Immunization

FluMist spray OK for kids as young as 2

In Brief

October 25, 2007

A nasal spray form of the annual flu shot can be given each year to children as young as 2, an advisory vaccine panel said yesterday.

That's a change from current government advice, which recommends the FluMist spray only for healthy people ages 5 to 49. Traditional shots are still recommended for children younger than 5, but the nasal vaccine is an option for young children who may dread a shot with a needle.

Recent studies have shown FluMist, made by Maryland-based MedImmune, to be safe and effective in kids as young as 2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use last month for that age group.

Yesterday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises government health officials, recommended FluMist's use for younger children who are healthy and have a fear of shots. Committee members said children with a history of asthma or wheezing should opt for a shot.

Recommendations by the panel usually are accepted by U.S. health officials, and they influence insurance companies' decisions on vaccination coverage. The committee also voted that a government program that pays for vaccines extend its FluMist coverage to the younger age group, meaning millions of added children will now be eligible for FluMist doses.

Associated Press

Bones

Cyclists have lower density than runners

Cycling is terrific exercise, hitting the cardiovascular system and major muscle groups simultaneously -- but it may not be the best thing for building strong bones. Compared with male runners, male cyclists appear more likely to have lower-than-normal bone density.

"You would think that cyclists are very healthy because they spend all those hours training," says Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia and co-author of the study accepted for publication in the journal Metabolism. "In other aspects they are -- cardiovascular health and body composition. But in this one aspect, they're not doing so well."

The study tested the bone mineral density of 27 cyclists and 16 runners ages 20 to 59 who had engaged in their sport a minimum of six hours a week for at least two years. Hinton controlled for diet, past exercise and weight training. Whole body scans and blood tests showed that 63 percent of cyclists had osteopenia of the spine or hip, compared with 19 percent of the runners.

Osteopenia is bone mineral density that's lower than normal but not so low to be considered osteoporosis, or very low bone mineral density. Not all who have osteopenia will develop osteoporosis, and treatment isn't always required.

Some of those with osteopenia were in their 20s and 30s, "and that was pretty alarming to me," Hinton says. "I thought I'd just see it in guys who were older and had been riding for years."

In general, men may not be as much at risk for low bone density as women, but Hinton believes they should be concerned because osteopenia can lead to osteoporosis and injuries such as hip fractures.

Los Angeles Times

Impotence

Drugs may cause sudden hearing loss

Viagra and other erectile-dysfunction drugs are about to bear new warnings that users might experience sudden hearing loss.

It's not clear that the drugs truly trigger hearing loss, but the Food and Drug Administration decided last week to add a warning about the possible risk after counting 29 reports of the problem since 1996 among users of this family of medicines.

The impotence drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra will bear the warnings. So will Revatio, a drug for pulmonary hypertension, which contains the same ingredient as Viagra.

Viagra's label already mentioned hearing loss as a possibility, because a few cases were reported during initial testing of that drug. But given that hearing loss is a risk of advancing age and certain conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, that can lead to impotence, it wasn't clear whether the link was real.

The reports involve hearing loss in one ear, which in a third of cases was temporary.

The FDA urged patients who experience any hearing problems -- loss or ringing in the ears -- to promptly call their doctors and stop taking the impotence drugs.

Associated Press

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