• South Korea’s health ministry says two more people have died in the country’s outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing the number of fatalities to nine.
• A Congolese-Belgian woman has become the first in the world to give birth to a healthy child after doctors restored her fertility by transplanting ovarian tissue that was removed and frozen when she was a child.
• The number of patients consulting with their doctors online in south-western Queensland has tripled in just three months.
Health News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 11th June 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
South Korea’s health ministry says two more people have died in the country’s outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing the number of fatalities to nine.
Thirteen new infections have also been reported, bringing the total number of cases to 108.
The new cases were all linked to hospitals, the ministry said.
All of those who died had been suffering serious ailments before they tested positive for the MERS virus, the ministry said, including the latest two who were both cancer patients.
South Korea’s infections have all been traced to a man who developed MERS after returning from a trip to the Middle East in early May.
He came into contact with other patients at a hospital before being diagnosed.
The outbreak has caused public alarm, with more than 2,200 schools closing or cancelling classes.
Around the region, some countries have issued advisories against travel to South Korea or stepped up screening of inbound passengers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), which began work on Tuesday on a joint mission with South Korea to analyse the virus and review the country’s response, has yet to recommend any curbs on travel or trade with South Korea.
South Korea’s new cases bring the total number of MERS cases globally to 1,257 based on WHO data, with at least 448 related deaths.
The country has the second highest number of cases after Saudi Arabia, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Australian Department of Health said they are closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East, and other parts of the world, through infectious disease surveillance networks and the WHO.
A Congolese-Belgian woman has become the first in the world to give birth to a healthy child after doctors restored her fertility by transplanting ovarian tissue that was removed and frozen when she was a child.
The woman, who was diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia when she was five and emigrated to Belgium at age 11, needed a bone marrow transplant to treat her sickle-cell condition — a procedure that required chemotherapy first.
Thinking of her future potential to have a family, the Belgian doctors decided before starting the treatment to remove the patient’s right ovary when she was 13 years old and froze tissue fragments.
Reporting the success in the journal Human Reproduction, the doctors said it pointed to a future where children with serious illnesses such as cancer may find a way to have babies many years later.
“This is an important breakthrough in the field because children are the patients who are most likely to benefit … in the future,” said Dr Isabelle Demeestere, a gynaecologist and research associate at Belgium’s Erasme Hospital.
“When they are diagnosed with diseases that require treatment that can destroy ovarian function, freezing ovarian tissue is the only … option for preserving their fertility.”
While there have been reports of successful pregnancies after ovarian transplantation using tissue removed from adult patients, there have been none yet using tissue taken from girls before puberty.
This patient, who asked to remain anonymous, had not started her periods when her ovary tissue was removed and frozen, although her doctors said there were signs she had started puberty with breast development at around age 10.
After undergoing chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and more than a year of treatment with immuno-suppressive drugs after developing graft-versus-host disease, her remaining ovary failed at the age of 15.
But 12 years later, after doctors successfully transplanted the thawed ovarian tissue the patient became pregnant at age 27 and delivered a healthy boy in November 2014.
However, Dr Demeestere and independent experts cautioned that the procedure’s potential success needed to be further explored for young… girls.
“There had previously been uncertainty as to whether ovarian tissue taken from young girls would later on be competent to produce mature, fertile eggs, so today’s case is both reassuring and exciting,” said Adam Balen, a professor at the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine.
“We have to remember that many children who require chemotherapy are very ill and the surgery to remove ovarian tissue is no small undertaking.”
The number of patients consulting with their doctors online in south-western Queensland has tripled in just three months.
The success has been linked to recently appointed coordinators showing patients how to use the telehealth service.
Telehealth is using high definition cameras to connect doctors and patients, from St George, Roma and Charleville hospitals, online [and] in real time, saving hours in travel time.
Robyn Brumpton from the South West Hospital and Health Service said user numbers had jumped from eight a month to about 40.
“For some people they might think those numbers are a little small, we are reducing the need for them to travel away,” she said.
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