Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Experts Look to Refine Autism Diagnosis
Criteria that are now being considered for diagnosing autism
could limit who would qualify for the health, educational and
social services that are typically needed to treat the disorder,
new research suggests.
The definition of autism is being reconsidered by an expert
panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is
completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
The New York Times reported Thursday.
The manual is the standard reference for mental disorders, and
drives research, treatment and insurance decisions; the revisions
to the manual are expected to be completed by December 2012.
The latest findings, presented at a medical meeting in Iceland
this week, show how defining autism more sharply could lead to a
dramatic drop in diagnosis rates that many experts suspect are
inflated because of vagueness in the current criteria, the
"The proposed changes would put an end to the autism epidemic," said Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine, and an author of the new analysis, told the newspaper. "We would nip it in the bud -- think of it that way."
Under the proposed criteria, a person would have to exhibit
three deficits in social interaction and communication and at least
two repetitive behaviors -- a much narrower definition of the
disorder than currently exists.
In the new analysis, Volkmar and his colleagues used data from a
large 1993 study that served as the basis for the current criteria.
They focused on 372 children and adults who were among the highest
functioning and found that only 45 percent of them would qualify
for the proposed autism spectrum diagnosis now under review.
Homophobia Common in U.S. Elementary Schools
Negative attitudes towards gays and lesbians are common in U.S.
elementary schools and most teachers do little about it, a new
The poll of 1,065 students in grades 3 to 6 and 1,099 teachers
in grades K to 6 found that about 45 percent of students and 49
percent of teachers said the word "gay" was most often used in a
ABC New reported.
Many students and teachers also said they regularly heard
students make homophobic remarks such as "fag" or "lesbo,"
according to the survey released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight
Even though nearly half of teachers regularly heard students
making homophobic remarks, only 24 percent said they have
personally made efforts to created a safe and supportive
environment for students with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and
ABC News reported.
Human Deaths From Bird Flu Reported in Cambodia, Vietnam
Both Vietnam and Cambodia have reported human deaths from H5N1
bird flu in recent days.
The H5N1 death of an 18-year-old man confirmed Thursday by
Vietnam was the country's first human H5N1 fatality in nearly two
years. That came a day after Cambodia announced that a 2-year-old
boy was the first human H5N1 death this year, the
Associated Press reported.
Both victims are believed to have become infected through
contact with poultry, and no person-to-person transmission is
Other human cases of bird flu have been reported recently in
China, Egypt and Indonesia, the
Many Abortions Worldwide Unsafe: Study
Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe and abortion
rates tend to be higher in countries where the procedure is
illegal, according to a new study.
The researchers found that the global abortion rate stayed
relatively unchanged between 2003 and 2008, at about 28 per 1,000
women aged 15 to 44, a total of about 43.8 million abortions, the
Associated Press reported.
In 2008, about 47,000 women died from unsafe abortions and
another 8.5 million had serious medical complications. The rate of
unsafe abortions in 2008 was 49 percent and nearly all unsafe
abortions were in developing countries.
"An abortion is actually a very simple and safe procedure," said study lead author Gilda Sedgh, a senior researcher at the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, designated by the World Health Organization as an official Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health, the AP reported.
"All of these deaths and complications are easily avoidable," Sedgh noted.
Western Europe had the lowest abortion rate (12 per 1,000) while
Eastern Europe had the highest rate (43 per 1,000). The rate in
North America was 19 per 1,000, the
The researchers said they found link between higher abortion
rates and regions with more restrictive abortion laws, such as
Africa and Latin America, and also found that 95 to 97 percent of
abortions in these regions were unsafe.
The study was published Thursday in
Lung Association Slams States' Anti-Smoking Efforts
U.S. states' anti-tobacco efforts in 2011 were "abysmal,"
according to the American Lung Association.
It said states' collective spending on anti-smoking programs
fell 11 percent to $477 million last year from $534 million in
2010, and only two states raised cigarette taxes,
Bloomberg News reported.
The lung group gave grades of "F" to 43 states and the District
of Columbia for funding smoking prevention programs at less than
half the levels recommended in 2007 by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
While more than half of states have bans on smoking in
restaurants, bars and workplaces, no additional states passed
comprehensive anti-smoking laws last year, the lung association
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United
States and kills about 443,000 people a year.
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