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Health Highlights: Jan. 9, 2004

U.S Could Suffer Another Monkeypox Outbreak Kenyan HIV Rates Lower Than Previously Estimated Chicagoans Single for Half Their Adult Lives Nicotine-Laced Water Pulled in Maine China Searches for Non-Human SARS Carriers Recalled Candles Pose Fire Hazard

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

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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Nicotine-Laced Water Pulled in Maine

Hours after Maine legislators voted to support a bill to ban nicotine-laced water, the Rite-Aid drugstore chain announced it was pulling a product called NicoWater from its shelves at 80 stores in the state.

A Rite-Aid spokesman said the company was considering whether to withdraw the product from its 3,400 stores nationwide, reports the Kennebec Journal.

State Sen. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake) said he sponsored the legislation in response to ads promoting the product as a cigarette substitute for people with nicotine cravings who can't smoke in certain situations. He said he was particularly concerned that children could get their hands on the product.

NicoWater, sold in half-liter bottles, has roughly 4 milligrams of nicotine, the equivalent of about two cigarettes. Its manufacturer, California-based QT 5 Inc., has classified the product as a "homeopathic nicotinum formula," to prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from blocking its sale as an unlicensed drug, the Associated Press reports.

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China Searches for Non-Human SARS Carriers

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 Associated Press reports.

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

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, warned about anecdotal reports that the cats were being clubbed to death. Agence France-Presse reports that such a manner of destroying the animals could spread, not inhibit, SARS if they carry the virus in the first place.

WHO officials are in the province hoping to find how a 32-year-old TV producer who became the country's first SARS victim in seven months contracted the disease. Released from a hospital earlier this week, the man says he's never eaten civet.

On Thursday, a 20-year-old waitress was declared the country's second suspected SARS case since the summer. Unconfirmed reports say the victim, whose name and condition weren't released, worked at a restaurant that served civet.

Elsewhere in China, authorities at railway stations and airports continue to screen arriving passengers for SARS symptoms, including high fever and respiratory ills.

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Recalled Candles Pose Fire Hazard

Lang Candles of Delafield, Wis., is recalling 92,000 thematic candles whose holders can ignite, posing a fire hazard.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Lang has received nine reports of the holders igniting, resulting in six reports of property damage. No injuries have been reported.

The candles, sold in small craft and candle stores nationwide for $9 to $13, come in 57 themes -- including a birdhouse, watering can, flower pot, and Halloween and Christmas motifs. On the bottom of every candle is a label that reads, "Lang Candles, 800-260-8297, and Made in China."

Consumers should stop using the products immediately and contact Lang at 888-526-4011 during business hours Monday through Friday for details on obtaining a refund.

Consumer News