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Health Highlights: Dec. 28 , 2002

Skepticism Greets Sect's Claim of 1st Cloned Baby U.S. Takes Inventory of Polio Strains 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:

Skepticism Greets Sect's Claim of 1st Cloned Baby

Physicist and freelance TV journalist Michael Guillen said he has chosen a panel of independent scientists to investigate claims by a religious sect -- which believes aliens started the human race -- that it has produced the world's first cloned baby.

Guillen, a former ABC TV science editor, told CNN the scientists would use DNA testing on the baby, named Eve, and her 31-year-old mother, said to be an American citizen.

Results of the testing should be available in a week to 10 days, said Guillen, who added that he has no connection to the sect.

Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist and scientific director of Clonaid, a company based in the Bahamas, told a news conference Friday that the 7-pound Eve was born Thursday and is healthy.

Clonaid, which claims to be 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.

Many scientists, however, are suspicious of Clonaid's claim. The AP said Boisselier offered no DNA evidence to prove the girl was a clone of her mother. The child was born overseas, but Boisselier would not say where and declined to identify the parents. Boisselier said Eve was created using DNA from the mother's skin cells and is a genetic twin of her mother, CNN said.

University of Wisconsin bioethicist Alta Charo called Clonaid's announcement "an irresponsible example of medical grandstanding," CNN reported.

"I'm not persuaded that it has occurred," she said. "If it has occurred it is an irresponsible experiment on human beings before you have proof on other animals to determine if it is safe, and the first and most important principle of medical ethics is that you do not do harm."

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 in the United States, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has claimed it would have jurisdiction over any method.

CNN reported that White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said President Bush "believes like most Americans that human cloning is deeply concerning, and he strongly supports legislation banning human cloning."

The National Academy of Sciences recommended a ban on human cloning back in January, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, the Vatican as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders denounced Clonaid's contention that it had succeeded at cloning an infant. But the religious leaders, citing a lack of scientific proof, were also skeptical of the company's claim, the Associated Press reported.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 wom

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