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Archive for the ‘Influenza’ Category

An investigation has begun into two new flu cases among World Youth Day pilgrims at Marist College in Parramatta, west of Sydney.

A total of 150 other pilgrims have been diagnosed with the flu at various locations around Sydney.

Seventy pilgrims are in isolation at Oakhill College at Castle Hill where eight of them tested positive for influenza B.

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McGinty encourages free flu shots for children

Posted Sun Apr 6, 2008 1:29am AEDT

Two drug companies are paying for the vaccines this season as part of a trial. (File photo)

Two drug companies are paying for the vaccines this season as part of a trial. (File photo) (Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

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Western Australian parents of children aged from six months to five years are being urged to take advantage of free flu vaccinations.

Last year’s severe influenza season led to the deaths of three children.

Two drug companies are paying for the vaccines this season as part of a trial.

Health Minister Jim McGinty says if the trial is successful, the Federal Government will be asked to consider funding the vaccine in future years.

He says the trial will be run across the state.

“Initially this was planned only to be done in the Perth metropolitan area as a study for the whole of Australia,” he said.

“My colleagues from the country areas lobbied hard, we’ve now extended it to every child in Western Australia.

“The vaccines are available now in the metropolitan area and will be available within a fortnight in country areas.”

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NSW rejects RNS emergency recommendation

The New South Wales Government has accepted 43 of the 45 recommendations made by a committee looking into Sydney’s Royal North Shore (RNS) Hospital, but says it will not support a recommendation to change the way emergency patients are sorted.

The inquiry was launched after a number of serious issues at the RNS, including the miscarriage of Jana Horska in the hospital’s emergency department toilets after she waited two hours for treatment.

The Upper House committee, chaired by Christian Democrats MP Reverend Fred Nile, handed its report to the Government five days before Christmas.

The report identified problems including an unacceptable tolerance of workplace bullying, a disconnect between management and staff, and a shortage of nurses.

There were also revelations during the inquiry about live cockroaches in operating theatres and beds collapsing during surgery.

Health Minister Reba Meagher says one of the recommendations not supported by the Government involved modifications to the triage system.

“This is not a decision for Government, nor is it a decision for management,” she said.

“The method of triage is one that has been established by the informed decision making of the Australasian College of Emergency Physicians.

“The Government has noted that recommendation and referred it to the Australasian College for their consideration.”

Ms Meagher says there have already been significant improvements at the hospital over the past few months.

“Every week, the performance of Royal North Shore Hospital has been improving and we’re determined to see that change continue,” she said.

“The recommendations that have been brought forward by the Nile inquiry will inform and add to that process.”

But Opposition’s health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner says low morale and understaffing are still major problems at the hospital.

“This hospital needs more nurses, it’s short of beds still, it needs specialist doctors and they’re all tearing their hair out about what they see as flawed redevelopment plans,” she said.

“This is a Minister who is clearly out of her depth.”

A special commission of inquiry was called last month into the NSW health system, after the deputy state coroner found the RNS caused the death of a 16-year-old when it made every conceivable error in its treatment.

The girl, Vanessa Andersson, died at the hospital in 2005, two days after she was admitted for a skull fracture she suffered when she was hit by a golf ball.

The coroner, Carl Milovanovich, found the teenager died of respiratory arrest due to the effect of the medication she was administered. The inquest heard anaesthetist Sanaa Ismial gave Miss Anderson the wrong dose of a painkiller.

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New anti flu campaign aimed at young

The WA Health Department's Paul Van Buynder.

Paul Van Buynder from the WA Health Department announcing anti-flu campaign for the young. (ABC TV)

Young children will be offered free flu shots as part of a study to try to ensure last year’s deadly flu season is not repeated.

Four Perth toddlers died from bacterial infections associated with last year’s severe influenza season.

The shots, provided free by drug companies, will be given to children six months to five years of age.

Doctors will then monitor the children to see how well the vaccine protects them from the flu and other infections.

Doctor Paul Van Buynder from the Department of Health says he hopes the trial is eventually made a permanent part of the vaccination program.

“The absolute objective of this study is to show that this is a a cost-effective program worthy of adding to the national vaccination schedule,” he said.

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Mouse could hold key to cold cure

The first mouse to catch a cold has given British scientists fresh hope that they could finally find a cure for coughs and sneezes, as well as more serious conditions like asthma.

Scientists at Imperial College London created a genetically engineered mouse susceptible to the virus causing most colds, which normally only infects humans and chimpanzees.

The breakthrough means that it should now be easier to test new cold remedies as well as treatments for other respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis, potentially speeding up the discovery of cures.

The research, led by Professor Sebastian Johnston, was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

“These mouse models should provide a major boost to research efforts to develop new treatments for the common cold as well as for more potentially fatal illnesses such as acute attacks of asthma and of COPD (constructive obstructive pulmonary disorder, such as chronic bronchitis),” Professor Johnston said.

The discovery was welcomed by Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, chief executive of Britain’s Medical Research Council, which funded the study.

He said the research would “open up new paths to finding treatments which have been delayed for many years and provides us with the opportunities for further breakthroughs in the future”.

Rhinoviruses, which cause most colds, were discovered 50 years ago but studying them without being able to experiment on mice has proved difficult.

