Health Highlights: May 3, 2008

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

Deadly Children's Virus in China Shows Signs of Spreading

A virus that has killed 22 children in one city alone and spread to thousands of China's youngest residents has prompted that country's health ministry to issue a nationwide alert calling for increased efforts to keep the disease from spreading, the Associated Press reports.

The city of Fuyang in central China was described by health officials as having a "relatively large" outbreak of Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), a type of hand, foot and mouth disease, the wire service reported. In addition to the 22 deaths, 3,321 cases of the virus had been reported as of last Thursday, and almost 1,000 people remained hospitalized, the A.P. said.

WHAT TO KNOW
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There are signs the disease is spreading, according to the wire service, with at least one other death attributed to EV-71 in another province. The disease strikes children, usually under age 10, and while affecting the feet and mouth, is not related to foot and mouth disease found in animals.

Symptoms include fever, mouth sores and rash. EV-71 is spread by direct contact with discharges from the nose and throat.

Keeping in mind the expected large influx of people from other countries for the 2008 Olympics in August, the Chinese government said preventing the spread of EV-71 was necessary "to guarantee the smooth staging of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics and to practically preserve social stability," the A.P. reported.

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Medical Society to Review Lyme Disease Antibiotic Treatment Guidelines

It took the Connecticut attorney general's office to negotiate an agreement, but a national professional medical group has agreed to review guidelines that currently regard long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease to be untested, uncertain and probably unnecessary.

The reason this is important, the Associated Press reports, is that most health insurers will pay only for short-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, ironically named after Lyme, Conn., where it was first identified in 1975.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America has agreed to review its guidelines after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office conducted an antitrust investigation that found some of the 14 experts who approved the 2006 guidelines for short-term only antibiotic treatment were paid as consultants or had stock in drug companies associated with Lyme disease treatment, the wire service reported.

The professional society agreed to review its Lyme disease guidelines, its president told the A.P., because doctors would comprise the review panel. "We are confident that our guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease represent the best advice that medicine currently has to offer ... and we look forward to the opportunity to put to rest any questions about them," Dr. Donald Poretz, told the wire service.

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