Health Highlights: March 27, 2009

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

Transit Users More Likely to Meet Exercise Guidelines: Study

Transit users are three times more likely to achieve fitness guidelines than those who don't use transit, say Canadian researchers who interviewed 18,326 people in Atlanta, Ga., who kept diaries of their modes of travel over two consecutive days.

The study used the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada's suggested daily minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week, CBC News reported.

    • Transit Users More Likely to Meet Exercise Guidelines: Study
    • VA Says 10 Patients Test Positive for Hepatitis
    • China Reports More Cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
    • Hot Tea May Increase Throat Cancer Risk: Study

The more people in the study used their cars, they less likely they were to meet the minimum activity guideline, said the University of British Columbia study.

"The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception," associate professor Lawrence Frank, who teaches community and regional planning, said in a news release, CBC News reported.

"These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity," he noted. "Unfortunately, we've engineered this activity out of our daily lives."

The study was published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.


VA Says 10 Patients Test Positive for Hepatitis

Ten people have tested positive for hepatitis after they were exposed to contaminated colonoscopy equipment, the U.S. Veterans Affairs department said Friday.

The 10 are among thousands of patients told to get blood tests after having colonoscopies at VA facilities in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Miami and Augusta, Ga. The equipment at those facilities wasn't properly sterilized between procedures, the Associated Press reported.

Four patients have tested positive for hepatitis B, and six have tested positive for hepatitis C, which can cause permanent liver damage and is potentially life-threatening.

The patients will receive treatment from the VA even though it hasn't been confirmed that their infections were the result of the unclean colonoscopy equipment, said VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts, the AP reported.


China Reports More Cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

So far this year, 41,000 people in China have been sickened by hand, foot and mouth disease, and 18 children have died, Chinese health officials said Friday.

Based on previously release data, about twice as many people have been infected so far this year compared with the same time period last year, the Associated Press reported.

May through July is the normal peak season for the spread of the disease, so this early spike suggests this year's toll will be higher than average, said Li Xinwang, a doctor at Beijing's Ditan Hospital.

He suggested the high number of cases so far this year may be due to "dramatic temperature fluctuations" which helped spread the virus, especially in rural areas where sanitation and health care are substandard, the AP reported.

Hand, foot and mouth disease typically strikes infants and children. It can be deadly, but most cases are mild, and children recover quickly after suffering little more than a fever and rash.


Hot Tea May Increase Throat Cancer Risk: Study

Drinking hot tea may increase the risk of throat cancer, according to Iranian researchers.

They studied people in Golestan province, which has one of the highest rates of esophageal cancer in the world. Tea consumption in the province averages 1.8 pints per person per day, but there are low levels of tobacco and alcohol use, Agence France Presse reported.

The study of 300 throat cancer patients and 571 healthy people found that those who drank hot tea (65-69 degrees Celsius, 149-156 degrees Fahrenheit) were twice as likely to develop throat cancer as those who drank warm or lukewarm tea. Those who drank very hot tea (at least 70 C, 158 F) were eight times more likely to develop throat cancer than those who drank warm or lukewarm tea.

The findings were published Friday in the BMJ.

The team from the Digestive Disease Research Center at Tehran University of Medical Sciences found no association between the amount of tea consumption and cancer risk. The study didn't look at coffee or other hot beverages, AFP reported.

In an accompanying editorial, David Whiteman from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Australia, said the study contributes to evidence that scorching fluids may cause damage to the throat's epithelial lining and lead to cancer. How this may occur remains unclear.

But the editorial also said there's no reason for panic, because most people drink tea at a warm temperature. It recommended tea drinkers wait at least four minutes before drinking from a freshly boiled cup, AFP reported.