Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The U.S. government said this week that emergency room trips linked with energy drinks doubled in the last 4 years. People came to hospitals with symptoms such as irregular heartbeat and anxiety. New research published this week showed that flu shots during pregnancy can cut baby deaths in half. The study looked at pregnancies during the "swine flu" pandemic in 2009 and 2010. A New York state law signed this week drew criticism from mental health professionals. They said the law, which requires them to report patients who may become dangerous, could discourage people from seeking care.
This Issue: ER Trips Linked to Energy Drinks Double Flu Shots during Pregnancy Reduce Baby Deaths Mental Health Experts Blast NY Reporting Law
In the News:
ER Trips Linked to Energy Drinks Double
Emergency room visits after people consumed energy drinks doubled in the last 4 years, a U.S. government report says. The report estimated that there were about 10,000 visits in 2007 and 20,000 in 2011. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released the report. The Associated Press (AP) wrote about it this week. Most of the patients were teens or young adults. In 2011, about 42% also had consumed other substances. The most common ones included alcohol or other drugs, such as stimulants. People sought medical care because of symptoms such as irregular or fast heartbeat, chest pain and anxiety. Emergency room doctors told AP that people often don't realize how strong energy drinks can be. The Food and Drug Administration is gathering more information now. A thorough safety review of energy drinks is planned for this spring.
Flu Shots during Pregnancy Reduce Baby Deaths
Babies born during the "swine flu" pandemic were only half as likely to die if their mothers got flu shots while pregnant, a study shows. The study focused on pregnancies in Norway in 2009 and 2010. Those were the years when the new flu strain, formally known as H1N1, swept the world. Pregnant women were advised to get vaccinated against the new strain in their second or third trimester. Before 2009, flu shots weren't recommended for pregnant women in Norway. The study looked at 113,000 pregnancies. In all, 492 of the babies died. Death rates were twice as high for babies whose mothers had not been vaccinated. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Mental Health Experts Blast NY Reporting Law
Mental health experts expressed worry this week that a new gun control law may lead dangerous people to avoid treatment. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the package of gun control and mental health laws this week. Mental health professionals will be required to report to the state any patients they believe are likely to harm themselves or others. The rule covers doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers. People interviewed by the Associated Press said this could deter patients from revealing thoughts of harm to a therapist. Or they might avoid treatment entirely. Without treatment, they may be more likely to act on harmful impulses, therapists said. The old law also required that steps be taken to protect people from a dangerous patient. But this could take several forms. The person could be committed to a mental hospital, or the therapist could work with the person's family to reduce the threat. There's no penalty in the new law for failure to report dangerous patients. So one therapist predicted that many mental health professionals will not change how they proceed now.
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