• U.S.

Medicine: Capsules, Nov. 27, 1972

4 minute read

> The only virtue of gonorrhea is that in men, at least, it usually produces early, painful symptoms that alert its victim. But not always. A team headed by Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield of the University of Washington told a meeting of the American Public Health Association last week that servicemen returning from Viet Nam may carry a “silent” form of the disease, one which produces no symptoms in the carrier but may flare into active disease once the infection is transmitted to a sexual partner. The team bases its warning on a study of 2,000 Viet Nam veterans, which showed that 2½% of the men who had sexual contact suffered from this asymptomatic form. Therefore the Handsfield group urges that all returning servicemen be routinely screened for venereal disease. Already combatting a home-grown epidemic of VD, the last thing the U.S. needs is reinforcements from abroad.

> Most poisonous substances are marked clearly enough to alert adults as to their hazards, but these warnings frequently prove ineffective for children. Many youngsters cannot decipher the labels even if they try; some are more attracted than repelled by the traditional skull-and-crossbones caution symbol. A new design, however, appears to get the message across. Known as Mr. Yuk, it consists of a face with an agonized expression and protruding tongue, which tell a child that the stuff he is about to consume is bad.

Mr. Yuk owes his creation to Dr. Richard Moriarty of the Poison Information Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who conducted tests to determine which of several designs was the least appealing to a curious child. The symbol owes its name to one of the youthful participants in Moriarty’s study. Explaining why he would not pick up a bottle bearing the bilious Day-Glo green face, the child explained simply, “He looks yukky.”

> Sold on television or through newspaper and magazine ads, mail-order health insurance policies that offer supplementary benefits are often cheaper than other forms of coverage, particularly for the elderly, who may otherwise be unable to get insurance. But does it conform to the same standards? Not according to COMBAT, Maine’s statewide consumer-action organization. After a series of hearings on mail-order insurance, the organization reported that much of the advertising for health coverage was “unclear, deceptive and misleading.” The group pointed out that policy holders and insurers frequently hold differing views as to just what constitutes a pre-existing physical condition or a convalescent period. COMBAT also found that some customers, especially the elderly, buy extra policies that do not actually increase coverage. They frequently base their decisions to buy more on the claims of show-business personalities—Art Linkletter and Radio Commentator Paul Harvey, for example—than on an understanding of the policy’s terms. COMBAT urged the state to consider whether such advertising violates Maine’s insurance laws—and to crack down on the ads if they are in violation.

> When an orthodontist tries to correct malformations in a child’s teeth and jaw, he must attempt to figure out how these parts will change as the youngster matures. Dr. Geoffrey Walker of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry has come up with a method that promises to reduce the guesswork involved in this process. He has taken 15,000 skull-profile X rays made over a period of years and converted these pictures to coordinate maps of the skull and jaw. The result is a computer model capable of predicting how a jaw will grow. With just a single X ray of a patient, Walker says that he can project a pattern of future growth that is 70% accurate. With a second X ray taken six months later, he can increase his accuracy even further.

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