Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
West Nile virus infections are surging this year, U.S. health officials said this week. As of mid-August, three times the usual number of cases had been reported. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported this week on a lengthy outbreak of drug-resistant illness last year. The outbreak occurred at the NIH's own hospital. Gene analysis helped to trace it and bring it under control. A new study published this week found that surgery to promote weight loss may help to prevent diabetes in very obese people. Other research found that rates of early heart disease are two to three times the average among people with close family members who died young of heart disease.
This Issue: CDC: West Nile Illness Surging This Year Gene Analysis Helps Halt Hospital Outbreak Weight-Loss Surgery May Prevent Diabetes Study Tallies Risk from Family Heart Disease
In the News:
CDC: West Nile Illness Surging This Year
Cases of West Nile illness are being reported at about triple the usual rate, U.S. health officials said this week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there have been 1,118 human cases so far in 2012. About half have been in Texas. In a typical year, the CDC said, fewer than 300 cases are reported by the middle of August. Most cases are reported in August and September. CDC officials suggest that the mild winter, early spring and very hot summer have spurred breeding of the mosquitoes that carry the disease. They spread it by biting infected birds and then biting humans or other animals. Only 1 person out of 5 gets sick from the infection. Symptoms usually are mild. About 1 person out of 150 has a serious illness. The most severe symptoms include neck stiffness, paralysis and coma. The Associated Press wrote about the outbreak.
Gene Analysis Helps Halt Hospital Outbreak
Gene experts helped to stop a deadly infection that raged through the hospital of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 6 months last year, the NIH said this week. Hospital staff locked down the 18 infected patients, beginning with the first one. They disinfected repeatedly, wore gowns and gloves to treat the patients and even ripped out contaminated plumbing. But the illness still spread. Six people died of bloodstream infections. Five others who were infected died of the illnesses that first brought them to the NIH hospital. The culprit was a special strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae. These particular bacteria developed resistance to almost every antibiotic available. Healthy people if exposed to the strain usually donít get sick. However, ill patients in a hospital have weakened immune systems. They canít stop the infection from spreading throughout their body. During the outbreak, NIH gene experts got involved. They used a technique called gene sequencing to analyze all of the genetic material in the bacteria. They were able to confirm that the disease spread to everyone from a single patient. That patient survived. The journal Science Translational Medicine published an article about the outbreak. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Weight-Loss Surgery May Prevent Diabetes
Weight-loss surgery can sharply reduce the risk of diabetes in very obese people, a new study finds. The study included more than 3,400 obese people. Just under half of them had so-called bariatric surgery to help weight loss. These procedures reduce the size of the stomach, bypass part of the small intestine or both. The other people in the study did not have surgery. They just received usual care and advice on weight loss. Nobody had diabetes when the study began. Within 10 years, 110 people in the surgery group developed diabetes. This compares with 392 people in the other group. The diabetes rate was 78% lower for those who had surgery. Two studies released this year showed that weight-loss surgery could reverse diabetes. This study showed that it also could help prevent the disease. But experts quoted by the Associated Press (AP) disagreed on whether surgery should be widely used for that purpose. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study this week. AP wrote about it.
Study Tallies Risk from Family Heart Disease
Having a close relative who died young of heart disease doubles your own odds of early disease, a new study suggests. The study was based on records for 4 million people in Denmark. Researchers focused on people who developed heart or artery disease by age 50. Examples included clogged arteries, heart failure or valve problems. This kind of health history was twice as common among people whose parent, sibling or child died of heart or artery disease before age 60. It was 3 times as common for people who had lost at least 2 relatives to early heart disease. Having a more distant relative, such as a grandparent, die young of heart disease increased a person's risk by 19%. Reducing blood pressure and cholesterol can help to prevent heart disease. But the study found that genes increased risk even for those who controlled these other factors. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it this week.
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