Health Highlights: May 16, 2013

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  • Two Health Care Workers Made Ill by SARS-Like Virus
  • Women in Their 40s Still Getting Mammograms Despite New Guidelines
  • Top Mental Health Official Softens Stance on New Edition of Psychiatric Manual

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Two Health Care Workers Made Ill by SARS-Like Virus

An emerging, SARS-like virus that has sickened 40 people in the Middle East and Europe since September has now caused illness in two health care workers who were caring for infected patients, health officials report.

Two health care staffers caring for a patient in Saudi Arabia have been sickened with the coronavirus, the first such recorded case of transmission from patient to health care worker, the Associated Press reported. Person-to-person transmission has been suspected before, the news agency said.

Coronaviruses include SARS, the infection that caused a widespread global outbreak in 2003. The new coronavirus appears to have a high fatality rate, with 20 deaths recorded among the 40 known cases.

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Women in Their 40s Still Getting Mammograms Despite New Guidelines

Many women in their 40s are not following updated guidelines on mammograms that recommend waiting until after the age of 50 to start getting routine breast cancer screenings, new research shows.

"Patients -- and likely their providers -- appear hesitant to change their behavior, even in light of evidence that routine screening in younger women carries substantial risk of false positives and unnecessary further imaging and biopsies," study author Dr. Lauren Block, a clinical fellow in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a statement, the UPI reported Wednesday.

"Women have been bombarded with the message 'mammograms save lives,' so they want them no matter what," Block added.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force looked at studies that suggested giving routine mammograms to women under 50 often ended in overdiagnosis and overtreatment, and decided to change course with its guidelines. Now, the task force recommends that women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get a mammogram every two years, while those aged 40 to 49 without a family history of breast cancer should weigh the option of getting a mammogram with their doctor.

However, after analyzing mammogram use data on more than 480,000 women that was culled from state health department records, Block and her colleagues found there was almost no change in the number of women in their 40s who got mammograms before and after the guidelines were changed, going from 53 percent before 2009 to 52 percent in 2010. Among women over 50, that percentage dropped from 65 percent to 62 percent in the same period.

The study was published online May 15 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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Mental Health Official Softens Stance on New Psychiatric Manual

Debate over the validity of the latest version of what is considered the diagnostic "bible" of psychiatry eased Tuesday after a top government health official who had criticized the manual softened his position in a public statement.

Set to be released Saturday, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This latest edition has raised some concerns because of changes in the diagnoses of some disorders, most notably in the area of autism spectrum disorders.

But the issue that Thomas Insel, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), recently took with the manual was more fundamental.

Insel wrote in a blog post that the manual is "at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each," and that its "weakness is its lack of validity."

In his post, Insel added that his agency would instead steer its research toward a new set of diagnostic parameters known as Research Domain Criteria (RDoC), because "DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure."