Health Highlights: May 5, 2014

By on May 5, 2014

Health Highlights: May 5, 2014

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

Baby Gate-Related Injuries on the Rise: Study

Nearly 2,000 children aged 6 years and younger are treated each year in U.S. hospital emergency departments for injuries suffered after falling through or climbing on baby gates, a new study says.

It also found that the number of baby gate-related injuries rose from about 4 per 100,000 children in 1990 to nearly 13 per 100,000 in 2010, the Associated Press reported.

Most of the injuries were not serious, according to the study published online Monday in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

The researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said their findings show that parents need to take precautions when using baby gates. For example, they should use bolted gates, not pressure-mounted ones, at the top of the stairs, the AP reported.


E-Cigarettes Can Produce Cancer-Causing Chemicals: Studies

Some types of electronic cigarettes can produce cancer-causing chemicals, according to new research.

One study found that high-power e-cigarettes known as tank systems produce a known carcinogen called formaldehyde. The investigators said the chemical is formed when liquid nicotine and other e-cigarette ingredients are subjected to high temperatures, The New York Times reported.

The study will be published this month in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Similar findings are reported in another study being prepared for submission to the same journal, according to The Times.

E-cigarettes are widely promoted as being much safer than conventional cigarettes.


Polio Outbreaks Require International Response: WHO

Polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East pose a threat to global public health and require a coordinated international response, according to the World Health Organization.

There is particular concern over the fact that polio is reappearing in countries that were previously free of the disease. This includes Syria, Somalia and Iraq, where civil war or strife hinders efforts to contain the disease, the Associated Press reported.

The rapid spread of polio occurring in some parts of the world could reverse the nearly three-decade effort to eliminate the disease, some experts warn.

The polio virus is typically spread through infected water. The disease usually affects children younger than age five. While there is no specific treatment or cure, there are vaccines against the disease, the AP reported.


Destruction of Last Known Smallpox Samples to be Discussed at Meeting

Health officials from around the world will meet later this month to discuss whether the last known stockpiles of smallpox virus should be destroyed.

Vials of the deadly virus are stored in one lab in the United States and another lab in Russia. Those samples are being used for research to create drugs and safer vaccines against smallpox, the Associated Press reported.

Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. However, there are concerns that it could become a threat again due to a lab accident, a terrorist attack, or remaining unknown stockpiles of the virus, which kills about one-third of those it infects.

While member nations of the World Health Organization long ago decided that eventually the last smallpox samples should be destroyed, that action has been repeatedly postponed by the World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization’s decision-making body, the AP reported.

Researchers have made important advances in vaccines and antiviral treatments for smallpox, but more needs to be done to improve protection against the virus, according to an article written by Dr. Inger Damon, poxvirus chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and two other experts.

The paper was published last week in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

A potential new threat was noted at a recent WHO meeting. Advances in synthetic biology may make it possible to develop a new form of smallpox.

“The synthetic biology adds a new wrinkle to it,” Jimmy Kolker, U.S. Health and Human Services assistant secretary for global affairs, told the AP. “We now aren’t as sure that our countermeasures are going to be as effective as we’d thought even five years ago.”

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