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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Sept. Atlanta flooding: 1 in 10,000 event

ATLANTA, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Geological Survey says the September flooding that inundated the Atlanta area was so extreme, scientists say the data are stunning.

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"At some sites, the annual chance of a flood of this magnitude was so significantly less than 1 in 500 that, given the relatively short length of stream-gauging records, the U.S. Geological Survey cannot accurately characterize the probability due to its extreme rarity," said Robert Holmes, USGS National Flood Program Coordinator.

Brad McCallum, assistant director for the USGS Georgia Water Science Center in Atlanta, said the flood waters overtopped 20 stream gauges -- one by 12 feet. "This flood was off the charts," he said, calling the event "near the top of the list of the worst floods in the United States during the past 100 years."

The National Weather Service said some locations recorded up to 20 inches of rain from 8 p.m. Sept. 20 to 8 p.m. the following day. "Applying rainfall frequency calculations, we have determined that the chance of 10 inches or more occurring at any given point are less than one hundredth of one percent," said Kent Frantz, NWS hydrologist. "This means that the chance of an event like this occurring is 1 in 10,000."

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H1N1 deaths highest in those 50 and older

RICHMOND, Calif., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Health officials say H1N1 primarily affects the young, but a study of California cases found H1N1 fatalities were highest in those 50 and older.

Dr. Janice K. Louie of the California department of public health and colleagues examined the clinical and epidemiologic features of the first 1,088 hospitalized and fatal cases due to pandemic influenza H1N1 reported in California from April 23 to Aug. 11.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of the 1,088 H1N1 cases, 32 percent were children younger than 18 years, with infants having the highest rate of hospitalization and people age 50 or older having the highest rate of death once hospitalized.

The median age of all of the H1N1 cases was 27 years. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath were the most common symptoms. Underlying conditions previously associated with severe influenza were reported in 68 percent of cases. Other underlying medical illnesses recorded included obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and gastrointestinal disease, the researchers say.

"Overall fatality was 11 percent and was highest in persons age 50 and older," the researchers say in a statement. "Of the deaths, 7 percent were children younger than 18 years. Among fatal cases, the median time from onset of symptoms to death was 12 days."

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The most common causes of death were viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, the researchers say.

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Global warning could affect the oceans

SOUTHHAMPTON, England, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- British and U.S. scientists are warning deep-sea ecosystems occupying 60 percent of the Earth's surface could be vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

Study co-author Henry Ruhl of Britain's National Oceanography Center, said no one is really sure yet whether global climate change is already having major impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. But long-term studies during the last two decades have revealed unexpectedly large changes in deep-ocean ecosystems that are clearly linked to changes in the surface ocean resulting from variation in climate.

The scientists said much of the new understanding has come from two key sites -- one in the northeastern Pacific and the other in the northeastern Atlantic -- from water depths of around 13,400 feet and 16,000 feet.

Deep-sea processes are rarely considered in discussions of global warming, the scientists noted.

"This out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality in ignoring the vast expanse of the deep ocean needs to be reversed in light of long-term datasets from two major ocean basins showing that the deep sea is strongly impacted by climate variation over a range of time scales."

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The study that included Kenneth Smith Jr. of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Fragile X drug now in clinical trials

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are starting a trial of a medication designed to treat the neurochemical defect underlying Fragile X syndrome.

Researchers at Seaside Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass., said Fragile X syndrome -- the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability -- causes a range of developmental problems, including learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism or autistic-like behavior.

People with Fragile X have DNA mutations in the FMR1 gene that, in effect, turn off the gene and prevent normal brain synaptic synthesis.

The new trial tests a Seaside Therapeutics' compound, STX107, which selectively and potently targets the synaptic defect.

"This project is the culmination of years of fundamental research, first identifying the genetic mutation and later deciphering the biochemical consequences of this mutation," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health "Now, with the initiation of this first clinical study, we move one step closer to understanding how this novel candidate may play a critical role in improving the lives of individuals with Fragile X Syndrome."

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Dr. Randall Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of Seaside Therapeutics, and Mark Bear, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of neuroscience and Seaside's scientific founder, are leading the research.

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