Bird Flu Kills Domestic Cat in Germany

German officials say a domestic cat has died of Asian bird flu. The cat, found on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen in the north of Germany, is thought to have been infected by eating an infected bird.

This is the not the first time the Asian bird flu virus, called H5N1, has infected cats. Two years ago at least three cats in one household in Thailand died after eating infected chicken. That was the first time any flu virus had been known to infect cats. Then more than 100 tigers in a zoo in Thailand either died or were put to death after getting H5N1 infections from eating infected chicken.

The bird flu virus is also known to infect pigs and ferrets. But natural infections of mammals, including humans, have been uncommon. — Richard Knox

Third of U.S. Troops Seek Mental Health Help

Feb. 28, 2006 — A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says more than a third of troops deployed to Iraq seek mental health services in the first year after they come home. The study also found that more than 1 in 10 troops are diagnosed with serious mental health problems.

When they first come home, troops are given a questionnaire. It asks if they're experiencing flashbacks, feeling numb, and whether they were in combat and saw someone wounded, killed or dead. Nineteen percent report signs of a serious mental health problem. Some seek treatment; many don't. The study found that 12 percent of all returning soldiers will get diagnosed with a serious mental health problem, like anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

One hopeful sign was that 35 percent of all soldiers and Marines sought help for mental health concerns. Most have conditions that can be eased — or even go away — with early treatment. — Joseph Shapiro

Doctor Shortage Threatens Health Centers

Feb. 28, 2006 — President Bush's plans to expand the number of community health centers could be threatened by a doctor shortage, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The president has vowed to increase by a third the number of community health centers, which serve mainly low-income and uninsured patients in rural and inner-city areas. But the study by researchers from the University of Washington found that the centers are having trouble finding enough doctors to serve their patients, particularly family physicians, obstetrician/gynecologists, and psychiatrists.

The study also found that the centers depend heavily on two federal training programs for their personnel. One is targeted for elimination in the Bush administration's budget for the coming year; the other would have its funding frozen. — Julie Rovner

FDA Approves Anti-Depression Patch

Feb. 27, 2006 — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first medication patch for treating manic-depressive illness in adults.

The patch delivers an older-style antidepression medication, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOI, through the skin. It's being marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Somerset Pharmaceuticals.

Oral forms of MAOIs come with strict warnings to stay away from cheese, beer, some smoked meats and certain other foods. These foods contain a chemical that can lead to a marked rise in blood pressure, and the drug limits the breakdown of that chemical. The FDA is allowing the manufacturer to drop the food warning for the lowest-dose skin patch, but it remains for higher-dose patches. The patch comes with a warning that adults should be watched for suicidal thinking in the first few months of therapy. It wasn't tested on or approved for children. —Joanne Silberner

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