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Smoking among Australian Youth Hits Record Low

Cigarette smoking among Australian youth has hit a record low, researchers said Thursday as they hailed a possible "smoke-free generation" thanks to an aggressive public health drive deterring people from lighting up.

The decline was applauded as a success story, with plain cigarette-packaging laws and higher prices credited as factors, according to a report published in the Public Health Research and Practice journal. 

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Scientists: More Research Needed into Zika-Microcephaly Link

The release of new figures apparently finding fewer cases of microcephaly in Brazil than first feared is adding force to calls for more research into the link between the rare birth defect and the spreading Zika virus.

Health experts have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since October in Brazil, where authorities said the birth defect could be linked to the virus and announced that 220,000 military personnel were being deployed to help eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika.

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Obama Urges Swift Action on Zika Virus

.US. President Barack Obama has called for faster research on the quick-moving Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and has been linked to a rise in birth defects in Brazil.

Obama on Tuesday urged better diagnostic tests and the development of vaccines and treatments against the virus, which the World Health Organization has said is likely to spread throughout the Americas.

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More Zika Cases Found in European Tourists Returning from South America

Denmark and Switzerland on Wednesday joined a growing number of European countries to report Zika infections in tourists returning from Latin America, where the mosquito-borne virus has been blamed for a surge in birth defects.

"A Danish tourist who travelled to Central and South America was diagnosed on his return with the Zika virus," a hospital in eastern Denmark said in a statement late Tuesday.

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Colombia Issues Alert over Expanding Zika Virus

Colombia issued an alert Tuesday over the Zika virus, which has already infected 13,800 people in the country, as it warned that the number is likely to uptick as the disease spreads.

The Ministry of Health advised mayors of towns below a certain elevation to "declare a green alert for public and private hospitals facing a possible increase in Zika cases."

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Thais Quarantine 33 after Omani Tests Positive for MERS

Thai health authorities Tuesday said they had placed 33 people in quarantine after an Omani national seeking medical help in the kingdom tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The unnamed man, 71, arrived in Thailand Friday with a fever that doctors in Oman could not treat, Thai officials said.

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At Least 50 Deadly Swine Flu Cases Reported in Russia

At least 50 people have died of swine flu in Russia since last month, according to Agence France Presse calculations based on data from regional health authorities, as the virus seems to gain ground in the country.

Health authorities in the southern region of Rostov told RIA Novosti state news agency on Monday that an additional two people had succumbed to the virus, bringing the region's swine flu death toll to eight.

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Child Obesity an 'Exploding Nightmare' in Developing World

Childhood obesity has reached alarming rates globally and has become an "exploding nightmare" in the developing world, including in Africa, where the number of obese children has nearly doubled since 1990, a WHO commission said Monday.

The authors of the report from the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity stressed that the epidemic has historically not been treated as a grave public health issue and was regarded by some as a product of lifestyle choices by individuals and families. 

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Zika Virus Seen Spreading to Nearly all Countries in the Americas

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease suspected of causing serious birth defects, is expected to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said.

Zika has suspected but unproven links to microcephaly -- in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads.

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Britain and Bill Gates Announce £3 Billion to Eradicate Malaria

Britain's finance minister and tech billionaire Bill Gates unveiled Monday a plan to spend billions to eradicate "the world's deadliest killer" malaria.

Chancellor George Osborne and Gates announced £3 billion ($4.28 billion, 4 billion euros) in funding over the next five years for research and to support efforts to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease, in a joint article in The Times.

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