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Health Highlights: June 23, 2002

Blocked Coronary Artery May Have Killed Ballplayer Health Insurance Soon Available to Ebay Full-Time Sellers Staph Protein May Be Useful Anti-Inflammatory Model, Says Study Fatal Anthrax Wasn't From An Old Batch AIDS Awareness Low Where Rates Are Highest: UN Report Chemical Traces at U.S. Base False Alarm, Say Officials

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

Blocked Coronary Artery May Have Killed Ballplayer

What could cause an apparently healthy 33-year old major league baseball pitcher to die in his sleep at the height of his career?

In the case of St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Darryl Kile, found dead in his Chicago hotel room Saturday, the answer is likely a blocked coronary artery, according to the Cook County medical examiner.

Medical Examiner Edmund Donoghue said findings showed that the athlete had 80-to-90 percent narrowing of two of the three branches of the coronary artery, and the blockage was the "likely cause of death," reports the Associated Press.

The condition is specifically called coronary atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Donoghue said he will still study any possible "drug aspect" and that a final autopsy report could take from 4-to-6 weeks. The Cardinals' team physician said the 6-foot-5 pitcher was not on any medication and had no known health problems.

Kile's father died in 1993, also at a young age - - the victim of a heart attack in his mid-40s.

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Health Insurance Soon Available to Ebay Full-Time Sellers

In acknowledging that auctioning items on eBay has become a full-time job for many, the online retailer says it will soon offer such customers what typically goes along with a full-time job - - health insurance.

At an Anaheim, Calif., convention for eBay buyers and sellers held over the weekend, the San Francisco-based company's chief executive, Meg Whitman, announced that details haven't been worked out yet, but the company hopes to offer coverage by October, reports the Associated Press.

The coverage would initially be available to members of eBay's so-called Power Seller program, who make between $2,000 and $25,000 a month from sales on the site. The program would then reportedly be expanded to those who earn between $1,000 and $150,000 or more a month.

An estimated 35,000 to 45,000 users are already part of the Power Sellers program and an additional 40,000 to 50,000 users meet the criteria, says the company.

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Staph Protein May Be Useful Anti-Inflammatory Model: Study

A protein that causes some infections to fester by blocking protective types of inflammation may hold a key to preventing other kinds of unwelcome inflammation related to arthritis and other diseases.

In a study appearing in the latest online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, a team of German researchers explain that a protein found in the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is behind staph infections, reduces the normal inflammatory response that is necessary in fighting off the infection.

If the action of the protein could be mimicked, say the researchers, it could very possibly serve as the basis for new anti-inflammatory drugs.

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Fatal Anthrax Wasn't From An Old Batch

The anthrax that was sent through the U.S. mail last fall, killing five people and sickening more than a dozen, was less than two years old, meaning the sender may have the capability to make more, said a government official.

In a report in today's New York Times, the source said "It's modern. It was grown, and therefore it can be grown again and again."

The findings contradict an FBI theory that the anthrax sent was obtained from an old laboratory sample created in 1981.

According to the Times article, the FBI has a list of about 50 suspects in the mailings, and that the perpetrator is likely a male loner with scientific knowledge and a grudge against society. They are not certain if he is a U.S. citizen.

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AIDS Awareness Low Where Rates Are Highest: UN Report

In parts of the world where the AIDS rates are the highest, knowledge of the deadly disease is significantly low, according to a new United Nations study.

The report, said to be the largest global study of AIDS awareness ever conducted by the U. N., surveyed people in more than three dozen countries.

The study found that found that even in countries where up to a fifth of the population is thought to be HIV positive, at least two-thirds of female respondents and 8 of 10 male respondents said that they were either at no risk at all or at small risk of getting AIDS, according to the New York Times.

As a result, most were not changing their sexual habits enough to meet the threat, according to the survey.

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Chemical Traces at U.S. Base False Alarm, Say Officials

Reports of mustard gas traces found at a military base in Uzbekistan being used by U.S. troops were false, a U.S. spokesman said today.

After an inspection team found what were believed to be traces of chemicals left over from previous Soviet weapon storage at the base, U.S. troops were moved from the sites at the Karshi air base, reports the Associated Press.

The sites included hangars where a military headquarters and Air Force maintenance operations were set up.

But further inspection of wood, soil and concrete samples found no traces of such chemicals. The inspections did, however, find chemicals to treat lumber that share some common traits with chemical weapons and those may explain the initial false results, say officials.

None of the 900 troops stationed at the base who were tested after the findings was found to be positive for exposure to dangerous chemicals. Officials have not yet decided whether to move back into the quarantined area.

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