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Health Highlights: Dec. 27 , 2002

U.S. Takes Inventory of Polio Strains Religious Sect Claims to Have Created 1st Cloned Baby Sick Passengers Removed from Cruise Ship Kmart Recalls Wooden Toy Vehicles A Book About the Real Weaker Sex Men Go Through Menopause, Too

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

U.S. Takes Inventory of Polio Strains

Health officials in the United States are conducting an inventory of all polio strains in laboratories around the country. The effort is designed to keep the virus from accidentally escaping and causing outbreaks once the disease is eradicated, according to the Associated Press.

Federal officials have said polio could be eradicated throughout the world within two years.

An estimated 31,000 institutions in the United States have stocks of the virus. They include health departments, hospitals and private companies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the labs until Tuesday to submit a report on their stocks, the AP says.

Unlike smallpox, polio is not believed to be a potential weapon for bioterrorists. Although it can cause paralysis and death, less than 1 percent of those infected develop symptoms. Also, vaccinations have been available globally for decades, the AP reports.


Religious Sect Claims to Have Created 1st Cloned Baby

A scientist with ties to a religious sect that believes aliens started the human race claimed today that the world's first cloned baby has been born.

The Associated Press reports that Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist and scientific director of Clonaid, a company based in the Bahamas, told a news conference that a 7-pound girl named Eve was born yesterday and she is healthy.

Many scientists, however, are suspicious of the announcement. The AP says Boisselier offered no DNA evidence to prove the girl was a clone of her 31-year-old American mother. The child was born overseas, but Boisselier would not say where and declined to identify the parents. CNN adds the company has not released any data on what procedure was used to clone the baby.

Boisselier said the baby would go home in three days, at which time an independent expert will take DNA samples to prove she is a clone. Mainstream scientists will likely demand such proof -- and proof from an expert with no ties to Clonaid, given the company's secrecy and its history.

Clonaid, which bills itself as the world's first cloning company, was founded by Claude Vorhilron, leader of a religious group called the Raëlians. Vorhilron has said aliens visited him in the 1970s, and revealed to him that they created the entire human race through cloning. He has also said one goal of the cloning process is to live forever. Boisselier is a bishop in the sect, according to CNN.

Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told CBS News that the Raëlians are "a strange cult." And Dr. Severino Antinori, the Italian doctor who said last month that he had engineered a baby boy to be born next month, dismissed Clonaid's claim, according to the AP.

Many ethicists oppose the idea of human cloning, noting that other cloned animals that appeared to be normal turned out to have serious health problems. Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, got arthritis after only a few years, and her creator is against cloning humans. There is no specific ban against cloning, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has claimed it would have jurisdiction over any method.


Sick Passengers Removed from Cruise Ship

Seventy-five passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship were removed from the boat in Key West, Fla., after falling ill during a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. They were taken by bus to Miami, the Associated Press reported.

The 880-foot-long The Majesty of the Seas was making a planned stop in Key West Thursday morning when the passengers were taken off the boat.

A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean could not say whether the passengers were stricken with a Norwalk-like virus that has sickened many passengers on numerous cruise ships in recent weeks.

The Norwalk-like virus, a common gastrointestinal bug, causes vomiting, headaches and nausea, and usually lasts one or two days.


Kmart Recalls Wooden Toy Vehicles

The Kmart Corp. is voluntarily recalling about 50,000 wooden toy vehicles that are filled with candy. The wheels on the toys may break off into small parts, posing a choking hazard to young children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports.

The recalled toys include a red wagon, truck and train and were packaged with candy. The following UPC codes are located on the bottom of the vehicles: 694405900012 (wagon), 694405900029 (truck) and 694405900036 (train). The toys were made in China.

Kmart stores across the country sold the toys from November 2002 through December 2002 for about $5 each, the CPSC says.

Kmart has not received any reports of injuries. The company is asking customers to bring the toys back for a full refund. For more information, call Kmart at (800) 63KMART.


A Book About the Real Weaker Sex

Jordan and Lindy Schweiger call their new book, "Everything Men Knew About Taking Care of Themselves Before Women Came Along." Predictably, the 96-page book is filled with nothing but blank pages.

The couple says proceeds from the sales will go to the Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service in Salem, Ore., which offers assistance to women and children who suffer domestic violence, according to the Associated Press.

"We're making fun of men, but the reality is, there's a serious problem," says Lindy Schweiger, 20.


Men Go Through Menopause, Too

Yes, Virginia, there is male menopause.

As many as one third of men experience symptoms that are consistent with menopause, say Swedish researchers.

The BBC reports a research team from Linkoping University found that symptoms such as sweating and hot flashes were relatively common in men over the age of 55.

The scientists believe the same protein -- called CGRP -- could be responsible for symptoms in both men and women. The protein acts to expand the blood vessels, which can lead to both sweating and hot flashes.

They asked more than 1,800 men over the age of 55 whether they had experienced menopausal symptoms. And they found the symptoms were more likely among men who also showed symptoms typically associated with low levels of the male sex hormone testosterone. These included reduced muscle strength, poor stamina and low spirits.

In a second study, the researchers studied the impact of acupuncture as a potential treatment for menopausal women and found that in some women it reduced discomfort by about 75 percent.

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