Health Highlights: Oct. 18, 2007

There have been 265 presumptive West Nile viremic donors (PVDs) reported: 46 in California, 37 in Texas, 24 in North Dakota, 21 in South Dakota, 20 in Colorado, 17 in Minnesota, 16 in Oklahoma, 13 in Montana, 12 in Mississippi, 11 in Missouri, seven in Arizona, six in Ohio, five each in Iowa and Utah, four each in Kentucky and New Mexico, three each in Puerto Rico and Wyoming, two each in Indiana and Pennsylvania, and one each in Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Of those reported PVD cases, 52 subsequently developed West Nile fever and two people developed neuroinvasive illness.

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FDA Widens Approval of Meningitis Vaccine for Young Kids

The approved age range for the bacterial meningitis vaccine Menactra has been expanded to include children ages 2 to 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. The vaccine had been approved for people ages 11 to 55.

Previously, a product called Menomune was the only meningitis vaccine approved in the U.S. for use in children ages 2 and older. Both Menactra and Menomune are made by Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and offer protection against four groups of the bacterium that can cause meningitis.

In the United States, about 2,600 people become ill from bacterial meningitis each year. About 10 percent of those patients die and about 15 percent suffer brain damage or limb amputation.

Meningitis vaccine is recommended for children ages 2 to 10 who are at increased risk for developing meningitis including: those who have had their spleen removed or whose spleen is not functioning; those who are traveling to areas outside the U.S. where the disease is common; and those with a condition called terminal complement component deficiency, which makes it difficult to fight infection. Vaccination is also used to control outbreaks of bacterial meningitis.

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Regular Aspirin Use Against Heart Attack May Only Work for Men

An aspirin a day to protect against heart attack may only work for men, say Canadian researchers who reviewed data from 23 international studies involving more than 113,000 people.

The University of British Columbia team found that regular aspirin use reduced heart attack risk by 25 percent in men, but had almost no effect on women, the Toronto Star reported. The findings were published online Wednesday in the journal BMC Medicine.

"For people without risk factors who haven't had heart attacks in the past ... Aspirin in women is not very effective. In fact, it's not effective," said study co-author Dr. Don Sin, an assistant professor of medicine. "Whereas it seems to be quite effective in preventing heart attacks in men."

The disparity between men and women may due to gender-related physiological differences, suggested Dr. Peter Liu, head of circulatory research at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Star reported.

In men, heart attacks are often caused by plaque build-ups that break off an arterial wall and block an important blood vessel. In women, it's believed that plaque wears away at coronary arteries, causing them to spasm shut and trigger a heart attack.

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Britain Facing Obesity Crisis: Report

By 2050, 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women, and 25 percent of children in Britain could be obese unless drastic action is taken, warns a British government report that found little evidence that current anti-obesity policies are effective

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