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Health Highlights: June 5, 2005

Experimental Vaccine Stops Ebola, Marburg Viruses Banned Fungicide Was Used in Imported Salmon Laugh Your Way to Weight Loss: Study Children's Tylenol Recalled Over Labeling FDA Investigates Food-borne Illness in Florida

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

Experimental Vaccine Stops Ebola, Marburg Viruses

An experimental type of vaccine to prevent the deadly Marburg and Ebola viruses has successfully worked in monkeys, scientists reported Sunday.

Two new vaccines, one for Marburg and one for Ebola, were 100 percent effective in a study of 12 macaques, according to results published in the journal Nature Medicine. Monkeys given just one shot of vaccine and later injected with a high dose of virus did not even get sick, the New York Times reported.

The two viruses cause hemorrhagic fevers that can be fatal within a week for both people and monkeys, and there has been no treatment for either. Death rates in people can sometimes exceed 90 percent.

Angola, where a Marburg epidemic was first detected in March, is still struggling to contain the disease, which has killed 340 of 408 victims. The virus is spread by contact with blood, saliva, vomit or other fluids from sick patients.

The two new vaccines will not be ready even to be tested in people for at least two years, the Times reported. If human trials are successful, products might be ready for licensing five or six years from now, researchers said.


Banned Fungicide Was Used in Imported Salmon

Thousands of pounds of Canadian farmed salmon containing a banned fungicide were sold in the United States earlier this year, Canadian authorities reported.

Stolt Sea Farm, part of the world's largest salmon farming company, said that 80,000 pounds of farmed chinook salmon from British Columbia with low levels of malachite green reached consumers in the United States, Canada, China, Japan and other Asian nations, according to the Oregonian.

Authorities in Canada said at least half of the Stoltl Sea salmon went to the United States, and much of it to West Coast states.

Malachite green, a fabric dye used to kill fungus in fish eggs and farmed fish, has been banned for use on food in the United States since 1991 and is suspected of causing cancer. European nations have detected it in farm-raised salmon from Chile, which also sells large quantities of salmon to the United States.

Stolt officials said 200,000 pounds of processed salmon contained the fungicide and that the company had recovered 120,000 pounds of it. The levels found in the salmon were very low -- from 0.31 to 1.3 parts per billion -- and well below the threshold of 2 parts per billion considered safe in Europe, the company added.

However, Canadian authorities said about 30 percent of the salmon was recovered and the rest was sold.

"The bulk had been shipped and had been consumed," said Stephen J. Stephen of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "There was an attempt to recover it, but no ability to recover it."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said two years ago that it would begin testing for malachite green in imported farmed salmon, which has rapidly displaced wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska in stores. But an FDA spokeswoman told the Oregonian the agency has not yet done so.


Laugh Your Way to Weight Loss: Study

When all is said and done, maybe weight loss is a laughing matter.

U.S. researchers are reporting that 10 to 15 minutes of hearty chuckling can burn off the same number of calories contained in a medium square of chocolate, according to the Associated Press.

Scientists from Vanderbilt University recruited 45 pairs of friends, ushered them into a room and then played them comedy clips on a TV screen. The room was designed so the researchers could measure the amount of oxygen the volunteers inhaled and how much carbon dioxide they exhaled -- a proven method of gauging energy consumption. The volunteers wore heart monitors as well, the AP said.

"They burned 20 percent more calories when laughing, compared to not laughing," said lead researcher Maciej Buchowski, director of bionutrition at Vanderbilt. "Then we calculated what would happen if somebody laughed for 10 or 15 minutes a day and we found that it was up to 50 calories, depending on your body size and the intensity of the laughter."

That means that if you laugh for up to 15 minutes a day, you'll burn enough calories to lose 4.4 pounds in a year, Buchowski said.

The findings were presented Saturday in Athens, Greece, at the annual European Congress on Obesity.


Children's Tylenol Recalled Over Labeling

The maker of Children's Tylenol said Friday that it was recalling certain lots of 80 mg. Meltaways, 80 mg. Softchews, and 160 mg. Jr. Tylenol Meltaways because confusing packaging could lead to overdosing.

McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals said among certain 80 mg. blister packs, it's concerned that some parents might conclude that a single blister cavity that contains two tablets for a total of 160 mg. might be confused in thinking that the combined total for both tablets was only 80 mg.

Each 80 mg. tablet is imprinted with an "80" to remind parents of the tablet's strength, the company said in a statement.

Also, some instructions on Children's Tylenol bottles and the Jr. Tylenol product could confuse parents on proper dosages, the company added. Though it hasn't received any reports of adverse effects, McNeil said it was recalling the products to clarify the dosing instructions.

Studies have shown that over time, taking more than the recommended dose of Tylenol's main ingredient, acetaminophen, could cause liver damage. For more information about this recall, contact the company at 877-895-3665 (English) or 888-466-8746 (Spanish).


FDA Investigates Food-borne Illness in Florida

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to determine the source of several clusters of a gastrointestinal illness known as cyclosporiasis that have been linked with fresh basil served in Florida from mid-March through mid-April.

The Florida Department of Health has 293 confirmed cases in 32 Florida counties. The outbreak includes several clusters and a large number of sporadic cases.

Cyclosporiasis is caused by consuming the Cyclospora parasite and results in infection of the small intestine. It causes watery diarrhea with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, substantial weight loss, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever and fatigue, the FDA said.

Symptoms typically develop about a week after eating the contaminated food. Cyclospora infection can be treated with antibiotics. People experiencing these symptoms are advised to consult their physicians and notify their local health departments, the FDA said.

To help reduce the chances of infection from consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, consumers should wash all produce -- including fresh herbs -- under running tap water before eating them, the agency said.

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