Health Column

June 08, 1994 1 min read

While the number of new tuberculosis cases fell sharply last year among older adolescents and young adults, the number of younger children infected with the disease continued to rise during the same period, federal researchers have reported.
In 1993, the overall number of reported T.B. cases decreased by 5 percent from the previous year, according to a survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The decline was most dramatic among 15- to 24-year-olds, with a 6.6 percent drop between 1992 and 1993, the survey said.

At the same time, however, the number of reported cases of T.B. among children under age 15 rose 0.8 percent from 1992 to 1993. In addition, the number of cases of T.B. among youngsters under 15 accounted for 6.8 percent of all cases in 1993, compared with 6.4 percent in 1992.

School officials have been working in recent years to help control the spread of the highly contagious disease. (See Education Week, Sept. 18, 1991.)

A foamy liquid that coats the lungs of a premature babies to help them breath is largely responsible for a drop in the infant-mortality rate, researchers reported last month.

Respiratory-distress syndrome--the most common cause of death among premature babies--is a condition in which an infant is unable to produce enough of a chemical called a surfactant to keep the lungs from collapsing.

The introduction of treatments using substitute surfactants accounts for 80 percent of the decline in newborn deaths in the past several years, according to researchers at the National Perinatal Information Center, who compared data from 14 hospitals before and after the treatment was introduced.

In 1989, the year in which two brands of substitute surfactants entered the market, 9.7 out of every 1,000 newborns died. The following year, the rate fell to 9.1 per 1,000, and, by 1992, the infant-mortality rate had dropped to 8.5 per 1,000.

Despite laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors, cigarettes and chewing tobacco are readily available to children, a survey by the California Department of Health Services reveals.

In the statewide survey, 53 percent of the 1,959 retail stores visited by youth volunteers were willing to sell tobacco over-the-counter to minors without asking for any proof of age.--JESSICA PORTNER

A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 1994 edition of Education Week as Health Column