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Health Highlights: July 1 2011

Maker Seeks to Prevent Drug's Use in Lethal Injections Paycheck Can be Dangerous: Study Babies' Brains Respond to Others' Emotions at Early Age Canada to Fund Trials of Controversial MS Treatment Number of U.S. Kids Living With Grandparents Rises Seeds From Egypt Suspected Cause of Europe's E. Coli Outbreak

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

Maker Seeks to Prevent Drug's Use in Lethal Injections

A Danish drug company says it will restrict distribution of its Nembutal drug to prevent it from being used in lethal injections to execute prisoners in some U.S. states.

Nembutal is the trade name for Lundbeck's pentobarbital sodium injection. It's used to treat severe epilepsy but is also used by a number of states in a three-drug mixture used to execute death row inmates, Agence France-Presse reported.

Lundbeck said Friday that Nembutal will now "be supplied exclusively through a specialty pharmacy drop ship program that will deny distribution of the product to prisons in U.S. states currently active in carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection."

Distributors were notified of the plan in late June, AFP reported.


Paycheck Can be Dangerous: Study

Payday can be life threatening, according to a new study.

A U.S. researcher looked at four major demographic groups -- military personnel, people receiving tax rebate checks, seniors on Social Security, and recipients of Alaska's Permanent Fund dividends -- and found a spike in death rates in the week after they received their checks, reported.

The largest increases occurred in deaths caused by substance abuse, external causes (accidents of various kinds), and heart attacks.

"After getting paid, people are just more active -- they go out to dinner, head to the store, drive more, go to bars, etc.," said University of Notre Dame economist William Evans, reported. "Some of this behavior is inherently risky, like drinking too much or driving drunk. Some of the activity will naturally increase risk -- if you drive more, the risk of being in a car accident has increased."

"Some of the links are not so obvious," he added. "For example, more activity may spur on a heart attack. And some of it is increased risk taking, as with substance abuse."

The study appears in the Journal of Public Economics.


Babies' Brains Respond to Others' Emotions at Early Age

A new study finds that babies can respond to emotions in other people's voices by the time they're three months old, earlier than previously believed.

Researchers used functional MRI to monitor brain activity in 21 babies as they heard emotional sounds, such as laughing and crying, and other sounds, such as water or toys, BBC News reported.

The scans showed activity in the babies' temporal cortex when they heard the emotional human voices, the same part of the brain that's activated in adults.

This finding about when human brains develop the ability to process voices and emotions "fundamentally advances our understanding of infant development," said Professor Declan Murphy of King's College London, BBC News reported.

This knowledge could be used to identify differences between the way that autistic and non-autistic brains develop, according to researchers.


Canada to Fund Trials of Controversial MS Treatment

The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it will fund clinical trials for a controversial multiple sclerosis treatment that clears blocked neck veins.

A scientific working group established by the government last year recommended proceeding with the trials after a review of seven ongoing studies of the link between "chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency" and its connection to MS, Agence France-Presse reported.

The government will issue of call for applications to conduct the trials after the clinical trial terms are established by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

The so-called "liberation treatment" is not offered in Canada and many Canadians with MS have gone to other countries for the treatment. Some said they had major improvements in their mobility after the procedure, while others reported little benefit, according to AFP.


Number of U.S. Kids Living With Grandparents Rises

The number of children in the United States who live with at least one grandparent rose 64 percent between 1991 to 2009, from 4.7 million to 7.8 million, according to a Census report released Wednesday.

When examined by race and ethnicity, the number of children living with at least one grandparent increased from 5 percent to 9 percent for whites, from 15 percent to 17 percent for blacks, and from 12 percent to 14 percent for Hispanics, USA Today reported.

Three-quarters (76 percent) of all children living with a grandparent also had at least one parent in the household.

"There's absolutely no question it's been on the rise because of the recession," Gary Drevitch of New York, editor-in-chief of the website, told USA Today.

"What's been interesting is that in the past, you imagine grandparents moving in with their adult children and grandchildren because they could no longer maintain their own home. The trend during the recession has been multigenerational households created because adult children have moved in with the grandparents. It's adult children struggling in the economy," he said.


Seeds From Egypt Suspected Cause of Europe's E. Coli Outbreak

Fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt may have been the cause of the E. coli outbreak in Europe that's sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 47, according to officials.

While the fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt either in 2009 or 2010 are being fingered as a possible cause, further investigation is needed to confirm that suspicion, said the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Food Safety Authority, the Associated Press reported.

Fenugreek seeds are used to prepare pickles and curry powders as well as Ethiopian, Indian and Yemeni foods.

Germany was hardest hit by the E. coli outbreak, with 46 deaths reported there so far. One person had died in Sweden, the AP reported.

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