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Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2004

Kids' Menus Full of Fat, Report Says STD Rates Higher in Teens and Young Adults Soy Linked to Male Infertility Texas Monitors More Chickens for Bird Flu Poll: Many Cut Back on Dose to Save on Prescription Drugs New CPR Method Involves No Mouth-to-Mouth

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

Kids' Menus Full of Fat, Report Says

The servings may be smaller in chain restaurant children's menu items, but the food's still loaded with fat, says a report released Tuesday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Researchers analyzed food choices for children available at 20 of the top sit-down chain restaurants in the United States. They found little variety in the children's menus, which are heavily tilted toward fattening kinds of foods, CNN reports.

Hamburgers or cheeseburgers were listed on 85 percent of the children's menus. French fries came with all meals except for one. Other common menu items for kids included pizza and chicken fingers.

Many of the kids' meals equaled or exceeded the U.S. government's daily recommended totals for children of 17 grams of fat and 1,500 calories.

The restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse, Applebee's and Denny's, say they do offer healthy food choices for children. If they aren't on the menu, parents can ask for them, CNN reports.

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STD Rates Higher in Teens and Young Adults

While they represent just a quarter of sexually active people in the United States, teenagers and young adults account for nearly half the cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), says a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The report says that people aged 15 to 24 accounted for an estimated 9.1 million cases of eight kinds of STDs in the year 2000. There were 18.9 million new STD cases overall in the United States that year.

The report appears in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Another CDC report published in the same issue of the journal says that those 9.1 million cases of STDs in teens and young adults have an estimated lifetime medical cost of $6.5 billion, the Associated Press reports.

Three STDs -- chlamydia, human papillomavirus and trichomoniasis -- were responsible for 88 percent of the 9.1 million new STD cases in teens and young adults in the year 2000.

The other STDs cited were HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea and hepatitis B.

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Soy Linked to Male Infertility

Soy may be a factor in male infertility, a team of Belfast researchers contends.

Soy contains the female hormone estrogen and men who consume too much of it may produce low quality sperm, the scientists say.

"What we have shown is that if men are consuming large amounts of soya products, for example, there is a negative relationship between the quality of their sperm. If they already have a slight problem in that area, then it might be better for them not to consume so much," Dr. Sheena Lewis, director of reproductive medicine, Queen's University in Belfast, told BBC News Online.

The researchers note that soy is contained in many processed foods. Men who eat those products may not realize they're consuming soy. Men can avoid consuming excess estrogen by eating fresh fruit and preparing meals at home, the researchers say.

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Texas Monitors More Chickens for Bird Flu

Texas health officials are conducting bird flu tests on chickens within a 10-mile radius of the Gonzales County farm that reported an outbreak of a virulent strain late last week, the Associated Press reports.

The European Union and South Korea are among nations that have since banned all U.S. chicken imports. While the flu is not the same deadly strain that has spread to people in Asia, it is considered much more dangerous to chickens than originally thought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed Monday. Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the Texas strain poses no known threat to people.

By early Tuesday, blood samples and throat swabs had been taken on birds on almost all farms within five miles of the unidentified farm, located some 50 miles east of San Antonio, the AP reports.

According to the USDA, Gonzalez County is among the state's top poultry producers, with more than 85 million birds valued at more than $100 million. The birds are raised for large producers such as Tyson Foods and a number of small independents, the wire service says.

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Poll: Many Cut Back on Doses to Save on Prescription Drugs

Three-fourths of Americans who report having trouble paying for prescription drugs say they have cut back on dosages in order to save money, a new poll by the Associated Press finds.

About a third of those polled say they are having a tough time affording prescription medications, and two-thirds say the federal government should make it easier to import drugs from Canada and elsewhere. Some 13 percent of respondents say they have bought drugs from Canada or Mexico in the past.

Eight in 10 respondents say the spiraling cost of prescription drugs will be an important issue in the upcoming presidential election, according to the survey of 1,000 adults conducted Feb. 16-18.

Sixty-five percent of those polled favor giving the federal government the authority to negotiate with drug companies to lower prices, the AP reports.

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New CPR Method Involves No Mouth-to-Mouth

More and more municipalities are planning to move away from the familiar lifesaving technique of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, USA Today reports. It may represent the biggest shift in emergency care for cardiac arrest in 40 years, the newspaper says.

The new trend in CPR is toward simple chest compressions, which involve pushing down repeatedly on a patient's chest to mimic a steady heartbeat. At a meeting last week of EMS directors from 21 of the nation's largest cities, at least a dozen decided to make the switch, according to the newspaper.

The technique is already being touted by cities like Seattle and Richmond, Va., especially for untrained bystanders -- who reportedly are saving more victims while not being distracted by having to perform breathing techniques.

EMS directors in those cities say it was often a waste of precious time trying to talk 911 callers through mouth-to-mouth techniques.

The American Heart Association is considering the switch, but a decision is not expected until 2005, the newspaper says.

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