Feb 21 2012

Public Health News Roundup: February 21

Hepatitis C Now Kills More People in U.S. than HIV

Deaths from hepatitis C have increased in the U.S. in the last few years, at least in part because many people don't know they have disease, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from 1999 to 2007 and found that deaths from hepatitis C (15,000) surpassed deaths from HIV (13,000) and that deaths from hepatitis C and B are mostly among people who are middle-aged.

Additional studies in the current issue of the journal found that the best treatment is expensive, about $60,000, but may be worth the cost because hepatitis C raises the risk of more expensive outcomes, including cancer and liver transplants; and that routine screening, not commonly done, may detect more cases of hepatitis C earlier, when treatment is most effective. Read more on infectious disease.

U.S. Counties With More Dermatologists Have Lower Rates of Death From Melanoma

Counties with more dermatologists have lower rates of deaths from melanoma, according to a new study in the Archives of Dermatology. Researchers compared the number of dermatologists and melanoma deaths in 2,472 U.S. counties between January 2002 and December 2006. Their review found that that having 0.001 to one dermatologist per 100,000 people in a county was associated with a 35 percent lower rate of melanoma deaths. Having an even higher ratio of dermatologists, though, was not associated with a further decrease in melanoma death rates.

Other findings:

  • Counties with hospitals that had oncology departments had slightly lower melanoma death rates.
  • Metropolitan counties had about 30 percent lower melanoma death rates than rural counties.

The researchers say it’s not clear whether density of dermatologist’s impacts prevention, diagnosis, treatment or a combination of those factors. Read more cancer news.

New Study: Pro Baseball Players Frequently have Abdominal Strains

Concussions have been the sports injury most frequently in the news, but as the calendar turns toward baseball season, a new study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine finds that lack of stretching and training too often results in abdominal strains—known as side strains—for professional baseball players. The researchers say that their study suggests that there may be too much focus during training on building strength, and not enough on stretching and flexibility.

The injuries typically occur with twisting or pivoting, such as a pitcher's throwing motion or a batter's swing. The researchers looked at 20 years of records from Major League Baseball's disabled list, from 1991 to 2010, and found that of 8,136 players on the disabled list during that time; five percent of injuries were abdominal strains. The researchers say the injuries were most likely to happen in March and April when weather is colder and it’s harder to loosen muscles, or before the players are as in as good physical condition as they are later in the season. Read more on injury prevention and safety.

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