Health Highlights: Aug. 11, 2010

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

WHO Swine Flu Panel Included Members With Drug Industry Ties

Of the 15 people on an expert panel that advised the World Health Organization about the swine flu pandemic, five members had received support from the pharmaceutical industry, including for flu vaccine research, the WHO disclosed Wednesday.

Previously, some critics expressed concern that the panel might be tainted by drug industry influence that would affect decisions about massive orders of swine flu vaccines, Agence France-Presse reported.

But the WHO repeatedly denied those accusations.

The newly-released list of panel members is posted on the WHO’s Web site. It reveals that members came from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin and North America. Most were scientific researchers and epidemiologists. There were also public health officials from Thailand and Chile, two specialists on international air travel and health, and a Senegalese diplomat, AFP reported.


Few Non-Urgent Patients in ERs: Study

Two-thirds of emergency room visits in 2007 occurred during non-business hours and the percentage of non-urgent emergency patients was less than eight percent, says a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings challenge the idea that emergency rooms are crowded with non-urgent patients, says the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

“The percentage of non-urgent patients dropped to only 7.9 percent in 2007 [from 12.1 percent in 2006],” ACEP President Dr. Angela Gardner, said in a college news release. “The report also makes the excellent point that non-urgent does not imply unnecessary. As we have said repeatedly, our patients are in the ER because thats where they need to be.”

In 2007, there were about 222 visits to U.S. emergency departments every minute. The number of visits increased by 23 percent between 1997 and 2007. Preliminary data for 2008 suggest emergency visits will reach a record high of more than 123 million.

The highest rate of emergency room visits was among babies under 12 months old (88.5 visits per 100 infants), followed by adults age 75 and older (62 visits per 100 people).


Computer Test May Detect Autism in Adults: Study

A computer test that can detect small but crucial signs of autism in adults may make it easier to diagnosis the condition, say U.K. researchers.

They used MRI to scan the brains of 20 adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 20 non-autistic adults. The MRI images were then reconstructed into 3D and entered into a computer that searched for minute but significant differences in the participants’ brains, BBC News reported.

The test was 90 percent accurate in identifying the people with autism. The findings appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The research may lead to a widely available scan for autism, said study leader Dr. Christine Ecker of King’s College London, BBC News reported.

“It could help to alleviate the need for the (current) emotional, time consuming and expensive diagnostic process which ASD patients and families currently have to endure,” she said.