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Health Highlights: Nov. 13, 2003

Coalition Urges Ill. to Reconsider Web Drug Purchases U.S. Diabetes Cases Hit New High Apple-Shaped Women at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Death Smoking Rates Stall in Middle School First U.S. Death From Raccoon Rabies Reported World's Oldest Person Dies at 114

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

Coalition Urges Ill. to Reconsider Web Drug Purchases

A coalition of Canadian pharmacists in Manitoba has written Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich urging him not to go ahead with a plan to buy his state's drug supplies through cross-border Internet pharmacies.

The letter from the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy also asked for a meeting with Illinois state officials visiting Winnipeg to meet with Internet pharmacy companies.

"I think the Governor will think twice about Internet pharmacy once we explain the impact this trade is having on Manitoba's health-care system," coalition president Lothar Dueck says in a news release.

"So far [Blagojevich] has only heard about Canada's lower drug prices. We want to tell the Governor and his delegation about the serious shortages of pharmacists and prescription drugs we've experienced since Internet pharmacy began in Manitoba. We want to tell him about the price increases we're already seeing here that are putting pressure on our public health system and patients," Dueck says.

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U.S. Diabetes Cases Hit New High

The number of Americans with diabetes climbed to an all-time high of about 18.2 million people in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"These new estimates show we are diagnosing more people who live with diabetes, and the overall prevalence of this disease continues to increase," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson says in a news release.

"Clearly, diabetes remains a serious and growing health threat. We are fighting this terrible disease by promoting better lifestyle choices and increasing awareness among all Americans," Thompson says.

An estimated 13 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and about 5.2 million more Americans have the disease but haven't been diagnosed. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the leading cause of blindness among Americans between the ages of 20 and 74.

The numbers were released in advance of World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14.

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Apple-Shaped Women at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Death

Postmenopausal women who are apple-shaped -- large around the waist -- are three times more likely to die of breast cancer than women who are pear shaped -- heavier around the hips -- says a Canadian study in the Nov. 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

British Columbia Cancer Agency researchers spent a decade tracking 586 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and 1992, CBC News Online reports.

Overall, 112 of the women died during the 10-year study period. Women with the highest waist-to-hip size ratio had a three times greater risk of death than women with the lowest waist-to-hip ratio.

The study didn't find any link between increased risk of death and waist- to-hip ratio in women who developed breast cancer before menopause.

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Smoking Rates Stall in Middle School

High school students appear to be listening to antismoking messages, but a new report finds those warnings aren't trickling down to students in middle school.

A new survey says smoking rates among students in grades 9 through 12 dropped 18 percent between 2000 and 2002. But there was no "statistically significant" drop among students in grades 6 through 8, according to the survey, which was conducted by the American Legacy Foundation and appears in Friday's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That there was no change is "a cause for concern," the report says. "The lack of progress among middle school students suggests that health officials should improve implementation of proven antismoking strategies and develop new strategies."

The survey found that 28.4 percent of high school students were tobacco users in 2002, with cigarettes being the most commonly used product. The rate among middle school students was 13.3 percent, again with cigarettes being the most used type. However, 6 percent of them reported smoking cigars.

According to the report, about 4,400 children between the ages of 12 and 17 use tobacco for the first time each day.

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First U.S. Death From Raccoon Rabies Reported

U.S. health officials have documented the first case of a human death from raccoon rabies in this country.

A previously healthy 25-year-old northern Virginia man died with a diagnosis of meningoencephalitis after a three-week illness. Subsequent tissue testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a diagnosis of rabies. Then, genetic testing identified a rabies virus associated with raccoons, but how the man became infected remains unknown, according to Friday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, issued by the CDC.

According to a HealthDay account, officials don't know how the man became infected. He was not an avid outdoorsman.

Human rabies can be prevented by avoiding exposure to suspicious animals, vaccinating and supervising pets, and seeking prompt medical care if a bite from a potentially rabid animal occurs, health experts say.

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World's Oldest Person Dies at 114

The world's oldest person, who assumed the title only weeks ago, died Thursday at the age of 114 in Japan. Her place in the record books has been taken up by a 113-year-old American.

Mitoyo Kawate, who was born May 15, 1889, died of pneumonia, a Hiroshima city spokesman told the Associated Press. Kawate, who had four children, had been a farmer in Hiroshima until she turned 100 years old.

She had a weakness for custard cakes and liked to sing, a caretaker said earlier this month. Kawate lived in a nursing home for the past 10 years and her condition had weakened over the past two years.

The oldest person is now Charlotte Benkner, of North Lima, Ohio, who was born Nov. 16, 1889, according the Guinness World Records organization.

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