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Less Threatening Bird Flu

Washington (UPI) Jan 11, 2006
Talk about good news and bad news: While more cases of avian flu are identified in both birds and humans in Turkey, the first possible signs emerged that the virus itself might not be as lethal as feared.

It's far too early to reach that conclusion, but the reason some scientists are wondering about it is this: Two siblings who tested positive for the H5N1 strain are so far showing no signs of illness.

"Doctors are unsure whether they are for the first time seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages or if they are discovering that infection with the A (H5N1) virus does not always lead to illness," wrote Elisabeth Rosenthal in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune.

Time magazine said on its Web site: "Could this be a sign that a slightly weakened strain of the virus is circulating in Turkey? Or is it just that physicians are getting better at finding all folks with bird flu infections, including those that don't normally wind up in the hospital?"

Whatever the case, Turkey was grappling with an ominous scenario, as two deaths and a dozen hospitalizations mark the breakout of the avian flu from Southeast Asia. Experts said the illness could become endemic in the nation's birds and poultry.

Still, Turkey seemed to be responding reasonably well to the threat, world health officials said. "The worst situation is a panic situation. There is no reason to panic," said Dr. Marc Danzon, a World Health Organization Official, at a news conference in Ankara Wednesday.

In other consumer-health news:

-- Watch out, kids: Becoming an adult can be a ticket to declining health and worse healthcare.

A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina showed people get heavier and less active and eat poorly as they move into adulthood.

"The transition to adulthood is a time when people begin to solidify their health practices and, therefore, an important time for health improvement efforts," said Penny Gordon-Larsen, an assistant nutrition professor at UNC and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

"Smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse are leading contributors to preventable death in the United States," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. "By early adulthood, a large proportion of Americans smoke, are overweight, and drink alcohol to excess."

-- Speaking of such vices, Brits who want to smoke while they drink are fuming at Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt. According to the BBC, she plans to vote for a ban in pubs and clubs.

"Pubs not serving food and members' clubs were to be exempted from a ban," the BBC said. "But Labour MPs and ministers have been given a free vote on the issue -- increasing the chances of a total ban. The move means Ms Hewitt -- who differs from her predecessor John Reid on the extent of a smoking ban -- will be voting against her department's policy."

Source: United Press International

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Turkey Battles Bird Flu Amid New Deaths In China
Ankara (AFP) Jan 11, 2006
Turkey insisted Wednesday it had a deadly bird flu outbreak under control after 15 confirmed cases of the virus in humans, as China revealed two more deaths, underlining the spread of the disease.

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