Health Buzz: Rotavirus Vaccine and Other Health News

Recessions and waistlines, the safety of Gardasil, and getting drugs online without a prescription.

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Rotavirus Vaccine Limits Hospitalizations, Emergency Room Visits

A rotavirus vaccine that became available two years ago has resulted in a decrease in the number of infants who are hospitalized or seen in emergency rooms because of the illness, the Associated Press reports. The vaccine also appears to prevent unvaccinated kids from getting sick by limiting the number of infections spreading in the community. Rotavirus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, led to more than 200,000 emergency room visits and more than 55,000 hospitalizations in the United States prior to the availability of Rotateq, a vaccine made by Merck & Co. that was approved in 2006. Since then, rotavirus-related emergency room visits and hospital stays have declined by 80 to 100 percent, the AP reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this year that the new vaccine may account for a less severe rotavirus season.

A Recession Might Be Good for Your Waistline

Conventional wisdom says we turn to comfort foods and cocoon at home in our jammies when the economy goes south. But research suggests that it may actually be the opposite—that during a downturn, we exercise more and are less likely to be obese than when times are good, Katherine Hobson reports. Christopher Ruhm, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, has published research indicating that mortality actually decreases when the economy goes temporarily sour and suggesting that a drop in body weight and increase in physical activity—as well as a decline in smoking—are partially responsible.

In May, Hobson offered this tip for eating healthier: Skip restaurants and head to your own kitchen.

CDC Calls Gardasil Safe and Effective

The CDC announced Wednesday that the Gardasil shot against the cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus is "safe to use and effective in preventing four types of HPV." That's based on the agency's database surveillance system—called the Vaccine Safety Datalink—which researchers used to review the medical records of 190,000 girls and young women who have received the shot, Deborah Kotz reports. The review didn't turn up any increased risk of blood clots, seizures, paralysis, strokes, fainting, or life-threatening allergic reactions. "To date, we have not seen a causal relationship between vaccines and adverse reactions," says CDC spokesperson Curtis Allen.

Earlier, Kotz explored whether the HPV vaccine was to blame for a teen's paralysis.

Ordering Medications Online—Without Visiting a Doctor's Office

While many websites sell drugs online illegally, one company called KwikMed offers consumers the option of buying certain medications—the erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis, Viagra, Levitra, the hair-loss drug Propecia, and the smoking-cessation drug Chantix—without ever seeing a doctor face to face. Though KwikMed hopes to offer additional drugs in the future, these five drugs are the only ones that have been approved by regulators to date, Adam Voiland reports. The arrangement that KwikMed has reached with the Utah Legislature allows the company's doctors to offer valid prescriptions through cyberspace; other states require that patients see a doctor in person, KwikMed says, before they can receive a prescription.

Last week, Lindsay Lyon described another Web-based health service—it allows people to inform past sexual partners of sexually transmitted diseases via an E-card.

—January W. Payne