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Old July 15th, 2002, 09:30
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June 30 - July 6, 2002


Saturday, July 06, 2002

Arthur Stuart - the "People's Doctor" for Sierra Leone
This obituary hightlights the extraordinary life of Dr. Arthur Stuart, who practiced medicine in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After the violent coup in 1997, Dr. Stuart fled the country, stating: "What a relief to be free of the soldiers who would cut a pregnant woman's belly open to settle a bet whether she was carrying a baby boy or a baby girl, amputate arms so that the owners wouldn't be able to vote, burn down houses indiscriminately, put a gun into children's mouths and threaten to shoot if they were not given money and kill innocent bystanders with their indiscriminate shooting." This is a powerful testament to a courageous doctor. [ article ]  


DEET is the Best
This study found that insect repellants containing DEET are superior to non-DEET repellants. The authors conclude that it is important to use DEET containing insect repellants in environments where mosquito-borne diseases are a substantial threat. [ article ]  


Herbal Medications Linked to Liver Problems
There is growing concern over the unregulated use of herbal medications as more cases of hepatic inflammation due to the treatments are becoming known. The authors of this article report two patients who needed liver transplantation after taking a mixture of Chinese herbal roots. They also review the cases of 29 other patients with similar effects from herbal medications. Part of the problem is that some of the products contain non-herbal adulterants. The offending products identified include Jin bu huan and Dictamnus dasycarpus. Comment: the message here is important--- just because someone calls a product "herbal medicine" doesn't mean it's safe or without side-effects. [ article ]  


Self-Reported Hayfever Linked to Panic Attacks
This survey of 3000 US adults found that those people who reported that they had hayfever were also twice as likely to report that they have experienced panic attacks. Comment: This is a very unreliable study since the data did not a link between hayfever and panic. All it showed was a link between self-reporting of the two. This could be interpretted many different ways: a) there is a true link between allergies and panic attacks, or b) people who complain of hayfever are more likely to complain of other health problems, including panic attacks, or c) those who self-report hayfever are more attuned to their physical responses to stress, and thus are more likely to notice an increase in their heart rate or an increase in their anxiety level. Nevertheless, it is an interesting hypothesis, and the study author admits that the link is tenuous. A possible explaination is that the breathing difficulties associated with hayfever may increase the risk of a panic attack. This is quite possible, since shortness of breath definitely can cause anxiety. [ article ]  


Thursday, July 04, 2002

China on Verge of AIDS Explosion

NewsMax.com Wires. Friday, June 28, 2002. SHANGHAI, China Health officials estimate 850,000 Chinese are infected with human immunodeficiency virus, an increase of more than a quarter of a million over last year's figure. Health workers and experts say many more people who might have contracted the infection that causes AIDS are not accounted for in the central government's statistics.


For example, a recent U.N. report has put the number of HIV-infected Chinese at more than 1 million and warns China could have 10 million HIV/AIDS sufferers by 2010 unless it acts decisively to educate the public, prevent the further spread of the virus and treat those already afflicted.


In the June 28 issue of the American journal Science, researchers Joan Kaufman and Jun Jing argue that China's vast population and slow response to rising numbers of infected people is threatening the world's largest nation with an AIDS epidemic of staggering proportions. The article traces the growth of the AIDS epidemic in China from needle-sharing heroin abusers in the early 1990s to unregulated blood donations across rural regions and the growing prevalence of sexual transmission. It calls for a national action plan to combat the spread of HIV.


Nearly two-thirds of the reported cases of HIV/AIDS in China are from drug-abuse injections and blood transfusion or donations. But the authors warn the country has witnessed a rise in the number of infections through sex, particularly among homosexuals and prostitutes.


"Increasing rates of HIV infection among commercial sex workers in several provinces, many of whom inject drugs, are beginning to bridge to the general population, fueled by low condom use and little knowledge of AIDS," the researchers wrote.


Jing, director of the Institute for Social Policy Research at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said the Chinese government needs to adopt more progressive approach to HIV prevention and treatment. She said public health initiatives in Uganda and Thailand, in which national leaders took an active stance in promoting "safe sex," have proven successful in reducing the number of HIV infections.


"What this means is that China's leaders need to show a personal interest in AIDS prevention and become better informed of the situation," Jing told United Press International.


Beijing went public with its fight against the disease last year. It was host of the first national conference on HIV/AIDS and unveiled a five-year plan to combat the spread of the virus.


