HealthWise 2002: A Year in Review - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/20/02

HealthWise 2002: A Year in Review

Smallpox vaccine decisions -- hysteria over hormone therapy -- the worry over disease carrying mosquitos -- deli meat -- and cruise ships. The stories that made medical headlines in 2002 not only stirred fear, but a good dose of controversy. NewsChannel 11's Karin McCay takes a look back.

Call 2002 the year of the bugs, no drugs, coverage that is, and studies that pulled the plug on conventional wisdom about staying healthy. The big bug was a little mosquito that carried the West Nile Virus. Nearly 4,000 people across 40 states would come down with the infection. More than 200 would die. The Centers for Disease Control continues to investigate the possibility the virus can be spread through contaminated blood.

"We have identified a risk to blood safety, but we don't know how big or small the risk may be," said Dr. Jesse Goodman, Food and Drug Administration.

Listeria, a bug known to infect the food we eat, also kept government health officials busy. Outbreaks of Listeriosis in the northeast were linked to deli meat. At least eight people died from the outbreak strain.

There were no deaths, just plenty of sick passengers from a bug that invaded cruise ships. The Norwalk Virus, the cause of most cases of stomach flu sent more than 1,200 cruise ship vacationers to sick bay. The bugs causing the biggest controversy, bioterrorism.

With little progress in the anthrax investigation, health officials focused their efforts on an even more worrisome threat, Smallpox. After a year of debate, President Bush announced plans to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of members of the military, civilian first responders, and eventually the public.

It was a disappointing year for Americans counting on Congress to finally pass a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Attempts to pass a compromise plan through Congress failed.

2002 was also the year medical research poked holes in conventional wisdom, topping the charts, the nation's biggest medical study of hormone replacement therapy, which found the therapy taken by millions of women to ease the symptoms of menopause and help prevent disease may actually cause disease.

"Not only did this therapy not prevent heart disease, it actually increased the risk of heart disease, strokes, and blood clots," said Jacques Rossouw, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Another prevention strategy deflated -- breast self-exam.. Researchers found the monthly checks which millions of women have been urged to do, may not do much good at finding cancer.

And is medicine all in the mind? A study of knee pain patients found those who got a pretend or placebo operation had the same amount of pain relief and improved function as those who got the real surgery.

And a surprise finding, much to the delight of meat and cheese lovers, a small study found dieters on the hi-protein Atkins plan lost more weight and showed a bigger drop in unhealthy blood fats than those who followed the traditional low fat diet.

Wrapping up the new year, progress continued on the genome project. Scientists announced they successfully mapped the genetic sequence of the mouse, providing scientists with a mirror in the search for causes and cures to all kinds of human diseases.

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