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Health Highlights: June 19, 2007

U.S. Parents Concerned About Media Violence, Sex: Survey U.S. Judge Upholds Blood Thinner's Patent Extending Maternity Leave Increases Breastfeeding Duration Train Sets Latest Chinese-Made Toys to be Recalled in U.S. Vaccine for Lung Infection in CF Patients Shows Promise Foie Gras Linked to Dangerous Disease Process

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

U.S. Parents Concerned About Media Violence, Sex: Survey

A new survey released Tuesday found that two-thirds of American parents are very concerned about their children's exposure to sex and violence through media such as television, the Internet, and computer games.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,008 parents of children, ages 2 to 17, also found that about 66 percent of parents said they already closely monitor their children's use of media, 18 percent said they should do a better job in that area, and 16 percent said such monitoring isn't necessary, Associated Press reported.

The survey also found that about one in four parents feels that media are mainly a negative influence on their children, about one-third said media are mainly positive, and slightly more than a third said media have little impact on children.

About four in 10 parents who have televisions with V-chips that can block children from viewing certain shows knew they had the technology. Of those four in 10 parents, about half said they've used the technology, the AP reported.

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U.S. Judge Upholds Blood Thinner's Patent

A U.S. judge on Tuesday upheld the patent for the popular blood thinner drug Plavix and permanently blocked Canadian drug maker Apotex Inc. from selling its generic version of the drug in the United States, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Plavix patent is held by French drug company Sanofi-Aventis and its U.S. partner Bristol-Myers Squibb. The drug, prescribed to thin blood to prevent heart attacks, is believed to be the second-best selling medication in the world.

In Tuesday's ruling, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein said Apotex failed to prove that the patent on Plavix was invalid. The decision, which is likely to be appealed, also clears the way for damages to be assessed against Apotex, AFP reported.

Apotex started selling its generic version in the United States in August 2006.

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Extending Maternity Leave Increases Breastfeeding Duration

Giving women longer maternity leave increases the likelihood that they'll meet the recommended six-month breastfeeding target, says a Canadian study that examined the impact of lengthening maternity leave entitlements from six months to one year.

The study was published Tuesday by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, CBC News reported.

In most of Canada's provinces, job-protected maternity leave entitlements were increased from six months to one year, as of Jan. 1, 2001.

The study found that the proportion of eligible mothers who breastfed their children for at least six months increased from 20 percent to 28 percent, and breastfeeding was prolonged by an average of one month, CBC News reported.

Both Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies for six months.

"For public health officials aiming to increase breastfeeding duration, it appears the labor market policy may prove an effective way of achieving breastfeeding goals," concluded the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia researchers.

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Train Sets Latest Chinese-Made Toys to be Recalled in U.S.

The recall last week of 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden train sets is the latest in a long list of Chinese-made toys recalled in the United States.

All 24 types of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year were made in China, The New York Times reported. That's causing concern among parents, consumer advocates and regulators.

The recalled Thomas & Friends train sets are coated with leaded paint, which can damage brain cells, especially in children. The sets were made for RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Ill. at one of its company-controlled plants in China.

A spokeswoman for RC2 declined to comment on safety control measures at the company's factories in China, the Times reported.

About 70 percent to 80 percent of toys sold in the United States are made in China, according to the Toy Industry Association, which represents most American toy companies and importers.

The recalls of toys and a wide range of other products made in China have prompted demands for increased enforcement of safety standards by U.S. regulators and importers.

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Vaccine for Lung Infection in CF Patients Shows Promise

While it shows promise, more development is required on a vaccine designed to prevent a dangerous lung infection that's common among people with cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a German study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The vaccine against infection with the Pseudomonas aeruginosa microbe was tested in 189 CF patients. Over 14 months, 37 of the patients developed Pseudomonas infection, compared with 59 of 192 patients who received a placebo, the Associated Press reported.

"This is the first demonstration that in CF, vaccination against life-threatening Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infection is successful," but "further development of the vaccine formulation is needed," said study team leader Gerd Doering of the University of Tuebingen.

The study showed that the vaccine does reduce the onset of new infections in CF patients, cystic fibrosis expert Gerald B. Pier, of Harvard Medical School, told the AP.

"The longer you can delay the onset of lung infection, particularly with Pseudomonas aerrginosa, in CF the better the patients do," Pier said. "Showing that vaccination can at least partly meet this goal is a very encouraging finding for management of the lung disease that plagues CF patients."

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Foie Gras Linked to Dangerous Disease Process

Foie gras -- goose liver pate -- contains a protein that can accelerate a dangerous disease process called amyloidosis in some people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease, says a study by American and Swedish researchers.

Amyloidosis, in which misfolded proteins are deposited in vital organs, can lead to organ failure and death. The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings from experiments with laboratory mice are the first to suggest that amyloidosis, like made cow disease, may be transmissible, Agence France-Presse reported.

However, the researchers said that even if the findings from their tests on mice hold true in humans, only people at high risk for diseases involving amyloidosis would be at risk.

"Eating foie gras probably won't cause a disease in someone who isn't genetically predisposed to it," lead author Alan Solomon, a specialist in amyloid-related diseases at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville, told AFP.

However, people with a family history of amyloid-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis should not eat foie gras, Solomon said.

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