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More Evidence That Zika Causes Microcephaly

By EJ Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 15, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A rigorous new study of 91 Brazilian babies strongly supports the point that the mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause the devastating birth defect microcephaly.

In microcephaly, babies are born with a smaller-than-normal head and an underdeveloped brain. Thousands of such cases tied to maternal infection with Zika have already been recorded in Latin America -- especially in Brazil.

Back in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that maternal infection with the virus was, in fact, a cause of infant microcephaly.

That announcement followed an exhaustive study on the subject published the same week in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study found consistent patterns linking Zika infection with microcephaly, borne out by fetal and infant autopsy reports.

The new study, published Sept. 15 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, seems to offer even clearer evidence, its authors said.

The research involved 30 babies born with microcephaly between mid-January and the beginning of May at eight public hospitals in Pernambuco State, located in northeastern Brazil.

The Brazilian and British research team noted that prior studies had not followed the "gold standard" methodology of comparing babies with microcephaly against a set of closely matched (but healthy) controls.

So, the team compared rates of Zika infection between each of the babies born with microcephaly against two babies born without the defect the next morning at the same hospitals.

Based on tests of each baby's blood and cerebrospinal fluid, as well as blood tests from their respective mothers, the researchers found Zika infection to be much more prevalent in babies with microcephaly.

For example, while the blood of 80 percent of the mothers who gave birth to a baby with microcephaly tested positive for Zika, that was true for only 64 percent of the "control group" mothers.

Results from the babies were even more telling, the study authors said.

"When we compared laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection in newborns with and without microcephaly, we found that about half of the cases with microcephaly had laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection, compared to none of the healthy controls," study co-author Dr. Thalia Velho Barreto de Araujo said in a journal news release. She's with the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife.

日期:2016年9月19日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

As Rx Prices Rise, More Say Meds Are Affordable

Nov. 13, 2015 -- Medications are becoming more expensive for the sickest people, but at the same time, they’ve never been more affordable for the majority of Americans.

How is that possible?

We had an expert dig into some data for us, and he found that the number of people who say they’re having trouble affording their prescriptions is at its lowest level in about 10 years.

Joshua Gagne, PharmD, ScD, an assistant professor at Harvard, studies how drugs are used and paid for in large populations of people. We asked him if anyone was keeping track of drug affordability. It turns out that the CDC, in its National Health Interview Survey, has long asked Americans a question about how drug costs are hitting their wallets. Specifically, people are asked whether they were unable to fill a prescription in the last 12 months because of cost.

Gagne ran some numbers and found something unexpected. The percentage of Americans who say they haven’t filled a prescription in the last year because of cost is at its lowest level in a decade. In 2005, it was 9.33%. In 2014 -- the latest year available for this statistic -- it was 7.15%.

“At first glance, it was a little bit surprising to me, too,” Gagne says.

Recent headlines, after all, have been telling an entirely different story. Turing Pharmaceuticals and its CEO, Martin Shkreli, purchased the rights to an inexpensive older medication called Daraprim and hiked its price by 5000%.

And prescription drug spending is up 13% from 2013 to 2014, the largest such jump since 2001, according to IMS Health, a company that provides information and services to the health care industry. Some people who’ve long taken inexpensive pills are suddenly seeing double- and even triple-digit increases in their drug costs, often with no warning.

How is it possible, then, that more people seem able to afford their medications than ever before?

Experts say there are a few reasons.

Key Insights

For one thing, the CDC survey tells the story of averages. The number actually hides the experience of some of the sickest patients, like people who have cancer or cystic fibrosis, who need some of the most expensive drugs. For them, drug prices are crippling, yet because their meds represent a minority of all prescriptions filled, their experience really isn’t reflected in the overall number. Only about 2.3% of prescriptions have co-pays over $70, according to IMS Health.

日期:2015年11月14日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

More Americans Dying From Hypothermia, CDC Says

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- More people are dying from hypothermia in the United States, a new government report shows, raising fresh worries for a nation that has been pounded by a steady succession of winter storms this year.

Those most at risk for hypothermia include seniors, the mentally ill, people addicted to alcohol or drugs, and those living alone, according to the analysis published Feb. 20 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature.

Local agencies have gotten better at responding to extreme cold emergencies by opening public warming shelters and taking other measures, but the CDC researchers concluded that more needs to be done.

"This report suggests that state and local health agencies also might need to focus more on public education, communication networks to reach the most vulnerable persons, and targeted interventions for groups at risk," the authors wrote.

