Welcome to the new Asnycnow News: Health Blogpage.

This blogpage will feature the latest Health news from various news sources from around the world.

The stories listed on this blogpage are copyrighted and owned by their respective owners and listed under copyright. 

This blogpage will be updated daily from Saturday-Thursday with a roundup on Friday.

If you have a story idea, let us know via email at or send us a Tweet @AsnycnowRadio with the hashtag #health.

»Last Update: 11 August 2011 at 03:00h, GMT-5

WHO: 500,000 Lassa fever cases each year in west Africa

An estimated 500,000 people in west Africa are infected with lassa fever every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Wednesday, amid calls for more money to be spent on preventing its spread.

“The disease remains an epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria with evidence of its presence in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Mali,” the WHO’s representative in Sierra Leone, Dr Wondimagegnehu Anemu told delegates at a conference on infectious diseases.

Anemu said he hoped the four-day meeting “will create an opportunity to examine the potential impact of the epidemic in the region and the world.”

Sierra Leone’s Health Minister Zainab Bangura said that eradicating the rodent that carries the virus was “almost impossible.”

Instead he argued that countries “should embark on adequate measures to prevent the spread of the disease and all available resources should be spent on those access that promote good health as well as personal and environmental hygiene.”

The acute viral haemorrhagic fever causes some 5,000 deaths annually in west Africa, according to World Health Organisation figures.

Tattoos linked to rare skin infection in U.S

At least two men may have come down with a rare bacterial skin infection that is hard to treat with antibiotics after getting tattoos at a store in Seattle, US health authorities said Wednesday.

One 44-year-old man was confirmed to have a case of Mycobacterium haemophilum after getting a tattoo on his arm in the western US city in August 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The infection, which showed up as a bumpy red rash and a pus infection on the skin’s surface, resisted treatment with several antibiotics but eventually disappeared after nine months.

A second suspected case was reported in a 35-year-old man who got a tattoo at the same place two months later, but tests were inconclusive. The CDC said it considered it a “suspected” instance of infection.

The source of the bacteria remains a mystery. Authorities said the tattoo parlor was in compliance with safety regulations but told the owner to use sterilized water for rinsing skin and diluting ink instead of tap water.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez returns home after treatment in Cuba

President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela on Saturday a week after leaving for chemotherapy in Cuba, saying no malignant cells were found and that he was arriving home in better health than when he left.

News that the 56-year-old socialist leader underwent surgery in Havana last month to remove a baseball-sized cancerous tumor has called into question his fitness to run for
re-election next year in the OPEC nation.
“It’s a day of joy for me, of happiness, I have no doubt, for the great majority of our people,” he said in a brief speech at the capital’s airport broadcast live by state TV.
“I have come back better than I left, thanks to God.”
He said his doctors in Venezuela found no malignant cells before he left for Havana last Saturday, and that his Cuban doctors confirmed that during “rigorous” tests on Sunday.
Chavez had said on Friday he was preparing for a second round of chemotherapy. It was not clear when he might travel back to the communist-led Caribbean island as the guest of his friend and mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“It is important that the Venezuelan people should not think that everything is over … it is a clear process, a hard fight,” the president said at Maiquetia Airport, flanked by his vice president and several government ministers.
“No malignant cells were found in any part of my body …  The risk exists, so chemotherapy was applied to me all week in various sessions … Here I am, to continue the battle.”
He had two operations last month that he described as complicated: the first for a pelvic abscess and another to remove the tumor. He was away almost a month until returning home a day before Venezuela’s 200th independence celebration.
A former soldier whose workaholic leadership style and image of invincibility have helped him win numerous votes, Chavez is visibly weakened as he plans his re-election bid.
Parliamentary elections last September showed the South American country split down the middle between Chavez supporters and opponents. Now, a fractious opposition coalition senses a chance to unseat the convalescing leader in 2012.
At the airport on Saturday, Chavez looked tired but back to his folksy self, joking about the Venezuelan soccer team’s exit from the Copa America tournament after they had a goal ruled out for offside in Wednesday’s semi-final against Paraguay.
The team, long seen as the continent’s weakest, shocked everyone by reaching the last four of the tournament, forging a rare moment of unity in a politically polarized nation.
He said Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, who visited him in Havana on Friday, told him the goal should have stood.
“Maradona says the goal against Paraguay was valid,” Chavez said. “For me, our Vinotinto (Venezuelan national team) were the only champions of the Copa America … heroic, historic.”

France 24’s “Health” programme 06/27/11

Malaria : an unending battle

 Efforts to combat malaria in Madagascar have been hampered by increasing resistance to the cheapest and most easily obtainable drugs. This week HEALTH heads to the island nation to understand why this mosquito-transmitted disease refuses to be swept out.

