Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of
New Technology May Enable Blind People to Drive
A prototype vehicle equipped with technology that enables a
blind person to drive a car is scheduled to be demonstrated next
year by U.S. researchers.
The system utilizes sensors that provide information to a blind
driver about what's around the vehicle, such as whether another car
or object is in front of the vehicle or in an adjacent lane, the
Associated Press reported.
The planned demonstration of the technology -- announced Friday
by the National Federation of the Blind and Virginia Tech -- will
involve a blind person driving a vehicle on a course that simulates
a typical driving experience.
"We're exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, the AP reported. "We're moving away from the theory that
blindness ends the capacity of human beings to make contributions
West Nile Cases Lower in 2009
The West Nile virus season in 2009 was the mildest in eight
years, and that trend appears to be continuing this year, say U.S.
Last year saw 386 cases of severe West Nile illness and 33
deaths, compared to 3,000 illnesses and more than 260 deaths in
2002 and 2003. So far this year just one serious West Nile illness
has been reported in the United States, the
Associated Press reported.
The decline in the number of cases may be because birds are
developing immunity to the virus, which is spread to humans by
mosquitoes that bite infected birds.
Severe symptoms of infection with West Nile virus, first
documented in the United States in 1999, include neck stiffness,
disorientation, coma and paralysis, the
VA Facility Should Be Investigated: Senators
A formal investigation of the John Cochran VA Medical Center in
St. Louis is needed, say some members of Congress who are outraged
by news that 1,812 veterans may have been exposed to potentially
deadly viral infections while receiving dental treatment at the
facility between Feb. 1, 2009, and March 11 of this year.
Those at fault should be "disciplined or dismissed," Republican
Sen. Todd Akin said in a news release, the
Associated Press reported. "I cannot believe that the
Veterans Administration has failed our St. Louis veterans in such a
dramatic and disturbing manner."
In letters sent to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Akin and another
Missouri senator -- Democrat Russ Carnahan -- demanded a formal
investigation into the veterans' possible exposure to infections
such as hepatitis C and HIV through improperly sterilized dental
All the patients have been urged to return to the VA facility
for blood tests. So far, about 100 veterans have had follow-up
blood tests, and hundreds of others have made arrangements to be
tested, said VA Medical Center spokeswoman Marcena Gunter, the
"While VA believes there is minimal risk -- any risk at all is unacceptable," the VA said in a news release. "Any error in judgment or procedure will not be tolerated as the safety of our veterans is essential to our mission," it added.