More than 13,400 hypothermia deaths occurred in the United States between 2003 and 2013, with unadjusted annual rates ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 per 100,000 persons, the report says. A statistically significant increase in death rates from hypothermia occurred over the decade.

"There's a recurrent problem every year, and it always happens during these cold snaps where there are multiple days in a row in which the temperature drops below freezing," said Dr. Vaishali Patel, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

Men and women aged 65 or older are at much greater risk of hypothermia death. Average death rates for male seniors were 1.8 per 100,000 people during the decade in question, while female seniors had a 1.1 per 100,000 people hypothermia death rate, the report found.

"Elderly patients are at higher risk just due to their age and their slightly decreased circulation," Patel said, adding that some medications affect seniors' ability to regulate their body temperature. This means they can experience hypothermia more rapidly.

日期:2015年2月20日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

Move More to Control Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Study

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Most pregnant women don't get enough physical activity throughout the day to prevent excess weight gain, a new study finds.

If a woman gains too much weight during pregnancy, it increases her risk for complications such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine) and for obesity after delivery, and also ups the baby's risk for childhood obesity.

Along with helping control weight, regular physical activity can help reduce back pain, boost energy levels and reduce insomnia.

Many pregnant women have exercise programs, but they tend to focus on physical-activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day. This study, however, found that staying active throughout the day is more beneficial in preventing excess weight gain.

"We were able to show that pregnant women spend 75 percent of the time they are awake in sedentary behaviors," Christina Campbell, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, said in a university news release. "Many of these women met physical-activity guidelines, but just because you meet the guidelines doesn't necessarily mean you're a non-sedentary person."

Campbell and her colleagues monitored activity levels and the amount of calories burned by pregnant women. A woman who went for a brisk, 30-minute walk burned about three times the number of calories as when she was at rest.

But the amount of physical activity throughout the day had more impact. For example, a woman who didn't have a specific workout session but was active all day -- such as a waitress or a mother who has young children and is always on the move -- would get more exercise and burn more calories overall than a woman who had an exercise session but was otherwise inactive during the day.

The findings show that it's important for pregnant women to increase their overall daily levels of activity.

"Maybe it means that you make a conscious effort, if you have a desk job, to get up every hour and make a loop around your building for five minutes," Campbell said. "Or maybe you walk to work or make an effort to park farther away or take the stairs. Really just those simple little things that we've been saying all along, but instead we find so many ways to cut corners on being active."

This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Data and conclusions of studies typically are considered preliminary until they are published.

日期:2013年8月24日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

Cyclospora Outbreak Sickens More Than 200 People

More than 200 people in numerous states have become ill with cyclospora infections in an outbreak that began a few weeks ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the patients first became ill with the foodborne illness between mid-June and early July. Reported cases have occurred in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin and Illinois. At least eight people have been hospitalized.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the illnesses, but have not made any connections with specific food items. Various types of fresh produce have been implicated in previous outbreak investigations, the CDC said.

No common events, such as social gatherings, have been identified among the patients and it is not clear if the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak.

Possible additional cases are currently under investigation, the CDC said.

日期:2013年7月27日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

More Than a Third of Babies Unintended

July 24, 2012 -- More than one-third of births in the U.S. are the result of an unplanned pregnancy, according to a CDC study.

Despite a decrease in unplanned pregnancies among white women, researchers say the number of unintended births has remained steady at about 37% of all births since 1982.

"The growing proportion of births to unmarried women, most of which were unintended, has kept the overall proportion of unintended births approximately constant," write researcher William Mosher, PhD, of the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, and colleagues.

The study is published in the National Health Statistics Reports. It shows that unmarried women accounted for 41% of all births in 2009, up from 18% in 1980.

Researchers say major differences also persist in the number of unplanned pregnancies according to:

  • age
  • race
  • income
  • education

"Unintended births occur disproportionately among non-Hispanic black women, unmarried women, and women with less income and education," they write. "For example, the proportion of all births that were unwanted or mistimed by two years or more was 7% for college graduates compared with 35% for women who did not complete high school."

Slideshow: Birth Control Options?

Unplanned Pregnancy Statistics

The study shows that never-married women and Hispanic women now account for a growing number of births.

Researchers say the percentage of births that were intended among white women who had ever been married has increased during recent years. But these women now represent a much smaller share of overall births. In 1981, they accounted for 66% of all births. But in 2006-2010, this number decreased to 43%.

The study also showed that 60% of women who experienced an unplanned pregnancy in 1998-2002 were not using contraception.

