Health Highlights: May 20, 2007

The lowest life expectancy for both males and females is in Africa, the A.P. reports. Males in Sierra Leone, on the continent's west coast, have an average lifespan of only 37, which is the same for females in Swaziland, in the southern part of Africa.

The United States is on the high side in average lifespan, the A.P. reports, although not a leader in either category. U.S. males reach an average age of 75 and women can be expected to live to be 80.

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Son Gets Near-Fatal Infection from Father's Smallpox Vaccination

In some rare cases, getting a smallpox vaccination can cause serious consequences.

The New York Times reports the case of a 2-year-old boy who nearly died and spent almost two months in the hospital after suffering from a viral infection attributable to the smallpox vaccination his father, who was in the military, received before leaving for Iraq.

The incident occurred in March, the Times reports and occurred probably because the boy's constant exposure to his father before he left caused a condition known as eczema vaccinatum to incubate and become active.

A government investigation into the incident found that the father had suffered from the skin condition eczema as a child and should never have been given a smallpox shot, the newspaper said. Military procedures require health officials to take a full medical history of a soldier before administering vaccinations.

The son, too, suffered from eczema, and contact with his father caused him to contract eczema vaccinatum, which resulted in kidney failure and the loss of most of his skin, according to the Times. He spent seven weeks in the hospital, the newspaper reports.

Even though smallpox has officially been declared eradicated, U.S. military personnel and certain health workers get the vaccine, the Times reported. About 1.2 million vaccines were given to Americans last year, the newspaper said.

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Pill That Would End Periods to Get FDA Blessing

A birth control pill that would eliminate periods completely for women is expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Lybrel, which is made by Wyeth, would be the fourth oral contraceptive that doesn't mirror a woman's monthly menstrual cycle. Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, limits menstrual periods to four a year, the AP reported.

Almost 50 percent of women surveyed have indicated a desire to eliminate monthly periods, and most would rather have periods less often, the wire service said.

I think it's the beginning of it being very common," Dr. Leslie Miller, a University of Washington-Seattle obstetrician/gynecologist told the AP. "Lybrel says, 'You don't need a period.'"

Lybrel should hit the U.S. market in July, and analysts have predicted that sales could reach $40 million this year and $235 million by 2010, the AP reported.

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Boiling 'Cabbage Family' Veggies Cuts Anti-Cancer Properties

Boiling broccoli and related kinds of vegetables -- including cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts -- reduces their anti-cancer properties, according to a U.K. study in the journal Food Chemistry and Toxicology.

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