Column: Health

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Older female teenagers who applied for admission to the U.S. military between 1985 and 1989 were more likely to test positive for the virus that causes aids than were male applicants of the same age, a new study reports.

The study, which appeared in the April 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed the results of blood tests administered to the 1.1 million adolescent applicants to the military between October 1985 and March 1989. Since October 1985, military applicants of all ages have routinely been tested for the human immunodeficiency virus.

According to the study, conducted by researchers who work for the military, males and females were almost equally likely to test positive for the virus. It found that the nearly 1 million male adolescent applicants tested positive at a rate of .35 per 1,000, and that the 150,000 female adolescent applicants tested positive at a rate of .32 per 1,000.

But among 17- and 18-year old applicants, females were more likely than males to test positive. And black females, the study found, were four times as likely as white males to test positive.

These statistics "are in sharp contrast to the 9.3:1 ratio of males to females among adult aids cases, and the 4:1 ratio among reported adolescent aids cases," the authors wrote.

The most plausible reason for this discrepancy, the study said, is that older female teenagers are more likely than adolescent males to have older, infected sexual partners.

Another study in the same issue of jama concluded that elementary-school workers, child-care workers, and cafeteria personnel run an increased risk of contracting human parvovirus B19.

Symptoms of infection with the virus include pain in the joints, swelling, fever, and a rash. In pregnant women, it has also been linked to fetal death.

The study, conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and public-health officials in Connecticut, was based on the examination of 571 workers in Torrington, Conn., during a large outbreak among children of a rash known to be caused by parvovirus.

Almost 60 percent of the people in the study had antibodies indicating previous infection, which meant they were not susceptible to the virus. But susceptible workers were four to nine times more likely to develop symptoms than were other community members.

Despite this increased risk, an accompanying editorial said, "One may reassure concerned women that careful hygiene will probably reduce the risk of infection, that they are most likely immune, and that, even when pregnancy is complicated by infection, most often there will be no ill effects."--ef

Vol. 09, Issue 31

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