Health Highlights: May 10, 2006
No H5N1 Virus in Birds Migrating From Africa to Europe Nearly Two Million Drug-Related Visits to U.S. ERs in 2004: Report Study Shows 13-Month Delay in Autism Diagnosis: Women Judge Men by Their Faces: Study Increase in Cases of Eye Infections Linked to ReNu Products: CDC Green Tea Doesn't Reduce Heart Disease Risk: FDA
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
No H5N1 Virus in Birds Migrating From Africa to Europe
Migrating birds returning to Europe from Africa did not carry the H5N1 avian flu virus with them, say scientists.
That conclusion eases health experts' fears that wild birds would carry the virus to Africa during the winter migration and then return it to Europe this spring with potentially devastating results, the International Herald Tribune reported.
"It is quiet now in terms of cases, which is contrary to what many people had expected," said Ward Hagemeijer, an avian influenza expert with the Netherlands-based environmental group Wetlands International.
Scientists analyzed thousands of samples collected in Africa this winter and did not find H5N1 in a single wild bird. In Europe, there have been only a few H5N1 cases found in wild birds since April 1, the International Herald Tribune reported.
The good news has prompted many European countries to lift restrictions designed to protect domestic poultry from wild birds infected with H5N1.
However, scientists caution that the virus could make a strong return to Europe in the future.
Nearly Two Million Drug-Related Visits to U.S. ERs in 2004: Report
There were nearly two million drug-related visits to U.S. emergency departments in 2004, and nearly 1.3 million of those involved drug or alcohol misuse or abuse, according to data released Wednesday by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The data, from the new Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), show that: 30 percent of the 1.3 million ER visits associated with drug misuse or abuse involved only illicit drugs; 25 percent involved only prescription or over-the-counter medications; eight percent involved alcohol only in patients under age 21; 15 percent involved illicit drugs and alcohol; 8 percent involved both illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals; and 14 percent involved illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals and alcohol, all in the same person.
DAWN estimates that 495,732 visits to U.S. ERs in 2004 were related to nonmedical use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Of these, 57 percent involved more than one drug. Opiates and opioid analgesics (prescription pain killers) were the most common, involved in 32 percent of ER visits due to nonmedical use of medicines.
The most frequently used prescription pain killers were: hydrocodone products (42,491 ER visits); oxycodone products (36,559 visits); and methadone (31,874 visits).
Study Shows 13-Month Delay in Autism Diagnosis
Some children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can experience up to a 13-month delay before they're diagnosed, says a study of children in metropolitan Atlanta.
On average, children were evaluated when they were 4 years old but weren't diagnosed with ASD until they were an average age of 5 years, 1 month. There was a great deal of variability, the study noted, with an age range of 1 year, 4 months to 8 years, 6 months for initial evaluation, and an age range of 1 year, 5 months to 8 years, 8 months for diagnosis.
The study did not examine reasons for the delay in diagnosis, but did find that most children were first diagnosed with other conditions, such as language delay or general developmental delay.
The findings appear in the April autism supplement of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
"Although this study draws upon data from the metro Atlanta area, it serves as an important indicator of the nationwide challenges of diagnosing autism, particularly more mild cases," Dr. Jose Cordero, director of the U.S. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a prepared statement.
Women Judge Men by Their Faces: Study
Women were able to tell from a photo of a man's face whether he likes babies and would likely make a good long-term partner, says a University of Chicago study.
They were also able to identify men with higher levels of the male hormone testosterone and were more attracted to these masculine men for a short-term fling, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Men with rounder faces -- like actor Tom Hanks -- were judged to like babies, while men with prominent face bones and squarer jaws -- like actor Mickey Rourke -- were considered to be more masculine.
For this study, 29 women, ages 18 to 20, looked at photos of 39 men, ages 18 to 33. The women rated the men on a 1-to-7 scale on attributes such as "likes children" and "masculine." The women also rated each man's attractiveness as a long-term or short-term romantic partner, the Sun-Times reported.
Prior to this, the researchers had measured the men's testosterone levels and gauged their interest in babies.
The women, "were surprisingly accurate in judging men's interest in infants, as well as their masculinity," said study co-author and behavioral biologist Dario Maestripieri.
Increase in Cases of Eye Infections Linked to ReNu Products: CDC
There has been a sharp increase since last week in the number of fungal eye infections linked to Bausch & Lomb's ReNu brand of contact lens solutions, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
The overall number of confirmed cases of potentially blinding Fusarium fungus eye infections in the United States now stands at 106, an increase of four since Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Over that same time, the number of cases linked to ReNu products has increased from 54 to 87, The New York Times reported.
Most of those involve ReNu with MoistureLoc, which was recalled from U.S. store shelves last month. However, the CDC also noted that the number of eye infections linked to another Bausch & Lomb product, ReNu with MultiPlus, has increased to 19 from 15 cases last week.
That has prompted calls for Bausch & Lomb to stop selling ReNu with MultiPlus, instead of advising consumers to switch to that product from ReNu with MoistureLoc, the Times reported.
The CDC also confirmed reports of eye infections in contact lens wearers who rely completely or partly on products from Advanced Medical Optics and Alcon.
Green Tea Doesn't Reduce Heart Disease Risk: FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it has found no credible scientific evidence that green tea lowers heart disease risk.
The agency reviewed 105 articles and other literature before rejecting a petition to allow labels on green tea or green tea extract to state that the tea reduces the risk of heart disease, the Associated Press reported.
The petition, submitted in June 2005 by Ito En Ltd. of Japan and its U.S. subsidiary Ito En (North America) Inc., sought to make the claim that drinking at least five ounces of green tea a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Previously, the FDA has said green tea probably does not lower the risk of breast, prostate or any other kind of cancer, the AP reported.