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Health Highlights: Jan. 5, 2004

U.S. to Destroy 450 Calves Linked to Mad Cow Case China Confirms SARS, Plans to Slaughter Civets Docs Call for Restricting Soda Sales in Schools Football Blows Rival Car Crashes, Study Finds MRI the Latest Treatment for Depression?

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

U.S. to Destroy 450 Calves Linked to Mad Cow Case

U.S. agriculture officials say they'll destroy 450 calves in a dairy herd in Washington state that includes an offspring of the Holstein cow diagnosed last month with mad cow disease.

Ron DeHaven, the Agriculture Department's chief veterinarian, said Monday that the month-old calves are to be slaughtered this week at an undisclosed facility that is not being used, the Associated Press reports.

The herd is one of three in Washington that have been quarantined due to possible connections with the stricken cow. The other herds contain cows that probably are from the same Alberta, Canada, farm that produced the 6 1/2-year-old Holstein, the news service says.

Agriculture Department officials decided to kill all month-old calves in the Sunnyside, Wash., herd because they can't determine which one was born to the infected Holstein. The officials have said contaminated feed was the probable source of infection, but they can't rule out transmission of the disease from mother to calf, the AP says.

DeHaven added that meat from the calves won't be allowed in the U.S. food supply.

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China Confirms SARS, Plans to Slaughter Civets

China on Monday announced that a Guangdong man is its first confirmed case of SARS since July. The government also said provincial officials would oversee the slaughter of 10,000 captive civet cats -- a Chinese delicacy that's known to carry a variant of the SARS virus.

After several weeks of uncertainty surrounding the health of the affected 32-year-old TV producer, the Chinese Health Ministry and the World Health Organization confirmed that he does, indeed, have SARS. Previous tests had been inconclusive.

In response, the Beijing government said all civet cats in captivity and perhaps some in the wild would be slaughtered. Research has shown that the SARS virus that infected 8,000 people worldwide beginning late last year was genetically very similar to a virus in civet cats, The New York Times reports.

Adding to the Asian continent's worries, the Philippines announced Monday that it has isolated a woman for possible SARS infection, and has quarantined her husband and doctor as a precaution. News reports say the woman is suspected of contracting the disease while working in Hong Kong.

The sick man in China insists he has had no contact with exotic animals, leaving researchers to wonder how he may have contracted the disease, the Times reports. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, says it's concerned about China's plan to slaughter thousands of cats in the region, saying the government may destroy any evidence that shows how the virus may ultimately have been passed to people.

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Docs Call for Restricting Soda Sales in Schools

The most influential group of child doctors in the United States recommends soft drink sales in schools be severely restricted.

A policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that sweetened drinks -- including fruit drinks as well as soft drinks -- are now the main source of added sugar in the daily diets of children. According to the pediatricians, between 56 percent and 85 percent of children in school consume at least one soft drink daily, HealthDay reports.

The statement appears in the January issue of the academy's publication, Pediatrics.

Over the past 20 years, consumption of soft drinks has surged by 300 percent, while sizes have grown from 6.5 ounces in the 1950s to 20 ounces in the late 1990s. Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soda has 150 calories and the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar and has been associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of obesity.

Obesity, which is one of the main health problems facing today's youth, is just one issue associated with sugared drinks. Each soft drink consumed means less milk is being taken in. As milk is the principal source of calcium for most Americans, this raises the specter of future osteoporosis and fractures. There's also the likelihood of more cavities and enamel erosion.

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Football Blows Rival Car Crashes, Study Finds

Football players regularly suffer blows to the head that rival those in automobile accidents, a new Virginia Tech study finds.

The schools' researchers, using sophisticated monitoring equipment attached to players' helmets, found the average player was struck in the head 30 to 50 times per game. They say they're compiling a database of blows to the head among their players, with the hope of measuring how many blows and of what magnitude the brain is able to withstand, the Associated Press reports.

The study leaders say they also hope to learn why some people appear less prone to concussion and other forms of brain injury than others.

The researchers recorded 3,312 hits during 35 practices and 10 games this season, rotating eight specially fitted helmets among 38 players. Offensive linemen suffered the most hits, followed by defensive linemen, running backs, linebackers, wide receivers and defensive backs. Quarterbacks recorded the fewest hits, the AP reports.

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MRI the Latest Treatment for Depression?

Undergoing an MRI might offer an uplifting experience.

The Wall Street Journal reports that researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., tested a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 40 patients who suffered from bipolar disorder. One symptom of bipolar disorder is depression.

The results, which are published in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, indicated that using an MRI on depressed patients makes them feel better.

According to the Journal, 77 percent of those who underwent an MRI with an extremely weak magnetic field felt better after the brain scan.

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