Health Update 14 December 2011

  • NTSB urges ban on use of cell phones when driving, including hands-free talking: “The board is urging all states to impose total bans except for emergencies following recent deadly crashes, including one in Missouri after a teenager sent or received 11 text messages within 11 minutes.  The unanimous recommendation from the five-member board would apply even to hands-free devices, a much stricter rule than any current state law.  NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman acknowledged that complying would involve changing what has become ingrained behavior for many Americans.” (Associated Press)
  • Report says past studies on the correlation between cellphone use and car accidents may have overestimated risk: “Lead author Richard Young wrote in the journal Epidemiology that the method of two studies on the issue – one 1997 study in Canada, and another from Australia in 2005, which said that cellphone use while driving raised the crash risk four-fold – may have posed problems.  The studies recruited people who had been in a crash, and then used their billing records to compare their cellphone use during the time of the crash with their cell phones during the same time period the week before, a so-called ‘control window’.” (Reuters)
  • Snakebite: experts seek new emphasis on quiet killer: “Snakebite isn’t exactly a neglected disease, but since many of its victims die for lack of the right medicine, the World Health Organization recognized it as such two years ago.  Officially, the WHO estimates that snake bites kill between 20,000 and 94,000 people a year.  Some experts consider this estimate too low, because many deaths of peasant farmers and fisherman go unreported.  Snake bites also cause up to 400,000 amputations yearly.  Few neglected diseases do so much damage….Cheaper, safer antivenoms are needed.  Antivenom is usually made by ‘milking’ snakes, injecting a horse or sheep, and harvesting antibodies; however the process is expensive, and the product can cause severe allergic reactions”. (NY Times)
  • Programs to prevent depression in kids work: Psychological depression prevention programs offer some benefit in children and young adults….Based on an analysis of 15 studies, the risk of having a depressive episode after an intervention was reduced immediately when compared with no intervention”.  While there is still much more work to be done in the field, researchers believe “we now have data that support the efficacy of depression prevention programs in reducing the incidence of depression and symptoms of depression at 12-month follow-up.”  (Kurt Ullman, MedPage Today)

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