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Slovak doctor says solar flares could raise strokes

StrokeMay 22 06

Human beings may be at higher risk of strokes in years when the explosions on the sun peak, according to a neurologist who studied the records of 6,100 patients in Slovakia.

Dr. Michal Kovac said he found a spike in strokes and brain hemorrhages in the town of Nove Zamky in southern Slovakia in years when solar flares—bursts of energy stronger than a million nuclear bombs combined—are most abundant.

Kovac says his work, recently published in the Bratislava Medical Journal, builds on studies that show parts of the human body respond to fluctuations in the earth’s geomagnetic field caused by sun storms.

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Merck cancer vaccine faces Christian-right scrutiny

Drug NewsMay 22 06

Merck & Co. Inc.‘s vaccine to prevent the world’s most prevalent sexually transmitted infection sailed through a panel of U.S. health experts, despite early fears of opposition from the Christian Right that it might lead to promiscuity and a false sense of security.

The drugmaker’s efforts to educate Christian groups while touting the vaccine’s top selling point—prevention of cervical cancer—helped win them over.

But Merck may ultimately find itself at loggerheads with those same groups as it seeks to make the vaccine mandatory for school admission, a step considered key for widespread acceptance and one that many of the groups oppose.

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Internet searches: Librarians do it better

Public HealthMay 22 06

Cancer patients seeking timely, accurate, unbiased information on the Internet about a disease and its treatment might do well to enlist the help of a professional librarian.

According to a study reported today at the Medical Library Association’s annual meeting in Phoenix, cancer patients are more likely to find what they are looking for with a librarian-mediated search instead of “going it alone.”

Over the last five years, Ruti Volk, a professional librarian and manager of the Patient Education Resource Center (PERC) at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues have done about 2,100 searches for cancer patients. After each mediated-search, patients are asked to complete an evaluation on the information provided to them.

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Cancer Survivors Face Emotional Challenges after Successful Treatment

CancerMay 22 06

Your bout with cancer—or maybe a battle royal—is over. You beat the disease, withstood the treatment. You’re a survivor.

But after treatment, many women find themselves dealing with emotional fallout—fear of recurrence, depression, body changes, loneliness, and changing relationships—to name a few.

The June issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers steps to deal with life’s chapters after cancer:

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Cochlear Implantation In Both Ears May Improve Speech Perception

Ear / Nose / ThroatMay 22 06

A new study suggests that sequential bilateral cochlear implantation, or the placement of cochlear implants in both of a child’s ears through separate surgeries, has the potential to improve speech perception abilities in quiet and in noise. Cochlear implants are electronic devices that have the potential to restore partial hearing to the deaf.

Background: Binaural or two ear hearing enables optimal performance of the human auditory system. In normal hearing subjects binaural hearing is directly associated with improved speech understanding in quiet and in noise, as well as improved sound localization ability, when compared to listening with a single ear. Unilateral (hearing in one ear) and/or bilateral hearing loss may deprive individuals of these binaural mechanisms. Because of its widely recognized advantages, hearing professionals have for many years endeavored to provide effective binaural hearing to individuals with hearing impairment whenever technology has allowed.

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Closure of holes in heart important treatment for young stroke patients

StrokeMay 19 06

Placement of devices to close holes in the heart is a successful treatment for young stroke patients, finds a study involving three medical centers.

No major complications were reported from the 45 patients included in the study, leading physicians to determine that closure of patent foramen ovales (PFOs) and atrial septal defects (ASDs) with transcatheter devices is a safe surgical alternative for children and young adults who have had a stroke. Most patients who underwent device closure procedures for PFOs or ASDs remained symptom-free months afterward.

Published in the May issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the retrospective medical record study involved patients from Mayo Clinic Rochester, the University of Parma in Italy, and Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, who had been treated between January 1999 and August 2005. Included were patients younger than 35 who had undergone percutaneous closure (through the skin) of PFO or ASD and who had at least one presumed stroke.

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Brain research offers insight into mechanisms of prejudice

BrainMay 19 06

By scanning subjects’ brains while they were thinking about people either politically like or different from them, researchers have found that different areas of the brain are active in the two cases.

The researchers said their findings offer insight into the neural machinery that gives rise to perceptions that other racial or ethnic groups are different from one’s own.

They concluded that their work offers insight into prejudice and that one way to reduce prejudice is to emphasize how alike different groups are, rather than highlighting their differences.

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Parkinson’s Drug Receives FDA Approval

Drug NewsMay 19 06

There’s a new tool in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. The FDA today granted approval for Azilect® (Rasagiline), a drug developed by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers. The drug will be available in the United States within 8 to 10 weeks, and marketed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.

The brainchild of Technion Professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg, Azilect is the first once-daily product for the treatment of Parkinson’s, a chronic, degenerative disease affecting a million people in the United States (4 million around the world).

Azilect is one of the few treatment options in the U.S. for all stages of Parkinson’s, including use as a stand-alone early-stage therapy and in combination with levodopa (a standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease) in more advanced stages of the disease. The drug is a monoamine oxidase type-B (MAO-B) inhibitor that blocks the breakdown of dopamine, a chemical that sends information to the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination.

