of removing a scar and rejoining the normal skin.
Laser resurfacing: a method of removing acne and chicken pox scars that involves high-energy light to remove damaged skin.
Soft tissue fillers: injectable collagen used to elevate indented, soft scars.
Punch grafts: small pieces of normal skin used to replace damaged skin.
Chemical peels: the use of a chemical to remove the top layer of skin to smooth scars.
Other scar treatments may include pressure bandages, massages, silicone-containing gels or cortisone injections.
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