Health Highlights: Jan. 26, 2014

Health Highlights: Jan. 26, 2014

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

U.S. Health Officials Investigate Possible Norovirus Outbreak on Cruise Ship

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship will be inspected Sunday by U.S. health officials as they investigate a possible norovirus outbreak that has sickened about 300 of the more than 3,000 passengers and crew aboard.

Known as the Explorer of the Seas, the ship was on a 10-day cruise that had departed from Cape Liberty, N.J., the cruise line and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told NBC News.

The ship will be inspected by officials in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The ship had stopped earlier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a sanitizing regimen following reports of vomiting and diarrhea by both passengers and crew members, NBC News reported.

“During its sailing, Explorer of the Seas has experienced an elevated number of persons with a gastrointestinal illness,” cruise line officials said in a statement, NBC News reported. “Those affected by the short-lived illness have responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered on board the ship.”

Typically spread very easily by infected people or contaminated food or water, norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastrointestinal illness in the United States, according to the CDC.


Artificial Pancreas Could Replace Insulin Injections: Scientists

Human tests of an artificial pancreas are set to begin in 2016 and the first implants could take place within a decade, according to British scientists.

They said the wristwatch-sized device is surgically implanted in the abdomen and releases insulin into the bloodstream, and could make insulin injections a thing of the past for people with diabetes, Britain’s Daily Mail reported.

The insulin supply in the first-of-a-kind implant is controlled by a gel barrier. When a user’s blood sugar levels rise, the gel liquefies and releases the insulin. When sugar levels drop, the gel hardens again. Insulin is added to the device’s reservoir every two weeks.

The device is the next best thing to a cure for diabetes because patients no longer have to manage the condition themselves, according to the development team at De Montfort University in Leicester.

“The device will not only remove the need to manually inject insulin, but will also ensure that perfect doses are administrated each and every time,” said Joan Taylor, professor of pharmacy, the Daily Mail reported. “By controlling blood glucose so effectively, we should be able to help reduce related health problems.”

The researchers said the implant could help all people with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes who require insulin injections.

“This device is cheap and simple to use,” Taylor said. “It has the potential to bring an end to the misery of daily injections for diabetics.”


Less Educational Content in Kids’ Screen Time as They Age

As children get older, their use of educational resources on television and other electronic devices decreases, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed nearly 1,600 parents and found that what might be considered educational material accounted for less than half of the screen time among youngsters ages 2 to 10. Most of that screen time involved television, The New York Times reported.

The poll also revealed that while children’s screen time increases as they get older, there is a decrease in the amount of educational content, according to the researchers at the nonprofit Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a research institute affiliated with the Sesame Workshop.

The survey found that 2- to 4-year-olds had just over two hours a day of screen time, including one hour and 16 minutes of educational content, while children ages 8-10 had more than two and a half hours a day of screen time, but only 42 minutes of that was regarded as educational, The Times reported.

Family income appeared to have an effect. Children in households earning less than $25,000 spent 57 percent of their screen time on educational activities, compared with 38 percent of children in families earning $50,000 to $99,000.


Weight May Reduce Effectiveness of Morning-After Pills

European health officials are reviewing morning-after emergency contraceptives to determine if they’re less effective in overweight women.

The European Medicines Agency said Friday that it would evaluate new data suggesting that the effectiveness of morning-after pills could be reduced in heavier women. There is no timeline on when the review will be completed, the Associated Press reported.

“We need to find out what the association is with (body mass index) and if there is a cut-off threshold for when the medicine becomes less effective,” agency spokeswoman Monika Benstetter said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said late last year that it was studying the issue.

In November, HRA Pharma of France revealed that its morning-after pill Norvelo was less effective in women who weighed more than 165 pounds and did not work in women who weighed more than 176 pounds. The company changed its labels to warn patients, the AP reported.

Norvelo contains the same active ingredient — levonorgestrel — as other emergency contraceptives such as ellaOne, Levonnelle and Levodonna.