Health Highlights: April 14, 2006

Iowa Mumps Epidemic Keeps Growing Indonesia a Bird Flu 'Time-Bomb' World's Second Face Transplant Done at Chinese Hospital Stores Told to Stop Selling Contact Lens Solution 'Goths' Have High Rates of Self-Harm and Attempted Suicide FDA Approves Injectable Drug to Treat Alcoholism

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Iowa Mumps Epidemic Keeps Growing

Iowa's mumps epidemic continued to grow this week, reaching 605 cases by Thursday. The state has received about 50 reports of new infections a day for at least the last week. Most of the cases are in the eastern part of the state, the Associated Press reported.

Iowa health officials still have no answers about how the epidemic started and why it's hit the state so hard.

"I would guess that somehow we were unfortunate enough to be in the place where the mumps virus was introduced in such a way that it could cause an outbreak," Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mary Mincer Hansen told the AP.

"After the outbreak has gone away, we'll look back at all the data we're collecting and try to piece together what could have been some of the causes," she said.

Officials have ruled out a quarantine of infected people as a way to control the epidemic because experts feel this approach would not work with the mumps. Instead, Iowa is using an isolation strategy, such as encouraging people with mumps symptoms to stay at home, the AP reported.

Neighboring states are also affected, although none of them have anywhere near the number of cases as Iowa. No deaths have been reported in the epidemic.


Indonesia a Bird Flu 'Time-Bomb'

Indonesia's failure to eradicate high numbers of H5N1 bird flu infection sites makes it an avian flu "time-bomb," says Bernard Vallat, head of the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

In an interview with Agence France Presse, Vallat said the Indonesian government must take the political decision to step up its infection controls, with the assistance of international experts.

Indonesia is "one of the only countries in Asia" to have such a large number of unchecked H5N1 infection sites, Vallat said. He urged intervention by international creditors to help stop the spread of the virus in Indonesia and noted that the greater the number of infected birds, the greater the risk of human infection.

Since bird flu appeared in 2003, 33 people in Indonesia have been infected by the H5N1 virus and 24 have died. More than 100 people have died worldwide.


World's Second Face Transplant Done at Chinese Hospital

A Chinese military hospital says it's conducted the world's second face transplant on a man who was disfigured during a bear attack two years ago.

In a 14-hour operation, the 30-year-old hunter received a new cheek, upper lip, and nose from a single donor. The man, identified as Li Guoxing from the southwestern province of Yunnan, was reported to be in good condition, BBC News reported.

Last November, a 38-year-old French woman became the first person in the world to receive a face transplant. Isabelle Dinoire received new lips, chin and nose. Her face was disfigured when she was mauled by her dog.

A statement released by Xijing military hospital said this second face transplant was "even more complex and meticulous than the one performed by the French," BBC News reported.


Stores Told to Stop Selling Contact Lens Solution

Eye-care products maker Bausch & Lomb on Thursday asked retailers across the United States to temporarily stop selling ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, which is being investigated as a possible cause of 109 reported fungal eye infections since last June.

Bausch & Lomb is recommending that consumers use another contact lens solution while U.S. health officials conduct their investigation. The company plans to place advertisements in major newspapers to inform consumers about alternative products, The New York Times reported.

"We find ourselves in a position where the safety of one of our products, ReNu with MoistureLoc manufactured at our United States plant, is in question," company chairman and chief executive Ronald L. Zarella said in a statement.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors have spent weeks at Bausch & Lomb's plant in Greenville, S.C., but have not been able to detect any source of contamination, the Times reported.

On Thursday, a New York man filed a lawsuit against Bausch & Lomb, claiming the company knew in February that ReNu with MoistureLoc could cause fungal eye infections but waited until this week to halt sales of the product. The suit seeks unspecified damages and class-action status.


'Goths' Have High Rates of Self-Harm and Attempted Suicide

Goths -- a subculture of young people fascinated by death and the dark aspects of human nature -- have high rates of self-harm and attempted suicide, says a University of Glasgow, Scotland study in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,258 young adults several times through their teen years and found that 53 percent of teens who said they were goths admitted to self-harm (deliberately cutting, burning, hitting or poisoning oneself) and 47 percent said they'd attempted suicide, ABC News reported.

"Although only fairly small numbers of young people identify themselves as belonging to the goth subculture, rates of self-harm and attempted suicide are very high among this group," lead researcher Robert Young said.

He added that teens were more likely to have hurt themselves before they became involved in the goth scene. This suggests that troubled teens may be attracted to goth culture, not that the subculture promotes self-harm, ABC News reported.

Teens who were into hip-hop, "indie" rock, or pop culture had much lower rates of self-harm, the study found.


FDA Approves Injectable Drug to Treat Alcoholism

Once-a-month injections of the drug Vivitrol (naltrexone) to treat alcoholism received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Thursday. The drug was previously only sold in daily pill form.

The injectable form of the drug will be made by Alkermes Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., and will be marketed and sold by Cephalon Inc. of Frazer, Pa., the Associated Press reported.

Vivitrol blocks neurotransmitters in the brain believed to be associated with alcohol dependence.

The companies hope the once-monthly injections, done at a doctor's office, will make it easier than the daily pill for alcoholics to stick with their treatment program, which also includes counseling or group therapy.

"Daily adherence to medication is challenging for most people, and even more challenging for people with alcoholism," said Richard Pops, Alkermes' chief executive officer.

The price of the injectable drug won't be decided until it's launched in the United States in late June, the AP reported. The drug will carry a black-box warning cautioning patients that it can cause liver damage. The pill form carries a similar warning.


Consumer News