Archive for the ‘gastroenteritis’ Category


One in four cafes, snack bars and seafront restaurants in tourist hotspots across France are breaking hygiene rules or serving food unfit for consumption, the agriculture ministry said.

French health inspectors visiting some 9,400 food establishments found more than 2,600 to be in breach of at least one hygiene rule, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier told Le Parisien daily.

Warnings were issued for dirty toilets and kitchens and for poor hygiene among staff, while inspection teams carted away 30 tonnes of food unfit to serve from some 550 food shacks and restaurants.

Thirty-seven establishments were shut down altogether, for failing to meet basic hygiene and food conservation rules, and allowing staff to work in dirty clothes, Monique Eloit of the agriculture ministry’s food directorate said.

The number of eateries caught in breach of the rules was similar to last year, but the amount of food seized had more than doubled, she said.


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The Greater Western Area Health Service says there is no increased risk of gastroenteritis in local nursing homes, despite a possible outbreak in the Blue Mountains that affected 80 people and claimed 10 lives.

Health authorities are investigating the cause of the outbreak that doubled the death rate at the Endeavour Nursing Home in Springwood.

Greater Western Area Health Service’s manager of population health, Dr Tony Brown, says there have been a few outbreaks at some of the more than 100 nursing homes in the region.

“But we haven’t seen any more cases, or bigger outbreaks than usual,” he said.

“They come and

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NSW ‘shifting blame’ on Indigenous gastro problem

The New South Wales Government is facing criticism over water and sewerage conditions in remote Aboriginal communities.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that over the past 12 years there has been a 218 per cent rise in NSW hospital admissions of Aboriginal children suffering gastroenteritis.

Documents obtained by the State Opposition show NSW Government departments are arguing over who should pay to improve sanitation conditions in 75 Indigenous communities in the state.

State Nationals leader Andrew Stoner says Indigenous communities are living with third world water and sewerage systems while government agencies continue to shift responsibility.

“It’s just scandalous that in the 21st century in the premier state of one of the wealthiest nations in the world, many New South Wales Aboriginal communities around country New South Wales, still have unhygienic water and no sewerage,” he said.

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AMA questions painkiller prescription plan

Packets of the painkiller Nurofen Plus

Prescription plan: Nurofen Plus (AAP: Glenn Hunt)

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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is sceptical of an idea to make codeine-based painkillers like Nurofen Plus prescription only.

The National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee will consider the move in June.

A recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that people were taking excessive amounts of some codeine-based drugs.

The Victorian president of the AMA, Doug Travis, says there would have to be sufficient evidence to warrant an over-the-counter ban on the drugs.

“Probably these products should remain over-the-counter – they have worked well for many years,” he said.

“There may be some problems associated with them but there is a great deal of benefit for having these drugs available across the counter through your chemist.

“We aren’t aware of major problems of addiction resulting in Nurofen Plus, with this smaller amount of codeine in it.

“There are great benefits having these drugs available and we’re not sure that the problems it may be causing outweigh the benefits it gives to society.”

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Killer superbugs on the rise: research

By Helen Carter for ABC Science Online

“Superbugs” that cause boils and can go on to kill otherwise healthy people are on the rise in the community, an Australian conference will hear this week.

New Queensland research shows a three to eight-fold increase over seven years of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in the community.

The more well-known MRSA superbugs found in hospitals generally infect the young and old, but this research refers to so-called non-multiresistant forms of MRSA.

These can infect young adults, adolescents and other age groups in the community and are generally more susceptible to antibiotics than their hospital-acquired counterparts.

What commonly starts as boils in otherwise healthy people, can if untreated, progress to life-threatening pneumonia or bone destruction, says director of microbiology with Pathology Queensland, Associate Professor Graeme Nimmo.

He will tell the Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases annual scientific meeting on the Sunshine Coast at the weekend that a national public health approach is needed and non-multiresistant MRSA should be notifiable so health authorities can treat contacts.

Contacts of people infected with community strains often include relatives and members of sporting teams who are in close contact and share equipment, utensils and towels, he says.

When bugs turn bad

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, commonly reffered to as Golden Staff, lives on the skin or in the nose of one-third of people all the time and another third part of the time.

In some, it acquires resistance to methicillin and becomes virulent MRSA, which causes about 6,900 bloodstream infections in Australia a year, with nearly one in three patients dying.

Nimmo says people are generally aware of MRSA in hospitals but less aware of the global phenomenon of the community strains.

Their slow and subtle emergence in Australia in the 1990s, earlier than elsewhere, has led to about 50 non-multiresistant strains today.

Although community strains do not usually develop into bloodstream infections, several are quite virulent.

“It’s uncommon but the community strains can cause serious illness or death from pneumonia, or other infections such as osteomyelitis,” Professor Nimmo says.

“In south-east Queensland in the past four years community MRSA has probably caused six deaths,” he said.

“It’s a concern and something we need to take seriously. It affects previously healthy people, not just the very old or young like hospital strains, but healthy young adults, adolescents and other age groups.”

Do I have it?

Patients normally present to their doctor with a boil, and if untreated, symptoms can include fever, feeling extremely unwell and a rapid heartbeat.

