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Health Highlights: Jan. 10, 2004

WHO Eyes China SARS Tests Tacoma Tops Stressed-City List U.S Could Suffer Another Monkeypox Outbreak Kenyan HIV Rates Lower Than Previously Estimated Chicagoans Single for Half Their Adult Lives

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

WHO Eyes China SARS Tests

World Health Organization officials have asked the Chinese government for more information about test results from a woman in Guangdong province whom authorities say could be the country's second SARS case of the season.

The Toronto Star reports that the health officials also suggested further tests would be appropriate for the 20-year-old waitress, who was pronounced a SARS suspect Thursday and quarantined.

WHO officials on Saturday searched the restaurant in Guangdong province where the suspected victim, now hospitalized, reportedly served dishes of civet cat and other exotic animals that could carry the virus, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, Guangdong intensified its campaign to clean streets and wipe out civets, plus other potential carriers labelled the "four dangers" rats, roaches, flies and mosquitoes.

Civets, a local delicacy, were ordered seized from markets and slaughtered after tests suggested a link between them and China's first SARS case of the season, a 32-year-old television producer.

In addition to its well-publicized effort to hunt and kill civet cats, China is searching for what it says are other potential SARS carriers, including rats, roaches, flies, and mosquitoes, the AP reports.

Authorities in Guangdong province have threatened merchants who serve civet cat -- a local delicacy -- with fines of up to $12,000.

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Tacoma Tops Stressed-City List

Tacoma, Washington, which markets itself as "America's No. 1 Wired City," now has a dubious new title: "America's Most Stressed-Out City."

Beating out better-known cities like New York and Miami, the Northwest city of 195,000 topped the list of 100 large metro areas surveyed by ranking firm BestPlaces, according to the Seattle Times.

BestPlaces based the rankings on a "stress index" of factors that jangle nerves: unemployment rate, divorce rate, commute time, crimes, suicide rate, alcohol consumption, self-reported "poor mental health" and cloudy days.

Tacoma beat the rest mostly because of high rates of divorce, suicide and unemployment, the Times reports. With 12.4 percent of people over age 16 divorced, Tacoma's divorce rate falls in the 95th percentile. Its suicide rate is in the 92nd percentile. And its unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in the fall, well over the survey's average rate of 5.8 percent.

Rounding out the top 10 most stressful cities, in order, were Miami; New Orleans; Las Vegas; New York; Portland; Mobile, Ala.; Stockton-Lodi, Calif; Detroit, and Dallas.

The surveyors also offered up the least stressful cities. Tri-city areas Albany-Schenectady-Troy in New York and Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle in Pennsylvania tied for best. High on the list also were Orange County, Calif.; Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

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U.S Could Suffer Another Monkeypox Outbreak

More monkeypox outbreaks could erupt in the United States if the virus managed to gain a foothold in native rodent populations during last year's outbreak, says a Stanford University study appearing in The Lancet.

There were 81 human cases of monkeypox reported in six states in 2003. There were no deaths.

It's believed the monkeypox virus, which can be fatal, was introduced into the U.S. by animals, mainly prairie dogs, sold as exotic pets, BBC News Online reports.

The Stanford scientists note that the virus is extremely contagious among rodents. That could mean trouble if native rats and mice were infected during last year's outbreak. If that's the case, that means there would now be a "reservoir" of the virus in the U.S., which could lead to future outbreaks of monkeypox in humans.

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Kenyan HIV Rates Lower Than Previously Estimated

Far fewer people in Kenya are infected with HIV than previously estimated, according to a new survey.

The Kenyan government survey found that 6.7 percent of people in that country are infected with HIV. Previous estimates put the figure at 15 percent, BBC News Online reports.

The survey, conducted last September, included 8,561 households. Respondents were asked if they would be willing to be tested for HIV. About 70 percent of them agreed.

The tests, performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 8.7 percent of Kenyan women and 4.5 percent of men were infected with HIV.

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Chicagoans Single for Half Their Adult Lives

A typical person in Chicago remains single for half of his or her adult life and spends about half of those single years living alone, says a University of Chicago survey released Thursday.

The researchers say this shift in marriage behavior has had a major impact on cultural institutions and the way that people interact, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Chicago residents in previous generations tended to get married shortly after they started working, and remained married to the same person. This survey found that people now marry at a later age, and that those marriages are often shorter. Adult Chicagoans are married for an average of 18 years, cohabit for 3.7 years, and spend the rest of those years living alone.

In response to that trend, people have found new ways of coping, including the use of networks to find companions and sex. According to the study, men in their 40s seek younger women, forcing older women to try other avenues to find a mate.

The survey also revealed that sexual opportunities are different for Chicago men and women and are defined by sexual orientation, racial groups and neighborhoods, the Tribune reports.

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