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VNA of Care New England
VNA of Care New England

Health Highlights: June 25, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Federal Panel Says Flu Vaccine Spray Better Than Shots for Young Kids
Spraying a flu vaccine up young children's noses is more effective than giving them a shot, a U.S. government panel ruled Wednesday.
The new recommendation, voted on during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, only applies to children aged 2 to 8, according to the Associated Press.
Currently, the only flu vaccine spray on the market is AstraZeneca's FluMist, and it is approved for people aged 2 to 49. Instead of using a killed virus, the spray is made from a live but weakened flu virus, the wire service reported.
The spray triggers a stronger immune response in children who may have never had the flu before, experts say. Kids within that age group are about half as likely to get the flu if they get the nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot, research has shown, the AP reported.
Although federal health officials usually adopt the recommendations of the committee, the nation's largest pediatrician's group objected to the new recommendation, the AP reported.
FluMist is more expensive, it can't be used for everyone and doctors have already ordered their vaccine doses for the fall flu season, a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics said during the meeting.
But health officials stressed that flu shots are perfectly fine to use, the AP reported. FluMist costs about $23; shots range from about $8 to $22.
New Technology Enables Quadriplegic to Move Hand
A new technology that translates brain messages into muscle movement enabled a quadriplegic man to move his hand.
Ian Burkhart, 19, became paralyzed from the chest down as a result of a swimming accident. A few months ago, he underwent surgery at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to have a microchip implanted in his brain, CBS News reported.
The microchip is linked to a port in Burkhart's skull, and the port is connected by cable to a computer. The microchip picks up brain signals and sends them to the computer, which decodes the messages and beams them to electrodes around Burkhart's forearm.
The system -- called Neurobridge -- was developed by Battelle, a non-profit research center.
In the first test of the technology, Burkhart was able to extend his fingers and clasp a spoon. While such movement may seem minor, no person in Burkharts' condition had ever done it the way he did, according to CBS News.
"Today was great," Burkhart said after last Wednesday's test. "I mean, to be able to open and close my hand and do those complex movements that I haven't been able to do for four years was great. Physically, it was a foreign feeling. Emotionally it was definitely a sense of hope and excitement to know that it's possible."
The results are encouraging, according to Dr. Ali Rezai, Burkhart's surgeon.
"I do believe there will be a day coming soon when somebody who's got a disability -- being a quadriplegic or somebody with a stroke, somebody with any kind of brain injury -- can use the power of their mind and by thinking, be able to move their arms or legs," Rezai told CBS News.
FDA Releases Nanotechnology Oversight Policy
Final recommendations for companies that use nanotechnology in products was released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Food, cosmetics and medical therapies are among the products in which nanotechnology can be used, and the FDA wants manufacturers to consult with the agency before introducing new nanotechnology products, the Associated Press reported.
However, companies will make the final decision on whether nanotechnology products will be sold to the public.
"We are taking a prudent scientific approach to assess each product on its own merits and are not making broad, general assumptions about the safety of nanotechnology products," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement, the AP reported.
New Concussion Guidelines Focus on Youngsters
New concussion guidelines just for children and teens have been released by Canadian experts.
Current concussion recommendations focus on adults and sports-related head injuries, and there was a need for guidelines specifically targeting patients ages five to 18, project leader Dr. Roger Zemek told CBC News.
The new guidelines -- created by emergency medicine researchers at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation -- are meant to be used by health care providers, parents, teachers and coaches.
"Children and adolescents are actually at a higher risk of developing concussions than adults, and we also know that children are at a higher risk of having prolonged symptoms," Zemek told CBC News.
"There's been recommendations out there for adults, there's been recommendations specific to sports but we know that children do not necessarily act like little adults at all times and we know that the developing brain is unique."
Zemek told CBC News that the new guidelines emphasize three main things: how to recognize a concussion; how to determine if a family doctor, emergency doctor or pediatric specialist is needed; and that concussion needs to be treated with rest.
The recommendations were developed after the team spent more than two years analyzing more than 4,000 research papers in a wide range of child health fields, including neurology, emergency medicine, family medicine and rehabilitation.
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