Health Highlights: July 6, 2010

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

Task Force Issues New Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines

Younger postmenopausal women should undergo routine screening for osteoporosis because they're as likely to suffer a bone fracture as older women, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends.

But the new draft guidelines released Monday said there isn't enough evidence for or against recommending routine screening for men, the Associated Press reported.

"The majority of the evidence supports screening and treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women," said the task force document. "The evidence for primary prevention in men is lacking and future research is needed."

The draft guidelines were created to update the task force's 2002 guidelines, which recommend that all women over 65, and those ages 60 to 64 at risk for fractures, should undergo a bone density test, the AP reported.

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New Technology May Enable Blind People to Drive

A prototype vehicle equipped with technology that enables a blind person to drive a car is scheduled to be demonstrated next year by U.S. researchers.

The system utilizes sensors that provide information to a blind driver about what's around the vehicle, such as whether another car or object is in front of the vehicle or in an adjacent lane, the Associated Press reported.

The planned demonstration of the technology -- announced Friday by the National Federation of the Blind and Virginia Tech -- will involve a blind person driving a vehicle on a course that simulates a typical driving experience.

"We're exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, the AP reported. "We're moving away from the theory that blindness ends the capacity of human beings to make contributions to society."

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West Nile Cases Lower in 2009

The West Nile virus season in 2009 was the mildest in eight years, and that trend appears to be continuing this year, say U.S. health officials.

Last year saw 386 cases of severe West Nile illness and 33 deaths, compared to 3,000 illnesses and more than 260 deaths in 2002 and 2003. So far this year just one serious West Nile illness has been reported in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

The decline in the number of cases may be because birds are developing immunity to the virus, which is spread to humans by mosquitoes that bite infected birds.

Severe symptoms of infection with West Nile virus, first documented in the United States in 1999, include neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis, the AP reported.

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