The Health News – 02 November 2015

Overview:
• Health authorities are scrambling to contain an outbreak of syphilis that is believed to have claimed the lives of 10 babies across northern Australia. Professor Basil Donovan, of the Sydney-based Kirby Institute, said while instances of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) were in decline, an outbreak that started in northern Queensland in 2011 had swept across the Top End.

• The World Health Organisation declared Australia polio free in 2000. But the disease remains a threat in Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which recorded its highest level of polio infections in a decade last year. And in Australia, the disease is still very much with us.

•  A mental health care model pursued for close to a decade has not worked, the South Australian Government has now conceded as it makes changes. A report done for the Government in 2007 by David Cappo recommended moving to a preventive model of mental health care, with a focus on intermediate care beds and fewer acute facilities.

News on Health Professional Radio.  Today is the 2nd November 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.  Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-01/scramble-to-contain-syphilis-outbreak-northern-australia/6900568

Health authorities are scrambling to contain an outbreak of syphilis that is believed to have claimed the lives of 10 babies across northern Australia.

Professor Basil Donovan, of the Sydney-based Kirby Institute, said while instances of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) were in decline, an outbreak that started in northern Queensland in 2011 had swept across the Top End.

Professor Donovan said 10 babies had died as a result of congenital syphilis since the outbreak began.

“A rich country like Australia, shouldn’t really be seeing any deaths,” he said.

The Kirby Institute’s national surveillance system showed 2,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2014.

As of October 30, another 1,972 cases had been recorded in 2015, making it the most severe Australian outbreak in 30 years.

The only other group affected outside of northern Aboriginal communities are urban gay communities.

Professor Donovan said in cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, the STI was almost entirely limited to gay men.

Syphilis can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics, but if left untreated the STI can have serious health impacts, including dementia, blindness, and permanent damage to the heart and brain.

The northern outbreak crossed the NT border into WA last year and health authorities in the Kimberley are trying to contain its spread.

Broome-based sexual health nurse Katy Crawford said for the two years to June 2014, the region had been syphilis-free.

But since then, more than 40 people had been infected, and dozens more may be carrying it without realising.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-01/post-polio-syndrome-australias-forgotten-disability/6900606

The World Health Organisation declared Australia polio free in 2000. But the disease remains a threat in Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which recorded its highest level of polio infections in a decade last year.

And in Australia, the disease is still very much with us.

It is estimated there are 400,000 Australian polio survivors. Peak body Polio Australia says this makes them the single-largest physical disability group in the country.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, at times polio reached epidemic proportions in Australia. The virus attacks the motor neurons that relay messages from the spinal cord to muscles and can lead to muscular degeneration and, in some cases, paralysis.

Widespread use of the polio vaccine eventually halted its spread. But for thousands of polio survivors, the disease is not finished. Decades after they contracted polio, symptoms can return in the form of post-polio syndrome (PPS).

Frances Henke contracted polio in 1946, when she was just two years old. More than 40 years later, she began to experience severe fatigue. And her left leg, which had been badly damaged by polio, was becoming more and more sensitive to temperature swings.

“It’s all in your head, you know,” she said doctors told her at first.

“And then I found an article … and it talked about post-polio syndrome. And I thought, ‘at last’.”

Ms Henke now works with Polio Network Victoria to help spread awareness of PPS. One of the biggest challenges she faces is that many polio survivors may not even know they contracted the disease as infants.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/mental-health-failings-sa-government-concedes-acute-care-needs/6900948

A mental health care model pursued for close to a decade has not worked, the South Australian Government has now conceded as it makes changes.

It decided in 2007 to close acute care beds but they are now being reopened in a bid to ease patient loads in hospital emergency departments.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said 21 acute [care] … beds would be commissioned across metropolitan hospitals.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital is to get five, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital eight, and another eight will go to the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

Four are to be psychiatric intensive care beds.

The changes will cost $3 million and be funded from cuts to middle management jobs in the health sector.

A year ago, he set an ambitious target that by the start of 2016 no mental health patient would spend more than 24 hours in an emergency department.

A report done for the Government in 2007 by David Cappo recommended moving to a preventive model of mental health care, with a focus on intermediate care beds and fewer acute facilities.

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