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Health Highlights: Dec. 4, 2006

Groups Update Guidelines for Sedating Children World Facing Diabetes Epidemic CDC Awards Contracts for Rapid Bird Flu Test FDA Advisers Have Financial Ties to Stent Makers: Report Norovirus Sickens Hundreds on Caribbean Cruise Exercise Boosts Health of Obese Women

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

Groups Update Guidelines for Sedating Children

Updated guidelines designed to prevent injuries and deaths when doctors and dentists sedate children during procedures outside of hospitals were released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).

The guidelines advise doctors and dentists to closely monitor young patients for problems while they're under sedation. Health workers must also have the proper training and equipment needed to take quick action in case of an emergency, the guidelines added.

As reported by the Associated Press, the guidelines stress that children also need to be assessed for sedation risk factors. The new recommendations were published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The guidelines were under review for several years and weren't issued in response to the death of a 5-year-old Chicago girl on Sept. 23, said the presidents of the AAP and AAPD.

Diamond Brownridge did not awake from sedation after treatment at a storefront dental clinic. The Cook County medical examiner's office concluded that she died from lack of oxygen caused by anesthesia, the Associated Press reported.

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World Facing Diabetes Epidemic

The world is facing a diabetes epidemic, according to a report that predicts that about 380 million people (7 percent of the world's adult population) will have the disease by 2025 if action is not taken to counter it, CBC News reported.

"Diabetes is fast becoming the epidemic of the 21st century," said the International Diabetes Federation report, which was released Monday at the start of a four-day conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Currently, about 246 million people worldwide have diabetes, up from 30 million two decades ago. The report found that diabetes kills 3.8 million people a year -- the same toll taken by HIV/AIDS, CBC News reported.

China and India have the greatest number of diabetics (about 40 million each) and cases of Type II diabetes are increasing most rapidly in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

"Wherever poverty and a lack of sanitation drive families to low cost-per-calorie foods and packaged drinks, Type II diabetes thrives," the federation said in a statement.

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CDC Awards Contracts for Rapid Bird Flu Test

Contracts totaling $11.4 million have been awarded to four companies working to develop new rapid diagnostic tests for H5N1 bird flu and other kinds of influenza viruses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.

The tests would allow doctors and field epidemiologists to quickly and accurately test patients for influenza viruses, the CDC said. Such tests could help public health experts get an early warning about viruses that could cause an influenza pandemic.

"We have seen avian influenza infections since 1997 but we unfortunately still do not have a good way to quickly and easily distinguish at a patient's bedside whether they suffer from H5N1 or a more common type of influenza," Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director, said in a prepared statement.

"These contracts will support development of promising technology that could help doctors treat their patients faster and help public health authorities track influenza viruses that could spur a pandemic," she said.

The four companies awarded the contracts are: Cepheid of Sunnyvale, Calif.; IQuum of Marlborough, Mass.; Meso Scale of Gaithersburg, Md.; and Nanogen of San Diego, Calif.

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FDA Advisers Have Financial Ties to Stent Makers: Report

Six doctors with financial ties to companies that make heart devices will serve this week on an U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel reviewing the safety of drug-coated stents that are used to prop open arteries. The stents have been linked with an increased risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Critics have condemned the FDA for allowing the doctors to serve on the panel, which will make recommendations that could influence FDA guidelines involving drug-coated stents, Bloomberg News reported.

To clear the way for the six doctors to take part in the review, the FDA has waived rules that prohibit experts from involvement in matters that affect companies with which the experts have consulting contracts or in which they own stock.

The fact that the six doctors hold shares in, or receive fees from, companies that make stents is outweighed by their expertise on heart disease, Randall Lutter, the agency's associate commissioner for policy and planning, noted in a posting on the FDA's Web site.

A number of studies have suggested that drug-coated stents increase the risk of blood clots, Bloomberg reported. That includes a Cleveland Clinic Foundation study released in late November that said heart patients who receive drug-coated stents are five times more likely to develop blood clots than patients who receive bare metal stents.

Blood clots caused by drug-coated stents may cause an extra 2,160 deaths each year in the United States, according to an editorial by U.S. cardiology experts posted online Oct. 11 by the American College of Cardiology.

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Norovirus Sickens Hundreds on Caribbean Cruise

An outbreak of norovirus sickened 338 passengers and 46 crew members on the Royal Caribbean's ship Freedom of the Seas during a seven-day Caribbean cruise.

The sick passengers and crew were treated with over-the-counter medications during the cruise, and crew members sanitized railings, elevator buttons, door handles and other frequently touched surfaces, the Associated Press reported.

The Freedom of the Seas, which was carrying about 3,800 passengers and 1,300 crew members, returned Sunday as scheduled to the Port of Miami. It's believed that a passenger previously exposed to the norovirus brought it on board Nov. 26, Royal Caribbean said.

Last month, about 700 passengers and crew were affected by a norovirus outbreak during a trans-Atlantic cruise by the Carnival Cruise Line's Liberty, the AP reported.

Norovirus, which causes stomach flu-like symptoms, affects about 23 million Americans each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Exercise Boosts Health of Obese Women

If they exercise, obese women may not need to diet to improve their health, a study by British researchers suggests.

The team from Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Hull found that encouraging obese women to exercise for four hours a week led to significant improvements in their health and mental well-being, BBC News reported.

The 62 women, ages 24 to 55, weren't encouraged to diet but were taught about good eating habits, including how to read food labels and to cook healthy meals. They also received behavioral therapy to help them understand and respond to body cues such as hunger and feeling full, BBC News reported.

After one year, the women had lost only a few pounds but were much fitter and happier with themselves. Their respiratory fitness increased and their blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate levels declined, the study said.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the U.K. Society of Behavioral Medicine.

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