Health Highlights: Jan. 23, 2012

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

Rep. Giffords to Resign From Congress

Representaive Gabrielle Giffords announced Sunday that she will resign from Congress to focus on her recovery from injuries suffered in an assassination attempt last year.

The Democrat from Arizona wanted to return to Congress and was expected to have an easy re-election if she ran this year, but she decided in recent days that she could not continue her recovery and still serve as a member of Congress, The New York Times reported.

Giffords will resign after attending President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday. A special election will be held to determine who will fill the remainder of her term, which ends in November.

Giffords was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, as she held a constituent meeting outside a grocery store in her hometown of Tucson. Six people died in the shooting.

In a video released online Sunday, Giffords told her constituents: “I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”

However, she also hinted at a possible future political comeback. “I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country,” Giffords said.

In a statement released Sunday, President Obama said: “Gabby Giffords embodies the very best of what public service should be. She’s universally admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology — a dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union.”


FDA OK for Marijuana-Based Cancer Pain Drug Sought

A British company hopes to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a marijuana-based mouth spray to treat cancer pain.

The product — called Sativex — contains two components of marijuana, delta9-THC and cannabidiol. The product has been approved in Canada, New Zealand and a number of European countries to relieve muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, the Associated Press reported.

Sativex is currently in advanced clinical trials and maker GW Pharma hopes to get FDA approval for use of the medicine in cancer patients by the end of 2013.

Along with developing new applications for Sativex, GW Phamra is working on other drugs with different cannabis formulations, the AP reported.


China Reports 2nd Bird Flu Death

A man in southern China died of H5N1 bird flu Sunday, the second such death in China in less than a month.

The Health Ministry said the 39-year-old victim became ill on Jan. 6 and was admitted to a hospital in Guizhou Province the same day, The New York Times reported.

On Dec. 31, the H5N1 virus claimed the life of a 39-year-old man in the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province.

Neither victim reported any contact with birds in the month before they became ill. Officials monitoring people known to have been in contact with the latest victim say none of them has any signs of bird flu, the Times said.

Recently, Vietnam and Indonesia have each reported one human death from H5N1 bird flu.


Former Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno Dead at 85

Joe Paterno, one of the most successful coaches in college football history, died Sunday. He was 85.

Paterno’s 46-year career at Penn State came to an abrupt end in November when he was dismissed as head coach amid news of a child sex abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer late last year.

In a statement released to the media on Sunday, the Paterno family said, “It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”

The turbulent final months of Paterno’s life were a tragic end to an outstanding coaching career for many of his loyal fans, ABC News reported.

His personal life included service in the Army, an English degree from Brown University, a marriage that lasted more than half a century, five children and 17 grandchildren, the news network reported.

While at Penn State as head coach, Paterno led the Nittany Lions to seven undefeated seasons and two NCAA championships, had only five losing seasons and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.