The Health News – 28 January 2014


  • Queensland is working towards a surgery guarantee time for public patients under a revamp of the health system.
  • Hong Kong has begun culling 20,000 chickens after the H7N9 bird flu virus was found in poultry imported from mainland China.
  • Clinicians at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital have discovered a less invasive way to detect severe allergic reactions to peanuts through a simple breathing and blood test.
  • A new health campaign is being launched in Fremantle where vaccination rates are some of the lowest in the state.

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Queensland plans surgery guarantee time for public patients under health system revamp – no author listed
The QLD government is striving toward guaranteed surgery deadlines for public patients amid current health system reforms. Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the new model is based on a system from Denmark in which private hospitals perform operations where public hospitals cannot meet deadlines, which he says will significantly reduce surgery waiting times for many patients. He said “If patients have to wait longer than the clinically recommended time for their surgery, once assessed they will be able to be treated in a private or not-for-profit hospital, and the hospital provider who should have been doing their treatment will be responsible for the cost of that surgery.” The minister said the system would take about 2 years to implement and cost no more than the current system. But secretary of the Together Union, Alex Scott, said the announcement is pre-election hype, saying “We think this is more spin rather than substance in the lead up to the Redcliffe by-election. Clearly with Surgery Connect there is already a system in place where overflow operations are occurring through the private system. But we’re gravely concerned about this Government’s failure to continue to invest in a public system.”

Hong Kong to cull 20,000 chickens after H7N9 virus found – no author listed
In Hong Kong, health authorities will cull 20,000 chickens after some of the animals tested positive for the H7N9 influenza virus. This comes only days after Hong Kong began thorough testing of most imported live poultry, brought on by public safety concerns over live imports, especially from mainland China. There have been two human fatalities from the virus since the first infection in Hong Kong was reported in December. Widespread serological testing for the virus began last Friday, and soon after a batch of poultry tested positive. The country’s health minister Ko Wing-Man said
“A government department has confirmed that the sample chicken from the chicken imported from the mainland tested positive for H7N9 avian influenza virus. All the poultry in the wholesale market will be destroyed tomorrow morning… the total number of chickens concerned amounts to 20,000. Because we have to close the wholesale poultry market… for the next 21 days, there will be no supply of live chicken.” The incident comes under a week before the Chinese New Year, which begins Friday. The market in question, in the Cheung Sha Wan region of Hong Kong, will be closed for disinfection for some time.

Newcastle clinicians discover new peanut allergy test – no author listed
Clinicians at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital in Newcastle have discovered a non-invasive testing method for severe peanut allergy. The research project aimed to isolate antibodies specific to peanut proteins and exhaled nitric oxide, in order to predict the severity of an allergic reaction to peanuts prior to a food test. Immunologist Dr Rhani Bhatia of the research team said “It’s a combination of a breathing and blood test. The blood test looks at specific antibodies to certain proteins in peanuts, and that test has been available. What we have done differently is we have tried to combine that assessment with a breathing test, which determines allergic inflammation in your lungs. So, both the tests in combination help us predict which children are more likely to go into anaphylaxis.” Dr Bhatia says while food tests are important in gauging and managing allergies, they present the risk of a severe reaction in the patient. She said of the new test, “If we are able to predict which children may have a severe allergic reaction, then we may not put them through that procedure.”

A campaign is being launched to improve vaccination rates in Fremantle – by Courtney Bembridge
In Western Australia, a new vaccination campaign is being launched in the Fremantle region, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state. Health officials say as a result the community is vulnerable to now-rare infections such as measles. Paul Effler of the WA Department of Health said “The rates in Fremantle are only about 5 per cent lower than other areas but that is actually an important difference because for measles you will have heard immunity at 95 per cent protection, but not at 90 per cent.” In the Fremantle region last year 93% of 1 year olds were immunised, yet 5 year olds boasted a rate of only 82%. Dr Effler continued, “If measles were to be introduced into the community there and get amongst the young children we could see sustained transmission and that’s obviously something we want to avoid. I wouldn’t want to single Fremantle out as the only area that needs to improve their rates but they have a little bit more work to do than some other areas.”

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