Health Highlights: Aug. 23, 2010

Judge Calls Halt to Obama Policy to Expand Stem Cell Research Doctors Puzzled Over Muscle Damage to Oregon Football Players White House to Revise New Medical Privacy Rules Drugs Protect Monkeys Against Ebola, Marburg Viruses Mental Woes Still Trouble Kids Displaced By Katrina: Study

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

Judge Calls Halt to Obama Policy to Expand Stem Cell Research

The Obama administration's policy expanding stem cell research was put on hold Monday when a federal judge ruled that the policy was illegal, the New York Times reported.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth wrote that the policy, created by an executive order in 2009, makes a meaningless distinction between the destruction of embryos and the funding of research using stem cells created through the destruction of embryos.

While many in the scientific community were confused as to what the ruling meant for researchers currently working with stem cells, the judge was not, the Times reported.

The temporary injunction returns federal policy to the "status quo," Lamberth wrote in his ruling.

According to the Times, Lamberth added that blocking the new guidelines would be in the public interest because they allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of embryos.

Stem cell research has the potential to produce breakthroughs in treating life-threatening diseases that have resisted traditional treatment.


Doctors Puzzled Over Muscle Damage to Oregon Football Players

A case involving 19 Oregon high school football players who suffered muscle damage after a preseason camp is "very weird," according to one of the doctors trying to find answers.

Dr. Craig Winkler said that all 19 of the McMinnville High School players had elevated levels of the enzyme creatine kinase (CK), which is released by muscles when they're injured, ABC News and the Associated Press reported.

If not properly treated, high CK levels can lead to kidney failure. High CK levels can be caused by vigorous exercise or the use of certain medications or food supplements.

"To have an epidemic like this is very weird," said Winkler, of Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville.

In addition, three of the players also were diagnosed with possible cases of "compartment syndrome," a rare soft-tissue condition that caused soreness and extreme swelling in their triceps. They had to undergo surgery to relieve the pressure, CBS/AP reported.

Five of the players were treated in the emergency room and sent home while 11 were hospitalized. As of Sunday, 10 were still in hospital but were in good condition and were expected to be released Monday, according to a hospital official.


White House to Revise New Medical Privacy Rules

New medical privacy rules have been withdrawn by the Obama administration and will be rewritten in response to criticism that the regulations don't adequately protect patients' rights.

The new rules were submitted in May for approval by the White House Office of Management and Budget. They specified when doctors, hospitals and insurers must tell patients about the improper use or disclosure of information in their medical records, The New York Times reported.

But consumer groups and many members of Congress said the rules failed to provide sufficient protection for patients. The Department of Health and Human Services withdrew them and hopes to issue final rules this fall.

In the last 18 months, more than five million people in the United States have been affected by breaches of medical information, according to the watchdog group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, The Times reported.

These breaches occurred in a number of ways, including the loss of paper records, the posting of data on Web sites, and the theft of laptop computers.


Drugs Protect Monkeys Against Ebola, Marburg Viruses

New research suggests it eventually may be possible to protect people against bioterrorist attacks that use the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses, say U.S. scientists.

They found that injecting synthetic nucleotides called morpholino oligomers into monkeys blocked replication of the Ebola and Marburg viruses. The monkeys become very sick but most of them survive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

These are the first anti-Ebola and Marburg virus drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trial testing. The trials will be limited to monkeys before any tests are conducted in humans.

While the results are encouraging, the scientists still have a long way to go before they have a product that can be used with confidence in humans, said Alan L. Schmaljohn, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the research, the Times reported.

He noted that the drugs were given to the monkeys within an hour after infection with the Ebola or Marburg viruses. The drugs could be much less effective if given later or against a more virulent strain of the viruses.


Mental Woes Still Trouble Kids Displaced By Katrina: Study

Children displaced by Hurricane Katrina are nearly five time more likely than other children to have severe emotional problems, but fewer than half of youngsters believed to need psychological help receive it, finds a new study.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, killing about 1,600 people and causing an estimated $80 billion in property damage.

"A significant number of children are still living under dangerous and traumatic conditions of persistent displacement," said study co-author Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, USA Today reported.

He and his colleagues found that emotional and behavioral problems afflict nearly 60 percent (20,000) of children whose families had to move into trailer parks, hotels or other types of group housing.

They also found that more than one-third of children in middle school or high school were one or more years older than their classmates, which suggests that transient living conditions have caused many children to fall behind academically, USA Today reported.

The study appears in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

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