Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 201302/20/13
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New Leprosy Test Quick and Inexpensive
A quick and inexpensive new test for leprosy can detect
infections as much as a year before symptoms appear, researchers
This improves the chances that patients can be diagnosed and
treated before they become permanently disabled or disfigured,
The New York Timesreported.
The test, which will cost $1 or less, provides results in less
than 10 minutes and is far simpler than the current method of
diagnosing leprosy, which involves cutting open nodules and looking
for bacteria under a microscope.
"It works like a pregnancy test and requires just one drop of blood," Malcolm Duthie, who led the test's development at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, told The Times. "I can teach anyone to use it."
Each year, about 250,000 people worldwide get leprosy. It's most
common in Brazil, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Between 150 to 250 cases of leprosy
are diagnosed in the United States each year, mostly in
Prescription Painkillers Behind Many Overdose Deaths: Report
Prescription opioid painkillers are responsible for almost three
of every four medication overdose deaths, a new government report
The troubling statistic, published Tuesday in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on
data gathered by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Although the results reflect overdose
deaths that occurred in 2010, the findings come at a time when
federal health officials are weighing ways to stem the abuse of
these powerful prescription medications.
"The big picture is that this is a big problem that has gotten much worse quickly," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told the Associated PressTuesday.
The actual number of overdose deaths also continued to rise. In
2010, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide. Nearly 60
percent of all overdose deaths were linked to accidental overdoses
of various prescription medications, the report found.
Opioid painkillers -- which include OxyContin and Vicodin --
were the biggest problem, contributing to 75 percent of medication
Another type of medication that fueled the trend was
anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, contributing to almost 30
percent of overdose deaths.
A government panel of drug safety experts recommended that
Vicodin and dozens of other medicines be subjected to the same
restrictions as other narcotics such as oxycodone and morphine. At
the same time, hospitals have been establishing tougher
restrictions on painkiller prescriptions and refills, the
U.K. Hospital Patient With SARS-Like Coronavirus Dies
A patient infected with a SARS-like coronavirus has died,
according to officials at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham,
The hospital said the patient was also being treated for "a
long-term, complex and unrelated health problem" and already had a
weakened immune system, the
Twelve people worldwide have been diagnosed with the SARS-like
coronavirus and six of them have died. Most people infected with
the virus -- first identified last year in the Middle East -- had
traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan.
However, it's believed that the latest victim caught the virus
from a relative in Britain, where there have been four confirmed
A SARS outbreak in 2003 killed about 800 people worldwide.
Drug Companies Helping Anti-Doping Agency
A number of drug companies are helping the World Anti-Doping
Agency (WADA) develop tests to detect illegal use of their products
Two large firms -- Roche and GlaxoSmithKline -- have started
evaluating every new drug candidate for its potential to be abused
by athletes and have promised to share information about these
medicines with WADA,
The New York Timesreported.
Several other smaller drug makers have provided WADA with
information about specific drugs.
Until recently, drug makers paid little attention to how their
products could be abused by athletes, according to David Howman,
director general of WADA. Previously, drug companies "felt that any
publicity in relation to anti-doping control would be negative," he
The Times. "But what they discovered is the opposite
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