Health Highlights: Dec. 16, 2008

Actor Peter Falk Has Alzheimer's, Daughter Says Cleveland Clinic Announces First U.S. Face Transplant Self-Harm Not Limited to Teen Girls: Survey Home-Based Therapy Benefits COPD Patients: Study Zimbabwe Cholera Death Toll 978: U.N.

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

Actor Peter Falk Has Alzheimer's, Daughter Says

Actor Peter Falk, best known as the disheveled TV detective Columbo, whose "Just one more thing" became a household phrase, has developed Alzheimer's disease and no longer recognizes people, according to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Associated Press reported.

The papers were filed by the 81-year-old Falk's daughter, Catherine Falk, requesting a conservatorship of his assets. A hearing has been scheduled for late January, the AP said.

People magazine's online edition quoted Catherine Falk's petition as saying her father "requires full-time custodial care for his health and safety," and she was worried that he could "easily be deceived into transferring away property."

Falk, who has won five Emmys and a Golden Globe award, also has been an Academy Award nominee twice. He lives in Beverly Hills with his wife, actress Shera Danese, to whom he has been married since 1977.


Cleveland Clinic Announces First U.S. Face Transplant

The United States' first almost total face transplant was done a few weeks ago at the Cleveland Clinic, it was announced Tuesday.

About 80 percent of a woman's face was replaced with that of a dead female donor. The procedure was performed by reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Associated Press reported.

The Cleveland Clinic did not release the name or age of the transplant recipient, and has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday.

The world's first face transplant was conducted three years ago on a French woman who'd been mauled by her dog, the AP reported. Since then, two other face transplants have been performed: on a Chinese farmer attacked by a bear, and on a European man disfigured by a genetic condition.


Self-Harm Not Limited to Teen Girls: Survey

Self-harm isn't a problem limited to teenage girls, suggests a survey by the British mental health group Sane.

The survey of nearly 1,000 people with a history of self-harm found that more than 10 percent of respondents were male and that some respondents didn't start harming themselves until they were in their 50s, BBC News reported.

About 84 percent said they tried to hide their behavior from their family and 66 percent tried to hide it from friends. Many inflicted damage to a part of their body that was easy to conceal from others or where the injury could be easily explained away as an accident.

Only about 12 percent of respondents said their first act of self-harm was motivated by a desire for attention, and this decreased to about 8 percent for subsequent acts of self-harm, BBC News reported.

The findings show that a wide range of people inflict self-harm, said Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane.


Home-Based Therapy Benefits COPD Patients: Study

For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a home-based exercise program is as good as hospital-based rehabilitation, says a Canadian study that included more than 250 patients with the lung disease.

Some of the patients had a one-time training session at home while others had hospital pulmonary training to improve shortness of breath and quality of life. Both programs yielded the same results, CBC News reported.

"Our results prove that home-based rehabilitation is just as effective and safe as that provided in hospitals. What's more, it is a real benefit to patients in comparison to a strictly pharmacological treatment," said study author Dr. Francois Maltais of the Hopital Laval in Quebec.

Along with the economic benefits of home therapy, improvements in patients' physical condition reduced the number of hospital visits, CBC News reported.

The study was published online in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.


Zimbabwe Cholera Death Toll 978: U.N.

The death toll in Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak now stands at 978, a 25 percent increase over three days ago, according to the United Nations. The UN also said there have been 18,413 suspected cholera cases since the outbreak began in August, BBC News reported.

The worst-hit area is the capital Harare, with 208 confirmed deaths and 8,454 suspected cases, said the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which estimated that up to 60,000 people in the country may eventually be affected by the disease.

The cholera outbreak has spread quickly in Zimbabwe due to serious problems with the health care and water systems. The South African Red Cross has sent a truckload of medical supplies to treat cholera patients and has issued an urgent appeal to fund supplies to treat a total of 30,000 people, BBC News reported.

Last week, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said the cholera outbreak had been halted.

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