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Health Highlights: May 7, 2013

New Drug Fails to Slow Alzheimer's Newborn Deaths Highest in 14 African Countries: Report Valley Fever Cases Rising in U.S. N.J. Gov. Christie Had Weight-Loss Surgery Mental Disorder Manual Lacks Scientific Validity: Expert

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

New Drug Fails to Slow Alzheimer's

A potential new drug for Alzheimer's disease failed to slow patients' mental or physical decline, drug maker Baxter International Inc. says.

A study of 390 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease found that those who received 18 months of infusions with the drug Gammagard fared no better than those who received a placebo, the Associated Press reported.

There had been high hopes for the drug. Last summer, researchers at a medical conference reported that Gammagard had stabilized Alzheimer's disease for as long as three years in four patients who received the highest dose of it for three years.

The full study findings will be presented in July at an Alzheimer's conference in Boston, the AP reported.


Newborn Deaths Highest in 14 African Countries: Report

The 14 countries with the highest rates of babies who die the day they are born are all in Africa, says a report from the aid group Save the Children.

Every year, more than 1 million babies worldwide die the day they are born. The five countries with the highest first-day deaths are Somalia, Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic, the Associated Press reported.

"Health care for mothers in sub-Saharan Africa is woefully insufficient. On average, only half the women in the region receive skilled care during birth," Save the Children said. "The region as a whole has only 11 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, less than half the critical threshold of 23 generally considered necessary to deliver essential health services."

In Somalia, 18 of 1,000 babies die the day they are born. Five percent of newborns die within their first month of life and one in six won't live to age 5, according to the group. It also noted that there has been no improvement in newborn or child survival in Somalia in at least two decades, the AP reported.


Valley Fever Cases Rising in U.S.

The number of cases of a potentially deadly fungal lung infection called Valley Fever is on the rise in arid regions of the United States.

The infection can be caught by inhaling fungus spores in airborne dust. Experts say a hotter, dryer climate has increased the dust carrying the spores of a fungus called Coccidioides, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

There was a sharp increase in the incidence of Valley Fever in California's agricultural heartland in 2010 and 2011. And last week, a federal official ordered the transfer of more than 3,000 highly vulnerable inmates from two San Joaquin Valley prisons where several dozen have died of Valley Fever in recent years.

"Research has shown that when soil is dry and it is windy, more spores are likely to become airborne in endemic areas," Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health, told CBS News/AP.


N.J. Gov. Christie Had Weight-Loss Surgery

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent weight-loss surgery in February.

The governor told the New York Post that he had the lap-band procedure at the urging of his family and friends. Lap-band surgery involves placing a silicone tube around the top of the stomach in order to restrict the amount of food that can be eaten at one time, USA Today reported.

"I've struggled with this issue for 20 years," Christie told the Post. "For me this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."

Christie did not reveal how much weight he has lost since the surgery, but the Post quoted sources who said he has lost 40 pounds, USA Today reported.


Mental Disorder Manual Lacks Scientific Validity: Expert

The new edition of the so-called bible of mental disorders suffers from a scientific "lack of validity," according to the U.S. government's leading psychiatric expert.

The revised version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is due to published in a few weeks. It's the first update of the DSM since 1994 and will be known as DSM-5, The New York Times reported.

However, the manual does not reflect the complexity of many mental disorders and its method of categorizing mental illnesses should not guide research, said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

"As long as the research community takes the DSM to be a bible, we'll never make progress," Dr. Insel told The Times. "People think that everything has to match DSM criteria, but you know what? Biology never read that book," he added.

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