Health Highlights: Oct. 14, 2009

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

U.N. Agencies Aim to Reduce Diarrhea Death Toll

Each year, diarrhea kills 1.5 million children under the age of 5, even though there are inexpensive and effective treatments available for this common health problem, say UN agencies.

Only about 39 percent of children with diarrhea in developing countries receive the recommended treatment, said Ann Veneman, executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Agence France-Presse reported.

Contaminated water and infections are the main causes of diarrhea, which accounts for close to 18 percent of all deaths among children under 5, according to Olivier Fontaine, the World Health Organization's children's health expert.

    • U.N. Agencies Aim to Reduce Diarrhea Death Toll
    • Coma Patient Gives Birth to Healthy Baby
    • Women Cry More, Longer Than Men
    • Unsafe Abortions Kill 70,000 Women Each Year: Survey
    • More than One Billion People Hungry: U.N.
    • Stents Tested for Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

The two agencies have launched a new campaign to reduce diarrhea's death toll. The seven-point plan to prevent and treat diarrhea includes promotion of hand washing with soap, promotion of early breastfeeding, replacing body fluids to prevent dehydration, and zinc treatment, AFP reported.

Simply washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by more than 40 percent, according to UNICEF.


Coma Patient Gives Birth to Healthy Baby

A healthy baby boy was born to a 40-year-old woman who spent the last 22 weeks of her pregnancy in a coma, say doctors at a clinic in Germany. They described the world-first event as "extraordinary."

Clinic officials said since the 1970s, about 25 cases of brain death or coma in pregnant women have been made public, and they tend to end in miscarriage or deformed babies, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Given the mother's age -- and the completely normal state of the child -- this case is extraordinary in the scientific world and very pleasing," said Matthias Beckmann, of the University Clinic in Erlangen, southern Germany.

The child is now 18 months old. The mother suffered major heart and brain damage after a heart attack. The doctors said there is "almost no hope" for her, AFP reported.


Women Cry More, Longer Than Men

Not only do women cry more often than men, they do it for longer and in more dramatic fashion, according to German experts who analyzed previous studies.

They found that women cry an average of 30 to 64 times a year, while men shed tears six to 17 times, Agence France-Presse reported.

Women tend to cry for about six minutes while men sob for between two and four minutes. Weeping turns into all-out crying for women 65 percent of the time, compared with six percent for males, said the German Society of Ophthalmology.

There are also gender differences in reasons for crying. Men tend to cry from empathy or when a relationship fails, while women cry when they remember past events, feel inadequate, and when they face situations that are difficult to resolve, AFP reported.


Unsafe Abortions Kill 70,000 Women Each Year: Survey

Unsafe abortions kill more than 70,000 women worldwide each year, says a global survey released Tuesday by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute.

"In almost all developed countries, abortion is safe and legal," said institute president Sharon Camp, the Associated Press reported. "But in much of the developing world, abortion remains highly restricted, and unsafe abortion is common and continues to damage women's health and threaten their survival."

The study, which called for further relaxing of abortion laws in developing nations, found that more than half the worldwide deaths (38,000) occur in sub-Saharan Africa, which has the lowest rates of contraception and the highest rates of accidental pregnancies.

The survey also found that increased contraceptive use has resulted in fewer abortions worldwide, the AP reported.


More than One Billion People Hungry: U.N.

More than one billion people -- a sixth of the global population -- are undernourished, says a U.N. report released ahead of World Food Day on Friday.

The annual report on global food security said the number of hungry people had been increasing before the economic crisis, which has made the situation even worse, BBC News reported.

"No nation is immune and, as usual, it is the poorest countries and the poorest people that are suffering the most," said the document from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program.

The largest number of hungry people are in Asia and the Pacific (642 million), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (265 million), BBC News reported.

The number of hungry people in the world is at its highest since 1970.

"The World Food Summit target of reducing the number of undernourished people by half to no more than 420 million by 2015 will not be reached if the trends that prevailed before [the economic crisis] continue," the U.N. said.


Stents Tested for Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

A clinical trial to determine if drug-coated stents can treat erectile dysfunction in men with coronary artery disease will be conducted by Medtronic Inc.

The stents will be implanted in the pelvic arteries of men who haven't benefited from treatment with drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, the Associated Press reported.

The trial is still being designed, but the first procedure has been performed, Medtronic said Tuesday. The study will enroll 50 men and the results are expected in 2011.

Stents are widely used to treat heart disease.