Health Highlights: July 3, 2002

Conceiving Can Take At Least One Year: Study UN Warns of Growing Global AIDS Epidemic DEET Deemed Best at Repelling Pests Infectious Disease Expert Named New CDC Head Doctors Sue HMOs Over Payments Hepatitis May Re-Emerge Stronger After Chemotherapy Palestinian and Israeli Kids Suffer High Levels of Post Traumatic Stress

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

Conceiving Can Take At Least One Year: Study

For couples who are frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant, researchers offer the following advice: give it at least a year.

In research presented at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna, Austria, doctors say that unless there are obvious health problems that may be preventing conception, couples should wait at least a year before seeing a fertility specialist because the chances are good they'll be successful the following year, reports the Associated Press.

The researchers say too many couples are rushing to fertility clinics looking for treatments after just a few months of trying.

In looking at 782 couples from seven European cities, the researchers say they found that regardless of age, the majority of healthy couples do achieve pregnancy by the end of their second year of trying.

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UN Warns of Growing Global AIDS Epidemic

Potent and effective drugs have managed to bring the urgency of AIDS down a notch in the United States, but the United Nations warns that the global epidemic has exceeded all expectations and could be on the brink of a massive expansion.

In a report released yesterday, the U.N. cautions that even though the AIDS virus has infected up to a third of young adults in many African cities, the disease continues to increase there.

And unless actions are taken, the AIDS epidemic in places like China, India and Indonesia could far exceed current proportions, reports the Washington Post.

The report reflects findings from dozens of studies conducted in various countries on AIDS issues. It estimates that 68 million people around the world will die of AIDS in the next 20 years if action isn't taken.

The disease claimed the lives of about 3 million people last year and the total death toll since the disease was discovered in 1981 is more than 20 million.

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DEET Deemed Best at Repelling Pests

Want to keep mosquitoes away this holiday? Then there really is no substitute: Despite its infamously offensive odor, DEET works best, and it's perfectly safe when used judiciously, reports HealthDay.

A new comparison of 16 products that boast bug-banishing properties, from citronella oil to a soy-based brand, finds those with DEET typically last longest and give the most protection against bites.

Only the soy oil formulation came close to the synthetic chemical, which the researchers say has an undeserved reputation for being harmful to people. Citronella, spiked cosmetics and wrist bands fail to fend off mosquitoes for very long, if at all. The findings appear in tomorrow's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"For complete protection for any significant duration of time, only the DEET-based products give you that benefit," said Dr. Mark Fradin, a dermatologist and lead author of the study.

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Infectious Disease Expert Named New CDC Head

After months of grappling with pressing bioterrorism issues without a leader, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a new director, and for the first time in the agency's history, the director is a woman.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, an infectious disease specialist who is known for her work at the CDC in battling anthrax, was sworn in as head of the agency by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson today at a ceremony at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

Gerberding, who is 46, replaces Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, who stepped down as director on March 31 after three years in the position.

Gerberding has been the CDC's acting deputy director for science and has been part of a four-member team that's been overseeing the CDC while the Bush administration looked for a new director.

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Doctors Sue HMOs Over Payments

Two multi-billion dollar lawsuits filed in Miami may determine future relationships between HMOs and the doctors they engare to provide services.

CBS News reports that the lawsuits -- one filed on behalf of the doctors and one on behalf of the patients -- charge that a number of health maintenance organizations "down-code" physicians' fees as a matter of unofficial policy. After a doctor treats a patient for a specific illness or condition, she uses a special five-digit code on a chart, signifying how much the fee should be.

According to the lawsuits, the HMOs regularly change these codes to reflect a lower fee, regardless of the treatment the doctor felt was necessary.

"We believe they [the HMOs] have gotten together and have methodically done this in a way to further their bottom line," says Dr. Joy Maxey, an Atlanta pediatrician.

Not so, says the chief lawyer for the HMOs.

"That's simply not accurate," says Stephanie Kanwit. But she does acknowledge that doctors' fees are systematically reviewed through a software program to ensure that proper fees are being charged.

-----

Hepatitis May Re-Emerge Stronger After Chemotherapy

As if going through cancer chemotherapy weren't difficult enough:

The medical journal The Lancet reports that researchers in Verona, Italy have found that cancer patients who had been carrying the Hepatitis B virus (and sometimes, the Hepatitis C virus) stood a good chance of developing full-blown hepatitis after their chemotherapy had ended.

The researchers have determined ways to identify those patients who might be susceptible to this condition, especially since initial findings indicate that the hepatitis onset is virulent and could cause death.

-----

Palestinian and Israeli Kids Suffer High Levels of Post Traumatic Stress

It shouldn't be surprising that both Israeli and Palestinian children are feeling the psychological effects of living in what is essentially a war zone.

However, the research that shows 70 percent of Palestinian children and 30 percent of Israeli children suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was conducted more than a year ago. The question now is whether PTSD played any part in the number of Palestinian suicide bombers who were teenagers.

The Associated Press reports that the study of 1,300 children shows that 70 percent of Palestinian children in the West Bank and 30 percent of children in Jewish settlements are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder because of all the violence, military action and protests along the West Bank.

The AP quotes Tamar Lavi, a psychologist who conducted the research last summer: "We knew from books that exposure (to violence) can lead to a lot of things, but we also knew that different exposure leads to different results."

The research showed the number of incidents to which the children had been exposed were about the same: Palestinian children had been exposed to an average of 10 incidents of violence between September 2000 to July 2001, while Israeli children living in the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in the Gaza Strip had been exposed to an average of 11 instances of bloodshed.

