The Health News – 21 January 2014

Overview

  • The WA Department of Public Health have warned residents to check their measles vaccination status after a man and woman were admitted to hospital with symptoms of the disease in the past few days.
  • South Australia’s recent spate of bushfires have renewed support for all volunteer firefighters to receive compensation for cancer related to their duties, as a new report shows this would cost far less than previously announced.
  • A new study by the University of Southampton in the UK has asserted that short bursts of sunlight could aid in lowering blood pressure.
  • In QLD, the Central West Hospital and Health Service will commence talks with the community in February to begin developing a 10-year health plan for the area.

Health News on HPR.

Increase in measles cases prompts warning for vaccination check – no author listed
The WA Department of Public Health have warned residents to check their measle vaccination status after a man and woman were admitted to hospital with symptoms of the disease in the past few days. The two patients were infected while travelling through Asia, adding to the 12 cases already reported in WA from October to now. The department says recent cases include both foreigners who visited the state while infected, as well as WA residents who had contracted the illness while travelling through Asia. The Communicable Disease Control’s acting director Paul Effler warns that unimmunised people are spreading measles. He said “Some people weren’t vaccinated when they were younger but the vaccine had decreased wild type transmission to the point where they weren’t exposed when they were a child. So these folks are now travelling as young adults abroad where measles exists, and is always going to exist, and acquiring their infections there and then coming home. The measles vaccination program in Australia has been so successful that we don’t regularly see the disease in our communities but we have to recognize that if you’re not vaccinated, and you travel abroad, measles is so infectious you will acquire it and then risk passing it on to others.”
The department has warned any WA residents with symptoms to seek medical attention, but to phone ahead to facilities first to minimise the spread of infection.

CFS renews calls for cancer compensation as documents shows cost of scheme may me a third of $90m ‘worst-case scenario’ – by Caroline Winter and Nick Harmsen
South Australia’s recent spate of bushfires have renewed support for all volunteer firefighters to receive compensation for cancer related to their duties, as a new report shows this would cost far less than previously announced. New legislation passed through SA parliament last November ensures that all professional firefighters will be covered for 12 specified cancers, but only volunteers who are exposed to 35 or more hazardous fires per year will be eligible for compensation. The SA Gov has claimed it is too expensive to provide full coverage to both the full-time Metropolitan and part-time Country fire services under the scheme, but leaked documents have shown the cost to be less than one third of that stated by the state Gov. An earlier report by a gov actuary says that a worst-case scenario, in which all firefighters would be covered without qualifying periods, would cost the state $90m. However the recent independent report shows that the realistic cost of covering both groups would be around $27m. President of the CFS Volunteers Association, Roger Flavell, earlier labelled the scheme a ‘disgrace’, saying it discriminates against CFS firefighters. He said “This Government doesn’t seem to be prepared to protect volunteers or support volunteers.” SA Deputy Premier John Rau pledged the Government would re-examine the actuary’s report if it wins the March election, and said “I know the CFS volunteers have a view that some of the assumptions may not be correct, obviously if that (is true) then it does perhaps call for a review of the actuarial information.”

Sunlight in short bursts can significantly lower blood pressure, British researchers say – by Sarah Dingle
A new study by the University of Southampton in the UK has asserted that short bursts of sunlight could aid in lowering blood pressure. Co-author of the study Professor Martin Feelisch says sunlight triggers the release of the free-radical nitric oxide in the skin, which dilates the small blood vessels.

He said of the discovery, “We found when we exposed [the subjects’] skin to UV light on one side of the body in amounts that would correspond to roughly half an hour of sunshine during summer in southern Europe, that we find a lower blood pressure.”

Professor Feelisch says the effect is caused by UV-A rays, as opposed to UV-B rays which instigate the body’s Vitamin D production. Cardiovascular disease is arguably the number one cause of death globally, with high blood pressure considered one of the main risk factors.
Professor Feelisch’s study sample size was small but he believes the positive results would be replicated with a larger group, and said “While we appreciate that excess sunlight carries a very real risk to develop skin cancer, too little may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease by elevating blood pressure. If you look at the numbers, we’re talking about 20 times higher numbers of chronic disease mortality of cardiovascular disease compared to death as a consequence of melanoma.”
Australian Heart Foundation national director Dr Robert Grenfell says Australians need no more than 10 to 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight each day, explaining “Unfortunately a lot of our northern American and European dwellers don’t actually get enough sunlight and so, for them, this is an important message. For the average Australian, we really should be limiting our exposure to sunlight to decrease our chances of skin cancer.”

Community to get say on central west health plan – no author listed
In QLD, the Central West Hospital and Health Service will commence talks with the community in February to begin developing a 10-year health plan for the area. Chairman of the service Ed Warren says they will work in tandem with other regional providers including the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service and Medicare Local to construct the plan. The plan is intended to detail strategies which will improve healthcare throughout Central Western QLD.