With more than 4,000 reported cases and 9 infant deaths, the whopping cough epidemic in California could break a 55-year record. Nationwide, the CDC shows more than 11,000 cases of the highly contagious illness, characterized by a persistent cough that lasts weeks. Health experts say vaccination is the most effective defense:

"At least 4,017 cases of the highly contagious illness have been reported in California, according to the state. Data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control show 11,466 cases nationwide, though the federal numbers are known to lag behind local reporting.

"Whooping cough is a cyclical illness that peaks in number of infections every five years. Symptoms are similar to the common cold, making it a challenge to diagnose, which in turn makes it difficult for officials to determine if the worst has passed, said Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health."

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Scientists from the University of Illinois analyzed the MRI scans of 49 children and found that the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning is larger in physically fit kids than in their unfit peers:

"Researchers from the University of Illinois, in the U.S., studied the brains of 49 children aged nine and ten using a magnetic resonance imaging scan, a technique which provides very detailed pictures of organs and tissues in the body.

"They also tested the fitness levels of the children by making them run on a treadmill. The scientists found that the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, was around 12 per cent larger in the fitter youngsters."

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New research says humans are really no less active than we were 20 years ago, suggesting that more exercise may not help shed pounds after all and that a change in diet is really the key:

"Working with a Dutch colleague, Professor Speakman, of Aberdeen University, analysed two decades of studies on energy expenditure. The data, from the U.S. and the Netherlands, showed that despite a growing reliance on time-saving technology, people today are not any less active than those of 20 years ago.

"Factors such as decline in the number of children walking to school and a rise in TV watching do not necessarily equate to weight gain, the International Journal of Obesity reports."

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