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Health Highlights: May 1, 2014

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

New Sleep Apnea Device Approved by FDA

A new device to treat obstructive sleep apnea has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The pacemaker-like unit is the first of its kind and stimulates a specific nerve in order to prevent tongue and throat muscles from relaxing too much during sleep and blocking airways, the Associated Press reported.

The device, made by Inspire Medical Systems, offers an alternative for sleep apnea patients who have trouble using continuous positive airway pressure machines, which keep airways open by pumping air through a mask that's worn while sleeping.

Left untreated, sleep apnea increases a person's risk of accidents, heart attack and stroke, the AP reported.

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FDA Considering OTC Use of Singulair for Allergies

Over-the-counter use of the respiratory pill Singulair as a treatment for allergies is being considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

If that occurs, Singulair would compete with antihistamine pills like Claritin and nasal sprays like Nasacort, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, Singulair requires a prescription. An FDA review posted online expresses concerns about inappropriate use of the drug by teens or by people with conditions more serious than allergies, including asthma.

An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet Friday and vote on whether Singulair is safe for nonprescription use, the AP reported.

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Drug-Resistant Bacteria Found Worldwide: WHO

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now found worldwide, a situation that could have serious public health consequences, the World Health Organization warns in a new report.

Without urgent action to counter the threat, "the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, one of the agency's assistant director-generals, said in a news release, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO's first global survey of antibiotic resistance revealed high rates of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, which can cause numerous problems, including meningitis and skin, blood and kidney infections. In some countries, treatment for E. coli is ineffective in more than half of patients.

The agency also discovered alarming rates of resistance in other bacteria, including those that cause pneumonia and gonorrhea, the AP reported.

No new antibiotics have been introduced for more than 30 years and there is an urgent need to develop new drugs to fight bacteria, experts say. Last year, Britain's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sally Davies said antibiotic resistance is a "ticking time bomb" that posed as great a threat as terrorism.

"We see horrendous rates of antibiotic resistance wherever we look...including children admitted to nutritional centers in Niger and people in our surgical and trauma units in Syria," Dr. Jennifer Cohn, a medical director at Doctors Without Borders, in a news release, the AP reported.

Nations must improve their monitoring of antibiotic resistance. "Otherwise, our actions are just a shot in the dark," Cohn said.

People should use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor, should complete the full prescription, and must never share them with others or use leftover prescriptions, the WHO said.

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