More Flu Vaccine Coming

Scattered shortages of flu vaccine that have popped up around the country should be eased by 10 million new doses scheduled to be delivered this month, Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said yesterday.

About 71 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed so far, she said, and the government is buying another 800,000 doses to shore up supplies.

Some doctors, health departments and companies have had trouble getting vaccine, and some have canceled vaccination clinics.

Fortunately, the flu season is off to a gentle start, Gerberding said. Last week, less than 2 percent of patients visiting doctors had flu-like illness, according to the CDC.

Most Americans should be able to get shots in November and December and have full protection by the time the flu season peaks, usually in January and February.

Lack of Sleep and Learning

Staying up an hour or two past bedtime makes it far harder for children to learn, say scientists who deprived youngsters of sleep and tested whether their teachers could tell the difference.

They could.

If parents want their children to thrive academically, "getting them to sleep on time is as important as getting them to school on time," said psychologist Gahan Fallone of Brown Medical School. The study, described at an American Medical Association meeting of science writers, was conducted on healthy children who had no sleep- or learning-related disorders.

They recruited 74 6-to-12-year-old children for the three-week study.

The teachers reported significantly more academic problems during weeks when the students deliberately stayed up late.

The study will be published in December in the journal Sleep.

Unproven Therapies Cited

The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings to dozens of companies that are promoting unproven "alternative" hormone therapies for women.

The government sent letters to about 50 firms and Web sites that market supplements and creams as alternatives to hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), warning them against making baseless claims that the treatments can help with serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Millions of women have stopped taking HRT and have sought alternatives after studies showed that HRT can raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and other serious conditions.

The FDA said it sent 16 letters to companies marketing alternative therapies, telling them that it considers the products unapproved new drugs, which require FDA approval before they can be sold.

Gene Variant's Cardiac Risk

Researchers have found evidence that a certain gene variant raises the risk of heart attacks, especially among black Americans, and plan to test a drug that might counter the risk.

White Americans who carry a single copy of the variation, named HapK, face a 16 percent greater than average chance of having a heart attack, according to a study led by researchers at DeCode Genetics Inc. in Iceland. The variation appeared to raise heart attack risk threefold among the few black Americans born with it.

"African Americans with the variant come very close to facing certainty of having a heart attack," said Kari Stefansson, a neurologist and chief executive of DeCode, in a telephone interview.

The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

-- From News Services