Health Highlights: June 21, 2012

Seizure Leads to U.S. Commerce Secretary's Resignation Traffic Noise Increases Heart Attack Risk: Study Group Challenges Merck's Marketing of Children's Allergy Medicine Fat-Free Salad Dressings Reduce Nutrient Intake: Study New Dengue Fever Test Approved by FDA

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

Seizure Leads to U.S. Commerce Secretary's Resignation

A seizure suffered earlier this month has led U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson to resign from the Obama administration.

Bryson, 68, was found unconscious after he was involved in a series of traffic crashes in the Los Angeles earlier this month. A breathalyzer test did not detect any alcohol, the Associated Press reported.

In his resignation letter, Bryson said his decision was a "consequence of a recent seizure and a medical leave of absence."

He also wrote: ""I have concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9th could be a distraction from my performance as secretary, and that our country would be better served by a change in leadership," the AP reported.


Traffic Noise Increases Heart Attack Risk: Study

People who live near roads with high levels of traffic noise are at increased risk for a heart attack, according to a new study.

Researchers followed more than 50,000 people in Denmark, ages 50 to 64, for 10 years and found that for every 10 decibel rise in traffic noise near a person's home, there was a 12 percent increased risk of a first heart attack, ABC News reported.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.

Previous research has found some association between traffic noise and heart health but study lead author Dr. Mette Sorensen said she was surprised to find such a direct link between traffic noise levels and heart attack risk, ABC News reported.

"Previously, there seemed to be no effect up to around 60 decibels," she said. "But I see increases at around 40 decibels up to the highest level, around 82 decibels. It doesn't seem to be a level where there are no effects."


Group Challenges Merck's Marketing of Children's Allergy Medicine

Drug maker Merck is using animated characters from the movie "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" to improperly market over-the-counter allergy medicine to children, public health advocates charge in a complaint filed Wednesday with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The Public Health Advocacy Institute and 10 other groups say the marketing strategy for Children's Claritin is dangerous and deceptive. They point to the inclusion of Madagascar movie stickers in some boxes of the allergy medicine, activity books that parents can download for their children, and Merck's enlistment of a group of mothers who blog to hold Claritin-themed Madagascar viewing parties for their children and friends, The New York Times reported.

The complainants also noted that the same animated characters are used to promote other children's products such as candy and gummy snacks. This could lead children to confuse the grape-flavored Claritin tablets and syrup for candy, they warn.

Merck is reviewing the issue, spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty told The Times. But she added: "We advertised in appropriate venues to reach those parents of children who may benefit from the use of Claritin, and not to the children themselves."

The FTC will review the complaint, an official said.


Fat-Free Salad Dressings Reduce Nutrient Intake: Study

Putting a fat-free dressing on your salad may actually reduce the amount of nutrients your body absorbs from the vegetables and fruits in your salad, a new study suggests.

Purdue University researchers found that some fat in dressings is essential to absorb compounds such as lycopene and beta-carotene, which have been linked with a reduced risk of illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The study was published online Wednesday in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

"If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings," lead author Mario Ferruzzi, an associate professor of food science, said in a news release, The Times reported. "If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables."


New Dengue Fever Test Approved by FDA

A new test for dengue fever that was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The test can identify all four types of dengue virus types and will help diagnose dengue within the first seven days after symptoms of the illness appear, when is when most people are likely to see a doctor, the CDC said.

This is the first FDA-approved test that detects evidence of the virus itself and the test can be performed using equipment and supplies that many public health laboratories already use to diagnose influenza. Test kits will be available for distribution in early July.

Dengue viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes. Thousands of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands develop dengue every year, and dengue is a leading cause of fever in American travelers returning from Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Severe dengue infections can lead to hemorrhage, shock and death. There are no vaccines to prevent dengue or medicines specifically approved to treat the disease, but early medical care can greatly reduce the risk of death, the CDC said.


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