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AIDS hot lines found to mislead callers

AIDS hot lines often give out information that's misleading, oversimplified _ or just plain wrong, a survey has found. In a survey in which two national and 31 mid-Atlantic area hot lines were called, some hot lines said AIDS is spread through kissing (most experts disagree); several urged people infected with the virus to take vitamins or go on special diets, including macrobiotic regimens (there is no evidence that such strategies help); many hot-line answerers frequently failed to recognize that the standard AIDS screening test can falsely show that someone is infected; and callers often got different answers from the same hot line. Dr. Stephen Gluckman of Cooper Hospital in Camden, N.J., who directed the survey, attributed the poor advice to haphazard training and often non-existent counseling experience among hot-line volunteers.

24,000 people a year get cat scratch fever

Cat scratch fever afflicts 24,000 Americans annually and costs them $12-million in medical bills, a federal Centers for Disease Control survey shows. But that doesn't mean you should get rid of your cat, the CDC said. The fever, contracted through close contact with cats, especially those that scratch or bite, is relatively rare and not very serious. It can lead to chronic lymphadenopathy _ swollen lymph glands lasting more than three weeks. The cause is a mystery: Two kinds of bacteria are suspected to be involved, but fleas also could play a role. About half of victims suffer swollen lymph glands. Only about 20 percent actually feel sick, but less than 2 percent can suffer a severe reaction, potentially resulting in coma, though virtually everyone survives. For most people, the symptoms go away without treatment. Bad cases are treated with antibiotics.

New vaccines abate childhood meningitis

Newly introduced infant vaccines have reduced the leading cause of meningitis, the haemophilus influenzae type B bacteria, from 12,000 to 20,000 annual cases in the 1980s to 1,900 cases last year, the Centers for Disease Control says, and could wipe out the bacteria altogether. Meningitis is a brain infection that can kill its young victims or leave them deaf, blind or retarded. It is widely regarded as the nation's leading serious childhood infection.

Pregnant asthmatics urged to take drugs

Pregnant women with asthma run a greater risk of harming their unborn children by foregoing medication for the baby's sake than by continuing treatment to prevent attacks, say researchers of the National Institute of Health. As many as 2,000 babies could be saved each year if asthma in their pregnant mothers were treated aggressively, the researchers say. Asthmatic women who discontinue taking medicine can develop obstructed or inflamed airways, and the flow of oxygen to the baby can be impeded.

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