Medical News Notes – July 29, 2011

Posted Friday, Jul 29, 2011 by Allen B. Ury

Rare disease outbreak along U.S./Mexico border.  Developmental problems of unplanned babies. Depression highest in wealthiest countries.  These and other stories from the world of health and medicine in this week’s Medical News Notes.

Rare Paralyzing Disease Outbreak Along U.S./Mexico Border

U.S./Mexico BorderAmerican health officials are very concerned around a recent outbreak of the rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome in far western Arizona and north Sonora, Mexico. The disease, which causes respiratory problems, paralysis and can lead to death, has so far affected at least 24 people. Health authorities believe food or water contamination may be responsible and they are working to identify the source of the illness. Until then, residents in the area are being advised to wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating, as these simple hygienic measures can prevent infection.

Unplanned Babies Develop Slower

BabyThe children of unplanned pregnancies have poorer vocabularies, and spatial and non-verbal abilities than their planned counterparts, according to research recently published in the British Medical Journal. The UK researchers believe these problems occur because 1) Unplanned pregnancies tend to occur more frequently in economically challenged households than in more affluent ones and, 2) Planned babies are more likely to get more attention from their parents than unplanned ones. Children born via artificial insemination actually develop at rates faster than average, the study also found, again probably because the parents have already made a substantial effort to have them conceived and so they pay more attention to them in their early, developmental years.

Wealthy Countries Suffer Most Depression

DepressionIt seems money truly does not buy happiness. New research conducted by the State University of New York at Stony Brook has found that rates of depression are much higher in countries with higher income rates. The highest rates were found in the United States, France, Netherlands and India. The study also found that, while unemployment is often a risk factor, having a low-paying, dead-end job that drives you nuts is even worse for your mental health than having no job at all.

Zinc Lozenges May Lessen the Impact of the Common Cold

Common ColdFor more than 30 years, many health experts have promoted zinc lozenges as a way to lessen the incidence and duration of the common cold. Now, a new study appearing in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal supports this belief — sort of. Researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, found that daily doses of 75 mg. zinc lozenges dissolved slowly under the tongue does indeed, appear to reduce the duration of colds by about 40 percent. However, because no biological mechanism has yet been discovered to explain why this works, the researchers admit that much of this success may simply be due to the well-documented “placebo effect.” Hey, that’s still nothing to sneeze at.

McDonald’s to Sell ‘Healthier’ Happy Meals

Happy MealUnder pressure from children’s health advocates, McDonald’s will now include a bag of fruit slices in all of its Happy Meals. Until now, fruit slices and other produce have only been customer options. McDonald’s will not increase the price of its Happy Meals, but will instead reduce the amount of French fries included in each to 1.1 ounces from the previous 2.4 ounces. The addition of produce to the Happy Meals could save 49 billion calories from American kids’ diets annually, according to ABC News.

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