Today's Health Highlights

Scientists Unlock Plague's Genetic Code Snake Oil Salesmen Slither to the Web Getting a Shot? Chill Out

(WEDNESDAY, Oct. 3) -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of The HealthDay Service:

Scientists Map Genome of the Plague

Scientists say they've mapped the genetic sequence of the organism responsible for the waves of bubonic plague that killed 200 million people during three pandemics in the last 2,000 years, a HealthDay story says.

Knowing the genetic makeup of the bacterium Yersinia pestis could help researchers develop antibiotics, vaccines or other defenses against the plague, experts say. A report on the findings appears in the Oct. 4 issue of Nature.

Plague is considered one of the likelier bioterror weapons, and with good reason: It has been used before. In the low-tech 14th century, Mongol invaders sparked a massive European outbreak of the disease by catapulting pestilent corpses over the city wall of Caffa, a trading town in the Crimea.


Snake Oil Salesmen Slither to the Web

Web sites selling herbal supplements as a prevention, treatment or even a cure for cancer are plentiful and easy to find -- and they're also breaking the law, a new survey shows.

These sites are preying on desperate people, and the government needs to police them, says survey director Dr. Robert Bonakdar, a researcher for Scripps Center for Integrated Medicine in La Jolla, Calif., HealthDay reports.


Getting a Shot? Chill Out

Tell the doctor to cool it if you're dreading your next needle. Putting a needle in the freezer overnight cuts the pain from an injection by as much as 30 percent, says a San Francisco plastic surgeon, HealthDay reports.

"Everyone knows ice is a pain reliever," says Dr. Keith Denkler, associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at the University of California in San Francisco. "Doctors have long known that you can put ice on the skin, leave it there a while, give a shot, and it hurts less."


Help for Preemies Is One-Shot Deal

A single injection of hormones late in pregnancy is all that's needed to reduce the incidence of illness and death for premature babies, a study finds.

Gynecologists have been giving injections of corticosteroid hormones to women at high risk of premature delivery for several years to prevent serious respiratory problems and brain hemorrhages in their babies. Many doctors have been giving weekly shots to be sure the treatment is effective. Now a study at 13 medical centers finds no advantage and some possible risk in multiple shots, HealthDay reports.


Bypass Surgery Tougher for Women

Women have good reason to worry about the risks of heart bypass surgery, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Ohio found women who have a coronary artery bypass graft operation have a much tougher time before, during and after the surgery than men who undergo the same procedure, a HealthDay story says.

The study compared the outcomes of bypass surgeries on 1,742 women and 3,582 men at a private teaching hospital in Ohio over a period of seven years. And the results would make any woman nervous: Women often entered the hospital in worse shape than their male counterparts, they suffered more complications during surgery, and they wound up staying in the hospital longer. The findings will be presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Atlanta.


Is Teaching a Risky Business?

Kids are germ factories. Just ask any parent. But do teachers pay a very high price for their long-term exposure to children and their germs -- maybe an increased risk of serious immune system diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus?

A new study suggests they might, lending weight to the theory that if someone is genetically susceptible to a certain disease, environment could trigger its onset, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut reviewed 11 years of death certificates. Their findings: Deaths from some autoimmune diseases among kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers were more than twice as high as those for people in other professions.

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