Health News – 05 Jan 2015

Overview

  • It has been one of the biggest stories of 2014 and it does not look like it is going anywhere. The Ebola crisis in West Africa has killed thousands of people and it will continue to do so in 2015.
  • Last year’s flu season in South Australia was the worst on record, according to the State Government. More than 11,000 cases were recorded, which is double the average and the highest number since records began in 2008.
  • Bad luck plays a major role in determining who gets cancer and who does not, according to researchers who say two-thirds of cancers of various types can be blamed on random mutations and not heredity or risky habits like smoking.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 5th January 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-04/ebola-crisis-how-outbreak-became-the-worst-on-record/5998432

It has been one of the biggest stories of 2014 and it does not look like it is going anywhere.

The Ebola crisis in West Africa has killed thousands of people and it will continue to do so in 2015.

Given the Ebola story has been a constant on the news for the best part of a year, some of the interest has gone. But ignoring the disease is fraught with danger.

On a US talk show recently, White House Ebola response coordinator Ron Klain warned the world against complacency.

Scientists now believe the first Ebola victim was a two-year-old boy who caught the disease after playing either in or near a tree that housed a colony of bats.

From there he passed the virus onto his family and then to health workers in Guinea.

They then passed it onto their own families and thus the cycle began.

What helped this become the worst ever outbreak of the disease was the fact the haemorrhagic virus was not identified as Ebola until late in March.

This gave it time to get embedded in the population – dense, hygiene poor rural parts of both Guinea and Liberia. From there it spread to Sierra Leone.

Initially the global response was subdued. Ebola was not a new story.

After all, there have been a few major international stories this year: Syria, Ukraine, and various disasters involving planes.

The deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control in Kenya, Dr Joel Montgomery, has been to West Africa a few times this year.

Dr Montgomery helped to establish new offices in the three hardest hit countries.

When the outbreak was at its worst, in late August and early September, he was there.

He paints a grim picture and has repeated the warning of Mr Klain about not becoming complacent.

Most experts believe it will be months, at the very least, before transmissions drop to such a point that the worry can dissipate.

Dr Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, an expert in public health and emergency medicine who has also spent time in West Africa this year, says the global response has failed the region.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-02/sa-records-record-number-of-flu-cases-in-2014/5997442

Last year’s flu season in South Australia was the worst on record, according to the State Government.

More than 11,000 cases were recorded, which is double the average and the highest number since records began in 2008.

SA Health Minister Jack Snelling said the spike in cases put a strain on hospital resources and staff.

“They had a very, very difficult year, with a significant increase in presentations,” he said.

Despite SA Health distributing a record number of flu vaccinations, Mr Snelling said the figures proved that not enough people were getting vaccinated.

Flinders Medical Centre clinical director and associate professor Alan O’Connor said the strain on health services would be eased if more people were vaccinated.

The State Government said it was considering a range of options to improve vaccination rates.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-02/biological-bad-luck-blamed-in-majority-of-cancer-cases-study/5996960

Bad luck plays a major role in determining who gets cancer and who does not, according to researchers who say two-thirds of cancers of various types can be blamed on random mutations and not heredity or risky habits like smoking.

The researchers said random DNA mutations accumulating in various parts of the body during ordinary cell division were the prime culprits.

They looked at 31 cancer types and found that 22 of them, including leukaemia and pancreatic, bone, testicular, ovarian and brain cancer, could be explained largely by these random mutations – essentially biological bad luck.

The other nine types, including colorectal cancer, skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and smoking-related lung cancer, were more heavily influenced by heredity and environmental factors like risky behaviour or exposure to carcinogens.

Overall, they attributed 65 per cent of cancer incidence to random mutations in genes that can drive cancer growth.

Dr Vogelstein conducted the study published in the journal Science with Johns Hopkins biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti.

Professor Tomasetti said harmful mutations occur for “no particular reason other than randomness” when the body’s master cells, called stem cells, divide in various tissues.

He said the study shows changing one’s lifestyle and habits like smoking to avoid cancer risks could help prevent certain cancers, but may not be as effective for others.

The study did not cover all cancer types.

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