Health Highlights: Sept. 9, 2007

Laura Bush Back at White House After Pinched Nerve SurgeryPainful Mosquito-Borne Virus Confirmed in Northern Italy U.S. Dog Population Now Rabies-Free, Government SaysAlcohol Consumption Can Double Uterine Cancer Risk, Study Says Dietary Supplement Recalled for Unapproved Ingredients Chinese-Made Candles Pose Burn Hazards

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

Laura Bush Back at White House After Pinched Nerve Surgery

First lady Laura Bush's Saturday surgery to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck was successful, the Associated Press reports.

The two-and-a-half hour minimally invasive surgery at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. did not require an overnight stay, and the wire service quotes Sally McDonough, Mrs. Bush's spokeswoman as saying she was back at the White House and resting comfortably.

Mrs. Bush injured her neck while hiking earlier this year and had been treating it with physical therapy, the A.P. reported, but the condition had become serious enough to require surgery. It caused Mrs. Bush to cancel accompanying her husband on his trip to Australia for the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

While Mrs. Bush had no activities scheduled Monday, McDonough told the wire service the First Lady would be resuming her schedule soon. "Every patient is different, so there's no kind of set timeframe. She will certainly ease back into her schedule," McDonough said.


Painful Mosquito-Borne Virus Confirmed in Northern Italy

While U.S. health professionals work to prevent outbreaks of the sometimes fatal West Nile virus, Europe now has a confirmed outbreak of another mosquito-borne illness, this one called chikungunya.

According to BBC News, 160 cases of chikungunya, which is caused by a mosquito bite, have been confirmed in northern Italy in the villages of Castiglione di Ravenna and Castiglione di Cervia.

The name chikungunya is derived from Swahili, meaning "that which bends up," the BBC reports, because most of the symptoms are arthritic-type and leave victims stooped over.

While not often fatal, chikungunya is quite painful and can persist for several weeks or months, similar to the way Lyme Disease affects Americans. But Lyme disease, usually caused by a deer tick bite, is bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics. This is ineffective for chikungunya, which is caused by a virus.

European medical authorities are warning travelers in Italy to take extra mosquito protection measures, including repellent spray, and health officials in the affected area say steps have been taken to reduce the mosquito population, according to the BBC reports. There is no vaccination to protect against chikungunya, the BBC added.


U.S. Dog Population Now Rabies-Free, Government Says

Although rabies is still found in North American wild animals, there have been no reported cases of canine rabies in the United States this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Commemorating Sept. 7 as World Rabies Day in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of other groups, the CDC formally declared rabies as having been eliminated in the U.S. dog population.

"The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years," Dr. Charles Rupprecht, Chief of the CDC Rabies Program, said in an agency news release.

There are still at least 55,000 rabies deaths worldwide every year, the CDC says. The last death reported in the United States was in 2006, when a Wisconsin teenager was bitten by a bat and didn't receive the rabies treatment inoculation in time.


Alcohol Consumption Can Double Uterine Cancer Risk, Study Says

Two or more alcoholic drinks a day may double the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer, researchers at the University of Southern California have found.

According to a USC news release, the scientists found that the relationship between estrogen levels and alcohol in post-menopausal women is the key element. "Previous studies have shown that alcohol consumption has been associated with higher levels of estrogens in postmenopausal women, which could be the mechanism by which daily alcohol intake increases ones risk of endometrial cancer," Veronica Wendy Setiawan, assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, says in the news release.

The researchers used a huge database of more than 215,000 people developed in 1993 by Dr. Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Dr. Laurence Kolonel of the University of Hawaii. They examined the drinking habits of more than 41,000 multi-ethnic women from Los Angeles and Hawaii for an average of eight years.

The results are preliminary, Henderson said, but he added he was encouraged that "This discovery is important as it suggests that changes to certain lifestyle choices may potentially help alter risk of the disease."

The study will appear in a later issue of the International Journal of Cancer.


Dietary Supplement Recalled for Unapproved Ingredients

The maker of Zencore Tabs, marketed as a dietary supplement to enhance male sexual stamina, is recalling the product because it contains undeclared ingredients including aminotadalafil and sildenafil, chemicals whose derivatives are used in prescription medicines for erectile dysfunction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

These and two other chemical ingredients, sulfosildenafil and sulfohomosildenafil, may interact with nitrates found in certain prescription drugs and could lower blood pressure to dangerous levels, the FDA said in a statement.

Zencore is marketed by Los Angeles-based Bodee LLC.

Consumers who have this product are urged to stop using it immediately and to see a health-care professional if they notice any side effects, the FDA said.


Chinese-Made Candles Pose Burn Hazards

Some 83,000 Chinese-made outdoor candles sold at Ace Hardware stores nationwide are being recalled because their unusually high flames pose burn and fire hazards to users, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday.

The Hayes citronella "Avant Yarde" decorative candles have glazed lower portions that are brown, blue or green. Item number 18134 can be found on a label on the bottom of the product.

The candles were sold from February 2006 through June 2007 for about $8.

Consumers should stop using the products immediately and return them to any Ace Hardware store for a refund. To learn more, contact the distributor, Hayes Co. Inc., at 800-838-5053.


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