Archive for the ‘Overseas Health News’ 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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ASEAN launches infectious diseases information site

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has launched a new website for nations to compare notes on infectious diseases threatening the region.

The ASEAN Plus Three Countries website will help prevent deadly disease outbreaks by easing the exchange of information between ASEAN members and China, South Korea and Japan, the regional bloc said in a statement.

The website is being coordinated by Indonesia’s health ministry and will be jointly maintained by ASEAN, it said.

“Multilateral coordination which is mutually beneficial should be developed and maintained so it can continue, including through information exchange among nations,” Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

The minister’s backing of the website comes despite her highly publicised reticence over sharing information on the deadly bird flu virus.

Ms Supari has angered many abroad by refusing to routinely share virus samples with the World Health Organisation, saying she fears rich nations will use them to create vaccines unaffordable to Indonesians.

Ms Supari also said this month her ministry would no longer announce individual bird flu deaths to the media and has given conflicting statements about how often the public would be told of deaths.

Indonesia is the country worst-hit by the bird flu virus, with at least 108 people believed to have been killed by the virus. The most recent reported case, a 15-year-old girl, has not been confirmed by the minister.

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MSF seeks Darwin recruits

The medical organisation Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) is running a recruitment drive in Darwin this week.

The group, also known as Doctors without Borders, recruit more than 2,000 doctors, nurses and support staff world-wide each year.

Last year 111 positions were filled by Australians and New Zealanders.

Tanya Davies says Medecins Sans Frontiers has its eye on Northern Territory doctors and nurses who would be ideal for a position.

“There’s a lot of people in the Territory that might be looking to doing something different for a while and might be interested in volunteering,” she said.

“MSF is looking to get people who are interested in people going overseas with them for nine months.”

She says a stint overseas may actually renew the enthusiasm of Territory doctors and nurses.

“This is something I see for people who are in the NT who need a bit of a break and want to come back,” she said.

“I was working for two years in Central Australia at Utopia … [I] got a bit burnt out, needed a break, went overseas with MSF which was a wonderful experience and came back.”

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Attention deficit disorder a boon for nomads: study

A genetic propensity for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may actually help people thrive in nomadic environments, according to a study of Kenyan tribesmen.

US researchers found that a gene associated with the disorder was linked to better health and body weight in a group of nomadic cattle herders, but could cause malnourishment in their cousins who have recently settled and begun to grow crops.

“Our findings suggest that some of the variety of personalities we see in people is evolutionarily helpful or detrimental, depending on the context,” said lead author Dan Eisenberg, an anthropology graduate at Northwestern University.

“This insight might allow us to begin to view ADHD as not just a disease but something with adaptive components.”

The dopamine receptor gene Assistant Professor Eisenberg and his team studied is involved in impulsivity, reward anticipation and addiction and is believed to be associated with food craving as well as ADHD.

The effects of these genes have been studied in industrial countries but little research has been carried out in subsistence environments which more closely mirror the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.

“It is possible that in a nomadic setting, a boy with this allele might be able to more effectively defend livestock against raiders or locate food and water sources, but that the same tendencies might not be as beneficial in settled pursuits such as focusing in school, farming or selling goods,” Assistant Professor Eisenberg said.

The study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

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UN boss wants end to travel restrictions on HIV carriers

Posted 4 hours 55 minutes ago

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to discrimination against people carrying the AIDS virus, including travel restrictions imposed on them by some countries.

“I call for a change in laws that uphold stigma and discrimination, including restrictions on travel for people living with HIV,” he said at the opening of a two-day, high-level meeting in the General Assembly on UN targets set in 2001 to roll back the disease worldwide.

“Halting and reversing the spread of AIDS is not only a goal in itself, it is a prerequisite for reaching almost all the others [poverty-reduction Millennium Development Goals by 2015].”

He said that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, “it is shocking that there should still be discrimination against those at high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or stigma attached to individuals living with HIV.”

“I am a person living with HIV and by revealing my HIV status publicly, I am taking a risk of being banned from entering this country and over 70 other countries around the world,” said AIDS activist Ratri Suryadarma of Indonesia.

A letter signed by 345 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was sent to leaders and ambassadors of concerned countries to urge them to lift the restrictions.

According to UNAIDS, the global standard-bearer in the fight against HIV, 74 countries are subjecting HIV carriers to restrictive measures, including a mention of the disease on their passports.

Twelve among them – Armenia, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sudan, the United States and Yemen – barred entry to HIV carriers, often citing public health concerns and the high cost of treatment.

Innocent Laison, a member of the Senegalese NGO Africaso, denounced such restrictions, pointing that countries which impose them allow their own HIV-infected nationals to go abroad.

Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca, who lifted such restrictions in his country four years ago, backed the NGOs’ call.

“I appeal to the international community and all governments for the scrapping of walls and barriers which restrict the free movement of people living with HIV,” he said.

Meanwhile AIDS expert Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed the importance of prevention and continuing research.

He recalled that AIDS was discovered 27 years ago and that considerable funding was still needed to combat the disease.

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Gene discovery brings hope to bowel cancer patients

By national medical reporter Sophie Scott

Australian scientists have identified a genetic marker for bowel cancer.

A study by Niall Tebbutt from the Austin Hospital in Melbourne looked at whether patients with advanced bowel cancer had a normal or mutated form of a gene known as the KRAS gene.

He found two-thirds of patients had a type of gene that could respond to the latest targeted therapies.

Dr Tebbutt says new medications switch off chemical signals so cancer cells do not grow or spread.

In the future, patients with bowel cancer could undergo genetic testing to make sure they receive the best treatment.

The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in the United States.

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