Hospitals performed Needless Double CT Scans, records show

by  and 

Long after questions were first raised about the overuse of powerful CT scans, hundreds of hospitals across the country needlessly exposed patients to radiation by scanning their chests twice on the same day, according to federal records and interviews with researchers.

Performing two scans in succession is rarely necessary, radiologists say, yet some hospitals were doing that more than 80 percent of the time for their Medicare chest patients, according to Medicare outpatient claims from 2008, the most recent year available. The rate is typically less than 1 percent, or in some cases zero, at major university teaching hospitals.

Next month, the Center for Medicare and MedicaidServices is expected to release figures for 2009, but according to people who have seen the numbers, the practice of double scanning chest patients has continued.

“When I saw the 2009 numbers, they were the same essentially, and I was disquieted by that,” said Dr. Michael J. Pentecost, a radiologist and Medicare consultant who also reviews claims for commercial clients.

The overuse of scans has been the subject of growing concern in recent years, but a review of the federal data, focusing on a common procedure performed millions of times a year, offers a rare and detailed snapshot of the problem state by state, hospital by hospital.

In 2008, about 75,000 patients received double scans, one using iodine contrast to check blood flow, and one that did not. “If you do both, you bill for both,” Dr. Pentecost said.

Radiologists say one scan or the other is needed depending on the patient’s condition, but rarely both. Double scanning is also common among privately insured patients who tend to be younger.

Double scans expose patients to extra radiation while heaping millions of dollars in extra costs on an already overburdened Medicare program. A single CT scan of the chest is equal to about 350 standard chest X-rays, so two scans are twice that amount.

“The primary concern relates to radiation exposure,” said Dr. James A. Brink, chief of diagnostic radiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where double scans accounted for only a fraction of 1 percent of cases. He added: “It is incumbent upon all of us to limit it to the amount needed to make a diagnosis.”

Officials at hospitals with high scan rates said radiologists ordered the extra chest scan figuring that more information is better. In rare instances, the two scans might help a doctor distinguish between tangled blood vessels and a tumor, Dr. Pentecost said.

The Medicare agency distributed the data to hospitals last year to show how they performed relative to each other and to encourage more efficient, safer practices. The review of that data found more than 200 hospitals that administered double scans on more than 30 percent of their Medicare outpatients — a percentage that the federal agency and radiology experts considers far too high. The national average is 5.4 percent.

The figures show wide variation among states as well, from 1 percent in Massachusetts to 13 percent in Oklahoma. Overall, Medicare paid hospitals roughly $25 million for double scans in 2008.

Double scanning is more likely to occur at smaller, community hospitals such as Memorial Medical Center of West Michigan in Ludington. It gave two scans to 89 percent of its Medicare chest patients..

“We aren’t radiologists, but as we understand the practice, it was strictly a matter of physicians, independent practitioners who were doing their best to get to the bottom of what was ailing their patients,” said Bill Kerans, a spokesman for that hospital.

Since 2008, Memorial Medical Center lowered its rate to 42.4 percent in 2010 and to 3 percent in the first part of 2011. “We have made some dramatic changes in protocols and practices,” Mr. Kerans said.

A few large hospitals have had problems as well. St. John Health System in Tulsa double-scanned 80 percent — or 800 of its Medicare outpatients in 2008. “We recognized in late 2008 and early 2009 those numbers were higher than we needed to be,” said Charles Anderson, the hospital’s president and chief executive.

By changing protocols, the percentage of double scans is now “hovering around 5 percent,” Mr. Anderson said. “What that means for us is when a physician orders a scan from a radiology department, the radiologist begins to engage in a conversation with those physicians, talking about what might be a more reasonable and acceptable approach.”

To read the entire article in its entirety, Visit The New York Times‘s official website for more.

France24’s “Health” programme 05/29/11

Medical Mistakes

France24’s “Health” programme, May 29th – What happens when doctors slip up? Here in France, 900 medical errors are committed every day. We start with unnecessary treatment for cancer and why more people are being diagnosed with a disease they would have otherwise never noticed. Next, we go to Ethiopia, where obstetric fistulas caused by difficult births are a devastating disability. Finally, we consider the dangers of cosmetic surgery.

German u-turn on bean sprouts in E.coli outbreak

A day after German health officials identified bean sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany as a suspected cause of a deadly E. coli outbreak, scientists on Monday said they found no contamination in the farm’s produce.

AP – In their second major retraction in a week, German officials said initial tests provided no evidence that sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany were the cause of the deadly E. coli outbreak. One U.S. expert called the German investigation “a disaster.”

