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Health Highlights: April 1, 2003

SARS Deaths Mount in Canada New Campaign Targets Men With Depression Leg Muscle Cells Used to Repair Heart-Attack Damage FDA OKs Wider Use of Cervical Cancer Test West Nile Causes More Problems Than Thought, Study Finds Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Recalled for Undeclared Peanuts

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

SARS Deaths Mount in Canada

Two more deaths from the global respiratory illness known as SARS were reported by Canadian health officials Tuesday, bringing the country's death toll to six.

Colin D'Cunha, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said both patients were elderly and both cases were linked to the Scarborough Grace Hospital in Toronto. The hospital is the epicenter of the Ontario outbreaks, according to the Canadian Press.

CP also reports that Dr. Donald Low, an infectious diseases expert who has taken part in daily media briefings in Toronto, is now in isolation. He is the third prominent health official to contract the infection; Hong Kong's chief health officer came down with SARS symptoms last week, and the French doctor who first identified the illness died of it in Thailand over the weekend.

Canada has 129 suspected SARS cases, with 111 in Ontario. Yesterday, every hospital in that province was ordered to restrict entrance to patients and visitors, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.

With Canada's revised counts, the worldwide total of reported cases is now up to more than 1,880 in 15 countries, with 65 fatalities.

The United States has 70 suspected cases in 26 states, including 10 in New York and 14 in California. The newest case, the third in Massachusetts, is a baby girl who had been adopted in China, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, an American Airlines flight from Tokyo was quarantined on the tarmac at a California airport Tuesday after four people on board complained of possible SARS symptoms.

Flight 128 from Tokyo to Mineta San Jose International Airport was stopped on the tarmac short of the gate, and ambulances lined up as the 125 passengers and 14 crew members waited on board. Three first-class passengers and two crew members who felt sick were transported to a hospital, according to AP.

A spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said, "We're pretty sure four of the five transferred from Hong Kong to Tokyo."

Hong Kong recorded another death on Tuesday, bringing its fatalities to 16, with 685 probable cases, more than one-third of which are in one apartment complex. Health officials began moving at least 240 infected residents from the now-sealed complex into a rural quarantine camp, AP reports.

Elsewhere in Asia, Thailand invoked an emergency regulation to quarantine arriving travelers suspected of having the illness. And Singapore nurses examining arriving passengers said they had intercepted at least seven suspected cases of SARS in less than 24 hours. All of Singapore's 92 reported cases can be traced back to five people who had traveled to Hong Kong.


New Campaign Targets Men With Depression

Depression strikes about 6 million men in the United States each year. But men are less likely than women to seek treatment for the illness, and the male suicide rate is four times that of women.

With those sobering statistics as a backdrop, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health on Tuesday launched a campaign to raise awareness about depression in men.

The campaign, "Real Men, Real Depression," features the personal stories of a number of men who live with depression. They include a firefighter, a national diving champion, a lawyer, a publisher, a college student and a retired Air Force sergeant.

In a series of radio, television and print public service announcements, these men discuss how depression affected them. They also talk about the courage required to ask for help.


Leg Muscle Cells Used to Repair Heart-Attack Damage

Polish scientists say they've developed a way to repair heart tissue damaged by scarring during a heart attack.

They create "living patches" by taking immature cells from muscles in the legs. The patches are then grafted onto heart tissue, BBC News Online reports.

The scientists tested the method on 10 people who had suffered heart attacks. Within four to six weeks, the damaged parts of their heart walls were contracting much more efficiently. The benefits were still apparent a year after having the procedure.

This approach could help prevent potentially fatal heart function decline that can occur after a heart attack.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.


FDA Approves Wider Use of Cervical Cancer Test

A test to detect the virus that is the most common cause of cervical cancer has won expanded use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Monday's approval could mean that the $50 test is made available to any American woman over 30 who undergoes a Pap examination.

The HPV DNA test identifies 13 high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cell changes in the cervix that can be a precursor to cancer in some women, the FDA says. HPV infects up to 20 percent of the sexually active U.S. population at any one time, the agency adds in a prepared statement.

The FDA initially approved the test, manufactured by Digene Corp., for limited use in March 2000 for testing women who had abnormal Pap results.

Some 50 million American women get Pap tests each year. The American Cancer Society projects that 12,000 women will be diagnosed in 2003 with cervical cancer and 4,100 will die from it. The disease is preventable and curable if caught early, the FDA says.


West Nile Causes More Problems Than Thought, Study Finds

More than half of West Nile virus patients analyzed in a new study suffered serious side effects of the mosquito-borne illness, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Fifty-four percent of patients treated at three Chicago hospitals suffered symptoms including vision loss, paralysis in more than half their bodies, muscle weakness and numbness, according to the study's co-author, Dr. Nidhi Watson of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.

Last year, Illinois led the United States in West Nile cases with 879, including 60 deaths, the newspaper reports.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito don't get sick, but about 20 percent develop "West Nile fever," with mild symptoms including fever, headache, and body aches. More serious consequences could include encephalitis (brain inflammation) or meningitis (infection of membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).


Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Recalled for Undeclared Peanuts

Ben & Jerry's is voluntarily recalling some pints of Karamel Sutra Ice Cream because they may contain peanuts that are not declared on the ingredient label, the Food and Drug Administration says.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The product was distributed to retail stores across the United States, but was not exported outside of the country. No illnesses have been reported to date.

Affected Karamel Sutra Ice Cream pints have a "use-by" date of 02/14/04, which appears on the bottom of the package. No other Ben & Jerry's products are affected by this recall.

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