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Health Highlights: Nov. 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike's Destruction Causes Large Hospital Staff Cutbacks in GalvestonMedical Panel Recommends $60 Million for Gulf War Illness Research Gardasil Protects Men Against Genital Warts: Study 10% of U.S. Hispanics Have Type 2 Diabetes

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

Hurricane Ike's Destruction Causes Large Hospital Staff Cutbacks in Galveston

Hurricane Ike's devastation is still being felt, even though the storm hit Galveston Island more than two months ago. The latest fallout, the New York Times reports, is the loss of 3,800 jobs from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston's largest employer.

Those jobs represent one-third of the medical center's work force. The use of most of John Sealey Hospital, the main branch of the medical complex, which also includes a major trauma center and defense research center, has been lost, the newspaper reports.

Ike destroyed so many of the hospital's buildings that only the maternity ward remains open, the Times reports. The idea is to cut staff now and slowly rebuild the hospital and medical school during the next six months, significantly reducing a $40 million monthly loss since the hurricane hit in early September.

Karen H. Sexton, University of Texas vice president for hospitals and clinics, told the newspaper that there has been no emergency aid money from either the state or U.S. governments. Until that money comes, she said, the staff reductions were necessary. "We are committed to getting back into the health care business," she told the Times. "We know we have to be a lot smaller right now."


Medical Panel Recommends $60 Million for Gulf War Illness Research

While the U.S. government is trying to handle the injuries and ailments suffered by thousands of Armed Services veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, an advisory panel is recommending millions of dollars for research into the illnesses suffered by as many as 210,000 soldiers who served in the 1991 Gulf War.

According to the Associated Press, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake will get a report Monday from a medical advisory panel recommending an increase of funds for research into what has become known as Gulf War illness, from $5 million to $60 million.

Symptoms, which researchers say were recorded in much higher percentages among soldiers deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 than in those who did not go, include fatigue, loss of memory, unexplained pain throughout the body, headaches, and difficulty sleeping, AP reports.

Possible reasons for these ailments include exposure to pesticides used for insect control and pyridostigmine bromide pills, which were protection against nerve agents. But more research is needed to substantiate the cause of Gulf war illness, the panel concluded.

Calling the need to find the cause and provide treatment to Gulf War veterans a "national obligation," the panel wrote: ""Substantial federal Gulf War research funding has been used for studies that have little or no relevance to the health of Gulf War veterans." The panel stressed that the money had to be used for research into Gulf war illness, AP reports.


Gardasil Protects Men Against Genital Warts: Study

A new study says the anti-cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil also reduces men's risk of genital warts, which can lead to cancer of the penis and anus. Gardasil protects against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

The 30-month study of 4,065 males, ages 16 to 26, found that those who received the vaccine were 90 percent less likely to develop genital warts. The findings were presented Friday at a meeting of the European Research Organization on Genital Infection and Neoplasia, Bloomberg news reported.

The study was funded by Merck & Co., which plans to use the results to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Gardasil as a vaccine for males. Currently, it's only approved in the United States to protect women against HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Gardasil is approved for males in 40 countries.

HPV may be associated with about 1,500 cases of penile cancer and about 1,900 cases of anal cancer in men a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency also said men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer from HPV, Bloomberg reported.


10% of U.S. Hispanics Have Type 2 Diabetes

One in 10 Hispanics in the United States has type 2 diabetes. And one in three of those with diabetes doesn't know he or she has the disease, according to report released Friday by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

The report, released on World Diabetes Day, also said Hispanics are nearly two times as likely as whites to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

"It is unacceptable that in today's health system we have the tools to help people prevent and treat diabetes yet complications like blindness and lower extremity amputations still occur," Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, said in a news release.

"The Hispanic population is aging and without a renewed national commitment to prevention and treatment, the number of diabetes cases can be expected to increase," she added.

The group called for implementation of concerted long-term efforts to support the management and prevention of diabetes. It's also introducing new resources, including referrals to local health providers for diabetes screening and treatment, and a new Spanish and English brochure about diabetes.

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