Survivors of 1918 Flu Pandemic Still Immune to Virus
Those who survived the devastating 1918 flu pandemic are still producing antibodies to the virus 90 years later, according to a study published yesterday in Nature. This is the first proof that the 1918 virus, which killed 50 million people worldwide, led to significant immunity. Study researchers looked at antibodies in the blood of 32 people born during or before 1915. All had developed antibodies to the 1918 flu virus strain and several were to this day making antibodies to the virus. The studies show that people have a "surprising ability" to keep up immunity to illnesses they were exposed to years ago, lead researcher James E. Crowe Jr., a professor of pediatrics, microbiology, and immunology at Vanderbilt University, told HealthDay. It's not known, however, if this long-term immunity is unique to the 1918 flu virus.
The 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 reduced both the severity and the duration of one's illness. U.S. News 's Nancy Shute explains why children should be vaccinated.
News on Chemicals Used in Plastics
The Food and Drug Administration said last week that small amounts of the bisphenol A chemical that leak into plastic food containers are not a threat to adults or infants, the Associated Press reports. The FDA also said that more research is needed to understand fully how or if the chemical affects humans. The agency had previously called BPA safe but revisited the issue after the federal National Toxicology Program expressed concern about the chemical's effect on babies. Also, President Bush signed a law last week that permanently bans three types of phthalates—used widely as softening agents in certain plastics—from children's toys and child-care products except for minute levels; the law also temporarily bans three other phthalate types pending further research.
U.S. News explained how people can avoid BPA and offered a list of BPA-free shopping resources. Adam Voiland described why products containing phthalates are also a concern and provided advice for how to avoid exposure to the chemical.
Why Are So Many Female Athletes Playing in a World of Hurt?
Amid the excitement of the Olympics, it's easy to forget how many athletes trained to compete in Beijing but couldn't because of injury. Soccer star Abby Wambach broke her leg, for example, and two members of the women's gymnastics team are competing in only one event because of ankle problems. Author and journalist Michael Sokolove sees a particular problem in the women's sports arena, which he says faces an "epidemic" of injuries. In a discussion with U.S. News's Katherine Hobson about his new book Warrior Girls, Sokolove explores the tension between telling our daughters that they can do anything the boys can do and recognizing the reality that girls may be particularly susceptible to crippling injuries. In another article, Hobson described four injuries that hurt female athletes.
Abortions Unlikely to Cause Depression
If you're an adult woman, have never had an abortion, and find yourself pregnant unexpectedly, will you be at risk for depression if you choose to terminate the pregnancy? The American Psychological Association says no, based on a new review of the literature presented at its annual conference this week. While women who have abortions may experience feelings of grief and loss, they aren't at any greater risk of developing mental health problems like stress, depression, and anxiety over the long haul. The APA report disputes previous findings showing that such a link does exist. The findings apply only to a specific subgroup of those getting abortions: adult women with unplanned pregnancies, choosing to have a single abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, Deborah Kotz reports. The evidence isn't as clear for teenagers, women who have multiple abortions, and those who have abortions later in pregnancy, Deborah Kotz reports.
—January W. Payne