Health Highlights: May 7, 2003

Cholera Epidemic Feared in Southern Iraq Mortgage Can be a Health Deficit Michigan Takes Parents of Ill Toddler to Court Postal Service Testing Anthrax Scanners Runners Shouldn't Drink Too Much Water S. African Children Get HIV From Dirty Medical Needles

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

Cholera Epidemic Feared in Southern Iraq

The World Health Organization fears a serious cholera outbreak may soon take hold in Iraq.

There have been 17 confirmed cholera cases in the southern city of Basra, and WHO officials say they believe there could be hundreds more unreported cases, the Associated Press reports.

A WHO team is in the city to assess the true extend of the cholera situation. The first confirmed cases in Basra were seen in children age 4 and under.

Health experts have warned for some time that the lack of sanitation and shortage of clean water in southern Iraq could lead to a serious cholera outbreak, the AP reports.

Cholera is a waterborne disease that's treatable if it's detected at an early stage. Malnourished children are at especially high risk of dying from cholera.

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Mortgage Can be a Health Deficit

Coping with a mortgage can be more than a financial burden, it can also take a toll on your health.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says people who fall behind on mortgage payments are at increased risk of a number of serious health problems, including stroke and heart disease, BBC News Online reports.

In a report called "Housing and Health," the BMA says "mortgage arrears and home repossessions" must be recognized as a major health issue. It says the government needs to address the issue and ensure assistance for homeowners having trouble meeting their mortgage payments.

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Michigan Takes Parents of Ill Toddler to Court

Who should decide whether a child receives treatment that could save her life -- her parents or the state?

The issue is being raised in Michigan, as the state has taken a two-year-old toddler's parents to court for refusing to have their daughter undergo surgery for a terminal brain tumor, reports the Associated Press.

Doctors say Noshin Hoque is likely to die within a year without the surgery, but they also say the operation itself could kill her or leave her blind or paralyzed. Given these choices, Jalal and Shaheda Hoque have opted to take their daughter to a Montreal homeopath who specializes in herbal and nutritional treatments.

Not good enough, says David Gorcyca, a prosecutor in Oakland County near Detroit. "I think if I'm a parent given a 30 percent fighting chance of survival [versus certain death], I'm taking that shot every time," he tells the AP.

A circuit court judge has ordered the parents, an electrician and his wife who are from Bangladesh, to allow a state social worker to visit Noshin and assess her condition. The parents face a follow-up hearing May 12.

Noshin's parents say her condition has improved since the alternative therapies began. They say her left eye doesn't roam anymore, and her left arm is regaining strength, the AP reports.

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Postal Service Testing Anthrax Scanners

Fourteen postal service processing facilities across the United States are about to begin testing sophisticated devices that will scan millions of pieces of mail each day for deadly anthrax bacteria, New York's Albany Times Union reports.

The machines can only handle letters, not unusual sized packages. But it's letters deposited secretly in roadside boxes that pose the most risk, postal officials say.

The system will be tested for 30 days before the Postal Service decides whether to implement it at 282 sites nationwide, the newspaper reports. While the devices were initially tested in Baltimore using live anthrax samples, no anthrax will be intentionally planted during the second phase of testing.

In addition to New York's capital city, the test devices will be installed at postal processing centers in Dulles, Va.; Capitol Heights, Md.; Kilmer, N.J.; Manasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla.; Midland, Texas; Los Angeles; Tacoma, Wash.; Rockford, Ill.; Lancaster and Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Cleveland.

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Runners Shouldn't Drink Too Much Water

It's the fitness world equivalent of Niagara Falls reversing its flow.

In a major revision of its guidelines, USA Track & Field says endurance athletes who drink too much water during long events may risk respiratory failure, seizures or even death, The New York Times reports.

For years, athletes and fitness enthusiasts have been bombarded with the message that they must drink, drink, drink in order to excel and prevent possible serious health consequences caused by dehydration.

Athletes were told not to wait until they were thirsty to drink. By then, it could be too late to regain proper body hydration.

But the new USA Track & Field guidelines recommend that runners shouldn't drink as much as they can during a race. They should drink only when they're thirsty.

Water gorging can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, where blood is so diluted by water that sodium levels plummet, the Times reports.

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S. African Children Get HIV From Dirty Medical Needles

Hundreds of thousands of South African children have been infected with HIV through dirty medical needles, new research says.

In a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the researchers said that the rapid rates of HIV infection in South Africa are being fueled by non-sterile injections during medical visits, BBC News Online reports.

They said urgent action is required to enhance standards in South African clinics, and patients have to be educated about the dangers of non-sterile injections.

This is the latest research that identifies contaminated needles as a major cause of HIV infection in Africa. Some studies suggest that injections are linked to as many as 40 percent of HIV infections in Africa, BBC News Online says.

But United Nations agencies don't agree, and say most HIV infections in Africa result from unsafe sex.

Scott RobertsRobert Preidt

Scott RobertsRobert Preidt

Published on May 07, 2003

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