Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2007

CDC Offers Spanish-Language Wildfire Health and Safety Web Site Mood Stabilizers Ease Symptoms in Kids with Bipolar Disorder Fall Hazard Prompts Baby Seat Recall Experimental HIV Drug Shows Promise Study Examines Acne Drug's Effectiveness Against MS Study Looks at Tracking of Extremely Low Birthweight Infants

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

CDC Offers Spanish-Language Wildfire Health and Safety Web Site

A Spanish-language Web site that provides information about wildfire-related health issues has been developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The site, which will be updated on a regular basis, includes:

  • A link to a Spanish-language fact sheet about wildfires
  • Instructions on coping with loss of electricity, including food and water safety tips and information about dealing with heat
  • Information on worker safety during fire cleanup
  • Mental health resources to help people cope with a disaster or traumatic event
  • Audio and video public service announcements about disaster-related health and safety issues
  • Links to other Spanish-language wildfire information resources.

The new CDC Web site can be found at


Mood Stabilizers Ease Symptoms in Kids with Bipolar Disorder

The mood stabilizer drugs divalproex and lithium significantly improved symptoms in children and adolescents with bipolar I disorder, according to a six-month study of 153 patients, ages 7 to 17. It's the largest pediatric study of its kind to date, the researchers said.

They noted that many psychiatric medications prescribed for children and teens haven't been indicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in young people.

"Divalproex and lithium are the most widely used mood stabilizers for children and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder," Dr. Robert A. Kowatch, a child and adolescent psychiatrist specializing in bipolar and other mood disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

"Our study now proves that these agents definitely work, which may give clinicians and families peace of mind," he said.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Boston.


Fall Hazard Prompts Baby Seat Recall

Incidents of infants falling and suffering serious head injuries have prompted a recall in the United States of about one million "Baby Sitter" seats made by Bumbo International of South Africa, the Associated Press reported.

There have been 28 reports of infants falling out of the seats, including three cases involving skull fractures, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

The agency warned that babies are at risk for serious head injuries when the seats are placed on a table, countertop, chair or other raised surface. When infants sitting in the seats arch their backs, they can flip out of the seats and fall to the floor. Consumers should never use these seats on elevated surfaces, the CPSC said.

The seats, made of a single piece of molded foam, have leg holes and a seat back that wraps completely around the infant, the AP reported. The word "Bumbo" and an image of an elephant are on the front of the seats, which were sold by Target, Sears, Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Babies "R" Us, USA Baby and other children's and toy stores across the U.S. from August 2003 through October 2007.

For more more information, call 877-932-8626.


Experimental HIV Drug Shows Promise

An experimental drug that attacks the HIV virus in a new way has shown great promise in laboratory tests, concludes a French study published in the open-access journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Pathogens. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The prototype drug, called IDC16, blocks HIV at a critical point -- when the virus uses the commandeered equipment of an infected immune cell to reassemble its genetic code. By doing this, HIV launches a process that eventually enables it to replicate large numbers of viruses that invade the bloodstream and infect other cells, Agence France-Presse reported.

In lab dish tests, the researchers found that IDC16 blocked the replication ability of different strains of HIV-1, including HIV that had developed resistance to combination "cocktail" therapy of anti-HIV drugs.

The way that IDC16 targets HIV means the drug's effectiveness likely wouldn't be affected by mutations in the virus, the researchers said.

"Instead of attacking the components brought along by the virus, we use the machinery that it uses in the cell," research team leader Jamal Tazi of the Institute of Molecular Genetics in Montpellier, told AFP.


Study Examines Acne Drug's Effectiveness Against MS

A two-year study of 200 patients in 14 Canadian cities will examine the effectiveness of the oral acne drug minocycline in controlling multiple sclerosis (MS), the Toronto Star reported.

The multi-center trial, announced Thursday, was organized after findings from earlier small studies suggested that minocycline helped patients with the neurodegenerative disease.

Minocycline, a type of antibiotic, has been used for about 30 years to control acne, largely by killing the germs that are thought to cause the skin condition, the Star reported. Researchers believe it's the drug's anti-inflammatory properties that may help slow the progression of MS.

Current MS medications can cost between $18,000 and $40,000 a year, while minocycline costs about $800 a year.


Study Looks at Tracking of Extremely Low Birthweight Infants

States that fail to follow up on the status of extremely low birthweight infants may be underestimating their infant mortality rates, concludes a study in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, Ohio Department of Health researchers analyzed data on infants born from January to June 2006. They found that seven percent of deaths of infants weighing 750 grams or less were unregistered.

Due to their small size and sometimes very short lifespans, deaths in extremely low birthweight infants may go unregistered, according to background information in the study. Under-registration of these deaths results in an under-estimation of the overall infant mortality rate, the team said.

Accurate infant mortality rates are important for a number of reasons, including identification of health disparities and emerging trends, and the development of prevention strategies.


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