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Health Highlights: Oct. 11, 2016

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

St. Jude Medical Warns of Defibrillator Battery Problems

The batteries on thousands of implantable heart defibrillators made by St. Jude Medical Inc. can suddenly and unexpectedly run out of power, the company said in letters sent to patients and doctors on Tuesday.

That could put patients in danger if they need a shock from the device to restart a faltering heart, Bloomberg News reported.

St. Jude said premature battery depletion has occurred in less than 1 percent of the company's defibrillators, but two people died after such failures and 47 others experienced dizziness or fainting.

The warning applies to defibrillators made before May 2015, which are in about 350,000 people worldwide, Bloomberg reported.

"We are recommending that patients utilize remote monitoring, to enable their physicians to monitor their devices' performance over time," Mark Carlson, chief medical officer at St. Jude's, said.

"Physicians and patients can take specific measures to mitigate the risk, albeit small, that this can impact their health," he told Bloomberg.

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U.S. Ranks 32nd Out of 144 Countries in Report on Girls

Sweden is the best place for girls to live, while the U.S. ranks 32nd on the 144-country list, behind nations such as Algeria and Kazakhstan, according to a Save the Children report.

The worst country for girls was Niger. The Girls' Opportunity Index rankings are based on five factors: rates of early marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality, women in government and lower secondary school completion, NBC News reported.

Save the Children said not all wealthy nations are doing as well as they could for their girls, and singled out the U.S. in particular.

"There are things where we do not shine on the U.S. side," said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, NBC News reported. She added that one major exception to poor U.S. scores was female representation in national government.

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Mumps Outbreak in Arkansas

A mumps outbreak in Arkansas is being investigated by state health officials.

They are looking into 427 suspected cases of mumps, most of which have occurred in children. More than 30 schools statewide have reported one or more student with the mumps, according to ABC News.

Students with a MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine exemption have been told to stay home for at least 26 days if they were exposed to the mumps virus. If they get the MMR vaccine, they can return to school immediately, the state health department said.

The mumps virus can be spread through coughing, sneezing, talking or sharing eating utensils, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Two-dose MMR vaccination is about 88 percent effective at preventing a mumps infection, ABC News reported.

Along with swollen salivary glands, people with the mumps can have symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite. In rare cases, mumps patients can develop severe complications, such as swelling of the brain, ovaries or testicles.

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Countries Should Use Taxes to Hike Prices of Sugary Drinks: WHO

Countries worldwide should use taxes to increase the price of sugary drinks as a way to combat obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

In a statement released to mark World Obesity Day, the U.N. health agency said the global obesity rate more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, and that nearly 40 percent of people worldwide are overweight, the Associated Press reported.

Along with implementing or raising taxes on sugary beverages such as sodas and sports drinks, countries should reduce prices for fresh fruits and vegetables, the WHO said.

"Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes," said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, head of WHO's department for preventing non-communicable diseases, the AP reported.

"If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives," he added.

The WHO also said Americans are no longer the top consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages because the U.S. has been surpassed by Chile and Mexico, the AP reported.


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