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Health Highlights: April 8, 2013

Former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello Dies From MS Complications Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill Approved by Kansas Legislators Some Baby Foods Require Lead Warning: Environmental Group Margaret Thatcher Dies of Stroke Dengue Fever Much More Common Than Believed: Study Two Infants Infected with Herpes After Ritual Circumcision WHO May Send Bird Flu Team to China

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

Former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello Dies From MS Complications

Annette Funicello, former Mouseketeer and an icon of 1960s beach movies, died Monday at age 70.

Her death in Bakersfield, Calif. from complications of multiple sclerosis was announced on the Disney website, The New York Times reported.

Funicello learned she had MS in 1987 but kept her condition secret for five years. She decided to go public due to concerns that the physical unsteadiness caused by the disease would be misinterpreted as drunkenness.

She had brain surgery in 1999 in an attempt to control tremors caused by MS. She also established the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders, The Times reported.


Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill Approved by Kansas Legislators

A sweeping anti-abortion bill has been approved by Kansas legislators and now goes to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for approval.

The bill declares that life begins "at fertilization," blocks tax breaks for abortion providers and bans abortions performed solely because of the baby's sex, the Associated Press reported.

It also prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes and further clarifies the information the doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions.

The governor is a strong opponent of abortion and is expected to sign the bill into law so that the new rules take effect July 1, the AP reported.

"Personhood" measures in some other states also include the declaration that life begins at fertilization. These measures seek to revise a state's constitution to ban all abortions. None have been enacted, but North Dakota will have one on the ballot in 2014.


Some Baby Foods Require Lead Warning: Environmental Group

Some baby foods and juices sold in California should have to carry warning labels to alert consumers that they contain low amounts of lead, the Environmental Law Foundation says.

A lawsuit launched by the group against the nation's largest baby food makers was scheduled for trial Monday. The foundation says the warning labels are required under California Proposition 65, the Associated Press reported.

Lawyers for the food companies -- which include Gerber Products Co., Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. and Del Monte Foods -- say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested the products listed in the lawsuit and decided that lead levels were below the standards that required a warning.

However, the companies do acknowledge that there is some lead in baby foods containing carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes, as well as in grape juice and fruit cocktail, the AP reported.

Lead exposure can damage a child's developing brain.


Margaret Thatcher Dies of Stroke

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87 years old.

Her death was confirmed by son Mark and daughter Carol, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

"It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning. A further statement will be made later," Thatcher's spokesman Lord Bell announced.

Thatcher, known as the Iron Lady, governed Britain from 1979 to 1990. She was Britain's first female prime minister.


Dengue Fever Much More Common Than Believed: Study

There may be about 390 million cases of dengue fever worldwide each year, which is nearly four times higher than previously believed, a new study says.

Prior estimates by the World Health Organization put the number of cases of the mosquito-borne tropical disease at 50 million to 100 million a year, the Associated Press reported.

The study authors noted that most cases of dengue fever are mild and don't require medical treatment. Their findings were published online Sunday in the journal Nature.

The new numbers came from analyzing more evidence than was used in previous estimates and by looking at other factors that influence dengue, explained Jeremy Farrar, one of the study authors and director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, the AP reported.


Two Infants Infected with Herpes After Ritual Circumcision

In the last three months, two infants in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been infected with herpes after undergoing ritual circumcision, the city's health department says.

The two boys were not identified. Officials said one of the babies developed a fever and lesion on its scrotum seven days after the circumcision and tested positive for herpes, ABC News reported.

It is too early to tell if the infants will suffer long-term health consequences from the herpes infection, said Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control in the city's health department.

The ritual circumcision includes a highly controversial component in which the practitioner places his mouth around the baby's penis to suck the blood and "cleanse" the wound, ABC News reported.

Thirteen cases of herpes have been linked to the ritual since 2000, including two deaths and two other babies who suffered brain damage.


WHO May Send Bird Flu Team to China

The Chinese government and World Health Organization are talking about sending international experts to China to investigate the new H7N9 bird flu strain, which has sickened at least 24 people, including seven who died.

The latest victim died Sunday night a week after first experiencing chills. The 64-year-old man in Shanghai first sought medical treatment on Wednesday and was admitted to hospital Sunday. He died hours later, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO has confidence in China's efforts to track and control the outbreak, but growing international concern about the virus has led the health organization to consider sending a team to the country, said Michael O'Leary, head of WHO's office in China, the AP reported.

The outbreak is of "great interest not only in the scientific community but in the world at large," he said at a joint press conference with China's national health agency. "WHO's responsibility in part is to make sure that we serve as liaison and linkage between China and the rest of the world."

The H7N9 virus had previously not been known to infect humans.

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