Health Highlights: May 21, 2007

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

Most Nations Have Quelled H5N1 Outbreaks in Birds

Most countries have been able to suppress outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu virus among birds, the director general of the World Organization for Animal Health said in a statement issued Monday.

Bernard Vallat noted that, so far in 2007, countries have reported fewer H5N1-related deaths among wild and migratory birds, which "could indicate the disease is coming closer to the end of a cycle," Agence France-Presse reported.

    • Most Nations Have Quelled H5N1 Outbreaks in Birds
    • Pollution Boosting Cancer Rates in China
    • Magazine Lists Top 10 U.S. Food Trends
    • FDA Delays Approval of New Anemia Drug
    • Scientists 'Add' an Hour to the 24-Hour Day
    • Where Do People Live the Longest?

But he added that poultry outbreaks continue in some countries, which means the international community should maintain rigorous H5N1 prevention and control measures.

Since 2003, H5N1 outbreaks have been reported in 59 countries. Most of these have been successfully eradicated, Vallat noted. However, he said H5N1 remains endemic in at least three countries -- Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, AFP reported.

Preventing the spread of H5N1 among poultry is the best way to keep the dangerous virus from infecting people, Vallat said. So far, the virus has killed 185 people worldwide, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Experts fear a deadly human pandemic if H5N1 mutates into a form that's easily transmitted between people.


Pollution Boosting Cancer Rates in China

Soaring cancer rates in China are being fuelled by pollution and the overuse of chemicals in food production, according to an article in Monday's edition of the China Daily, Agence France-Presse reported.

The article said health ministry survey statistics show that cancer death rates have increased 23 percent in rural areas and by 19 percent in urban areas. No time frame was provided for the survey, conducted in 78 counties and 30 cities, AFP reported.

Cancer has been the leading cause of death in China since 2002.

The China Daily article quoted Chen Zhizhou, a cancer expert at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, as saying: "The main reason behind the rising number of cancer cases is that pollution of the environment, water and air is getting worse by day."

He noted that many "chemical and industrial enterprises are built along rivers so they can dump waste into water easily ... the contaminated water has directly affected soil, crops and food."

The paper also quoted Zhizhou as saying that underground water is being polluted by excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, and farmers are using additives to make crops, poultry and pigs grow faster, AFP said.


Magazine Lists Top 10 U.S. Food Trends

More Americans are cooking and eating meals at home, and locally produced foods are becoming more popular, according to a list of 2007's top 10 food trends in the current issue of Food Technology magazine.

Among the trends:

  • Economic pressures are among the factors pushing Americans to prepare and eat more meals at home.
  • Word-of-mouth is a key factor in the success of new food products and celebrity chefs are encouraging more adventuresome cooking.
  • Reducing the number of steps in food preparation is a major way to increase sales of food products.
  • Texture, crispness and crunch are important.
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