Friday, January 23, 2009

Health Headlines - January 23

Kentucky Has Highest Smoking Death Rate: CDC Report

Kentucky has the country's highest death rates from smoking, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released this week.

Smoking death rates were tallied using death certificate data from 2000 through 2004, focusing on lung cancer and 18 other diseases caused by cigarette smoking, according to the report, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Associated Press said Thursday.

West Virginia and Nevada ranked second and third among U.S. states with the highest smoking mortality rates, with Utah and Hawaii showing the lowest smoking death rates.

Kentucky had about 371 deaths out of every 100,000 adults age 35 and older, almost one-and-a-half times higher than the national median of 263 per 100,000, and almost three times the rate for Utah, which was 138 per 100,000.

Smoking deaths among males were higher than among females, the report said, but smoking rates dropped for men in 49 states since the late 1990s, while they declined for women in only 32 states.

Terry Pechacek, a CDC senior scientist for tobacco-related issues, told AP that smoking, especially when combined with obesity and another risk factors for heart disease, "is like gasoline on the fire." Kentucky and West Virginia also had the highest smoking rates in 2004 as well, according to the CDC report.

Short-Term Hormone Therapy Safe: Canadian Experts

Women have been needlessly scared away from using hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says.

The society, which is changing its advice about the use of HRT, says evidence shows that fears about short-term use of HRT drugs were unfounded, theCanadian Press reported. The drugs are a viable and safe option for women experiencing troublesome menopause symptoms, according to a panel of experts that developed the revised guidelines for the society.

However, the experts recommended that the use of HRT drugs should start early in menopause and only be used short term.

In 2002, a large U.S. study found that the use of HRT drugs increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. But that study incorrectly concluded that the increased risk seen in older women applied to all women who use the drugs, said the Canadian expert panel, the CP reported.

Death Sentences Handed Out in Chinese Milk Scandal

Three people have been sentenced to death by a Chinese court for their role in the tainted milk scandal that sickened about 300,000 children and killed at least six.

Another person was sentenced to life in prison and three more were given prison terms of five to 15 years for their role in making and selling dairy products that contained the toxic chemical melamine, The New York Times reported.

The harsh sentences given to dairy company executives and middlemen are part of the Chinese government's efforts to manage a scandal that resulted in a global recall of Chinese dairy products and seriously damaged the country's dairy industry.

But the stiff penalties handed out Thursday won't satisfy some lawyers and parents of children who were sickened by tainted dairy products. They believe government officials who failed to properly regulate the nation's dairy industry should be held accountable, the Times reported.

Zimbabwe's Cholera Death Toll Rises 20 Percent in One Week

The number of people who've died in Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic increased 20 percent during the last week, from 2,200 to more than 2,700, the World Health Organization sayd.

Nearly 50,000 people have been infected with the preventable disease and the start of the rainy season could lead to a sharp increase in cases as water sources become contaminated, BBC News reported.

The WHO says all 10 of Zimbabwe's provinces have reported cases of cholera and the aid agency World Vision says new outbreaks are occurring in rural areas.

"Rapid deterioration of Zimbabwe's health system, lack of adequate water supply and lack of capacity to dispose of solid waste and repair sewer blockages have all been the main drivers of the current spread of cholera," World Vision said in a statement, BBC News reported.

Cholera has also spread to neighboring South Africa.

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