Today’s Headlines: In-Flight Medical Emergencies, New Flu-Fighting Techniques, and Painkillers

Study Reveals Frequency of In-Flight Medical Emergencies: “In-flight medical emergencies occur in about one in every 604 flights,” according to a study published online May 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Considering that 2.75 billion passengers fly on commercial airlines a year, that works out to about 44,000 in-flight emergencies a year, and nearly 50 a day in the USA alone.” The study found that serious medical emergencies, such as psychiatric crises or cardiac arrest, were not seen very often. However, emergencies involving gastrointestinal troubles, dizziness, syncope, dyspnea and heart-attack symptoms were more frequently encountered. (USA Today)

Gene Therapy Technique May Protect Against Flu Pandemics: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania completed animal studies that show a gene-therapy technique may be protect against flu viruses such as H5N1 that originate in animals and are immune to vaccines. The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, and involves placing certain genes in the nasal linings of mice and ferrets. The genes then produced antibodies that resisted infection by deadly amounts of H5N1 and H1N1, according to James Wilson, who led the research. (Wall Street Journal)

Common Painkillers May Be Linked to Increased Heart Risks: Researchers looked at data on approximately 353,000 patients. The investigators found that during one “year of treatment, for every 1,000 patients with moderate heart disease risk who took 2,400 milligrams of ibuprofen or 150 milligrams of diclofenac, both daily doses standard for arthritis, three patients would experience an avoidable heart attack.” This “risk was comparable to that associated with the newer Cox-2 inhibitor class of painkillers that includes Pfizer’s Celebrex [celecoxib], Merck’s Arcoxia [etoricoxib] and Vioxx [rofecoxib], which Merck withdrew in 2004 after research linked it to heart attacks and strokes.” (Bloomberg)