Health Highlights: Aug. 9, 2013

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

Officials Investigating Large Number of Dolphin Deaths

A fast-spreading infection may be attacking dolphin populations on the United States' East Coast, federal wildlife officials report.

At least 124 dead or dying bottlenose dolphins have washed onto beaches since July, according to a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Most of the deaths, 64, have occurred off the coast of Virginia, while 26 have been recorded off New Jersey and 18 in New York state waters, The New York Times reported.

The service declared the deaths to be "unusual mortality event," which opens the way for federal funding to help find the cause. Tests on one dolphin carcass revealed possible signs of an infection called morbillivirus, which killed hundreds of East Coast dolphins during a 10-month period in 1987 and 1988.

However, other dolphins found beached in recent weeks had pneumonia, according to news reports. Officials said it could take weeks to determine the cause, if one is found, The Times reported.

Experts said people who find a beached dolphin should not touch it, keep pets away and contact authorities.


Dogs May Help Improve Ovarian Cancer Detection

Researchers are unleashing dog power in an effort to develop a new way to detect ovarian cancer.

Three dogs are being trained to try to sniff out a signature chemical that indicates the presence of the cancer. If the dogs can pinpoint such a chemical, scientists will try to create an electronic sensor to identify the same chemical, the Associated Press reported.

The dogs are being trained at the University of Pennsylvania's Working Dog Center, using blood and tissue samples donated by ovarian cancer patients.

"Because if the dogs can do it, then the question is, Can our analytical instrumentation do it? We think we can," George Preti, an organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, told the AP.

Ovarian cancer is particularly deadly because it's often not discovered until it has reached an advanced stage. More than 20,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Previous research has found that early-stage ovarian cancer alters odorous compounds in the body and that dogs can identify bladder cancer by smelling patients' urine, the AP reported.


Camels May be Source of Mideast Respiratory Virus: Study

Camels could be the source of a new and deadly respiratory virus centered in the Mideast, according to a new study.

Scientists have been trying to determine the origins of the Mideast respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Some of the patients infected with the virus reported contact with cattle, goats and camels, so the international team of researchers analyzed blood samples from various animals, Time reported.

Antibodies to MERS-CoV were found in blood samples from all 50 camels tested in Oman, which neighbors Saudi Arabia, where the first human cases of the respiratory illness were identified.

The findings were published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

As of last week, a total of 94 people had been infected and 46 people had died from the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

"As new human cases of MERS-CoV continue to emerge, without any clues about the sources of infection except for people who caught it from other patients, these new results suggest that dromedary camels may be one reservoir of the virus that is causing MERS-CoV in humans. Dromedary camels are a popular animal species in the Middle East, where they are used for racing, and also for meat and milk, so there are different types of contact of humans with these animals that could lead to transmission of a virus," the researchers said in a news release, Time reported.

Friday, August 9, 2013

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