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Health Highlights: April 4, 2008

Sedentary Children Face Increased Risk of Heart Trouble in Adulthood Human-to-Human Transmission of Bird Flu Confirmed in Pakistan Terrorist Alert System Doesn't Stress Police Scientists Discover Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Soil Binge-Drinking Teens Have Memory Problems: Study U.S. Identifies New Toys That Pose Choking Hazard

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

Sedentary Children Face Increased Risk of Heart Trouble in Adulthood

Sedentary children are up to six times more likely than active ones to be at serious risk for heart disease when they're older, according to a University of North Carolina study that included hundreds of children.

At ages 7 through 10, the children were checked for a number of key health indicators, such as height, body mass and fat, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, along with physical activity levels, Agence France-Presse reported.

The children were checked again seven years later to see if they'd developed any signs of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that point to increased risk of heart trouble.

Almost 5 percent of them had at least three core symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Those with these core symptoms were six times likelier to have had low aerobic fitness as children, and five times likelier to have had low levels of physical activity at the start of the study, AFP reported.

The study appears in the journal Dynamic Medicine.


Human-to-Human Transmission of Bird Flu Confirmed in Pakistan

The first human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Pakistan has been confirmed by the World Health Organization.

The case late last year involved members of a family in northwest Pakistan. A poultry worker became infected and survived, but three of his brothers were infected and two died, BBC News reported.

Genetic-sequencing tests on bird flu virus samples collected from three of the four brothers confirmed human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.

While there was human-to-human transmission between the brothers, the "outbreak did not extend into the community, and appropriate steps were taken to reduce future risks of human infections," the WHO said.

The northwestern region of Pakistan has 85 percent of the country's poultry farms, BBC News reported. It was one of the regions hit by bird flu last year, and thousands of birds were killed to prevent the spread of the disease.


Terrorist Alert System Doesn't Stress Police

Police officers don't seem to be experiencing undue stress from the U.S. government's color-coded system to warn about the risk of terrorist attacks, say researchers who reviewed calls to a law enforcement crisis hot line in New Jersey, United Press International reported.

The study "did not find any evidence to support the concern that elevating the alert status places undue stress on those receiving the alert," George S. Everly Jr., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a prepared statement. "Our study needs to be replicated with groups other than law enforcement, especially the civilian population."

The researchers analyzed calls made to the Cop 2 Cop crisis line between Sept. 9, 2002, to Jan. 30, 2004. During that time, the Homeland Security national alert level was raised five times from yellow (elevated) to orange (high), UPI reported.

The study, which also included researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, appears in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.


Scientists Discover Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Soil

Hundreds of types of bacteria in soil that can eat antibiotics have been discovered by Harvard University researchers.

The discovery, published Friday in the journal Science, was made by scientists who collected soil samples from 11 locations in Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported.

Many of the bacteria from the soil samples could survive when put in laboratory dishes where antibiotics (18 different types) were the only source of nutrition. Some of the bacteria could survive levels of antibiotics 50 to 100 times greater than what would be given to a patient.

Researchers are now trying to learn more about how these soil bacteria can survive exposure to antibiotics, the AP reported.

Learning more about these bacteria is important because more and more disease-causing bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and there's concern that some infections may soon become untreatable.


Binge-Drinking Teens Have Memory Problems: Study

Days after binge drinking, teens suffer forgetfulness and absent-mindedness, say British researchers who suggest binge drinking may harm teens' developing brains.

The team from Northumbria and Keele Universities compared 26 binge drinkers and 34 non-bingers, ages 17 to 19, and found that the binge drinkers did worse on memory tests, BBC News reported. The teens were tested three to four days after their last drinking session.

Binge drinking was defined as at least eight units of alcohol per drinking session for a man and six for a woman, once or twice a week.

"There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory," said study leader Dr. Thomas Heffernan of the University of Northumbria, BBC News reported. "Not only may these teenagers be harming their memory, if their brains are still developing, they could be storing up problems for the future."

The study was presented at a British Psychological Society conference.


U.S. Identifies New Toys That Pose Choking Hazard

About 16,400 Imaginarium Multi-Sided Activity Centers and Jungle Activity Centers sold by Toys "R" Us are being recalled in the United States because small parts can detach from the toys and pose a choking hazard to young children.

There have been 12 reports of small parts detaching from the toys, but no reports of injuries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The Chinese-made toys were sold by Toys "R" Us from August 2007 through February 2008 for between $20 and $50. The recalled products have item numbers 69042 (multi-sided) and 69083 (jungle) printed on the back of the box, near the bar code.

These activity centers should be taken away from children and returned to the nearest Toys "R" Us store for a refund or store credit. For more information, contact Toys "R" Us at 800-869-7787.

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