“People with boils, especially recurring boils, need them drained by a doctor, antibiotics and an antiseptic skin wash, and relatives might also need treatment,” Professor Nimmo says.

Prisoners, gay men, some Indigenous groups, gymnasts and rugby players are at higher risk, he says.

Improving household hygiene, increasing washing of linen and towels and reducing overcrowding reduces the bacteria burden.

The study

The study reviewed all Staphylococcus aureus tests in Queensland public hospital outpatients from 2000 to 2006.

It included 2,097 blood tests, indicating more invasive infections, and 54,000 pus, tissue and fluid tests.

The proportion of blood tests positive for non-multiresistant community MRSA tripled from 2.6 per cent to 8.1 per cent and prevalence of the strains jumped eight-fold in pus, tissue and fluid samples from 1.8 per cent to 15.1 per cent.

There is a danger that community strains will become resistant to multiple types of antibiotics as has happened in the US.

Its extremely virulent USA300 strain has already arrived in Australia, Professor Nimmo says.

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Nanotech in food poses ‘unknown risks’

By Anna Salleh for ABC Science Online

The reports say nanotechnology could be used to produce processed meats.

The reports say nanotechnology could be used to produce processed meats.

The food industry’s increasing use of nanotechnology in ingredients, additives and packaging has prompted two new reports calling for better consumer protection.

The reports, one a review led by UK government scientists and the other by an international lobby group, add to growing calls for better safety assessment and regulation of nanotechnology in food.

Complicating the issue is debate about which sized particles can cross into the body’s cells and whether the commonly used definition of nanotechnology is adequate.

Scientists writing in the latest issue of the journal Food Additives and Contaminants say the food industry, including Australia’s, is already using some nanotechnology, and safety research is needed urgently.

Dr Qasim Chaudhry from the UK government’s Central Science Laboratory in York, and his colleagues, say engineered nano-sized particles and other structures are being used to develop new tastes, textures, nutritional qualities, as well as improve shelf life and traceability of food products.

But they say there is not enough information to adequately assess the risk of these additives and ingredients.

The researchers say it would be prudent to consider action in the face of this uncertainty, especially where food and drinks containing nano-ingredients are likely to be consumed in large quantities by a large proportion of the population.

They say there is a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates nanoparticles can cross into the body’s cells and cause damage.

Questions have been raised over whether nanoparticles and even larger micro-scale particles in the diet can inflame the gut, and testing is required to check if nano-food ingredients or additives affect nutrition.

They say current regulations do not fully cover nanotechnology in food and the European food science professional body, the Institute of Food Science and Technology, recently recommended that nanoparticles be treated as new, potentially harmful materials, until testing proves them safe.

The same recommendation about nanoparticles in general was made by the UK Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering in 2004.

Regulators ‘asleep at the wheel’

Georgia Miller of the Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project is co-author of a report released today that documents the international use of unlabelled nanomaterials in food.

The ‘Out of the laboratory and on to our plates’ report calls for engineered nanomaterials to be kept out of the food supply until further testing and public consultation.

Ms Miller says Australia’s food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to nanotechnology.

She says Australian manufacturers are not required to declare when food ingredients are nanoscale and the nation’s food regulator does not know which nanomaterials are in foods.

“We really don’t think the burden of risk should be borne by the community,” she says.

How big is nano?

Complicating the issue of regulation and safety is debate about the size of particles that can cross into body cells.

While the nanoscale usually refers to structures under 100 nanometres, Friends of the Earth points to evidence that 300 nanometres can present novel risks and should be checked for safety.

Dr Martin Garnett of the UK’s University of Nottingham says in a 2006 paper in the journal Occupational Medicine that particles up to 300 nanometres can get into cells.

Dr Garnett, who studies how nanoparticles are distributed in the body, says coatings such as surfactants used to stop nanoparticles from aggregating can make it easier for nanoparticles to get into tissues.

He also says other experiments show particles larger than 100 nanometres accumulate in a range of different tissues, including the brain.

‘Don’t panic’

An expert in international nanotechnology regulation, Professor Graeme Hodge of Monash University in Melbourne, warns against a “gut reaction” to nanotechnology without considering the evidence.

“Don’t panic up front,” he said. He says the use of nanotechnology in some areas will be “quite benign”.

But he says its use in food, cosmetics and medicines will require “serious and evolved debate” and careful consideration of risks.

He says the Australian Government has been proactive in commissioning a report to identify possible gaps in Australian regulations, which he helped prepare.

But he says it is too early to say if new regulations are really required, especially since international standard-setting bodies are only now officially defining the characteristics of nanomaterials.

Australia’s food regulator FSANZ declined to comment on nanotechnology in food, directing queries to the federal Health Department.

“No policy has been developed in regards to a specific regulatory response to nanotechnology,” reads a Health Department statement for FSANZ.

“FSANZ is not aware, nor has it been made aware, of any commercially sold foods in Australia that have been developed using nanotechnology.”

The statement says FSANZ is gathering information and discussing the food safety implications of nanotechnology with international bodies and is yet to determine if a risk assessment is required for nanotechnology in foods.

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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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