The AP quotes Hassan Ziadah, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, as saying mental health professionals in Gaza have been debating whether the increase in the number of Palestinians willing to carry out suicide bombings is related to post traumatic stress, which could be "a factor involved in the decision to become a martyr."

-----

Consumer News

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

Conceiving Can Take At Least One Year: Study

For couples who are frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant, researchers offer the following advice: give it at least a year.

In research presented at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna, Austria, doctors say that unless there are obvious health problems that may be preventing conception, couples should wait at least a year before seeing a fertility specialist because the chances are good they'll be successful the following year, reports the Associated Press.

The researchers say too many couples are rushing to fertility clinics looking for treatments after just a few months of trying.

In looking at 782 couples from seven European cities, the researchers say they found that regardless of age, the majority of healthy couples do achieve pregnancy by the end of their second year of trying.

-----

UN Warns of Growing Global AIDS Epidemic

Potent and effective drugs have managed to bring the urgency of AIDS down a notch in the United States, but the United Nations warns that the global epidemic has exceeded all expectations and could be on the brink of a massive expansion.

In a report released yesterday, the U.N. cautions that even though the AIDS virus has infected up to a third of young adults in many African cities, the disease continues to increase there.

And unless actions are taken, the AIDS epidemic in places like China, India and Indonesia could far exceed current proportions, reports the Washington Post.

The report reflects findings from dozens of studies conducted in various countries on AIDS issues. It estimates that 68 million people around the world will die of AIDS in the next 20 years if action isn't taken.

The disease claimed the lives of about 3 million people last year and the total death toll since the disease was discovered in 1981 is more than 20 million.

-----

DEET Deemed Best at Repelling Pests

Want to keep mosquitoes away this holiday? Then there really is no substitute: Despite its infamously offensive odor, DEET works best, and it's perfectly safe when used judiciously, reports HealthDay.

A new comparison of 16 products that boast bug-banishing properties, from citronella oil to a soy-based brand, finds those with DEET typically last longest and give the most protection against bites.

Only the soy oil formulation came close to the synthetic chemical, which the researchers say has an undeserved reputation for being harmful to people. Citronella, spiked cosmetics and wrist bands fail to fend off mosquitoes for very long, if at all. The findings appear in tomorrow's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"For complete protection for any significant duration of time, only the DEET-based products give you that benefit," said Dr. Mark Fradin, a dermatologist and lead author of the study.

-----

Infectious Disease Expert Named New CDC Head

After months of grappling with pressing bioterrorism issues without a leader, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a new director, and for the first time in the agency's history, the director is a woman.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, an infectious disease specialist who is known for her work at the CDC in battling anthrax, was sworn in as head of the agency by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson today at a ceremony at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

Gerberding, who is 46, replaces Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, who stepped down as director on March 31 after three years in the position.

Gerberding has been the CDC's acting deputy director for science and has been part of a four-member team that's been overseeing the CDC while the Bush administration looked for a new director.

-----

Doctors Sue HMOs Over Payments

Two multi-billion dollar lawsuits filed in Miami may determine future relationships between HMOs and the doctors they engare to provide services.

CBS News reports that the lawsuits -- one filed on behalf of the doctors and one on behalf of the patients -- charge that a number of health maintenance organizations "down-code" physicians' fees as a matter of unofficial policy. After a doctor treats a patient for a specific illness or condition, she uses a special five-digit code on a chart, signifying how much the fee should be.

According to the lawsuits, the HMOs regularly change these codes to reflect a lower fee, regardless of the treatment the doctor felt was necessary.

"We believe they [the HMOs] have gotten together and have methodically done this in a way to further their bottom line," says Dr. Joy Maxey, an Atlanta pediatrician.

Not so, says the chief lawyer for the HMOs.

"That's simply not accurate," says Stephanie Kanwit. But she does acknowledge that doctors' fees are systematically reviewed through a software program to ensure that proper fees are being charged.

-----

Hepatitis May Re-Emerge Stronger After Chemotherapy

As if going through cancer chemotherapy weren't difficult enough:

The medical journal The Lancet reports that researchers in Verona, Italy have found that cancer patients who had been carrying the Hepatitis B virus (and sometimes, the Hepatitis C virus) stood a good chance of developing full-blown hepatitis after their chemotherapy had ended.

The researchers have determined ways to identify those patients who might be susceptible to this condition, especially since initial findings indicate that the hepatitis onset is virulent and could cause death.

-----

Palestinian and Israeli Kids Suffer High Levels of Post Traumatic Stress

It shouldn't be surprising that both Israeli and Palestinian children are feeling the psychological effects of living in what is essentially a war zone.

However, the research that shows 70 percent of Palestinian children and 30 percent of Israeli children suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was conducted more than a year ago. The question now is whether PTSD played any part in the number of Palestinian suicide bombers who were teenagers.

The Associated Press reports that the study of 1,300 children shows that 70 percent of Palestinian children in the West Bank and 30 percent of children in Jewish settlements are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder because of all the violence, military action and protests along the West Bank.

The AP quotes Tamar Lavi, a psychologist who conducted the research last summer: "We knew from books that exposure (to violence) can lead to a lot of things, but we also knew that different exposure leads to different results."

The research showed the number of incidents to which the children had been exposed were about the same: Palestinian children had been exposed to an average of 10 incidents of violence between September 2000 to July 2001, while Israeli children living in the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in the Gaza Strip had been exposed to an average of 11 instances of bloodshed.

The AP quotes Hassan Ziadah, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, as saying mental health professionals in Gaza have been debating whether the increase in the number of Palestinians willing to carry out suicide bombings is related to post traumatic stress, which could be "a factor involved in the decision to become a martyr."

-----

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