Health Highlights: Dec. 26, 2007

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

N.J. Approves HIV Testing for Pregnant Women, Some Newborns

HIV testing will become part of routine prenatal care for pregnant women in New Jersey under a law signed Wednesday by acting Gov. Richard Codey, the Associated Press reported. The measure also requires a newborn to be tested if the mother tests positive for the AIDS-causing virus or if her HIV status isn't known.

The law, which takes effect in six months, does allow a woman to opt out of the testing if she chooses. The measure was signed by Codey, who is acting governor while Gov. Jon Corzine is out of the country for the holidays. Codey sponsored the measure as president of the state Senate.

    • N.J. Approves HIV Testing for Pregnant Women, Some Newborns
    • Medication Pumps Recalled
    • 'Fertility Diet' Book Causes Controversy
    • Russian Farm Culls 600,000 Chickens to Block Bird Flu
    • Survey Finds Parents Don't Admit Kids Are Fat

"We can significantly reduce the number of infections to newborns and help break down the stigma associated with the disease," Codey said. "For newborns, early detection can be the ultimate lifesaving measure."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended voluntary HIV testing for all pregnant women, the AP said. This and other medical interventions during pregnancy can lower mother-to-child HIV transmission from 25 percent to 2 percent, the CDC said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some women's groups have contended that even though the testing is voluntary, the law deprives women of "the authority to make medical decisions," the AP reported.


Medication Pumps Recalled

Cardinal Health is recalling an unspecified number of infusion pumps that are used to dispense medication because a manufacturing error could lead to overinfusion of medication, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

Affected Alaris Pump model 8100 modules were shipped prior to Sept. 27, 2007. They may contain misassembled occluder springs, which could work intermittently and give no warning of overinfusion, the agency said. Overinfusion of medication could "result in serious adverse health consequences or death," the FDA said in a statement.

The recalled pumps were distributed to 46 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Saudi Arabia.

Anyone with questions about the recall may contact Cardinal Health customer service at 800-625-6627.


'Fertility Diet' Book Causes Controversy

Harvard School of Public Health researchers may be feeling the heat from a controversial new book that suggests a link between diet and human fertility, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

While "The Fertility Diet" doesn't make a direct claim that the new Harvard plan is a cure for infertility, the book's title, media hype and public statements by its authors make a case for a strong insinuation, the newspaper reported.

The authors studied more than 17,000 women who recorded their dietary habits and their attempts to become pregnant. The researchers concluded that women had a lower risk of infertility caused by the lack of a viable monthly egg if their diets included monosaturated fats (i.e., olive oil instead of trans fat); vegetable proteins (in beans and nuts, rather than animal fats); whole grains instead of carbohydrates that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar; some whole milk products (ice cream in moderation); multivitamins containing folic acid; and iron (from foods and supplements), the newspaper said.

The newspaper reported that the book seems to go beyond establishing a statistical correlation between diet and fertility. "We have discovered 10 simple changes that offer a powerful boost in fertility for women with ovulation-related infertility," the Globe quoted the book's authors as saying.

And in a Dec. 10 interview with Newsweek, the authors said their diet plan was aimed at preventing and "reversing" infertility, the newspaper reported.

Critics of the book worry that some women could blame themselves if they did not get pregnant, or worse -- fail to see a doctor for needed medical guidance.

"This book is blatantly irresponsible," the Globe quoted Dr. Gil Wilshire, a reproductive endocrinologist at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Mo., as saying. "I will be having women who wasted one, two, three years of their lives with imprecise, ineffective treatment. Those are precious years you can't get back."


Russian Farm Culls 600,000 Chickens to Block Bird Flu

Authorities at a farm in southern Russia have destroyed an estimated 600,000 chickens, hoping to prevent the H5N1 strain of bird flu from spreading, the Canadian Press reported Wednesday.

The massive cull occurred in the Rostov-on-Don region. Birds sickened from the deadly virus also have been reported in the neighboring Tselinsky district and Krasnodar region, the CP reported.

While no human cases of bird flu have been reported in Russia, the H5N1 strain has been confirmed among fowl in several other regions since 2005.

Global health authorities say avian flu is still difficult to transmit between fowl and people, but they have long feared that the virus could mutate and pose a significant threat of a human flu pandemic.


Survey Finds Parents Don't Admit Kids Are Fat

Despite ongoing reports of the global obesity epidemic, many American parents whose children are obese do not see it, a new survey finds.

The survey of 2,060 adults, conducted by Internet research firm Knowledge Networks, collected height and weight measurements on the children from their parents, then used that to calculate body mass index. When a child's BMI was higher than the 95th percentile for children who are the same age and gender, the child was considered obese.

Among parents with an obese, or extremely overweight, child between 6 and 11 years old, 43 percent said their child was "about the right weight," 37 percent said their child was "slightly overweight," and 13 percent said "very overweight." Others said "slightly underweight."

For those with an obese teen between 12 and 17 years old, the survey found more awareness of weight as a problem. Fifty-six percent said their child was "slightly overweight," 31 percent responded "very overweight," 11 percent said "about the right weight," and others said "slightly underweight."

The findings "suggests to me that parents of younger kids believe that their children will grow out of their obesity, or something will change at older ages," said Dr. Matthew M. Davis, a University of Michigan professor of pediatrics and internal medicine who led the recently released study, the Associated Press reported.

Parental denial about their kids' weight is worrisome, experts say, because obese children run the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems and other ailments more commonly found in adults.

U.S. government statistics estimate that 9 million adolescents (17 percent of the population) are overweight and 80 percent of overweight adolescents grow up to be obese adults. Childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1970.

Dr. Reginald Washington, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the AP that in about half the cases where a child is obese, at least one of the parents is overweight also.