The Common Cold Unit started work in Britain in 1946 to find a cure for the sniffles through experiments on human volunteers but it was disbanded in 1989 after failing to crack the problem.

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ANU, China team up to fight bird flu

Australian National University researchers are joining forces with scientists in China to find treatments for avian influenza.

The new research centre will be based at the John Curtin School for Medical Research at the ANU in Canberra.

The Australian and Chinese governments have each contributed $1.5 million in funding.

Head of scientific programs at the ANU Dr Ed Bertram says Australia’s vulnerability to bird flu makes the program vital.

“The latest outbreak has been in Indonesia with a very high rate of fatality and so if avian flu does mutate for ease of human to human spread it wouldn’t take too much for the virus to get into Australia,” he said.

“So we need to have a number of measures to prevent this and I think this project is just one aspect of trying to identify ways that we can help with fighting bird flu.”

Dr Bertram says he hopes the research will ultimately lead to a vaccine.

“This project really is a new area of investigation, so we’re really trying to look at alternations in the genome of individuals that can enhance resistance to avian flu, which may give us leads to developing specific therapies that we could incorporate into vaccine designed to fight bird flu,” he said.

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Fancy a sickie? See your chemist

Pharmacists across Australia will soon be able to issue medical certificates to sick workers in need of a day off.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has issued guidelines on the matter and chemists are expected to start writing medical certificates within the next month or two.

Guild national president Kos Sclavos says most medical certificates will be for colds and flus, covering only a limited time off work.

He says about one in 60 visits to GPs are for medical certificates and the move will reduce the load on doctors.

“We are unable to put out our prices because the ACCC guidelines, so it’ll be a professional service and pharmacists are free to charge what they like,” he said.

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Burma reports first human bird flu case

A Burmese health official and the World Health Organisation (WHO) say a seven-year-old Burmese girl is the military-run country’s first confirmed human case of bird flu.

The girl was hospitalised in eastern Shan state in late November after developing fever and headache, but was discharged this week after showing signs of recovery.

The WHO confirmed that the unnamed girl was the first case, adding that a team of Burmese health officials were investigating to try to confirm the source of her infection.

“The case was detected through routine surveillance following an outbreak of H5N1 in poultry in the area in mid-November,” the WHO said in a statement.

“She has now recovered.”

The virus is usually transmitted to humans from infected birds.

Scientists fear however that the virus may mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, sparking a deadly global pandemic that could kill millions, the World Bank has said.

The official New Light of Myanmar daily confirmed that the girl was now “in good condition after receiving treatment”.

People who have had close contact with the girl have also been monitored but none have shown signs of the virus, the state-run paper said.

Burma’s military rulers normally operate under a thick veil of secrecy, but the regime has won rare plaudits from the United Nations for its openness in combating outbreaks of the virus among chickens and ducks.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed nearly 210 people worldwide, mostly in south-east Asia, since late 2003.

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Children dying for lack of child-sized drugs: WHO

WHO has launched a global campaign to promote greater research into child medicine (File photo)

WHO has launched a global campaign to promote greater research into child medicine (File photo) (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims children are dying for lack of drugs tailored to their needs and has launched a global campaign to promote greater research into child medicine.

More than half the drugs currently used to treat children in the industrialised world have not been specifically tested on the younger age groups, even though they metabolise medicines differently to adults.

As a result, clinicians lack clear guidelines on the best drug to use and often have to guess at the correct dose.

The problem is even worse in developing countries where price remains a major barrier and six million children die each year from treatable conditions.

In the case of HIV/AIDS, the few existing paediatric therapies developed for children generally cost three times more than adult ones.

In a bid to address the problem, the WHO has drawn up the first international List of Essential Medicines for Children, containing 206 products deemed safe for children that tackle priority conditions.

“But a lot remains to be done. There are priority medicines that have not been adapted for children’s use or are not available when needed,” WHO’s director of medicines policy and standards, Hans Hogerzeil, said.

Medicines that need to be adapted to children’s needs include many antibiotics, as well as asthma and pain drugs.

WHO also wants more research and development of combination pills for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The agency is building an internet portal linking to clinical trials carried out in children and will launch a website with the information early next year.

Testing medicines on children has always been a vexed issue, since good ethical practice requires informed consent from people participating in clinical trials, which is difficult to obtain in the case of children.

As a result, research-based drug companies have been wary of developing child-friendly medicines and generics companies have been slow to produce them at lower cost.

In an attempt to tackle the issue, both Europe and the United States now have special rules offering extended patent protection for drugs that have been tested on children.

Between 1990 and 1997 only 11 products were studied in children in the United States but in the last 10 years the total has jumped to 125. Research is also picking up in Europe.

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Wipes to stop superbug spread

By Jan Deane

Visitors to Victorian hospitals will be encouraged to use alcohol hand wipes (ABC: Timothy Marshall)

Visitors and staff will have to use alcohol hand wipes before entering Victorian hospitals to try to stop the spread of superbugs.

The State Government will spend $10 million on the initiative.

The Health Minister, Daniel Andrews says the measures will include checking the use of antibiotics, and an audit of cleaning programs.

“The central components of this strategy are about alcohol hand wipes so staff, visitors, and others moving through our Victorian hospitals, particularly moving through wards visiting patients… will be encouraged to use alcohol hand wipes,” he said.

“We know that they work in terms of bringing down the total number of hospital based infections.”

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