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Health Highlights: Feb. 9, 2009

Vaginal Gel Shows Promise Against HIV Infection Mentally-Ill More Sensitive to Narcotics: Report 1st U.S. Case of Marburg Fever Confirmed: CDC Bad Economy Having Little Impact on Americans' Sex Lives: Survey

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

Vaginal Gel Shows Promise Against HIV Infection

An experimental vaginal gel shows promise in reducing women's risk of HIV infection, according to results of a preliminary study that included about 3,100 women in Africa and the United States.

Women who used the gel had a 30 percent lower risk of HIV infection, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study presented Monday at a medical conference on retroviruses in Montreal, the Associated Press reported.

However, the researchers noted this difference wasn't statistically significant, which means the reduced risk could have occurred by chance.

The true effectiveness of the gel, made by Massachusetts-based Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc., needs to be assessed in larger studies, such as one involving 9,400 women that's scheduled to conclude in August, the AP reported.


Mentally-Ill More Sensitive to Narcotics: Report

Narcotics have a much greater effect on the brains of mentally-ill people, according to a University of Montreal researcher.

Mentally-ill people are more sensitive to the effects of addictive drugs, which may cause irreversible deterioration of the cerebral structures, said Dr. Stephane Potvin, United Press International reported.

"They become dependent more quickly and they tend to abuse drugs more easily. It is evident that drug use can worsen the symptoms of mental disease," Potvin said in a news release. "The odds that a mental disorder manifests itself in an individual can increase if he or she consumes drugs."

Integrated treatment is required for patients with mental disease and drug abuse, according to Potvin, who noted that people with mental illness and those with drug dependence often receive different types of treatment, UPI reported.


1st U.S. Case of Marburg Fever Confirmed: CDC

The first confirmed case of deadly Marburg hemorrhagic fever in the United States occurred last year and the patient has since recovered, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The Colorado patient contracted the dangerous, rare illness while traveling in Uganda and was treated at Lutheran Medical Center in January 2008 and had follow-up care in July, the Associated Press reported.

None of the doctors and staffers who cared for the patient developed symptoms of Marburg hemorrhagic fever, said medical center spokeswoman Kim Kobel. The CDC is testing hospital staff to determine if any cases of illness weren't detected at the time.

Marburg fever spreads through contact with infected animals or the bodily fluids of infected humans. The disease has an incubation period of five to 10 days. Initial symptoms include fever, chills and headaches, but symptoms become much worse after the fifth day of illness, the AP said.

Fewer than 500 cases of the disease, which has an 80 percent death rate, have been reported since it was first recognized in 1967, according to the CDC. The Marburg virus is indigenous to Africa.


Economy Having Little Impact on Americans' Sex Lives: Survey

The economic turmoil hasn't caused a major downturn in Americans' sex lives, suggests a new survey of 1,000 adults, ages 18 to 75, conducted in January.

The survey found that 79 percent of sexually active respondents said the nation's financial problems haven't spilled into the bedroom, United Press International reported.

Among the other findings from the Consumer Reports National Research Center survey:

  • Nearly 60 percent of men, but only 19 percent of women, said they thought about sex at least once a day. While 64 percent of men said sex was very important to them, that was true for only 47 percent of women.
  • Taking care of children was given by 34 percent of women and 27 percent of men as an excuse for not having sex, while 30 percent of men and 28 percent of women said work got in the way of sex.
  • Nearly half of the respondents said they schedule sex, including 7 percent who said they do so using a calendar, smart phone or personal digital assistant.
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