Today's Health Highlights

Anthrax Patient Back on the Job Zinc, Antioxidants Stave Off Eye Disease Cutting Back on Smoking Makes Baby a Bit Bigger

(FRIDAY, Oct. 12) -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of The HealthDay Service:

Anthrax Patient Back at Work

A 36-year-old office clerk, one of three workers at a Florida media company who tested positive for anthrax contamination, is back at work and taking antibiotics to block any infection by the potentially deadly disease, according to the Associated Press.

A second employee, Robert Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor with The Sun supermarket tabloid, died Oct. 5 after he was diagnosed with inhaled anthrax, a particularly lethal and rare form of the disease. The third employee, Ernesto Blanco, a 73-year-old mailroom worker, remains in good condition in a Miami hospital after anthrax spores were found in his nose, Flordia health officials say.

The office clerk, Stephanie Dailey, was among more than 1,000 people who have been tested by health officials for the presence of anthrax; most have recently been inside the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc. The company publishes seven supermarket tabloids.

Meanwhile, the FBI is awaiting tests results on evidence gathered at the building that was sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. And federal law-enforcement officials continue their criminal investigation of the case. They add there's still no evidence of a terrorist connection, the AP says.

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Zinc, Antioxidants Stave Off Eye Disease

A new study has found that a simple regimen of antioxidants along with high levels of zinc significantly reduces the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the United States, HealthDay reports.

The results should benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans who currently have intermediate or advanced AMD in one eye.

The six-year study, conducted by the National Eye Institute and reported in the latest issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, followed more than 3,500 people between the ages of 55 and 80 at 11 clinical sites around the country.

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Cutting Back on Smoking Makes Baby a Bit Bigger

Women who smoke late into pregnancy can slightly increase their unborn baby's birth weight if they cut down on their smoking, says a new study.

Experts stress that pregnant women shouldn't consider the findings an excuse to keep smoking, which has been shown to significantly increase the odds of delivering a premature baby. Smoking also carries considerable health risks for the mother, including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. A report on the study appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, HealthDay reports.

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Victim's Family Settles With Johns Hopkins

The family of a 24-year-old lab worker who died while taking part in an asthma study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has reached an out-of-court settlement with the school, the Associated Press reports.

The lawyer for the family of Ellen Roche did not disclose terms of the agreement.

Roche's death June 2 prompted the federal government to temporarily suspend most of Hopkins' research programs involving humans. She died about a month after inhaling hexamethonium, a drug intended to induce asthmatic symptoms, the AP says.

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Doctors Work to Save Limbaugh's Hearing

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh's doctors will give him a combination of drugs for up to two months before deciding whether to implant an electronic device in his right ear to try to save what's left of his hearing, the Associated Press reports.

The device, called a cochlear implant, creates an electronic signal that is transmitted to the brain.

Limbaugh, 50, stunned his listeners this week by disclosing he has gone almost completely deaf over the past few months. He said his left ear is "shot,'' and he has only partial hearing in his right ear, the AP says.

He suffers from autoimmune inner-ear disease, which progresses rapidly over a few weeks or months. Doctors believe it is caused when the immune system launches a mistaken attack on the inner ear and damages nerves.

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Chemotherapy Can Benefit Older Colon Cancer Patients

Older victims of colon cancer can benefit from chemotherapy after surgery as much as younger patients can. And the side effects for the elderly are no worse, a study found, according to the Associated Press.

The older you get, the greater your chances of colon cancer. But some doctors are reluctant to prescribe chemotherapy for patients over 65. The reason: Older patients may not want to endure the six months of potential nausea, diarrhea and other side effects of the therapy.

"Older people will sometimes say, 'I'm not sure I'll save enough years of life to make [chemotherapy] worth it to me,' '' says Dr. Richard Goldberg, a cancer specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and one of the study's authors. "What this study says is, if you're among the more robust sexagenarians or octogenarians, we can give you data to say that it will.''

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Real-Time Pacemaker Approved

U.S. health officials have OK'd a pacemaker outfitted with a tiny transmitter that can tell your doctor how your heart is doing -- the first medical implant capable of real-time monitoring, the Associated Press says.

The Biotronik Home Monitoring System essentially provides a house call any time of day without a doctor or patient taking any special steps. It's the first in an expected wave of medical devices that will let doctors track the chronically ill day-by-day to keep their conditions from worsening between office visits.

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