Health Buzz: Swine Flu and Other Health News

Experts warn against soft drinks and energy drinks; a Q&A on the "narcissism epidemic."

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Two California Kids Diagnosed With Swine Flu

Two children in California were diagnosed with a unique kind of swine flu last week, the Associated Press reports. The kids, a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, became ill in late March; both have since recovered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's no reason for the public to be alarmed or take special steps to protect against this type of flu. Health officials are looking into the genetics of the virus and are testing people who may have had contact with the two infected children. The kids had not had contact with one another. Both had symptoms of fever and cough, and the boy experienced vomiting. In the past, the CDC has gotten reports of about one case of human swine flu every one to two years. The past few years have seen slightly more cases, with more than a dozen human cases reported since late 2005.

Another form of flu, bird flu, has gotten attention in the past few months. Read about a breakthrough discovery that may fight off flu and bird flu. And learn how to keep your family safe from bird flu.

Soft Drinks and Energy Drinks: Too Sweet for Your Own Good

Sugary soft drinks and energy drinks are taking it on the chin these days, Katherine Hobson reports. Two researchers are saying the drinks contribute to obesity and need an extreme makeover. Walter Willett, who chairs the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, argues that there is a "direct causal link" between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and energy drinks and obesity, which is in turn linked to heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.

Willett and a colleague, Lilian Cheung, a lecturer in the nutrition department, suggest that we all focus on drinks with far lower levels of sugar and calories: things like water, tea, seltzer with a splash of juice, and coffee with one lump of sugar. They call on beverage makers to create reduced-calorie beverages with no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce, without using noncaloric sweeteners like aspartame and stevia.

Just recently, two public-health experts floated the idea of a specific tax on sodas and energy drinks. Related: VitaminWater is a poster child for the importance of reading food and drink labels.

Narcissism Epidemic: Why There Are So Many Narcissists Now

Narcissism, or excessive self-love, is marked by bloated confidence, vanity, materialism, and a lack of consideration for others, Lindsay Lyon reports. Those personality traits have become so pervasive in American culture that they threaten to transform us into a nation of egomaniacs, research psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell say in their new book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement . Twenge and her team at San Diego State University also report in a new study that narcissism continues to spread quickly among college students, especially young women. Considering how cultural influences on girls have changed in the past decade, that's not surprising, says Twenge. Plastic surgery rates have jumped since the 1990s, and materialism is increasingly being emphasized in song lyrics, for example, she says.

Read up on 7 common myths about narcissism. Also, check out what Twenge had to say about narcissism a few years ago, not long after the publication of her earlier book, Generation Me , which examines why young people today are more narcissistic than their parents.

—January W. Payne

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