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Health Highlights: Nov. 26, 2002

First Cloned Human Baby Due, Italian Doctor Claims FDA Approves Bone-Building Osteoporosis Drug Virus Resurfaces Aboard Disney Ship Report: Gov't Deleted Sex Ed Information on Its Web Sites Feds Issue Holiday Toy Recall Checklist

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

First Cloned Human Baby Due, Italian Doctor Claims

The first-ever cloned human being will born in January, a controversial Italian fertility specialist says.

Severino Antinori told a news conference in Rome that a consortium of doctors had cloned a human being and that an embryo was currently in a womb, according to an Associated Press report.

"We expect the birth for the first week of January. The child weighs 2.6 or 2.7 kilos; it means his weight at the birth will be 3.5 or 3.3 kilos," the 55-year-old embryologist said.

Antinori said he could not give any more details about the procedure. He also refused to give details on the mother or where the birth would take place.

"I can only say that the embryo is in a good condition, everything is OK. There is no pulmonary (breathing) activity, but this is normal: no child has pulmonary activity in the 33rd week of life," he said.

Antinoni, who vowed last year that he would be the first scientist to clone a human being, is best known for his work in in vitro fertilization -- notably for enabling women in their 50s and 60s to have children.

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FDA Approves Bone-Building Osteoporosis Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug that stimulates new bone formation in people suffering from osteoporosis.

Unlike current treatments aimed at stopping additional bone deterioration in people with osteoporosis, the new drug, called Teriparatide, actually builds bone.

In a study involving 1,637 postmenopausal women and 437 men all with some degree of osteoporosis patients who received 20 mcg's of teriparatide a day, along with calcium and vitamin D supplements, showed significant increases in bone mineral density at the spine and hip compared with participants taking only the supplements.

Because animal studies with teriparatide resulted in a higher incidence of bone cancer among the experimental rats, the FDA says the possibility cannot be ruled out that people treated with the teriparatide may face an increased risk of osteosarcoma, although there were no reports of the cancer in the human studies. A black box warning in the drug's label outlines this safety concern.

About 10 million Americans 80 percent of them women suffer from osteoporosis, which is a progressive thinning of bones.

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Virus Resurfaces Aboard Disney Ship

A mysterious flu-like illness has attacked at least 60 passengers aboard the Disney cruise ship Magic, even though the liner was disinfected over the weekend after 275 people contracted the same virus on last week's trip.

About 2,400 passengers and 950 crew members are currently aboard the Disney ship, which left over the weekend on a seven-day Caribbean cruise after a crew of 1,100 had spent several hours disinfecting it.

The incident is the latest in a spate of similar viral outbreaks on cruise ships, Associated Press reports. The virus, which is spread through food and water and close contact with infected people or things they have touched, also is suspected of sickening more than 500 passengers and crew aboard the Holland America Line cruise ship Amsterdam the past few weeks. Last week, Holland America canceled a 10-day cruise out of Port Everglades to allow time for a thorough decontamination of the Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, nearly a dozen people got ill aboard the Amsterdam's sister vessel, the Statendam, which arrived in San Diego yesterday. The passengers on the Statendam complained of fever, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. Earlier this month, 42 passengers on a cruise to Hawaii also became sick aboard the Statendam.

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Report: Gov't Deleted Sex Ed Information on Its Web Sites

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has quietly deleted from its Web sites medical information on condom use, abortion and ways to reduce teenage sexual activity, The New York Times reports today.

Critics, including prominent Democratic members of Congress, are accusing HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and other officials of censoring the information in order to promote sexual abstinence, the newspaper says.

The Times says information that denied a possible link between abortion and breast cancer was removed in June after Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) wrote to Thompson. Smith, co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, called the National Cancer Institute article on the topic "scientifically inaccurate and misleading to the public."

Bill Pierce, HHS deputy assistant secretary for media affairs, tells the newspaper that the removals were made so that the materials could be updated with more recent information. Some of the information was removed as early as July 2001, the Times says.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) alleges that the department had other motives. "We're concerned that [HHS] decisions are being driven by ideology and not science, particularly those who want to stop sex education."

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Feds Issue Holiday Toy Recall Checklist

Because consumers are often advised to shop early for the holidays, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says some people may have bought children's gifts that have since been recalled. Here's a list of some problem toys:

  • Gearbox Pedal Cars (75,000) distributed by Alpha International Inc. Paint on some of the cars contains high lead levels. Call Alpha at 1-800-368-6367 to receive a replacement car or return the product to the place of purchase for a refund.
  • Air Powered Rockets (140,000) distributed by Estes Industries. The foam tips can break off, exposing sharp edges that can cause face cuts or eye injuries. The rocket system also has a weak pump handle that can break during use. Call Estes at 1-800-576-5811 to get replacements.
  • Firestormer and Skyblazer toy air-powered planes (137,000) distributed by Spin Master Toys. The plastic air intake chamber can burst, posing cut and bruise hazards. Call the company at 1-800-622-8339 to get a free replacement plane.
  • Animal Toy Sponges (280,000) distributed by Dollar Tree Stores. The eyes on the toys can detach, posing a choking hazard. Call the company at 1-800-876-8077.
  • Stuffed Polyester Pool Animals (310,000) distributed by Dollar Tree Stores. The seams can separate, exposing the polyester stuffing and foam beads, which pose a choking hazard. Call Dollar Tree at 1-800-876-8077.
  • Cotton Candy Machine (188,000) distributed by Rose Art Industries. The electric motor can jam and overheat, posing a fire hazard. Call Rose Art at 1-888-262-4474 for a free replacement motor.
  • Baby Walkers (2 brands totaling 53,500 units). Oriental International Trading Company distributed 3,500 walkers, and Bikepro distributed 50,000. The walkers will fit through a standard doorway and are not designed to stop at the edge of a step. Call Oriental at 1-866-666-9868, or Bikepro at 1-800-261-2559.
  • Toy Tracks on Activity Center (152,000) distributed by Graco Children's Products. The track can break, presenting choking, cutting or pinching hazards. Call Graco to receive a replacement track at 1-800-673-0392.

For more information, visit the CPSC Web site at www.cpsc.gov.

Consumer News
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