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Health Highlights: July 26, 2013

Plague in Squirrel Prompts Closures in Los Angeles-area National Park Bloggers Asked to Tout Benefits of New Health Care Law Safe to Reduce Young Football Players' Contact Drills During Practice: Study At 112, N.Y. Man Is World's Oldest: Guinness Groundbreaking Sex Researcher Virginia Johnson Dies

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

Plague in Squirrel Prompts Closures in Los Angeles-area National Park

Parts of a national forest in Los Angeles County, Calif. have been closed after a ground squirrel tested positive for bubonic plague.

The areas closed at Angeles National Forest include the Twisted Arrow, Broken Blade and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain campgrounds. They were closed Wednesday afternoon and will remain off-limits for at least a week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we close affected campgrounds and recreational areas as a precaution while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population," Jonathan Fielding, head of the county health department said in an advisory.

"It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal," he noted.

The advisory also said that people visiting areas nearby the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow and Pima Loops should take precautions, such as not feeding wild animals and preventing pets from getting fleas, The Times reported.

"Protection with an insect repellent containing DEET is also recommended for persons visiting the Angeles National Forest and engaging in outside recreational activities in other areas of L.A. County," Fielding said. Products containing DEET are not safe for pets, he noted.

The ground squirrel population in the San Gabriel Mountains has been known to have the plague. Squirrel burrows in the affected area will be dusted for fleas, officials said.

The advisory said that people infected with plague generally respond well to antibiotic therapy, the Times reported.


Bloggers Asked to Tout Benefits of New Health Care Law

The White House is seeking help from female bloggers to inform the public about the benefits of the new health care law.

At the national BlogHer conference Thursday in Chicago, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked attendees -- most of them women -- to help spread the word about the new health insurance market that will be launched this fall, the Associated Press reported.

Many uninsured Americans know little about how the Affordable Care Act will affect them and want information from people they trust, according to Sebelius.

"I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens Oct. 1," Sebelius told the conference participants, AP reported.


Safe to Reduce Young Football Players' Contact Drills During Practice: Study

Reducing contact drills during practice does not increase young football players' risk of head hits and concussion during games, a new study says.

The findings were released as debate continues over how much practice young players require to help them protect themselves during games and to block and tackle in a safe way, The New York Times reported.

The results from this new study may increase calls to reduce the number of contact drills in youth football league practices, something that's already been done by high school, college and NFL teams.

Pop Warner is a national organization through which hundreds of thousands of children play football. Last year, the organization introduced new rules saying that no more than a third of practice time can include contact drills, The Times reported.

In this study, researchers compared players on a team with the new Pop Warner rules and players on two teams that didn't limit contact drills during practices. Players on the Pop Warner team took part in half as many contact drills as those on the other two teams.

The players on the Pop Warner team took an average of 37 percent to 46 percent fewer head hits during the season than those on the other two teams, taking into account practices and games, The Times reported.

The study was published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

"The concern is if we don't teach kids how to hit in practice, they're going to get blown away in the games," study co-author Stefan Duma, head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, told The Times. "This shows you can dramatically cut the amount of exposure in practice and have no more exposure during the games."


At 112, N.Y. Man Is World's Oldest: Guinness

A 112-year-old man in western New York is now the oldest man in the world, according to Guinness World Records.

Salustiano Sanchez-Blazquez, who took the title when Jiroemon Kimura died June 12 at age 116, credits his longevity to eating a banana a day and a daily dose of six Anacin tablets, the Associated Press reported.

The world's oldest person is a woman, 115-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan.

Salustiano was born in Spain on June 8, 1901 and came to the United States in 1920. He worked in coal mines in Kentucky and then moved to the Niagara Falls area of New York, with jobs in construction and in the industrial furnaces. He married his wife, Pearl, in 1934, the AP reported.

Salustiano -- whose nickname is "Shorty" -- said he was humbled by the attention and that he didn't feel he accomplished anything special just because he has lived longer than most, according to a statement released by Guinness World Records.


Groundbreaking Sex Researcher Virginia Johnson Dies

Pioneering sex researcher Virginia Johnson died Wednesday at age 88.

She and William Masters revolutionized the study of sex in the 1960s and wrote two best-sellers on the topic, "Human Sexual Response" and "Human Sexual Inadequacy," the Associated Press reported.

For the next 20 years, Masters and Johnson were celebrities. They married in 1971 and divorced 20 years later. Masters died in 2001.

Johnson died at an assisted living facility in St. Louis after suffering complications from various illnesses, according to her son, Scott Johnson. A private funeral is planned, the AP reported.

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