The Health News – 16 June 2015

Overview:

• South Korea’s health ministry has reported five new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), taking the total to 150 in an outbreak that is the largest outside Saudi Arabia.

• Water at the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) Fiskville training base in western Victoria was allegedly deliberately contaminated as part of a biological experiment, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry has heard.

• The Victorian Government is sifting through submissions to the inquiry into chemical use by lands department staff in the Central Goldfields region.

Health News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 16th June 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-15/mers-cases-in-south-korea-rise-to-150-with-16-dead/6545770

South Korea’s health ministry has reported five new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), taking the total to 150 in an outbreak that is the largest outside Saudi Arabia.

The ministry also said another patient infected with the MERS virus had died, taking the death toll to 16 since the outbreak began in May.
Up to 17 patients are in an unstable condition.
The five new patients — aged from 39 to 84 — were infected in hospitals in cities including Seoul and Daejeon, 140 kilometres south of the capital.
Among them was a doctor who had performed CPR on an infected patient in Daejeon and one infected in Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul — where more than 70 patients, visitors and medical staff have contracted the virus.
On Sunday, the Samsung Medical Centre suspended its services after being identified as the epicentre of the spread of the deadly infection.
Among the cases was an emergency ward orderly who worked for days after developing symptoms, coming into contact with more than 200 people, the hospital said.
Authorities have also sealed off at least two other hospitals with patients and medical workers inside.
The number of people who have come into contact with patients and put under quarantine either at state facilities or at home has risen to 5,200.
The outbreak started on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Since then the virus has spread at an unusually rapid pace, sparking alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Almost all patients were infected in hospital.
Most of those who have died from the disease have been elderly people, or people with existing ailments.
The World Health Organisation has called an emergency meeting … on South Korea’s “large and complex” MERS outbreak.
MERS is caused by a …virus from the same family as the one that caused SARS. There is no cure or vaccine.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-15/water-deliberately-contaminated-at-fiskville-base-inquiry-hears/6547462

Water at the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) Fiskville training base in western Victoria was allegedly deliberately contaminated as part of a biological experiment, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry has heard.

The inquiry is examining claims dozens of firefighters who worked or trained at Fiskville suffered cancers linked to dangerous firefighting chemicals over several decades.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade firefighter Mick Tisbury told the inquiry a scientist told him the potentially dangerous bacteria and fire retarding organism, pseudomonas aeruginosa, was added to water at the base as a cheap way to treat hydrocarbons.
“He told me that he was part of an experiment with the CFA where they deliberately introduced pseudomonas aeruginosa into the water supply as a biological way of cleaning up the hydrocarbons in the water,” he said.
Mr Tisbury, who was an instructor at Fiskville, said the CFA was aware of contamination at Fiskville as early as 1988, as a result of a series of independent reports, some of which were commissioned by the CFA.
He uncovered a February 2007 Ecowise report showing disturbing levels of pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause infections, in one of Fiskville’s dams.
The bacteria is safe at a level of fewer than 10 organisms per 100 millilitres, but test results showed the dam had 33,000 organisms per 100 millilitres of water.
“The presence of pseudomonas aeruginosa at these levels indicates the water is unsuitable for primary contact,” the report said.

The inquiry heard CFA chief executive Mick Bourke received another report concluding firefighters were at risk at Fiskville after the discovery of a cancer cluster in late 2011, yet he publicly declared the base was safe and let training continue.
Mr Tisbury said the CFA knowingly put the health of recruits at risk.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-15/submissions-to-inquiry-into-central-goldfields/6545642

The Victorian Government is sifting through submissions to the inquiry into chemical use by lands department staff in the Central Goldfields region.

Former staff said they were exposed to dangerous chemicals while spraying weeds and rabbit warrens 30 to 50 years ago.
The investigation covers the Central Goldfields Shire and surrounding districts, including Ballarat and Ararat.
Submissions closed last week and interviews are continuing.

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