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Mar 18, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- VIDEO GAMES, NOT TV, LINKED TO KIDS' WEIGHT

A child's weight may be more closely linked to playing video games than to watching TV, a study shows. Media use fills up time for obese and thin children that could be spent on physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Texas. They surveyed 2,831 children ages 1 to 12, recorded their media habits and calculated their body mass index -- the ratio of height to weight that indicates obesity. Video game play was found to be moderate for children with high BMIs and low or high for children with lower BMIs, while television time showed no relationship to weight, said lead author Elizabeth Vandewater. The study is one of associated factors and not cause-and-effect, Vandewater noted. Television watching and obesity might appear to be connected but most research has shown the connection is weak. No "magic bullet" such as unplugging the television or video game console seems likely to reduce obesity, Vandewater said.

SMALLPOX VACCINE MAY CAUSE HARMLESS RASHES

People who get the smallpox vaccine for the first time may develop one of several benign skin rashes, U.S. researchers said. In examining 350 adult volunteers who received vaccinia, a virus used against smallpox, University of Kentucky researchers found 3.6 percent of the 250 people who previously were unvaccinated developed rashes six to 19 days after being vaccinated. Symptoms included itching, redness and small bumps on the skin, while some complained of headaches. The rashes cleared up on their own after one to three weeks and were not accompanied by fever or other serious symptoms. They are benign and can be treated with medicines such as antihistamine, said lead author Dr. Richard Greenburg of the university's School of Medicine. Greenburg encouraged doctors to reassure concerned patients and prescribe appropriate medications.

CHEAP, FAST BLOOD TEST MAY HELP SPOT STROKES

A fast, inexpensive blood test from a San Diego, Calif., company could help doctors tell if a patient has had a stroke, New Scientist magazine reports. The test from Biosite, a diagnostics company, compares a combination of six brain proteins released into the blood during a stroke. Biosite told investors the test is three times as sensitive for diagnosing clot-based strokes as CT scans, which are good at spotting bleeds but tend to miss the clot itself. Diagnosing a stroke is difficult because symptoms vary widely and resemble those of other conditions. Speed is important in the diagnosis because clot-dissolving drugs must be administered within three hours of a stroke to take effect. The company plans a large clinical trial at 15 U.S. hospitals.

NON-PROFIT JOURNALS RENEW VOWS TO FREE ACCESS

Representatives from 48 not-for-profit medical and scientific publishers have pledged to continue to provide free access to their journals. In a joint statement they called "The Washington D.C. Principles for Free Access to Science," the American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Diabetes Association and 45 other publishers, representing 380 scientific journals, said the free flow of information among scientists and the public is essential in a free society. For a complete list of journals included go to dcprinciples.org.

(Editors: For more information about VIDEO, contact Journal of Adolescence at +44 (01865) 843277 or e.baylis@elsevier.com. For VACCINE, Diana Olson at (703) 299-0201 or dolson@idsociety.org. For STROKES, Claire Bowles at +44 (207) 331-2751 or claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk. For PUBLISHERS, Donna Krupa at (703) 527-7357 or djkrupa1@aol.com)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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