Health Highlights: April 17, 2006

No Effective Drugs for Anorexia Nervosa: Study Canada Confirms 5th Mad Cow Case Chinese Face Transplant Patient Doing Well Saw Palmetto Doesn't Help Men With Enlarged Prostates National Flu Pandemic Response Plan Readied

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

No Effective Drugs for Anorexia Nervosa: Study

No current medications effectively treat the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. But some forms of behavioral therapy may help prevent relapse and provide other limited benefits, says a study released Monday by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Researchers reviewed scientific literature published since 1980 and concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped prevent relapse in adult anorexic patients once their weight had been restored to normal. There wasn't enough evidence to determine whether CBT was effective during the acute phase of the disorder, before restoration of normal weight.

Family therapy does not appear to work in adults with longstanding anorexia nervosa, the review found.

It also concluded that several medications and behavioral therapies can help patients suffering from bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. For example, one short-term clinical trial found that the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine was helpful in treating bulimia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy were found to be helpful in reducing the core symptoms of bulimia nervosa -- binge eating and purging -- and easing the psychological symptoms of the disorder. However, the optimum length of treatment is unclear.

"These findings underscore the need to learn more about the causes of these frightening and poorly understood illnesses and to find effective treatments," Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ director, said in a prepared statement. "In the meantime, we need to make sure that clinicians use the evidence we currently have to help those suffering from eating disorders.

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Canada Confirms 5th Mad Cow Case

Tests have confirmed Canada's fifth case of mad cow disease since 2003.

The disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a 6-year-old dairy cow on a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, CTV News reported.

"Our investigation has taken us back to the farm, which is known to be the birth farm of this cow, and we're in the process of assembling, through farm records, those herd mates that were of similar age and likely consumed the same feed," said George Luterbach, a senior veterinarian for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

"These animals will be removed, destroyed and tested," he told CTV News.

No part of the infected cow entered the human or animal feed systems, officials said. Late last week it was announced that Canada's BSE surveillance program had identified the diseased cow, but initial tests for BSE proved inconclusive.

There are concerns that confirmation of another case of mad cow disease could harm Canada's efforts to get the United States to reopen its borders to Canadian cows older than 30 months.

However, Luterbach said Canada's trading partners recognize that BSE control measures are in place in Canada and the CFIA does not anticipate that other countries will respond severely to this latest case of mad cow disease, CTV News reported.

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Chinese Face Transplant Patient Doing Well

A Chinese man who last week underwent the world's second face transplant was reported to be progressing well. Li Guoxing, 30, had completely regained consciousness and was able to take some liquid food. He was also allowed to take the first look at his new face, Chinese state media reported.

He's currently forbidden from making any movements that might prevent his wounds from healing, and he'll be kept in isolation for two weeks, said doctors at Xijing hosptial in the city of Xian in central China.

"The surgery scar will not be obvious but there is a difference in the donor's and recipient's skin color, so that will be noticeable," Dr. Zhang Hui, the doctor in charge of post-surgery treatment, told the China Daily.

Li's face was disfigured when he was attacked by a bear two years ago. During the 14-hour transplant last Thursday and Friday, he received a new upper lip, cheek and nose from the face of a brain-dead male donor.

Last year, a French woman became the first person in the world to receive a face transplant.

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Saw Palmetto Doesn't Help Men With Enlarged Prostates

Saw palmetto does not help improve urinary symptoms in men with enlarged prostates, says a U.S. study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings contradict previous anecdotal reports that taking the herbal remedy did benefit men with enlarged prostates, also known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), BBC News reported.

The year-long study included 225 men with BPH who were randomly assigned to take either saw palmetto or a placebo pill twice a day. The men did not know which one they were taking. The men were assessed regularly to see if they had any changes in symptoms or urinary function.

"If you look at the change in symptoms over time between the two groups, it was almost identical," research leader Dr. Stephen Bent said. "There was almost no statistically significant difference at any time point during the study."

BPH affects about one third of men over age 50.

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National Flu Pandemic Response Plan Readied

A national plan for responding to an avian flu pandemic is almost ready for President Bush's approval, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

A document outlining the plan identifies more than 300 tasks for various federal agencies, the newspaper said. Those details include which frontline workers should be vaccinated first, expanding Internet capacity to handle the flood of workers who would work from home, drive-through medical exams operated by the Department of Veterans that would spot suspected cases, agreements with other nations should the United States be unable to print currency at U.S. mints, and a stockpiling of latex gloves by the military.

The 240-page plan is designed to help the country function during what could be an 18-month crisis that could kill 1.9 million people. Bush saw a draft of the document on March 17, and is expected to sign the still-evolving plan within the week. The plan shows that some agencies are well-prepared for a pandemic while others are still struggling with basic questions on response, the newspaper said.

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