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Health Highlights: May 19, 2008

Recreational Water Illnesses Increasing: CDC Sen. Edward Kennedy Undergoing Further Evaluation Recalled Backpack Blowers Pose Laceration/Impact Hazard Breast Cancer Gene Increases Risk of Prostate Cancer in Men Powerless Positions Affect Cognitive Function: Study Grape and Apple Juice May Prevent Clogged Arteries

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

Recreational Water Illnesses Increasing: CDC

Outbreaks of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) in the United States reached a record high in 2007 and the numbers could increase in coming years, says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. RWIs are caused by swallowing, breathing or having contact with germs in the water of swimming pools, spas, lakes, river or oceans.

"The leading cause of RWI outbreaks is cryptosporidium or crypto, a chlorine-resistant parasite, primarily associated with treated swimming places, such as pools and water parks. This RWI has been a public health issue in the past and will likely pose an even bigger challenge in the future," CDC epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa said in a prepared statement.

From 2004 to 2007, the number of cryptosporidium cases tripled and the number of crypto outbreaks linked to swimming pools more than doubled. Because crypto is chlorine-resistant, it can be present even in well-maintained pools.

"People need to practice healthy swimming habits, such as not swimming when they have diarrhea, not swallowing the water, taking a shower before swimming, washing their hands after using the toilet or changing diapers, and washing their children thoroughly -- especially their bottoms -- with soap and water before swimming, " Hlavsa said. "To prevent outbreaks, we encourage pool operators to add supplemental disinfection to conventional chlorination and filtration methods."

The CDC has designated May 19-25 as National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week.


Sen. Edward Kennedy Undergoing Further Evaluation

Two days after he suffered a seizure, Sen. Edward Kennedy is undergoing further evaluation at a Boston hospital, the Associated Press reported.

It's not clear when doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital will release information on the 76-year-old Democrat's condition or the cause of his seizure Saturday, Kennedy's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Monday.

She said Kennedy spent Sunday watching sports and movies and visiting with family and had a restful night, the AP reported.

President Bush called Kennedy's wife, Vicki, on Monday to check on the senator's progress.


Recalled Backpack Blowers Pose Laceration/Impact Hazard

About 23,000 Shindaiwa backpack blowers are being recalled because the fan can separate from the base and break apart, posing a laceration and impact hazard to users and bystanders, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

There have been 13 reports of broken fans, including one that resulted in a minor head injury and another that damaged a car.

The recall involves models EB8510 and EB8510RT with serial numbers up to #7014728. The blowers were sold at Shindaiwa dealers across the United States from September 2005 through January 2007 for about $600. These same blowers were previously recalled due to a fire hazard, the CPSC said.

Consumers with the recalled blowers should stop using them and take them to a dealer for a free inspection and fan replacement. For more information, contact Shindaiwa at 1-800-521-7733.


Breast Cancer Gene Increases Risk of Prostate Cancer in Men

Men in families that carry the breast cancer gene BRCA2 are at increased risk for prostate cancer, say Australian researchers who've been investigating families with multiple cases of breast and ovarian cancer for 10 years.

"We discovered that a man with a genetic fault in BRCA2 has almost four times the risk of developing prostate cancer than men in the general population. The BRCA2-prostate cancer that arise in these men also tends to be more aggressive," researcher Heather Thorne said in a prepared statement, Agence France-Presse reported.

She said it's hoped the finding, published this week in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, will encourage men to assess their genetic risk in the same way women do with breast and ovarian cancer.

"If a man comes from a family with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer, or knows there is a BRCA2 gene mutation running in their family, they may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer," Thorne said, AFP reported. "These men can go to (clinic) and discuss genetic testing, and be given appropriate advice if they are found to be at increased risk."


Powerless Positions Affect Cognitive Function: Study

People in weak or powerless positions may suffer impaired cognitive functioning, which hampers their ability to get ahead, suggests a study by American and Dutch researchers, who said their findings have "direct implications for management and organizations."

The study found that a lack of power impaired a person's ability to stay on top of constantly-changing information, to weed out irrelevant information, and to successfully plan ahead to achieve their goals, United Press International reported.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

This work shows how hierarchies perpetuate themselves, said the researchers, who explained that a lack of power can lead to job performance that automatically reinforces a person's low standing in an organization.


Grape and Apple Juice May Prevent Clogged Arteries

Antioxidants in purple grape and apple juice -- and the fruit themselves -- may help protect against atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), according to French researchers.

Hamsters who were given the fruit juice or fresh fruit had lower cholesterol levels, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in the aorta (the body's main artery) than hamsters who drank water. All the hamsters were fed a fatty diet, BBC News reported.

Purple grape juice had the strongest protective effect, followed by purple grapes, apple juice and apples.

The researchers said their findings, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, "provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juices may have a significant clinical and public health relevance," BBC News reported.

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