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Health Highlights: March 26, 2013

Health Highlights: March 26, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

North Dakota Governor Signs Tough Abortion Law

The governor of North Dakota approved a set of bills on Tuesday that enacts a law that essentially bans most abortions.

The most restrictive portion of the package, which is expected to be challenged in court, makes abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat is "detectable," the New York Times reported.

Fetal heartbeats can be heard via ultrasound as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, the newspaper added.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, signed a total of three bills passed by the Republican-controlled North Dakota legislature, but legal experts have asserted that the package violates the basic tenets of Roe v. Wade, the historical ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that found abortions could be performed until the fetus would theoretically be able to survive outside the womb, roughly 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," Dalrymple said in a statement.

The three bills are scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, unless a legal challenge is filed, the Times reported.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, in New York City, promptly condemned the new laws and said it would file a challenge, according to the Times.

The signings follow passage last week of a proposed amendment to the North Dakota Constitution that would claim life begins at conception. The so-called "personhood measure" will go on the ballot next year. Such measures have previously been voted down in Mississippi and Colorado, the Times reported.

Measures to ban abortions when fetal heartbeats are detected are under consideration in several other states, including Kansas and Ohio, the Times reported.

Groups including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life and the Roman Catholic Church have not supported fetal heartbeat proposals, saying they could be counterproductive unless the makeup of the Supreme Court changed dramatically.

Early Number Knowledge Key to Future Math Skills: Study

There appears to be a link between children's understanding of numbers in the first grade and their ability to do everyday calculations when they're older, a new study finds.

Researchers tested 180 seventh-graders in the Columbia, Mo. school system and found that those who did worse on a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same children who'd had the poorest number knowledge when they started first grade, the Associated Press reported.

"The gap they started with, they don't close it," said study leader Dr. David Geary, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Missouri. "They're not catching up" to their peers whose number skills were better in the first grade.

The differences between the students when they were in the first grade were not explained by factors such as IQ and attention span, the AP reported.

The findings show that what Geary calls "number system knowledge" is a basic skill that students continually build on and is much more than just the ability to count. This knowledge includes capabilities such as understanding magnitude -- that 34 is bigger than 23 -- and that numbers represent different quantities, that three dots is the same as the numeral "3" or the word "three."

Geary and his colleagues will continue to track the children into high school.

This research isn't only about trying to improve students' math abilities, it's about ensuring they have the basic math skills required in adulthood. For example, knowing how much change the cashier should hand back, how to calculate a tip in a restaurant, or how to do the fractions to double a recipe.

About 1 in 5 U.S. adults lack the math abilities expected of a middle-school student. These adults have trouble with everyday math tasks, which puts many types of jobs beyond their reach, according to the AP.

"It's not just, can you do well in school? It's how well can you do in your life," said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health. "We are in the midst of math all the time." The NIH is providing funding for the study.

Missing Vial of Virus No Threat: Officials

A vial containing a virus that can cause hemorrhagic fever disappeared from a Texas research facility last Wednesday, but there's no reason to believe that there's a threat to the public, according to officials.

They suspect that the vial containing the Guanarito virus was destroyed during the lab's cleaning process, and added that the investigation is continuing, the Associated Press reported.

There was no breach in security at the Galveston National Laboratory and no indication of wrongdoing, the University of Texas Medical Branch said Saturday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was immediately notified after the vial's absence was noticed.

The virus is native to Venezuela and is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats, according to the medical branch. Officials don't believe the virus can survive in U.S. rodents or be transmitted from person-to-person, the AP reported.

OneTouch Verio IQ Blood Glucose Meters Recalled

All OneTouch Verio IQ blood glucose meters in the United States are being recalled and replaced because of problems that can lead to incorrect treatment or delay proper treatment, Lifescan, Inc. announced Monday.

At extremely high blood glucose levels (1,024 milligrams per deciliter and above), the meters will not provide a warning and will shut off, said Lifescan, a unit of Johnson & Johnson.

While the likelihood of experiencing a blood glucose level of 1,025 mg/dL or higher is remote, this level of blood glucose is a serious and potentially fatal health risk that requires immediate medical attention.

Patients with a OneTouch Verio IQ meter should contact LifeScan customer service at 1-800-717-0276 to make arrangements to receive a replacement meter at no charge, the company said.

As long as they are aware of this problem with the device, patients with a OneTouch Verio IQ meter can continue to use them to test their blood glucose levels, according to LifeScan. However, if the meter unexpectedly turns itself off during testing, this could be a sign of an extremely blood sugar level that requires immediate medical attention.

Bodybuilder Pioneer Joe Weider Dies at 93

Bodybuilding legend Joe Weider, 93, died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Born in Montreal, Weider turned to body building because he was a small teenager, 5-foot-6 and 110 pounds, who was bullied by neighborhood kids, The New York Times reported.

Weider moved to the United States as a young man. Among his accomplishments, he created some of the world's most popular bodybuilding magazines and played a key role in Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to fame, the Times reported.

"He advised me on my training, on my business ventures, and once, bizarrely, claimed I was a German Shakespearean actor to get me my first acting role in 'Hercules in New York,' even though I barely spoke English," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "He was there for me constantly throughout my life, and I will miss him dearly."

Joe and brother Ben founded the International Federation of Body Builders, which sponsored international competitions, including Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. They promoted fitness as a lifestyle and bodybuilding as an international sport, and presented a positive image of bodybuilding, the Times reported.