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Health Highlights: Nov. 21, 2006

U.S. Teen Births Drop to Record Low Level in 2005 HIV/AIDS Epidemic Growing: UN Report Mattel Recalls Millions of Polly Pocket Dolls 10 Companies Have 72% of Medicare Drug Plan Enrollment Salmonella Being Found in Chicken Meat: USDA Male Chimps Prefer Older Females

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

U.S. Teen Births Drop to Record Low Level in 2005

The teen birth rate in the United States reached its lowest level ever in 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2004 and 2005, the birth rate for teens aged 15 to 19 fell 2 percent, to 40.4 births per 1,000. That's a 35 percent decrease from the peak teen birth rate of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.

In total, there were 421,123 births to females under age 20 in 2005.

Non-Hispanic black teen girls had the sharpest birth rate decline, 6 percent from 2004 to 2005, which marks a decline of 59 percent since 1991.

The report, Births: Preliminary Data for 2005, also found:

  • The number of births to unmarried mothers of all ages increased 4 percent from 2004 to 2005, from 1.47 million to 1.52 million.
  • The total number of U.S. birth increased by 1 percent in 2005, to 4,140,419.
  • But the Caesarean delivery rate rose 4 percent to reach a record high in 2005, accounting for 30.2 percent of all births. The C-section rate has risen 46 percent since 1996.

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HIV/AIDS Epidemic Growing: UN Report

The worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to worsen and about 39.5 million people are currently infected with HIV, says a United Nations report released Tuesday.

This year, an additional 4.3 million people were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.9 million people died of AIDS.

The joint UNAIDS/World Health Organization report said 63 percent (24.7 million) of people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, the Associated Press reported.

However, the virus is spreading most rapidly in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. The rates of new infections in those areas have increased by nearly 70 percent over the past two years.

The number of new HIV infections in South and Southeast Asia increased by 15 percent since 2004 and by 12 percent in North Africa and the Middle East, the AP reported.

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Mattel Recalls Millions of Polly Pocket Dolls

About 2.4 million Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with tiny magnets are being recalled because the magnets pose a danger to young children, U.S.-based Mattel Inc. said Tuesday.

The tiny magnets can fall out of the dolls and accessories and be swallowed by children. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract one another and cause intestinal blockage, infection or perforation, United Press International reported.

There's also a risk that the magnets may be aspirated by children or that they will place the magnets in their ears or nose.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it knows of 170 reports of the magnets falling out of the dolls or accessories. There have been three reports of children who suffered serious injuries after swallowing more than one magnet. All three children required surgery to treat intestinal perforations, UPI reported.

Consumers should take these toys away from children and contact Mattel at 888-597-6597 to arrange for return of the recalled items and to receive a voucher for a replacement toy.

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10 Companies Have 72% of Medicare Drug Plan Enrollment

Ten companies have 72 percent of those enrolled in the U.S. Medicare drug plans and just two stand-alone drug plans account for 23 percent of the enrollment, says a Kaiser Family Foundation article published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs.

The analysis of enrollment data also found that about 4 percent (800,000) of the 22.5 million people who signed up for the Medicare drug benefit in 2006 are in plans that provide coverage for both brand-name and generic drugs in the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap.

Another 8 percent (1.5 million enrollees) have coverage in the gap for generic drugs only, while 9.3 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries qualify for subsidized coverage in the gap.

For 2007, as in 2006, most of the drug plan options for Medicare beneficiaries include a coverage gap, the article said.

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Salmonella Being Found in Chicken Meat: USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a form of salmonella found in eggs is increasingly being found in chicken meat.

In a study published in the December issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the agriculture department said that positive test results for salmonella enteritidis on chicken carcasses increased fourfold from 2000 through 2005, the Associated Press reported.

The study also found that the percentage of processing plants that tested positive for salmonella enteritidis increased threefold from 2000 to 2005, and the number of states with positive tests for that type of salmonella increased from 14 to 24 during that time.

Salmonella enteritidis is one of the most common kinds of salmonella bacteria that can make people sick.

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Male Chimps Prefer Older Females

For male chimpanzees, age equals beauty.

Male chimps prefer older females with bald patches, sagging skin and wrinkles over younger females with full fur and well-toned bodies, according to new research in the journal Current Biology.

In fact, the desire for older, more experienced females is so strong that it's common for male chimps to fight over who gets to woo the oldest female in the tribe, The Times of London reported.

The researchers, led by Martin Muller of Boston University, studied chimps in Uganda's Kibale National Park. They concluded that male chimps prefer older females because their experience will benefit the pair's offspring. Unlike humans, female chimps do not go through menopause.

In addition, chimps are not monogamous. Male chimps only need to select females who are likely to survive and breed in the short term, The Times reported.

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