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Health Highlights: Dec. 20, 2006

Stress Common in Many Countries: Survey Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex Practice Egg Safety During Holidays: FDA U.S. Cancels Anthrax Vaccine Contract Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads Increasing: Study FDA Approves New Drug to Treat Schizophrenia

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

Stress Common in Many Countries: Survey

Stress is a common problem in many industrialized countries, according to an AP-Ipsos survey of 10 countries released Wednesday.

The survey found that about 75 percent of people in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States experience stress on a daily basis and that stress becomes more intense during the holiday season.

Among the findings:

  • Finances were cited as the leading cause of stress by people in the United States, Britain and Mexico.
  • Jobs were the top source of stress for people in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain.
  • About half the respondents in Britain said they frequently or sometimes felt life was beyond their control. That was the highest level of the 10 countries in the survey.
  • In most countries, men were more likely than women to say their lives never felt out of control.
  • Germans feel stress more intensely than people in other nations.

"The level of stress in fast-paced technological societies has been accelerating," Gershen Kaufman, a practicing clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Michigan State University, told the AP.


Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex

The vast majority (95 percent) of Americans have had premarital sex, says a study in the current issue of the journal Public Health Reports.

Researchers studied interviews with more than 38,000 people that were conducted in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the U.S. National Survey of Family Growth. The analysis revealed that 99 percent of the respondents had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had had premarital sex, the Associated Press reported.

Even among Americans who abstained from sex until at least age 20, about 80 percent had had premarital sex by age 44.

"This is reality-check research," study author Lawrence Finer, research director at the Guttmacher Institute in New York City, told the AP. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."

The Guttmacher Institute is a private think tank that focuses on sexual and reproductive issues. The institute disagrees with U.S. government-funded programs that emphasize abstinence-only teachings.

"The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-years-olds," Finer told the AP.

He said it would be better to provide young people with information about safe sex so they can protect themselves when they become sexually active.


Practice Egg Safety During Holidays: FDA

Americans are being reminded not to allow any cracks in egg safety this holiday season. Eggs may contain Salmonella enteriditis bacteria that can cause illness if eggs aren't handled or cooked properly, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the United States, about 118,000 illnesses a year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with S. enteriditis.

Cookie dough is one of the major sources of raw egg eaten by Americans. Other holiday favorites, such as homemade eggnog and some types of stuffing, may also contain raw or undercooked eggs, the FDA said.

To avoid egg-related illness this holiday season: don't eat unbaked cookie dough; cook baked egg-containing foods to 160 degrees F and use a food thermometer to check the temperature; use pasteurized egg products in homemade eggnog and other recipes that call for raw or uncooked eggs.


U.S. Cancels Anthrax Vaccine Contract

The U.S. government on Tuesday cancelled an $877 million contract with California-based VaxGen Inc. for a new anthrax vaccine.

The cancellation came after VaxGen missed an important deadline to start human tests of the vaccine, the Associated Press reported. That failure put VaxGen in default of its contract with the federal government, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The cancellation isn't just bad news for VaxGen. It also means that the U.S. government now has no defined plan to find a next-generation anthrax vaccine, the AP reported.

The VaxGen vaccine was supposed to be a vital part of the federal government's $5.6 billion Project BioShield, a program to create drug stockpiles in case of a bioterror attack.

The current anthrax vaccine requires six shots over 18 months. The VaxGen vaccine was supposed to require no more than three shots, the AP reported.


Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads Increasing: Study

Youth exposure to alcohol ads on U.S. television increased 41 percent from 2001 to 2005, says a study released Wednesday by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Most of this growth can be traced to increased alcohol advertising on cable television, particularly by makers of distilled sprits, the study said. Among the findings, overall spending on televised alcohol ads jumped by 32 percent ($780 million to more than $1 billion) and the number of ads increased by 34 percent from 2001 to 2005. In addition, it showed that television programs popular with teens are filled with alcohol ads. In 2005, more than 1,300 alcohol ads were shown on 14 of the 15 programs with the largest teen audiences.

"More spending on television, especially on cable, translates into kids seeing more and more alcohol ads," David Jernigan, executive director of CAMY, said in a prepared statement. "Twenty state attorneys general and the Institute of Medicine have said the alcohol industry needs to do a better job of shielding our kids from its advertising.


FDA Approves New Drug to Treat Schizophrenia

Extended-release Invega (paliperidone) tablets have been approved for treatment of schizophrenia, the U.S Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

The approval is based on the findings of three, six-week trials conducted in North America, Europe and Asia that included a total of 1,665 patients. The studies found that the drug was more effective than placebo at relieving symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the trials, the patients were given doses ranging from 3 milligrams to 15 mg a day. The recommended dose range for Invega is 3 mg to 12 mg. a day, the FDA said.

Side effects that were commonly reported by patients in the studies included restlessness, movement disorders, rapid heart beat and sleepiness.

Since the effectiveness of Invega has not been evaluated for longer than six weeks, patients taking the drug for extended periods should be periodically reevaluated by a doctor, the FDA said.

Invega belongs to a class of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. Compared to placebo, these drugs are associated with an increased death rate among elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. Invega is not approved for treating dementia-related psychosis, the FDA said.

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