Health Highlights: Oct. 14, 2014
Faster Test Developed for Enterovirus D68 Pfizer Offers Weak Evidence for Removing Black Box Warning on Chantix: FDA Facebook, Apple Offer Workers Coverage for Egg Freezing Skin Has Many Types of Smell Receptors: Researchers Sports Drinks May Cause Dental Problems in Athletes
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Faster Test Developed for Enterovirus D68
A new, faster lab test for enterovirus D68 has been developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between mid-August and Oct 14, a total of 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68, according to the CDC. The virus was blamed for the Sept. 25 death of a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey.
The new test will enable the CDC to more rapidly analyze untested specimens received from states since mid-September. As the agency is able to do more testing with the faster lab test, confirmed cases will appear to rise, but will not actually represent a sudden surge in new cases, the CDC said.
In fact, it's expected that enterovirus D68 infections will begin to fall by late autumn.
"CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations," Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in an agency news release.
"When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations. This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days," she explained.
Pfizer Offers Weak Evidence for Removing Black Box Warning on Chantix: FDA
There is little evidence to support removing a black box warning about suicide risk from the prescription anti-smoking drug Chantix, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
Chantix has carried the black box warning -- the strongest type of caution -- since 2009 after reports of hostility, depression and suicidal behavior among some patients taking the drug, the Associated Press reported.
Drug maker Pfizer wants the black box warning removed, saying that recent studies and analyses indicate no increased risk of psychiatric problems between people taking Chantix and those using other smoking-cessation products.
However, FDA briefing documents posted online Tuesday said the evidence provided by Pfizer is low quality and there is little precedent for removing a black box warning from a prescription drug, AP reported.
An FDA panel of outside experts will consider the issue Thursday and make a recommendation to the FDA. Last week, five public safety advocacy groups urged the FDA to expand the black box warning on Chantix to include information about blackouts, convulsions and other problems reported in some patients.
Pfizer has paid about $300 million to settle more than 2,500 lawsuits alleging that Chantix caused psychiatric problems, injuries and suicides, the AP reported.
Facebook, Apple Offer Workers Coverage for Egg Freezing
Apple and Facebook will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs, making them the first major employers to offer this benefit for non-medical reasons.
Facebook recently began providing this coverage, and Apple will start in January, NBC News reported.
Egg freezing -- which enables women to wait until they're ready to become parents -- typically costs at least $10,000 for every round, plus $500 or more a year for storage.
"Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do," Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate, told NBC News.
By offering this coverage, the two companies are investing in women and helping them create the lives they want, she added.
Skin Has Many Types of Smell Receptors: Researchers
Human skin contains many of the same smell receptors found in the nose, according to new research.
"More than 15 of the olfactory receptors that exist in the nose are also found in human skin cells," said lead investigator Dr. Hanns Hatt, of Ruhr University Bochum, The New York Times reported.
They also found that exposing one of those receptors to a synthetic sandalwood odor called Sandalore triggers a reaction that appears to promote healing in injured tissue.
Experiments showed that skin wounds healed 30 percent faster when exposed to Sandalore, a finding the researchers said could lead to new types of injury treatments or cosmetics products for aging skin, The Times reported.
Previous research has shown that olfactory receptors are present throughout the body, including the liver, heart, lungs, colon, brain, and even sperm.
Sports Drinks May Cause Dental Problems in Athletes
Dental problems caused by sports drinks could harm athletes' chances of victory, a new study suggests.
It found that nearly one-fifth of athletes at the London 2012 Olympics had toothaches or bleeding gums that could have cost them a place on the podium, the Daily Mail in Britain reported.
Eighteen percent of the athletes said they had dental problems that negatively affected their ability to perform. About 46 percent said they had not seen a dentist in the past year.
Many elite athletes eat high-carbohydrate diets and consume sugary, acidic energy drinks, which may contribute tooth decay and erosion, the Daily Mail reported.
In addition, intense training can lead to dehydration, resulting in reduced production of saliva, which helps protect teeth from decay.