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Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2002

U.S. Reports Rise in Syphilis Rates India TB Program Could Work for New York City New Wrinkle Remedy Awaits FDA Approval U.K. Scientists Devise Test for Maternal/Fetal Blood Disorder Timely Recall: Halloween Candleholders from Kohl's Officers Winded in the Windy City

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

U.S. Reports Rise in Syphilis Rates

Bucking a decade-long slide in the incidence of syphilis, the rate of the sex infection rose by 2 percent between 2000 and 2001.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released a report on the trend today, said the syphilis rate went up for the first time since 1990, reports HealthDay.

The increase appeared to occur in gay and bisexual men. The number of cases of syphilis in women continued to decline. Last year, there were 4,144 cases of the disease in men, up 15.4 percent from the 3,532 cases the year before. In women, 2001 saw 1,967 cases, off nearly 18 percent from the 2,445 cases in 2000.

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India TB Program Could Work for New York City

The strategies used in a tuberculosis-control program in India during the 1990s that prevented about 250,000 deaths could prove useful for New York City's Health Department as it seeks to contain TB and other public-health threats.

Thomas Frieden, who oversaw India's program before he became New York City's health commissioner, said the city could learn from the program's disease-monitoring techniques. Despite the poverty and huge cultural gaps facing the Indian government, in eight years nearly 200,000 health outreach workers were trained to track and assist TB victims one-on-one, Newsday reports.

TB patients in India -- 1.4 million of them -- were painstakingly monitored to ensure they took and completed their prescribed medications. "India shows us that with a clear package focused on a specific disease, you can make a difference. We have to use that same type of strategy with the problems we have in New York now," Frieden said.

While TB has been controlled for U.S.-born New Yorkers, the rates are rising among immigrants who are often infected when they come to the country.

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New Wrinkle Remedy Awaits FDA Approval

A new wrinkle-filler, legal in 61 countries but awaiting approval in the United States, may edge collagen -- the traditional treatment for plumping up and filling in facial lines -- out of the market, reports ABC News.

In a study comparing hyaluronic acid, sold under the names Restylane and Perlane, to collagen in 137 patients, researchers found that it worked better, lasted longer, and subjects needed less product than collagen to smooth out their wrinkles. Unlike collagen, which carries a three percent risk of allergic reaction, none of the study's participants responded adversely to Restylane.

Because they are unable to get it in the United States, many Americans are buying Restylane in countries where it's legal, like Canada, Britain and Israel. Then they bring the injectable product home and hand it over to their dermatologist, who gives them the shots.

It's expected that the Food and Drug Administration will approve Restylane for use by next spring.

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U.K. Scientists Devise Test for Maternal/Fetal Blood Disorder

Pregnant women at risk of affecting a fetus with a common blood disorder can take advantage of a new test developed by scientists at the University of Bristol in England, reports BBC News Online.

Rhesus disease occurs when the mother's immune system produces antibodies against her own baby's blood. Some 17 percent of women are at risk of having a Rhesus baby, which can make the baby anemic or cause it to go into heart failure. In severe cases, a fetus must have a blood transfusion while still in the womb, the report says.

Doctors currently use amniocentesis to determine if a fetus is at risk, but that test can cause miscarriage and even make Rhesus disease more severe. The new blood test, which includes an innovative way to check fetal DNA that is contained within the mother's blood, carries less risk and is said to be 100 percent accurate, the BBC reports.

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Timely Recall: Halloween Candleholders from Kohl's

Kohl's Department Stores, Inc., is recalling about 8,000 Halloween candleholders that can be ignited by the burning candle, posing a fire hazard.

The company has received two reports of the product igniting, causing smoke and soot damage. No injuries have been reported, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission press release issued today.

The 10-inch acrylic candleholders are made in China. They were sold nationwide beginning in August 2002 for about $17.

Consumers should stop using the product immediately and return it to the Kohl's store where it was purchased for a refund. Contact the company at 1-800-694-2647 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.

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Officers Winded in the Windy City

The Chicago Police Department is offering its cops an incentive to stay in shape: a $250 bonus if they pass a voluntary physical.

A spokesman says the city should save money in the long run by reducing health care costs for disorders including heart disease and diabetes, reports the Associated Press.

To earn the bonus, an officer must pass endurance tests, including running 1.5 miles, bench pressing most of his/her body weight and performing a certain number of sit-ups based on age and gender.

About 2,400 of the 2,600 officers who have taken the test have passed, the AP says. Most who fail are winded by the run.

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