Jing said the move was long overdue and an important step, but still insufficient to avert a large-scale AIDS epidemic.


"Poverty reduction agencies, family planning departments, law enforcement institutions, women's groups, research centers, and health care organizations need to coordinate their work," Jing said.


She explained the war against AIDS in China must be fought on the local level, in remote regions of the country where local officials continue to conceal rising rates of HIV infection, balk at national prevention and treatment programs, and often deny medical care to AIDS patients.


"Quite often local officials are afraid that if the areas and people under their jurisdiction are known to be suffering from the epidemic, outside investment and tourists would stop coming," Jing said.


On the national level, HIV/AIDS education and health care initiatives can take full advantage of the comprehensive family planning infrastructure found throughout China, she said.


"The family planning infrastructure should no longer function only as a birth-limitation entity," Jing said. "For too long, its function has been limited to birth limitation and thereby birth reduction."


Health officials said ignorance has precipitated the spread of HIV. Many people in China still remain unaware of HIV/AIDS, even though some of them already have the illness.



'They Don't Care'



"Most Chinese people are not willing to talk about sex or sexually transmitted diseases with their doctors," Xue Yili, a physician with the Shanghai AIDS Surveillance Center, told UPI. "I have spoken with many young people who had never even heard of the virus, and others who say they don't care."


Many people continue to believe that HIV/AIDS is a foreign disease, she said. In Shanghai, soon-to-be married couples are not required to be tested for HIV. Foreigners are tested routinely.


There are no reliable national systems for tracking the spread of the virus. National campaigns to hand out condoms and educate people about HIV/AIDS have been short-lived, Xue said.


Like many other health care officials in China who are trying to break the silence about the virus, Xue believes the country is teetering on the verge of a catastrophic AIDS epidemic.


"When millions of people start dying from the AIDS virus, then maybe the general population will wake up to the threat of infection," she said. "This is a problem that will get worse unless we act."


Meanwhile, most of China's HIV victims remain anonymous, such as Ren Wei, whose downward spiral began with the prick of a needle during a routine blood transfusion that infected him with the virus.


Ren, a successful 25-year-old civil engineer, has been a hemophiliac since childhood, a condition that requires him to receive regular blood transfusions while on business travels around the country.


Less than a year ago, Ren tested HIV positive. Within months, he was forced to quit his job and his wife left him and returned to her hometown in central Hubei province, taking their four-year-old child.



'I've Lost Everything'



"I've lost everything, my family and friends, my life," he said. "Once people learned that I had the virus, they didn't want to be around me. It was like all of a sudden I ceased to exist to them."


He is one of thousands, if not millions, of undocumented HIV carriers in China, who refuse to seek treatment at state-run hospitals after testing HIV positive, fearing abuse and public ridicule.


"I'm afraid to go to the hospital, that people won't help me," he said. "All I can do is wait to die."


Reprinted with permission from NewsMax.com Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.



  


Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Nutritional Supplements Linked With Strokes in the Young
Todd Weger used the nutritional supplement Ultimate Orange just before suffering a massive stroke in his early 30's. A former Army Ranger and Jumpmaster of the Year in 1994, he was in top physical condition prior to the stroke. The problem with the nutritional drink was partly due to the ingredient ephedra. Ephedra is a potent stimulant, and the reason for his stroke thought to be uncontrolled blood pressure during his work-out while he was on ephedra. Comment: just because a supplement is found in a "health food" store doesn't mean that it is healthy or even safe. I believe that your best bet is to stay away from all of the supplements unless you thoroughly research the ingredients first. [ article ]  


Preventing a Stroke
This review article discusses several ways you can decrease your chance of a stoke. The measures you can take include: a) don't smoke, b) don't drink more than one or two drinks a day, c) stay your proper weight, d) control your blood pressure and cholesterol, and e) if you have diabetes keep close control of your blood sugars. Although the mortality rate from stroke has been decreasing lately, it still remains a significant cause of disability. Proper attention to the risk factors for stroke will make you healthier in other ways as well. [ article ]  


Fireworks Ban Supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics
Because nearly half of all consumer fireworks related injuries occur in children under the age of 15, the AAP has adopted a policy supporting a ban on private fireworks. Comment: banning private fireworks doesn't seem like a reasonable solution to this problem. A better solution would be education and better safety control measures in the manufacturing of fireworks. [ Idaho Medical Association IMAges Vol 13, No 12. July 1, 2002]  
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