- Australia’s top researchers have gathered in Sydney for the nation’s biggest science awards, with the creators of helicopter “floaties” and a Hendra virus vaccine taking out top gongs.
- A six-month-old girl has died from meningococcal disease in Adelaide and four other people have been diagnosed this month.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $US50 million to support emergency efforts to contain West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, which has already killed almost 2,300 people in the worst outbreak of the virus in history.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 12th September 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Australia’s top researchers have gathered in Sydney for the nation’s biggest science awards, with the creators of helicopter “floaties” and a Hendra virus vaccine taking out top gongs.
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes celebrate excellence in the fields of research and innovation, leadership, school science and science journalism and communication.
Among the winners were the CSIRO’s Hendra Virus Research Team, which created the first vaccine and effective human treatment for the deadly virus.
Hendra virus emerged in 1994 and has a proven ability to cross species, from bat to horse to human.
The virus has a human death rate of 50 per cent.
“The vaccine provides Australia, and the world, with the first set of targeted tools to protect people and animals against this deadly virus,” said Australian Museum director and CEO Kim McKay.
“And now this remarkable team are applying their skills to the even deadlier scourge of Ebola.”
The team works at the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, which is facing significant cuts.
The CSIRO is due to cut eight jobs from the lab as part of more than $110 million of budget cuts to the science organisation.
The lab, which employs 250 people, is equipped to handle deadly pathogens that enter the country and has also diagnosed bird flu outbreaks.
The director of the Animal Health Lab, Kurt Zuelke, said in August that work on Hendra virus and avian influenza (bird flu) would not be jeopardised.
An ex-Navy diver and engineer who created an emergency buoyancy system for helicopters won the Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia award.
West Australian Tim Lyons created the Pegasus Aircraft Buoyancy System, which inflates within less than one second and can be attached to many different types of helicopters.
The Pegasus system was originally designed for the Army’s fleet of Tiger helicopters, which will be spending more time over water to service the Navy’s two new helicopter ships.
Previous emergency flotation systems required the pilot to maintain control and activate the airbags manually, which was not optimal as when a helicopter hits the water, the crew are more at risk from drowning in the fast-sinking craft than from injuries caused by the crash itself.
A six-month-old girl has died from meningococcal disease in Adelaide and four other people have been diagnosed this month.
The infant’s death has prompted a warning from SA Health about the need for vigilance for symptoms of the disease.
Chief public health officer Stephen Christley said there had been five cases of meningococcal disease in South Australia since the start of this month, most likely due to higher numbers of influenza and other respiratory conditions.
“Symptoms of meningococcal infection may include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sore muscles, followed in some cases by a rash of red and purple spots,” he said.
“The meningococcus bacteria are carried around in the nose and throat of around 10 per cent of the population, but are usually harmless.
“The bacteria are spread from person to person through close contact but only a very small number of people develop meningococcal disease.”
Babies, children need close monitoring: health chief
Dr Christley said infants needed to be watched closely.
“Babies or young children with meningococcal infection may also be fretful, refuse feeds or be difficult to wake,” he said.
Three children and two adults had been diagnosed in SA this month.
Dr Christley said SA Health always followed up with people who might have had contact with anyone with meningococcal infection.
“People who may be particularly at risk will be given antibiotic chemoprophylaxis as a preventative measure,” Dr Christley said.
Since the start of the year, there had been 16 cases of meningococcal infection in SA, one fewer than at the same time last year.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $US50 million to support emergency efforts to contain West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, which has already killed almost 2,300 people in the worst outbreak of the virus in history.
The US-based philanthropic foundation said it would release funds immediately to UN agencies and international organisations to help them buy supplies and scale up the emergency response in affected countries.
It said it would also work with public and private sector partners to speed up development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics that could be effective in treating Ebola patients and preventing further spread of the haemorrhagic fever-causing virus.
“We are working urgently with our partners to identify the most effective ways to help them save lives now and stop transmission of this deadly disease,” the foundation’s chief executive Sue Desmond-Hellmann said in a statement.
The latest data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed the Ebola outbreak, which began in March, had infected almost 4,300 people so far, killing more than half of them.
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