The surprise U-turn came only a day after the same state agency, Lower Saxony’s agriculture ministry, held a news conference to announce that sprouts from the organic Gaertnerhof farm in the northern village of Bienenbuettel were suspected to be the cause of the outbreak. The ministry shut down the farm, recalled all its produce and sent an alert urging Germans not to eat any more sprouts.

Last week, German officials pointed to contaminated cucumbers from Spain as a possible cause, igniting vegetable bans and heated protests from Spanish farmers. Researchers later concluded the Spanish cucumbers were contaminated with a different strain of E. coli.

“This investigation has been a disaster,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told The Associated Press.

“This kind of wishy-washy response is incompetent,” he said, slamming German authorities for casting suspicion on cucumbers and sprouts without firm data.

But the European Union’s Health Commissioner defended German investigators, saying they were under extreme pressure as the crisis kept unfolding.

“We have to understand that people in certain situations do have a responsibility to inform their citizens as soon as possible of any danger that could exist to them,” John Dalli said in Brussels.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner on Monday reiterated the warning against eating sprouts, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

But the German flip-flop on the sprouts means there is still no confirmed source for the deadliest known E. coli outbreak, which has already killed least 22 people and sickened more than 2,330 across Europe.

Over 630 of those victims are hospitalized with a rare, serious complication that can lead to kidney failure, and even E. coli victims without that condition have found themselves hospitalized for days with diarrhea and bloody stools. Hospitals in northern Germany have been overwhelmed by the crisis, with doctors and nurses working double shifts for

On Monday, the agriculture ministry for Lower-Saxony state said 23 of 40 samples from the organic sprouts farm tested negative for the highly aggressive, “super-toxic” strain of E. coli bacteria. It said tests were still under way on 17 other sprout samples from the farm.

“The search for the outbreak’s cause is very difficult, as several weeks have passed since its suspected start,” the ministry said in a statement, cautioning that further testing of the sprouts and their seeds was necessary.

However, negative test results on sprout or seed batches do not mean that previous sprout batches weren’t contaminated.

“Contaminated food could have been completely processed and sold by now,” admitted ministry spokeswoman Natascha Manski.

Osterholm, whose team has investigated a number of foodborne outbreaks in the U.S., said finding negative results in about half of the sprout tests was “meaningless” because it was possible that only a few sprouts in the entire batch were contaminated.

He said the contamination could be at such a low level that tests wouldn’t pick it up and that to narrow down the source, more detailed studies of patients _ what they ate and where _ were necessary.

He also recommended that authorities should then trace back those food sources to their suppliers _ which is exactly what led German officials to single out the sprout producer as a possible source, linking it to several restaurants where more than 50 people fell ill.

Since 1996, about 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. have been linked to raw or lightly cooked sprouts. Sprouts were also implicated a 1996 E. coli outbreak in Japan that killed 12 people and reportedly sickened more than 9,000.

The Lower Saxony ministry statement left consumers across the continent still puzzled as to what is safe to eat and warned that it was not clear how soon an answer would be found.

“A conclusion of the investigations and a clarification of the contamination’s origin is not expected in the short term,” the ministry said.

Andreas Hensel, the head of Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, added that it might never be possible to establish the outbreak’s cause.

“We have to be clear on this: Maybe we won’t be able anymore to identify the source,” he told reporters in Berlin.

At an European Union health ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg, Germany defended itself against claims it had acted prematurely in pointing toward Spanish cucumbers.

“The virus is so aggressive that we had to check every track,” said Health State Secretary Annette Widmann-Mauz.

The EU will hold an emergency meeting of farm ministers Tuesday to address the crisis and its economic impact, including a ban by Russia on all EU vegetables.

At the organic farm in Bienenbuettel, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, there was no immediate reaction Monday by the owners.

The gates remained locked. Two security guards patrolled while scores of television satellite trucks and journalists waited outside and a TV helicopter circled overhead.

Oxfam calls for overhaul of ‘broken food system’

Millions more people will suffer famine over the next few decades unless the global food system is overhauled, Oxfam warned in a report released on Tuesday. The aid group predicted the price of some staples would double by 2030.

By News Wires (text)

AFP – Oxfam called on Tuesday for an overhaul of the world’s food system, warning that in a couple of decades, millions more people would be gripped by hunger due to population growth and climate-hit harvests.

A “broken food system” means that the price of some staples will more than double by 2030, battering the world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80 percent of their income on food, the British-based aid group predicted.

“The food system is buckling under intense pressure from climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land from biofuels, industry, and urbanization,” Oxfam said in a report.

It added: “The international community is sleepwalking into an unprecedented and avoidable human development reversal.”

Noting that some 900 million people experience hunger today, Oxfam said the tally of misery could rise still further when a “perfect storm” struck a few decades from now.

By 2050, the world’s population was expected to rise by a third, from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion. Demand for food would rise even higher, by 70 percent, as more prosperous economies demanded more calories.

