The Health News – 23 March 2017

• Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE), a mosquito-borne virus, was detected again in northern WA. MVE can leave people with permanent impaired neurological function, such as paralysis and loss of verbal function.

• A vomiting mannequin in Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) trains paramedics and nurses to the uncommon and a very difficult scenario of a patient who vomits while we’re taking over their breathing for them.

• An inhalable version of the drug oxytocin could reduce the number of women dying in childbirth. Current version of this drug is injectible and skilled medical professionals must administer it.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  23rd of March 2017. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

The family of a WA police officer left devastated by a mosquito-borne virus has urged people to be careful, after it was detected again in northern WA.

Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE) can cause milder symptoms such as swollen joints, sore muscles skin rashes, fever, headaches and fatigue, but can also leave people with permanent impaired neurological function, such as paralysis and loss of verbal function.

MVE has been detected for the first time this year in “sentinel” chicken flocks in the east Kimberley region, while there have been probably detections of both MVE and the Kunjin virus — which can also cause severe long-term effects — in the Pilbara region.

Former WA police officer Ryan Marron was left paralysed and unable to speak after he contracted the virus while working in the remote community of Balgo, near the Northern Territory border.

No human cases have been recorded in WA since 2011, according to the WA Health Department.

The department is warning people in WA’s north to be cautious for the next couple of weeks, particularly when near water and during water-based activities.

“In young children, fever might be the only early sign, so parents should see their doctor if concerned, particularly if their child experiences drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding or general distress.”

There are no specific cures or vaccines for any of these viruses.

A dummy that violently regurgitates sickly green fluid is the latest recruit of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Broken Hill.

The brainchild of RFDS doctor Andy Caldin, the dummy’s purpose is to expose paramedics and nurses to the harsh realities of artificial respiration in the outback.

“This is our vomiting mannequin,” Dr Caldin said as he courteously introduced the dummy.

“It allows us to train for the uncommon, but very difficult, scenario of a patient who vomits while we’re taking over their breathing for them.”

But the RFDS dummy harbours a surprise.

“We use a 50-litre reservoir that’s connected to a pump — actually, a caravan shower pump — that can pump at four litres per minute,” Dr Caldin said.

The dummy is so realistic it also regurgitates ‘sputum’, not just from its mouth, but its nose too.

Dr Caldin said there was more to resuscitation than just mouth-to-mouth blowing, especially in an emergency situation when the patient may not have an empty stomach.

“The on-call doctor and on-call flight nurse run through these simulations everyday across our bases.”

Dr Caldin said the training was necessary, as the need for artificial respiration could be as common in the outback as it is on the coast.

An inhalable version of the drug oxytocin could slash the number of women dying in childbirth, researchers say.

About 300,000 women die from childbirth a year, primarily from postpartum haemorrhaging (PPH) and in developing countries such as Afghanistan.

Oxytocin is currently an injectable drug administered to women experiencing signs of PPH in pregnancy, and works by stimulating the uterine muscles.

Associate professor Michelle McIntosh, from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, has developed the first human trial to deliver the drug in an inhaled form.

“At the end of childbirth the uterus is just tired and it sort of stops contracting, so just an injection or an extra dose of oxytocin, it just prompts that contractility to start again,” Dr McIntosh said.

However in its current form it needs to be refrigerated and a skilled medical professional to properly administer it.

“And that’s not really suitable for a lot of remote or rural locations, particularly in low-resource settings,” Dr McIntosh said.

“Women are going to give birth late at night, there’s no lights, there’s no electricity, there’s nobody there to help.”

She said the drug needed to be able to be administered in a simple way, so that any healthcare worker or community-based healthcare worker could assist a woman immediately after childbirth.

The trial was sponsored by pharmaceutical company GSK and Dr McIntosh said while they hoped to develop the drug for Australian users, their main aim was to make it available to women in developing countries.

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