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Health Highlights: May 1, 2006

Bacterial Contamination Threat Prompts Recall of Dental Rinses Pediatricians Should Monitor Children's Physical Activity: AAP Spray Flu Vaccine Protects Younger Children Better Than Shots Smuggled Poultry and Wildlife Pose Bird Flu Threat to U.S. Schizophrenia Treatment Study Yields Mixed Results

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

Bacterial Contamination Threat Prompts Recall of Dental Rinses

The risk of bacterial contamination has led to the recall of all lots and all flavors of NeutraGard 0.05 percent Neutral Sodium Fluoride Anticavity Treatment Rinse and NeutraGard Plus 0.2 percent Neutral Sodium Fluoride Anticavity Treatment Rinse in clear 16-ounce plastic bottles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The products, made by Pascal Company Inc., may be contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria.

B. cepacia poses little risk to healthy people but may affect people with certain health problems, including weakened immune systems and chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis. In these people, this kind of bacteria can cause severe respiratory infections, the FDA said.

P. aeruginosa can cause urinary-tract infections, respiratory-system infections, dermatitis, soft-tissue infections, bacteremia, bone and joint infections, gastrointestinal infections, and a variety of systemic infections, particularly in people with severe burns and in AIDS and cancer patients.

Dental offices and consumers with these products should stop using them and destroy or return the product to the place of purchasem, the FDA said.

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Pediatricians Should Monitor Children's Physical Activity: AAP

As part of the fight against obesity, children's doctors should monitor how much physical activity children -- and their parents -- get each day, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says in a new policy statement published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

At regular office visits, pediatricians should ask children and their parents how active they are and should document how much time children spend each day on sedentary activities, the statement says.

The AAP says the amount of activity parents get is important because they need to set good examples for their children, the Associated Press reported.

Parents and children should be urged to follow AAP guidelines that recommend no TV for children under age 2, and no more than two hours per day of TV, video games, and similar pursuits.

Among the other recommendations:

  • All schools should reinstate mandatory physical education classes for kindergarten through high school. These classes should be open to all children, including the disabled.
  • Obese and overweight children should be encouraged to take part in fitness activities such as strength training and water-based sports. These may be easier for them than jogging and other weight-bearing activities.
  • Parents need to increase their levels of activity to act as good role models for their children. Activity should be part of the family lifestyle.
  • Preschoolers should take part in unorganized outdoor activities and older children and adolescents should be physically active for at least an hour a day.

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Spray Flu Vaccine Protects Younger Children Better Than Shots

A spray flu vaccine protected babies and preschool-aged children better than an injection, according to a study presented Monday at a child-health meeting.

The study of nearly 8,000 children, ages 6 months to 5 years, in 16 countries found that the nasal spray FluMist was 55 percent more effective than flu shots, the Associated Press reported.

The study was funded by FluMist maker MedImmune Inc., which plans to seek government approval to sell the vaccine to children 5 and younger. It's currently approved for use in older children.

Flu shots don't work as well in very young children as they do in older children or adults. The spray flu vaccine may help improve the control of flu in younger children, who are prime spreaders of the flu virus.

"Our current thinking is that to control influenza, we really have to vaccinate all children," study leader Dr. Robert Belshe, a vaccine specialist at St. Louis University, told the AP.

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Smuggled Poultry and Wildlife Pose Bird Flu Threat to U.S.

U.S. officials are growing increasingly concerned about the possibility of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus entering the country through smuggled birds and wildlife.

The United States has established a bird-flu monitoring plan for migratory birds. But the virus could also make it into the country through other sources, including smuggled poultry and black-market trade in exotic birds, the Associated Press reported.

While the federal government has imposed a ban on all live birds, as well as bird parts and bird products from any country or region where bird flu is believed to exist, experts warn that border vigilance is essential.

"The borders are where the increased emphasis needs to be," Simon Habel, director of the trade-monitoring network TRAFFIC North America, told the AP.

The group, a joint program of the World Wildlife Fund and the IUCN-The World Conservation Union, works closely with the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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Schizophrenia Treatment Study Yields Mixed Results

The first long-term trial of early drug treatment for young people at risk for schizophrenia -- but who did not have the full-blown disorder -- produced mixed results.

The study found that daily doses of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa blunted symptoms in many patients and reduced their risk of having a psychotic episode in the first year of treatment, The New York Times reported.

However, the drug produced significant weight gain. In addition, so many study participants dropped out of the study that no firm conclusions could be drawn about the drug's benefits, if any.

"The positive result was only marginally significant, and the negative result was clear," study lead author Dr. Thomas McGlashan, professor of psychiatry at Yale University, told the Times.

The study was funded by Zyprexa maker Eli Lilly and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. The findings were published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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