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Jan 27, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- PREVENTING VIRUS INFECTIONS IN INFANTS

During winter's cold, parents should keep babies away from sick individuals and smokers, and wash their hands before touching them to prevent infection. The advice from child health experts should be particularly taken to heart during the cold and flu season, from fall to spring, and by parents of premature infants, who are at higher-than-average risk of being infected by the respiratory syncytial virus, a common, highly contagious and potentially serious microbe, says Dr. Waldemar Carlo. The neonatologist from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, says RSV infects almost all children before the age of 2. Most get cold-like symptoms and fight off the "bug" easily, but some, especially premature infants, become seriously ill because their lungs are not yet fully developed.


Environmentalists urge stricter consumer warnings be posted on albacore tuna, which they say is infested with mercury. Three groups say eating canned tuna, especially albacore, can pose a particular risk for pregnant women and children. Information compiled by the Mercury Policy Project, California Communities Against Toxics and Natural Resources Defense Council, indicates canned albacore tuna contains a wide range of mercury levels, some higher than the average levels in swordfish and shark -- two fish the federal government advises pregnant women not to consume. "A woman who eats an average 6-ounce can of albacore in a day would exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's 'safe' level for mercury exposure by more than 10 times," says Michael Bender of MPP. "But 5 percent of the albacore cans we tested had much higher levels than the average." Mercury is thought to pose a particular threat to the brains and nervous systems of fetuses and young children.


Studies indicate adding Humira (adalimumab) to traditional therapy in patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis can ease painful symptoms. The findings, published in The Journal of Rheumatology, show the drug is well tolerated and can reduce the joint pain, swelling and stiffness characteristic of the autoimmune disease. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002 and the European Commission in 2003, the monoclonal-antibody treatment is injected every other week. "Emerging biologic therapies, such as Humira, are changing the way we treat this devastating disease by providing increased patient response," said study author Dr. Daniel Furst of the University of California.


Eardrops, a staple treatment for children's ear infections, can lead to an increase in resistant bacteria and fungi in the ear, doctors caution. Dr. Glenn Isaacson, professor and chair of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Temple University School of Medicine, told a medical meeting resistant bacteria develop when antibiotics are used inappropriately. In 1998 eardrops containing the broad-spectrum antibiotic fluoroquinolone were introduced, replacing the traditional oral antibiotics as treatment of choice for ear infections. Recently, experts have raised concerns about the drops' and the development of resistant bacteria. In the new study, the scientists discovered a significant increase in resistant bacteria and fungi in children who had used the eardrops, compared to those who had not. To combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, experts recommend prescribing antibiotics judiciously, targeting them specifically to individual types of bacteria.


(Editors: For more information about INFANTS, contact Tracy Bischoff at (205) 934-8935 or For TUNA, Craig Noble at (415) 777-0220. For ARTHRITIS, Geoff Curtis at (847) 935-8975. For EAR, Eryn Jelesiewicz at (215) 707-0730 or

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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