Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The leading U.S. group of children's doctors said this week that circumcision of baby boys has more benefits than risks. The new policy statement comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics. A study published this week suggests that heavy pot use in the teen years may affect IQ. The long-term study found a drop of 8 IQ points for people who said in surveys that they were dependent on marijuana. U.S. health officials said this week that reported cases of West Nile illness had jumped about 40% since last week. They now total 1,590, with 66 deaths. Yosemite National Park has warned some recent visitors about possible exposure to a virus carried by wild deer mice. Six people who stayed in the park were diagnosed with hantavirus. Two of them died. Yosemite sent e-mails or letters this week to 2,700 people who had stayed in the cabins this summer.
This Issue: Doctor Group Lists Benefits of Circumcision Study: Heavy Teen Pot Use May Reduce IQ CDC: West Nile Cases Jump 40% in a Week Yosemite Warns Travelers about Deadly Hantavirus
In the News:
Doctor Group Lists Benefits of Circumcision
The benefits of circumcising baby boys outweigh the small risks, the largest group of U.S. children's doctors says. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published the new policy statement this week in its journal, Pediatrics. The statement does not urge circumcision for all newborn boys. It says the decision is up to parents and doctors. The old statement said risks and benefits were equal. The new one cites recent evidence that circumcision reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. It also reduces the risk of urinary tract infections in babies. Risks include bleeding and infection, but these are rare. Circumcision does cause pain. The AAP says baby boys should get medicine for pain before the procedure. The AAP report comes amid efforts to ban infant circumcision in some places. Opponents say it violates a boy's rights because he is unable to consent. In Germany, a judge recently banned infant circumcision. The ruling stirred protest by Jewish and Muslim groups. Both religions practice ritual circumcision. Last year, a judge threw out an effort to get a public vote on infant circumcision in San Francisco. The Associated Press wrote about the AAP report.
Study: Heavy Teen Pot Use May Reduce IQ
People who use marijuana heavily in the teen years could end up with lower IQ scores, a study published this week suggests. The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 people in a town in New Zealand. All were born during a year-long span that ended in 1973. They were given IQ tests at ages 13 and 38. They also were interviewed 5 times between those ages. Among other things, they were asked about marijuana use. During the first survey, 52 people said they had become dependent on pot. In later surveys, 92 others reported dependence. People who were dependent at the time of at least 3 surveys lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 18 and 38. For someone who ranked higher than 50% of the population (average IQ), a loss of 8 points would mean ranking higher than only 29%. People who were dependent at 18 and in at least 1 other survey showed a drop in IQ even if they had quit pot by age 38. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the study online. The Associated Press wrote about it.
CDC: West Nile Cases Jump 40% in a Week
In a year already way above average for West Nile disease, total reported cases have risen 40% in just the last week, U.S. officials said. So far, 1,590 human cases have been reported, and 66 people have died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the outbreak could be on pace to equal the record years of 2002 and 2003. Nearly 3,000 cases and 260 deaths occurred in each of those years. Most people infected with West Nile dont know it. Those that do feel sick usually have a mild, flu-like illness. More serious symptoms include stiff neck, paralysis and coma. Only 1% have serious illness. However, those cases are more likely to be reported. About half of the reported cases this year are serious. West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds. The CDC said people should use insect repellents and stay indoors between dusk and dawn to avoid bites. Dumping out containers of standing water can reduce mosquito breeding. The Associated Press wrote about the outbreak.
Yosemite Warns Travelers about Deadly Hantavirus
Yosemite National Park informed more than 2,700 recent visitors this week that they may have been exposed to a rare disease carried by rodents. Six people who stayed in the park this summer developed hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Two died. Five of the six stayed at the park's Signature Tent Cabins in Curry Village Wild deer mice carry the virus. It's found in their feces, urine and saliva. People are infected through direct contact or by breathing contaminated air. Symptoms may occur as long as 6 weeks after exposure. They resemble flu symptoms at first, but can become deadly. About 30% of people who get sick die from the virus. Curry Village contains 408 canvas-sided and wood-sided cabins. They include 91 "signature" cabins. All were disinfected after the first case was reported earlier this month. Park officials sent letters or e-mails to 2,700 people who stayed in Curry Village during June, July or August. They said people should see a doctor about any flu-like symptoms.
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