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Top 5 Global Health Headlines: Radiation Fears, Teen Deaths, Measles Epidemic

Radiation Rises at Japan Plant

Japanese officials are debating expanding a 12-mile evacuation radius around the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant as radioactivity levels of seawater near the plant rose this week and highly radioactive water was found in pipes outside the plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that radioactivity levels in Iitate, a town outside the evacuation zone, were measured at twice the suggested threshold for evacuation. The government is testing food for contamination and has stopped distributing produce and milk from near the plant. Despite assurances that food exports are safe, several countries have put restrictions on food imports from Japan.

Teen Deaths Outpace Children

Premature death is now more common during adolescent years than during infancy and early childhood, according to a new study in the Lancet that analyzed data from 50 countries.

Researchers point to successful international efforts to reduce infant and child mortality as a key component to the reversal. Violence, suicide and road accidents are the major causes of premature death among teens, said the report.

India Census Shows Preference for Boys

Early numbers for India’s 2011 census show an increasing preference for male infants as the gender balance continues to shift among young children. The number of girls to 1,000 boys under the age of six dropped to 914, down from 927 in 2001, though the overall gender ratio stands at 940 women for every 1,000 men.

The government has run campaigns against sex selection during pregnancy and abortion based on gender in an effort to improve the ratio, but the problem has persisted.

Report: 30 Years of AIDS Response

A new UNAIDS report assesses the progress and remaining challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic 30 years after the first cases in humans emerged. In the past decade the rate of new HIV infections in 33 countries, including 22 in Africa, dropped by at least 25 percent, the report said.

The progress is part of a global decline in HIV infection rates and expanded access to life-saving treatment, but work towards universal access remains. The report outlines major goals for 2015, including treatment access for 13 million people and elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Measles Sweep DRC

A measles epidemic has infected more than 21,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last six months, Doctors Without Borders reported this week.

Despite a massive vaccination effort, spread of the disease –which is especially dangerous to children– is “spiraling out of control,” the group said.

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