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Antioxidant-rich coffee may have health benefits

Food & NutritionMay 19 06

Coffee seems to provide more than a quick pick-me-up. A new study suggests that drinking 1 to 3 cups of coffee per day may help protect against cardiovascular disease and other illnesses characterized by inflammation.

“The findings tend to suggest that there may be some benefit to drinking modest amounts of coffee,” Dr. David R. Jacobs, Jr., one of the study’s investigators, told Reuters Health.

“But I would very much like to see the finding replicated in other studies by other investigators before making a very strong statement in favor of coffee drinking,” he cautioned.

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Cochlear Implant Integrity Maintained Following Electrosurgery to Remove Adenoids on Animal Model

Children's HealthMay 19 06

Cochlear implant device intergrity is not compromised by electrosurgery used in removal of tonsils and adenoids. This finding from a new experiment could be an important first step to providing safe, effective, and the most pain-free removal of tonsils and adenoids for deaf children.

Cochlear implant (CI) recipients have been discouraged from having monopolar electrosurgery for ear, nose, and throat procedures due to concerns over possible damage to the implant and the auditory neurons. While monopolar electrosurgery is rarely, if ever, absolutely necessary, it greatly facilitates treatment in certain procedures such as adenoidectomy. With a growing population of patients receiving CIs at very young ages, more children with CIs may subsequently develop a need for an adenoidectomy, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Unfortunately, no published studies have evaluated the safety of electrosurgical adenoidectomy in CI reipients.

Over the past few years, radiofrequency bipolar electrosurgery (eg, Coblation™) has become popular for adenoidectomy and tonisillectomy because of reports of less post-tonsillectomy pain. The reduction in post-tonsillectomy pain has been attributed to the more limited spread of electrical current and reduced tissue temperatures with Coblation bipolar electrosurgery relative to monopolar electrosurgery.

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No Difference in Voice Quality After Comparing Different Treatments for Vocal Cord Cancer

CancerMay 19 06

There is no significant difference in voice quality after external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) compared to endoscopic CO2 laser excision (CLE) in T1 glottic cancer. This is the conclusion of meta-analysis assessing voice outcomes after treatment for early glottic cancer.

A diagnosis of T1 glottic cancer, which is a tumor limited to one (T1a) or both (T1b) vocal cords, can at first appear to be devastating to the patient. However, EBRT and CLE have proven to offer high and comparable cure rates for this disease. What has not been determined is what procedure offers the best oncologic cure while minimizing adverse effects on the patient voice.

Problems associated with study design and data collection have resulted in varying voice outcomes in studies exploring CLE or EBRT. Essentially, perceptual analysis of vocal outcomes following treatment of T1 glottic cancer shows contradictory results. Both improved voice quality with EBRT and similar outcomes regardless of type of treatment have been found. Acoustic voice parameters have also demonstrated inconsistent voice outcomes following EBRT and CLE. Variability in the mouth to microphone distance, recording equipment, analyzing software, and patient effort may explain the disparate results.

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Seven new cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Indonesia

FluMay 19 06

The Ministry of Health in Indonesia has confirmed an additional seven cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus. Six of the cases were fatal.

One fatal case, in a 38-year-old woman, occurred in the city of Surabaya, in East Java. She developed symptoms on 2 May, was hospitalized on 7 May, and died on 12 May. The case is the first reported from this area.

The remaining six cases are from the village of Kubu Sembelang in the Karo district of North Sumatra. All six are members of an extended family, and all but one lived in neighbouring houses.

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Hurt teens often test positive for alcohol, drugs

Children's HealthMay 18 06

Nearly 40 percent of teenagers treated for injuries at one hospital had traces of alcohol or illegal drugs in their blood, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

They said their finding, published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, suggested that it may be useful to screen young people treated for traumatic injuries for illegal substances.

The team at the University of Michigan Health System studied 443 patients aged 14 to 17 who were admitted to the University of Michigan’s hospital for treatment of a severe injury between 1999 and 2003.

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Fraternity/Sorority Members Who Get Drunk Weekly At Higher Risk

Psychiatry / PsychologyMay 18 06

Members or pledges of college fraternities and sororities are twice as likely as non-Greek students to get drunk at least weekly -  and are at significantly higher risk of being injured or injuring someone else -  according to new research from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The research suggests that a simple screening question -  “In a typical week, how many days do you get drunk?”  -  may help identify students at highest risk of injury from drinking.

Greek pledges who reported getting drunk at least weekly had five times the risk of falling from a height and two and a half times the risk of experiencing a burn than non-Greek students who do not get drunk, according to a study involving 10,635 students at 10 North Carolina universities. The students were surveyed in the fall terms of 2003-2005.

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Hungary govt plans healthcare tax hike - paper

Public HealthMay 18 06

Hungary’s new government plans to raise employees’ healthcare payments and is considering a basic health fee which together could generate at least 280 billion forints ($1.38 billion) in revenue, daily Nepszabadsag said.

The government intends to raise employees’ healthcare contributions to 7 percent from 3, and to charge a basic health fee of minimum 5,000 forints per month for everybody, the paper reported on Thursday, without disclosing its sources.

Other tax hike ideas considered include the raising of the lower value added tax (VAT) rate to 20 percent from 15, the introduction of a 3 percentage point extra “solidarity tax” on companies, and a tax on real estates, the paper said.

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