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Health Highlights: March 8, 2010

Vaccine Case Goes to U.S. Supreme Court Oldest Living American Dies Healthier Drinks in School Vending Machines New Technique Reduces Brain Damage Risk in Premies

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

Vaccine Case Goes to U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear an appeal in a case involving parents who say their child suffered serious health problems from a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine and want to sue vaccine maker Wyeth.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that a 1986 federal law forbids the couple's legal action, the Associated Press reported. That law established a special vaccine court to handle complaints in order to shield companies from most lawsuits and ensure a stable vaccine supply.

Wyeth asked the Supreme Court to hear the appeal because the case involves a recurring legal issue that needs to be resolved.

The Obama administration, which takes the side of vaccine manufacturers, also called for a high court review, the AP reported.

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Oldest Living American Dies

The oldest living person in the United States died Sunday morning at a New Hampshire nursing home.

Mary Josephine Ray, who was 114 years, 294 days, was active until about two weeks before her death, according to granddaughter Katherine Ray, the Associated Press reported.

"She just enjoyed life. She never thought of dying at all," the granddaughter said. "She was planning for her birthday party."

Ray was born May 17, 1895 in the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada, and was 3 years old when her family moved to the United States, the AP reported.

An Ames, Iowa resident, Neva Morris, age 114 years, 216 days, is now the oldest living American. The oldest living person in the world is Kama Chinen, age 114 years, 301 days, of Japan.

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Healthier Drinks in School Vending Machines

Drinks in school vending machines are getting healthier through a voluntary initiative launched in 2006, according to the U.S. beverage industry.

The program was created to replace full-calorie soft drinks with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages, the Associated Press reported.

Last September, the beverage industry said sugary soft drinks made up less than one-quarter of the beverages sold in schools the previous year.

On Monday, an update on the program was to be given by former President Bill Clinton and officials from the American Beverage Association and the American Heart Association, the AP reported.

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New Technique Reduces Brain Damage Risk in Premies

"Washing out" the brains of premature babies who suffer fluid build-up because of bleeding in the brain may help reduce the risk of brain damage and improve their chances of survival, say British researchers.

The University of Bristol team tested their new technique, which involves draining the brain while introducing new fluid, on 39 premature infants, BBC News reported.

The procedure, called Drift, takes a few days and the babies must be closely monitored to guard against a dangerous increase in brain pressure.

Of the 39 infants who received the treatment, 54 percent had died or were severely disabled by age 2. That's compared with 71 percent of infants who received standard treatment, which involves months of repeated insertions of needles into the head or spine to remove excess fluid. Eventually, a shunt is inserted to drain fluid from the head into the abdomen, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

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