Health Highlights: Sept. 8, 2011

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

Report Higlights Flu Dangers in Pregnancy

Pregnant women stricken with severe H1N1 influenza in 2009 were less likely to die when treated promptly with antiviral medications, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds.

The report underscores the need for moms-to-be to get the seasonal flu vaccine and to seek medical care early if flu symptoms arise during pregnancy, researchers said in the Sept. 8 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

Studying the effect of severe "swine flu" on pregnant/postpartum women who became ill between April 15, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2009, the researchers found that of 347 women admitted to the intensive care unit, 84 died. Those who died were more likely to have had delayed treatment or have had underlying health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or obesity.

Compared to infants in the general population, babies born during their mom's hospitalization for the pandemic flu were more often preterm and of lower birthweight. Babies delivered later were more likely to be small for their gestational age and also of lower birthweight, the researchers found.

"The potential impact of severe influenza during pregnancy on mother and infant/fetus emphasizes the importance of influenza vaccination of pregnant women, regardless of pregnancy trimester, and the importance of prompt, empiric treatment with appropriate antiviral medications for pregnant women with suspected or confirmed influenza," the researchers said in the report.


CDC Gauges Timing of RSV to Help Protect Infants

U.S. researchers trying to gauge the peak period for catching respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) -- the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis among infants -- say last season the virus mainly circulated from November 2010 to April 2011, although in some regions circulation started and ended slightly later.

Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts use this information to guide timing of monthly vaccinations for children with congenital heart or lung disease or other high-risk conditions. It's recommended that these youngsters receive monthly injections of palivizumab, an anti-RSV antibody.

"In the United States, the season generally begins during the fall and continues through the winter and spring months; however, the exact timing of RSV circulation can vary by location and year," the CDC researchers said in the Sept. 8 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the CDC.

To document RSV trends, a network of laboratories known as the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) tracks the percentage of RSV antigen tests that are positive each week.


Mental Disorders Afflict Many Europeans, Study Finds

More than one-third of the European population has a mental illness or neurological disorder, such as attention deficit disorder, depression or dementia, and many don't get needed treatment, a new study says.

Researchers funded by the non-profit European College of Neuropsychopharmacology determined that 165 million people in the European Union plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland suffer from one of 90 different psychological or neurological problems explored, the Associated Press reported.

Depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia, alcohol or drug abuse and dementia were most commonly reported, and only one-third of the men, women and children studied receives treatment, according to the study presented in Paris Tuesday and published in European Neuropsychopharmacology. Not all the conditions need treatment, but services are limited and discrimination against the mentally ill persists, experts told the AP.

"Mental health disorders are Europe's largest health-care challenge in the 21st century,"Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, a study co-author, told the news service. The study numbers came from a review of previous mental health surveys and other criteria.

Health experts estimate that 26% of U.S. residents have a mental condition, although comparisons are difficult to make because definitions vary, the AP said.


Puberty Timing, Progression Affect Behavior and Mood: Study

The timing and progression of puberty affect youngsters' behavior and mood, say researchers who tracked 364 white boys and 373 white girls for six years through puberty.

In girls, both an early start and a faster progression of puberty were associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and vague physical complaints. Faster progression was also linked to behavioral problems such as lying and cheating, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Faster progression of puberty in boys was associated with more behavioral problems, which were most evident in boys who also started puberty earlier than their peers.

"The thought is that when the major changes of puberty are compressed into a shorter amount of time, adolescents don't have enough time to acclimate, so they're not emotionally or socially ready for all the changes that happen," lead author Kristine Marceau, of Penn State, said in a news release, the Times reported. "This is the explanation that originally was attributed solely to early timing, but we suggest that the same thing also is happening if the rate of puberty is compressed."


What percentage of the human body is water? See Answer

The study appears in the September issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.


FDA, Drug Makers Reach Drug Review Fee Deal

Under a proposed new deal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will provide quicker, more predictable reviews of new prescription drugs in exchange for continuing to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from drug companies.

The draft agreement, released Thursday after months of closed-door meetings between FDA and drug makers, would extend a two decade-old program in which fees paid by the drug industry supplement the FDA's budget, the Associated Press reported.

Under the deal, the FDA would provide more frequent updates to drug makers on the status of certain drug reviews.

The agreement must be approved and drafted into law by Congress before Oct. 1, 2012, the AP reported.

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