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Health Highlights: June 8, 2009

New Orleans Mayor Quarantined in China Cancer Patients Still Taking Antioxidant Supplements Kids and Concussions: Guidelines Stir Controversy Gum Disease Care Helps Arthritis

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

New Orleans Mayor Quarantined in China

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and his wife were being held in quarantine by the Chinese government Sunday after traveling on a plane to Shanghai with a passenger who had swine flu symptoms, the (NY) Daily News reported.

The mayor, his wife, Seletha, and a bodyguard were among those quarantined. Shanghai has 10 confirmed cases of swine flu, and authorities are taking extreme precautions, the Daily News said.

The three were feeling fine, said mayoral spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett. She also said they were being treated with the "utmost courtesy by Chinese officials," the Daily News said.

Nagin, who became a national figure in 2005 when New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, was on an economic-development trip to China and Australia.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reported that swine flu has now spread to 73 countries, with 139 deaths from the disease since it was first detected in April.

The latest WHO figures, released Monday, show more than 25,000 people have been infected with the swine influenza A-H1N1 worldwide, according to Voice of America.


Cancer Patients Still Taking Antioxidant Supplements

Cancer patients are still taking antioxidant supplements, despite concerns that they could interfere with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, US News & World Report said.

A new study published in the journal Cancer found that 61 percent of breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or anti-estrogen drug therapy were taking antioxidant supplements, such as Vitamins C and E, beta carotene or selenium, the magazine said.

Scientists aren't certain that the antioxidants are harmful, but some evidence suggests the supplements could protect the cells that cancer therapies are trying to destroy. Proponents of antioxidants argue otherwise, saying antioxidants may help chemo and radiation combat the deadly cells, the magazine said.

Heather Greenlee, lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology and medical oncology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said there isn't enough information to settle the question. What doses, if any, could be problematic is also unknown, she said, according to U.S. News.

Cancer patients should continue to eat fruits and vegetables that contain natural antioxidants, the magazine reported. Also, tell your doctor what medications and supplements you are taking, even things such as green tea extract.


Kids and Concussions: Guidelines Stir Controversy

Brain-injury experts are split over new guidelines on concussion care, with some worried that the stricter recommendations will ultimately put young athletes at greater risk of injury, according to the New York Times.

Updated recommendations in the May issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine, said that athletes 18 or younger believed to have sustained a concussion during play should not be allowed to return to the playing field that day. Previously, an international panel of neurologists said the injured athletes could return if cleared by a doctor or certified athletic trainer. Now, they believe that such same-day determinations are too difficult to make.

"So many bad decisions are made when trying to assess whether a player is symptomatic or not," said Dr. Robert Cantu, an author of the guidelines and a director of the Neurological Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "We know that an unacceptable number of kids are being sent back while symptomatic, and sometimes with devastating effects. The majority believe that the bullet should be bitten, and not let a kid go back into the same contest."

But Dr. Bob Sallis, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine, said he disagrees. "More kids will be hurt seriously because of this, either by players not admitting they might have gotten a concussion or coaches encouraging them not to be up front about their symptoms, whether subtly or overtly," Sallis said.

In the 2007-2008 school year, high school athletes in nine primary sports sustained about 137,000 concussions, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio.

The panel also stressed the need for cognitive rest, not just physical rest, following a concussion, teens saying should be kept from schoolwork, computers and even text messaging until recovered from a concussion.


Gum Disease Care Helps Arthritis

Treating gum disease also relieves the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers say.

For people with both conditions, gum care plus arthritis drugs was the best combination treatment, according to a Journal of Periodontology study.

In the study, according to the BBC, patients who had dental treatments such as scaling also saw their arthritis symptoms lessened.

Gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis go hand in hand. In both conditions, soft and hard tissues are destroyed. Rheumatoid arthritis is an incurable disease caused by dysfunction of the immune system.

Researchers from the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland studied 40 patients who had both moderate to severe periodontal disease and a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Nabil Bissada, head of the department of periodontics at the dental school, said: "It was exciting to find that if we eliminated the infection and inflammation in the gums, then patients with a severe kind of active rheumatoid arthritis reported improvement on the signs and symptoms of that disease. It gives us a new intervention."

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