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Health Highlights: April 3, 2012

Education Level Affects Longevity: Study Cheney Goes Home 10 Days After Heart Transplant Mutant Bird Flu Virus Less Deadly Than Feared: Scientist New COPD Drug Effective: Novartis

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

Education Level Affects Longevity: Study

Americans are living longer overall, but better educated people are increasingly the main beneficiaries of gains in life span, according to a new study.

University of Wisconsin researchers analyzed data from more than 3,000 counties across the United States and found that rates of premature death (before age 75) differed sharply across counties, and that a lack of college education accounted for about 35 percent of that variation from 2006 to 2008, The New York Times reported.

That was an increase from 30 percent over an equivalent period seven years earlier.

The study also found that an average increase of one year in post-secondary education levels was associated with a 16 percent decrease in years of life lost before age 75, the Times reported.


Cheney Goes Home 10 Days After Heart Transplant

Ten days after undergoing a heart transplant, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has returned to his Virginia home.

After a wait of nearly two years, the 71-year-old Cheney received a new heart on March 24. Since the age of 37, Cheney has had five heart attacks. The most recent was in 2010, USA Today reported.

"As he leaves the hospital, the former vice president and his family want to again express their deep gratitude to the donor and the donor's family for this remarkable gift," said a statement from Cheney's office.

The statement also thanked doctors at Inova Fairfax and George Washington University hospitals, and the intensive-care nursing staff at the Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute, USA Today reported.


Mutant Bird Flu Virus Less Deadly Than Feared: Scientist

The author of a paper on a mutant strain of H5N1 bird flu said experts agreed to allow publication of the paper after he explained that the mutant virus was much less deadly than previously believed.

In a reversal of an earlier decision to withhold key details, U.S. science and security officials decided Friday to allow publication of two papers on mutant H5N1 viruses. There were concerns that the papers' findings could be used by bioterrorists, Agence France-Presse reported.

The author of one of the papers told journalists that the revised version of his paper addressed those fears and made it clear that the mutant virus is "much less lethal" than initially feared.

"I did say that it's one of the most dangerous viruses, and it's the truth, because these viruses are a little scary," said Professor Ron Fouchier, of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, AFP reported. "If they go airborne they can cause pandemics and pandemic flu has killed millions of people."


New COPD Drug Effective: Novartis

An experimental drug for the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder proved successful in late-stage clinical trials, according to pharmaceutical company Novartis AG.

The drug, called QVA149, is a combination of two other Novartis drugs, the Arcapta Neohaler and the Seebri Breezhaler, Bloomberg News reported.

The three clinical trials found that the combination drug improved lung function more than either of the individual drugs, and that patients who took QVA149 were able to exercise longer than those who took a placebo.

The three studies are among 10 that Novartis plans to use when it applies for regulatory approval of QVA149 in Europe and Japan, Bloomberg reported.

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