Health Buzz: New Flu Vaccines and Other Health News

Data breaches at UCLA, sex and cancer, and why parents are important

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FDA Announces Flu Vaccines for Upcoming Season

The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that it has approved six flu vaccines for the 2008-2009 season. The vaccines contain the three flu virus strains that are expected to cause most flu cases in the United States during the upcoming season. Experts modify the vaccine each year in an effort to closely match flu strains it contains with the strains that are expected to circulate that season. The closer the match, the better the protection offered by the vaccine. This year's approved vaccines and their manufacturers include Afluria by CSL Limited, Fluarix by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, FluLaval by ID Biomedical Corp. of Quebec, FluMist by MedImmune Vaccines Inc., Fluvirin by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, and Fluzone by Sanofi Pasteur Inc.

Last flu season was the worst in four years because the vaccine was a poor match for circulating strains of the virus. But health officials noted that it was still worth being vaccinated because doing so may have kept you from getting as sick as you would have otherwise and may have shortened the duration of your illness. U.S. News's Nancy Shute explains why children should be vaccinated in her On Parenting blog.

Report Details UCLA Records Breaches

More than 120 UCLA Medical Center employees improperly peeked at celebrities' medical records and other personal data between January 2004 and June 2006, according to a report released yesterday by the California Department of Public Health. And three hospital workers continued to access the records of an unnamed celebrity without permission, even after the hospital cracked down on such improper access in April, the Associated Press reports. Several employees were fired, suspended, or warned after the crackdown. One unauthorized employee looked at the records of about 900 patients between April 2003 and May 2007.

If you're concerned about a possible breach of the security of your own medical records, U.S. News offers advice on what to do to protect yourself. Michelle Andrews covered the alarming phenomenon of medical identity theft in a special report earlier this year.

Breast Cancer and Your Sex Life

While much attention is paid to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, a side effect that is rarely discussed is how tough it is for breast cancer patients to maintain an active sex life, Deborah Kotz reports. Breast cancer survivor Lisa Martinez told Kotz how she prepared herself in advance for the sexual difficulties that often follow a disfiguring mastectomy, fatiguing chemotherapy , and drugs that shut off sex hormones like estrogen. Martinez's job as executive director of the Women's Sexual Health Foundation gave her a leg up that many women don't have. "I was fortunate in that I felt comfortable talking about it with my doctors and my husband," the 53-year-old says, "but many women can't. They push it down and bury it, never to reclaim their sexuality again. It's very sad."

On Monday, Kotz reported on how MRI scans find breast cancers like Christina Applegate's.

Why Parenting Still Matters When Kids Reach Middle School

Middle school is a minefield for many children, a volatile mix of sexuality and social cliques that can be overwhelming for kids who sailed serenely through grade school. That's particularly true for the 25 percent of girls who go through puberty early and are at greater risk for problems like delinquency, eating disorders, and depression, Nancy Shute reports. While these girls may look grown up, the bottom line is they still need involved parents. Parents can help pave the way to teenagerhood by maintaining communications with their children, being warm and nurturing, and knowing where their kids are and who their friends are.

Shute also describes five ways to be a positive parent.

—January W. Payne