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Health Highlights: April 22, 2004

Calif. May Require Condoms in Porn Movies Study: Stay Home if You're Sick Trial Acne Treatment Has No Side Effects China Reports First Suspected SARS Cases in 9 Months U.S., China Resolve Trade Dispute Over Mad Cow New Drug Counters Immobility in Parkinson's Patients

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

Calif. May Require Condoms in Porn Movies

California and Los Angeles County health officials said they may force actors in adult films to use condoms after the disclosure last week that two actors were infected with the AIDS virus.

The Los Angeles Times reported that officials insist they have the authority to mandate condom use. Producers of adult films question that authority, however, and threaten to move the industry out of its Southern California home if the threat is carried out.

The issue came up again after the industry suspended filming in reaction to the disclosure, and officials say it's strictly a health-and-workplace issue.

"You couldn't imagine a construction company sending a person to a work site without a hard hat, and nor should we think of someone in an adult-film industry production company working without a condom," Peter Kerndt, director of the sexually transmitted disease program for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, told the Times.

While some producers have had actors use condoms, most fear the practice would drive customers away. "When you see an action movie and you see the hero jumping out the window, you don't want to see the wires holding him up," producer Mark Kulkis told the paper. "Nobody wants to see condoms. It's a fantasy."

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Study: Stay Home if You're Sick

A new study suggests that it's not worth it to drag yourself to work if you're not feeling well: You may be costing your employer less by staying home.

The Associated Press reported that people who go to work when feeling lousy cost their companies about $255 each per year -- and that doesn't take into account the cost of sickening fellow employees.

Cornell University researchers say the problem of "presenteeism" makes itself evident when sick employees have to repeat tasks, have difficulty concentrating, and are slow all-around. The study says this harms productivity.

The study doesn't quite define what "sick" is, but it "doesn't mean people should stay home sick at every sniffle," Ron Goetzel, director of Cornell's Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, told the AP.

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Trial Acne Treatment Has No Side Effects

A British scientist says he has developed a gel that effectively treats acne with no unpleasant or dangerous side effects.

According to the BBC, Professor Keith Holland of the University of Leeds said tests showed that a virus commonly found on the skin could kill the bacteria responsible for acne. Existing treatments for the condition either have side effects or involve antibiotics which, if overused, can create drug-resistant strains.

Leeds plans to make a gel use a bacteria-specific virus, called a bacteriophage, which is generally found on human skin.

Other dermatologists think the therapy might work, the BBC reported, but stress that it's too soon to say for sure.

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China Reports First Suspected SARS Cases in 9 Months

The SARS virus may have reared its head in China again, according to the country's official Xinhua news agency.

A 20-year-old female, identified only by the surname Li, was hospitalized in Beijing April 5 with symptoms of fever, cough, and shivering. On Wednesday, test results for two separate antibodies came back positive, indicating a high likelihood of the disease, Xinhua said.

The Associated Press reports, meanwhile, that a second person in the eastern province of Anhui also has SARS. The authorities in Hong Kong, not the Chinese central government, reported the second case.

Some 171 people who may have come in contact with the woman, who is a nurse at a Beijing hospital, are being monitored for possible exposure, the news agency said. Two family members who originally accompanied the woman to the hospital subsequently showed signs of fever, and were immediately isolated.

In November 2002, the world's first-ever SARS outbreak is thought to have begun in southern China's Guangdong province. The virus spread quickly to several other countries in Asia and to Canada. The World Health Organization finally declared the outbreak under control in the summer of 2003, but not before the germ had infected some 8,000 people worldwide, killing more than 770.

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U.S., China Resolve Trade Dispute Over Mad Cow

China has agreed to resume importing U.S.-made cosmetics, which had been suspended following January's revelation that a cow in Washington state had been diagnosed with mad cow disease, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced.

While some cosmetics do contain bovine-derived ingredients, the FDA said it provided credible documentation to the Chinese government that the affected cosmetics did not contain animal-derived ingredients that had been banned in China.

The Chinese import ban had threatened to cost U.S. cosmetics manufacturers more than $100 million a year, the FDA said.

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New Drug Counters Immobility in Parkinson's Patients

The Bertek Pharmaceuticals drug Apokyn (apomorphine) has received FDA approval to treat periods of immobility that affect some people with Parkinson's disease.

During these "off-period" episodes, medically known as "hypomobility," some people on standard anti-Parkinson's drugs can lose the ability to speak, rise from a chair, or walk. These episodes tend to occur as the drugs begin to wear off between dosing cycles.

The debilitating condition affects about 10 percent of the patients who take standard Parkinson's therapies.

The preventive drug Apokyn must be taken with another medication to counter its nasty side effects, which include severe nausea and vomiting, the FDA said. The drug's labeling also includes specific warnings about low blood pressure, fainting, hallucinations, and excessive sleepiness.

Apokyn received priority "orphan drug" status approval, which is granted to therapies to treat conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States, the agency said.

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