More than a third of those who did not use contraception (36%) said they did not think they could get pregnant.

"Underestimating the risk of pregnancy is the most common reason for not using contraception that leads to unintended pregnancy," the researchers write. "There was no significant variation in the percentage of women who gave this reason by age, marital status, or income. However, Hispanic women were more likely than others to say they did not think they could get pregnant (49%, compared with 35% of white women and 25% of black women)."

Researchers say the most recent unplanned pregnancy statistics from 2006-2010 highlight persistent differences according to the mother's age, ethnicity, and marital status.

During this period:

  • Nearly 4 out of 5 teen births were the result of an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Half of births to women aged 20-24 were intended, compared with 75% of births among women aged 25-44.
  • About 77% of births to women who were married at the time of birth were intended, compared with 49% of births to women who were living with their partner and 33% of births among single women.
  • More than two-thirds of births to white women were intended, compared with 57% among Hispanic women and 47% among African-American women.
日期:2012年11月10日 - 来自[Pregnancy]栏目

Imported Foods Causing More Disease

March 14, 2012 -- Foodborne disease from imported foods is on the rise, with more foods from more countries causing more outbreaks, the CDC says.

The most common culprits are fish and spices, particularly peppers, the CDC's Hannah Gould, PhD, said in a report to this week's International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

"We saw an increased number of outbreaks due to imported foods during recent years, and more types of foods from more countries causing outbreaks," Gould said in a news release.

Gould's team analyzed foodborne disease data from 2005 to 2010. Over those five years, imported foods caused 39 outbreaks and 2,348 reported illnesses.

About half those outbreaks came in the most recent two years.

"It's too early to say if the recent numbers represent a trend, but CDC officials are analyzing information from 2011 and will continue to monitor for these outbreaks in the future," Gould said.

Fish were behind 17 of the outbreaks. Spices were the source of six outbreaks, five of which were traced to fresh or dried peppers.

Almost half of the foods causing outbreaks -- 45% -- came from Asia.

Why the increase in foreign foodborne disease? It may not be that the food is any less safe. We're just importing more of it.

From 1998 to 2007, U.S. food imports grew from $41 billion to $78 billion. About 85% of the seafood Americans eat comes from outside the country. At some times of the year, 60% of U.S. fresh produce is imported.

Gould noted that the CDC numbers underestimate the true impact of imported food outbreaks. That's because the source of many outbreaks is never discovered, and because not all illnesses get reported.

"We need better -- and more -- information about what foods are causing outbreaks and where those foods are coming from," Gould said. "Knowing more about what is making people sick will help focus prevention efforts on those foods that pose a higher risk of causing illness."

日期:2012年3月15日 - 来自[Health News]栏目

Genetic Makeup of Tumors More Complex Than Thought

March 8, 2012 -- A small study that shows a surprising complexity of genetic changes within a single tumor has far-reaching implications for the march toward personalized cancer therapy, according to researchers.

A single biopsy from a tumor might not be sufficient to give a full picture of its genetic landscape, a team from the United Kingdom reports.

When the researchers examined 10 biopsies taken from a single kidney cancer tumor, they found "an extraordinary amount of diversity" in the genetic changes that had taken place in different parts of the tumor.

"There were more differences between biopsies from the same tumor at the genetic level than there were similarities," said researcher Charles Swanton, MD, PhD, from the Cancer Research UK, London Institute, and the University College London, United Kingdom.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were highlighted at a London news conference organized by Cancer Research UK, which funded the study.

The team also found differences in genetic changes between the primary tumor and places in the body where the cancer spread. Similar findings have been documented by other research groups.?

But it is the extent of the genetic changes that is surprising, the researchers note.

Far-Reaching Implications

The findings have far-reaching implications for the efforts currently being directed toward personalized cancer therapy, in which therapy is targeted at genetic changes identified in tumor tissue. Swanton cautioned that "if you take only one biopsy, you could be misled clinically."

"I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but the whole situation is far more complex than we could have imagined," he said.

"The simple view of directing therapy on the basis of genetic tumor markers is probably too simple," agrees Dan Longo, MD, deputy editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial.

"A whole new world has been anticipated in which patients will undergo a needle biopsy of a tumor in an outpatient clinic, and a little while later, an active treatment will be devised for each patient on the basis of the distinctive genetic characteristics of the tumor," Longo writes.

However, a serious flaw in this imagined future of cancer treatment is the underestimation of genetic diversity within a tumor, he notes.

日期:2012年3月9日 - 来自[Health News]栏目
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