Health Highlights: June 3, 2010

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

Swine Flu Still a Pandemic: WHO

The H1N1 swine flu is still a pandemic, even though the most intense period of activity appears to be over, Margaret Chan, World Health Organization Director-General, said Thursday.

She said a decision on whether to declare the H1N1 pandemic over will be re-visited in mid-July, the Associated Press reported.

The current alert level for H1N1 swine flu is phase 6, which is the highest. But if circulation of the virus continues to decline, the alert level could be downgraded to the "post-peak" or "post-pandemic" stage.

WHO last week reported 18,114 confirmed deaths from H1N1 swine flu worldwide since the outbreak begin in April 2009, the AP reported.

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Companies Pledge to Limit Lead in Handbags

As part of a $1.7 million legal settlement, more than 40 major retailers and apparel makers say they'll limit the use of lead in handbags and other fashion accessories, says a California-based environmental group.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed against the companies last year by the Center for Environmental Health, which found high levels of lead in dozens of women's handbags, purses and wallets sold at major retail outlets in the San Francisco Bay area, the Associated Press reported.

Retailers that signed the agreement include Guess, Sears, Macy's, Target, Kohl's, JC Penney, Saks, Kmart and Victoria's Secret. The settlement will be distributed to California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the Center for Environmental Health, which will use the funds to pay for legal expenses, monitor companies' compliance with the agreement, and pay for environmental protection work.

With the settlement, "millions of women no longer need to fear that their purse may pose a threat to their health or the health of their children," said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health, the AP reported.

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Injuries From Groin-Punching 'Game' Increase

U.S. doctors say they're seeing an increase in the number of pre-teen and teen boys needing treatment for testicular trauma caused by so-called sack tapping, a "game" in which victims are slapped or punched in the groin.

In some cases, victims suffer serious damage that requires surgery, according to MSNBC.com, which polled 100 urologists.

"There definitely has been a rise in the number of cases," said American Urological Association spokesman Anthony Atala, a pediatric urologist and department chairman at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"This is, in fact, a form of bullying," Atala told MSNBC. "Someone may do that without realizing the consequences of their actions."

Blunt force trauma to the testicles can cause bruises, blood clots and testicular torsion (in which the organ twists up to 360 degrees), or even testicular rupture.

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Midnight Snacks Harm Teeth: Study

Midnight snacks pose a serious threat to your teeth, according to a new study.

Danish researchers analyzed the medical records of 2,217 people and found that those who snacked in the middle of the night were more likely to suffer tooth loss over a period of six years, no matter what type of food they ate during their nocturnal nibbling, BBC News reported.

The flow of saliva -- which is needed to remove food debris from the mouth -- tends to dry up at night, explained the University of Copenhagen researchers.

Dentists need to make patients aware of the risks of midnight snacks, said Dr. Jennifer Lundgren and colleagues, BBC News reported.

The study is published in the journal Eating Behaviors.

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