Health Highlights: May 28, 2003

6,000 Quarantined in Toronto; Prime Minister Says SARS Under Control Starbucks Recalls Kids' Cups Condoms in High School Don't Promote Sexual Activity Dog Food Recall Linked to Mad Cow Disease

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

6,000 Quarantined in Toronto; Prime Minister Says SARS Is Under Control

More than 6,000 people in Toronto are now under quarantine after a resurgence of SARS cases erupted in Canada's largest city. But the prime minister said Wednesday that although the reemerged SARS fight is serious, health authorities are containing it.

"It is under control," Prime Minister Jean Chretien told a news conference in Athens after meeting with European Union leaders, Canadian Press reports.

Chretien said the latest cluster of suspected SARS cases did not arise as a result of someone entering the country from abroad. "It was a case that had developed within a hospital with an old person who was not identified as being subject to this sickness and it's only later that it was found . . . (in this) person of 96" after others had been infected, Chretien said.

Toronto health officials on Wednesday ordered more than 1,500 students and staff at a city high school into a 10-day quarantine, after a student with SARS-like symptoms attended the school last week.

The city's health officials have acknowledged that there are 12 active probable cases, with 24 suspected cases. In addition to the students, 4,942 people are in quarantine, including 185 health-care workers, the Toronto Star reports.

Officials also confirmed three more deaths between May 1 and May 25, bringing the total number of fatalities there to 27, the Star reports.

The World Health Organization has placed Toronto back on a list of SARS-affected areas. But it did not issue a travel advisory suggesting that travelers avoid the city, as the agency had done last month, The New York Times reports.

To date, SARS has killed 744 people and sickened more than 8,200.

Asia continues to be the hardest-hit region in the world, although the number of new infections seems to be diminishing.

China's Health Ministry on Wednesday announced four new SARS deaths and four new cases of infection on the mainland. Beijing had three of the deaths and three of the cases, the ministry said. SARS has killed at least 325 people on China's mainland, with more than 5,323 infected, the Associated Press reports.

Taiwan reported five new SARS deaths Wednesday; there was also one death reported in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong scientists said they were developing a possible vaccine for SARS. The vaccine will initially be tested on animals, and those results won't be available for at least six months. There are no plans to test the vaccine on humans, AP reports.

Researchers also have learned the SARS virus apparently doesn't sicken everyone it infects, the Times reports, quoting World Health Organization officials. Blood drawn from people who worked in exotic food markets in China's Guangdong Province -- the source of the virus -- showed that many were infected with the virus but never became ill. This finding bolsters the belief that the SARS coronavirus made the jump from animals to humans, the Times says.

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Starbucks Recalls Kids' Cups

Starbucks is recalling about 38,000 plastic children's cups because small pieces of plastic on them can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

The Seattle-based company has received two reports of pieces of the tumbler cup's straw coming off when the straw is chewed, according to the Associated Press. No injuries have been reported, but in one case a child choked on a detached piece of the straw, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.

The recalled cup is blue or green and made of clear plastic in the shape of a bear with the words "Bearista Bear'' printed on the front. The cup has a screw-on lid in the shape of a bear's head, with a flexible straw.

Starbucks stores nationwide sold the cups this month and in April for about $7.

The government warned consumers to take the cups away from children immediately. Consumers can return the cups to any Starbucks location for a refund or can call the company at 1-800-235-2883 for more information.

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Condoms in High School Don't Promote Sexual Activity

Making condoms available in high schools doesn't spur teens to become sexually active, new research shows.

The study examined the impact of a 1991 Massachusetts policy letting local boards of education consider putting condoms in high schools as a way to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted infections. Opponents of the policy have claimed it would lead to an increase in sexual activity.

However, the new research suggests those fears weren't realized, a HealthDay report says. Sexual activity did not increase among teens who were already sexually active, nor among youth who'd never had intercourse.

"Condom availability did exactly what we would have hoped it would do. It didn't get kids to have sex but it did get them to use condoms if they were already having sex," says study co-author Carol Goodenow, a student health official with the Massachusetts Department of Education. The researchers report their findings in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study was based on a youth behavior survey of more than 4,100 students at 59 high schools, about 15 percent of which had condom programs. Students in schools with condoms were a little less likely to report ever having had sex, or having had sex in the past three months, than those on campuses where the prophylactics weren't available, the researchers say.

Sexually active adolescents in schools with condoms were twice as likely as those from other schools to use the contraceptives while having sex. However, they were less likely to use other forms of birth control.

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Dog Food Recall Linked to Mad Cow Disease

U.S. consumers are being asked to return dog food that may have come from a Canadian cow that tested positive for mad cow disease.

The suspect food, in 50 pound bags, was produced in Canada by Champion Pet Food of Morinville, Alberta. If found, the food should be held for pickup.

Pet Pantry International of Carson City, Nev., which sells the products by phone or e-mail, said customers should search for two products: "Maintenance Diet" with a "use by" date of "17FEB04" and "Beef with Barley" with a date of "05MAR04."

The voluntary return is a precaution to prevent discarded dog food from getting mixed with feed for cattle, goats or sheep, the Associated Press reports. Customers who bought dog food since February should check their supplies and, if found, should call the company at 1-800-381-7387. Pet Pantry also is using sales records to contact consumers.

Meanwhile, Canadian authorities have slaughtered almost 400 cattle from five of the 17 farms or feed lots quarantined in the investigation. The animals' brains were sent for testing to pinpoint the source of the country's first outbreak of mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

The outbreak, detected last week in one Alberta cow that was slaughtered in January, caused the United States and other countries to close their markets to Canadian beef products and raised questions about industry regulation.

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