Health Watch

Health Watch

Latex hazard seen

The incidence of occupational asthma induced by latex products among health-care workers is about 2.5%, according to a new study by Belgium researchers, as reported in a recent issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care.

“Widespread use of latex gloves should be considered a significant respiratory health hazard among hospital personnel,” the report said.

It has been reported earlier that between 8% and 17% of health-care workers are latex-sensitive, most often represented by skin reactions.

This was the first study that went farther to use tests to confirm difficulty in breathing among a percentage of this sensitive group.

“This study shows the prevalence of occupational asthma is very high, and that has major implications for the safety of hospital workers,” said B. Lauren Charous, a Milwaukee allergist and chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology as quoted in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

On trail of addiction

A Medical College of Wisconsin researcher has received a $1.45 million federal grant to map out areas of the brain that may control nicotine and cocaine addiction.

Elliot Stein, associated professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, will use the grant from from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for sophisticated imaging of the brain using what is known as functional magnetic resonance imaging. By actually visualizing different portions of the brain with the device, Stein and his colleagues hope to define the brain systems and circuits acting in concert with the central nervous system involved the addiction process.

Such understanding could lead to better treatments for addiction, Stein said.

Dentists and hepatitis

Dentists who are worried about becoming infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, by working on an HIV-infected patient, are worrying about the wrong disease.

An overview of studies on the matter shows that dentists stand a 57-times-greater risk of getting hepatitis B than HIV from their patients. Also, the risk of dying from hepatitis B is 1.7 times greater than acquiring HIV infection, a Tufts University School of Medicine researcher reported at the recent American Association for Advancement of Science annual meeting.

Furthermore, regular tests in a 75-person cohort of HIV-infected individuals showed that while 38% had virus-infected serum (the cell-free liquid part of the blood), only 1% of those individuals had virus-infected saliva.

Compiled and written by Neil D. Rosenberg, Journal health editor.

Copyright 1995

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