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EU clears aid to Dutch health insurance system

Public HealthMay 03 05

The Dutch government won a green light from the European Union on Tuesday to put 15 billion euros ($19.30 billion) into a fundamental reform of the health insurance system in the Netherlands.

Health care spending has been on the rise in the Netherlands and is likely to climb further due to an ageing population, which is why the government wants a reform that involves state subsidies to private insurers.

The European Commission decision comes less than a month before the Dutch vote in a referendum on the bloc’s first constitution, with opinion polls suggesting a majority of voters may reject the new EU treaty.

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Baseball-players reject tougher steroids penalties

Public HealthMay 03 05

The head of the Major League Baseball players’ union on Monday rejected Commissioner Bud Selig’s proposal to significantly increase penalties for steroid use, saying the current policy was working out fine.

In an open letter to union chief Donald Fehr, Selig proposed a 50-game suspension for players testing positive for steroids for the first time, a 100-game suspension for second-time offenders and a lifetime ban for any player caught a third time.

Selig also called for more random testing and a ban on amphetamines.

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Indonesia fights polio after first case in a decade

Public HealthMay 03 05

An 18-month-old infant in Indonesia has contracted polio, the first case in the country in a decade and a fresh setback to the global drive to eradicate the disease, the World Health Organisation and Jakarta said on Tuesday.

Several other cases of paralysis in the same village in the province of West Java are under investigation, WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer told Reuters.

A top Indonesian health official said a drive would be launched later this month to vaccinate more than five million children on the main island of Java within two months.

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Recent decline in SIDS deaths illusory

Public HealthMay 02 05

Deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, dropped by half in the 1990s due to a campaign to put babies to sleep on their backs, but recently reported declines are likely illusory, a study said on Monday.

Medical examiners, coroners and others charged with determining cause of death have been classifying more of the mysterious infant deaths as by suffocation or from unknown causes rather than from SIDS, which itself is a general term for unexplained infant death.

“There’s been this general feeling out in the community of pathologists and people who certify deaths (of) reticence to assign SIDS as the cause of death,” study author Dr. Michael Malloy of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston said in a telephone interview.

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Transplantation effective for intestine failure

SurgeryMay 02 05

Intestine transplantation has become the definitive treatment for patients with end-stage disease of the intestines who cannot tolerate intravenous nutrition, according to data from the Intestinal Transplant Registry.

All 61 programs that perform intestine transplants and are enrolled in the registry responded to a survey conducted by Dr. David Grant, at Toronto General Hospital in Canada, and his associates.

The responses provided data on 989 transplants performed between 1985 and 2003.

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Numico says settlement reached in ephedra cases

Public HealthMay 02 05

Dutch food group Numico NV said on Monday it had reached a tentative settlement in 36 cases concerning the food supplement ephedra, sold by its former GNC unit before it was banned in the United States.

Numico, Europe’s largest maker of baby formula, said that a group of defendants in the cases had agreed to pay $19.7 million and that its own portion of those costs was covered by product liability insurance.

The supplement, used to promote weight loss and enhance sports performance, was banned in 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing concerns about an “unreasonable risk of illness or injury”.

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Epidural during labor linked to abnormal head position

Children's HealthApr 30 05

Receiving epidural analgesia during labor seems to increase the risk that the baby will be delivered face up instead of the normal face -down position, new research shows. This may explain the higher rate of c-sections associated with epidurals.

It has been theorized that women with infants in the face-up or “occiput posterior” position have more painful labors, which leads to their request for epidural analgesia. However, in the current study, reported in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers found that it was, in fact, more likely that the epidural was administered before a fetus moved into this position.

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Major polio epidemic hits Yemen, 22 infected

Public HealthApr 29 05

A polio epidemic has infected 22 children in Yemen, and the paralyzing virus is threatening to spread further, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

The United Nations agency, which reported four cases around the Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah last week, said 18 more children had contracted the disease in the poor Arab state.

It is the latest setback to the WHO’s campaign to wipe out transmission of polio worldwide by year-end. An epidemic that originated in Nigeria has swept across Africa since mid-2003.

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Calcium and vitamin D fail to reduce fracture risk

Gender: FemaleApr 29 05

Calcium and vitamin D supplements given to elderly, community-dwelling women at high risk of fracture does not appear to reduce their risk, according to the results of a new study published in the British Medical Journal

Though commonly prescribed to prevent the bone-thinning disease Osteoporosis, which often develops in middle and old age, this report is the second one this week showing the supplements to be of little benefit. Researchers who conducted a similar study, published in The Lancet, came to the same conclusion.

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Influenza vaccine safe at any stage of pregnancy

PregnancyApr 29 05

Women in the second and third trimester of pregnancy can safely be immunized against influenza, according to a new study.

The influenza vaccine is “widely underused in all populations and age groups, and yet, it is one of two vaccines that is routinely recommended for pregnant women in the US (tetanus is the other one),” Dr. Flor M. Munoz from the Baylor College of Medicine told Reuters Health.

To reaffirm the safety of the vaccine, particularly when administered in the second and third trimester, Munoz and colleagues in Houston analyzed data from five influenza seasons (1998 to 2003).

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U.S. navy hospital ship ends Indonesia mission

Public HealthApr 29 05

A U.S. navy hospital ship will leave Indonesia’s quake-hit Nias island on Saturday, marking a final farewell by U.S. troops involved in Indonesian disaster relief work, the U.S. embassy said.

The 270-metre (890-ft) Mercy arrived in Indonesia with the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln after the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami that left more than 160,000 Indonesians dead or missing.

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