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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(8):1471

Say what? The equator doesn't run through Tucson and Tallahassee. And the Statue of Liberty isn't left-handed. However, if you looked at a physical-science textbook widely used by middle school students, you might think so, according to a North Carolina State University report. Besides head-scratching maps and reversed photographs, a 30-month analysis turned up a large number of errors, as well as irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations and impossible experiments. Another mind-blowing fact was discovered: many of the textbooks listed authors who had never written a word in them.

Recent studies have shown that the human body needs twice as many carotenoids as was previously thought. While this finding has led to increased recommended daily values, an Institute of Medicine panel is more concerned about people getting too much vitamin A. Many multivitamins have been found to contain up to 8,000 mg of vitamin A, which far exceeds the set upper limit of 3,000 μg per day; ingesting more than 3,000 mg can cause liver damage or birth defects.

“What are we doing to our kids?” A recent UNICEF report indicates that more than 20,000 children living in developed nations are killed in accidents each year. The report included children from 1 to 15 years of age living in the world's most developed countries. Sweden and the United Kingdom have the best records on child safety; the United States and Portugal have ratings twice as high as the leading countries. In fact, preventable injuries are the principal cause of child death in developed nations.

Blame it on the genes. A particular variant of a cholesterol-related gene may cause a higher risk of heart disease and death in men, even despite normal cholesterol levels. According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, men who carry the apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) gene are more likely to have heart disease or to die from a heart attack. The E4 variant has also been linked to elevated cholesterol levels and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

Physicians are often accused of having unreadable handwriting. This seems unfair to the many doctors with neat, legible penmanship. The latest unabashed criticism of physicians' handwriting appears in an advertising piece. And not just any piece—this one won an award! It advertises an Internet-based prescription management system that includes an online prescription pad. The ad displays a large, undecipherable handwritten note. Below each scribbled word is a tiny printed translation that reads, “If you can't read this message, then we've made our point.” The point of the ad is that, when using this system, physicians can have confidence that their prescriptions are being read properly. Sure it is.

You might want to check your nose for stowaways. Bacteria already living in our noses might cause life-threatening blood infections, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study shows that most Staphylococcus aureus blood infections are caused by germs that are spread from the patient's nasal passages to the bloodstream, where they cause serious blood poisoning. One trial revealed that 180 of 219 persons with blood poisoning previously had identical “staph” strains in their bloodstream and their nose.

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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