But by this time, climate change will have started to bite, with drought, flood and storms affecting crop yields that, after the “green revolution” of the 1960s, had already begun to flatline in the early 1990s.

The price of staple foods such as corn, also known as maize, which has already hit record peaks, will more than double in the next 20 years, it predicted.

“In this new age of crisis, as climate impacts become increasingly severe and fertile land and fresh water supplies become increasingly scarce, feeding the world will get harder still,” Oxfam chief Jeremy Hobbs said.

The report, Growing a Better Future, trails a campaign for reform that Oxfam is launching in 45 countries, supported by former Brazilian president Lula Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and actress Scarlett Johansson.

Solutions envisaged by Oxfam focus on cutting out waste, especially of water, and curbing agriculture and biofuel subsidies in rich countries.

The report also calls for prising open closed markets and ending the domination of commodities and seeds trade by a handful of large corporations.

Small farms — traditionally dismissed as a hindrance to food productivity — could in fact drive the renaissance in yield with the help of investment, infrastructure and market access, it argued.

Just as important, said the report, is to set up new global governance to tackle food crises, including the creation of a multilateral food bank.

“During the 2008 food price crisis, co-operation was nowhere to be seen,” lamented the report, saying the disarray ignited a “grab” for agricultural land in Africa by parched countries in the Gulf and elsewhere.

“Governments were unable to agree on the causes of the price rises, let alone how to respond. Food reserves had been allowed to collapse to historic lows,” it said.

“Existing international institutions and forums were rendered impotent as more than 30 countries imposed export bans in a negative-sum game of beggar-thy-neighbour policy making.”

French cucumbers feel sting of E.coli scare

Spanish cucumbers have been cleared of charges they caused the recent deadly outbreak of E.coli. But at Europe’s largest wholesale food market, just south of Paris, the sale of cucumbers has ground to a halt.

By France 24’s Joseph BAMAT

Boxes of French cucumbers are neatly stacked at the front of a vegetable wholesaler’s stall at the Rungis market, but the busy vendors skirt by it without wasting a second to inspect the product or make a bid on it. “It’s worse today,” yells the stall’s owner from behind a carton of radishes, “the media talked about it again this morning.”

Twenty-seven people have died, and more than 2,700 have fallen ill from an E.coli outbreak that began one week ago in the Hamburg region of Germany. The illnesses were first blamed on Spanish cucumbers, but German officials later backpedalled on the claim. On Wednesday, however, Health Minister Daniel Bahr told reporters Berlin would maintain its warning against eating raw cucumbers, as well as tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts, until it located the source of the contamination.

Rungis, the largest wholesale food market in Europe, located just south of Paris, has not stopped running at its usually frantic pace, and Thursday mornings mark the beginning of its peak activity each week. Cucumber sales, on the other hand, have ground to a halt.

The sprawling warehouse-like buildings that make up the market attract a diverse crowd, from grocery store owners to restaurant managers, and armies of middlemen whose work is to get food from farms to people’s dinner table.

EU ministers have scrambled to ease the fears of farmers and consumers, announcing that the “worst” of a killer bacteria outbreak was over and offering a 210-million-euro ($307 million) compensation package for vegetable producers whose sales have collapsed in the wake of the scare.

Officials in Brussels have not spoken about the vendors who also make a living from vegetable sales. Jean-Marc Bonifacci, a wholesaler at Rungis, agrees that farmers are the most affected. “We can fall back on the sale of another product,” Bonifacci admits, while expressing some displeasure about being ignored.

He says that last week he had dropped the price of a dozen cucumbers from 3 euros to 1 euro, but was still unable to sell any of them. The price of tomatoes and salads has also taken a hit, Bonifacci said. On Thursday morning he was selling a kilogram of tomatoes for 30 to 50 cents. Before the E.coli outbreak he says he could fetch 1 euro for the same amount.

Other vendors tell the same story. Tomato and sometimes lettuce sales have dropped, but other vegetables have sold at the normal price. Alain, a hefty man who resells vegetables at open-air markets around Paris, says his customers are still buying his products, save cucumbers, but have taken special interest in buying only French-made produce.

Fruit vendors at Rungis, who share the same buildings as the vegetable wholesalers, say they have not been affected by the E.coli crisis, and show displeasure when asked if they are somehow concerned by the situation.

Almost everyone at the market agrees that the outbreak has been overplayed on French television and radio, and that the media are to blame for striking unnecessary fear into the hearts of consumers. “All this is due to the psychosis of journalists,” grunts a manager at Roux Vegetables.

Every incidence of contamination has been linked to the Hamburg area. To date, France has registered 10 alleged cases of E.coli infection and no deaths. Those figures seem negligible to vegetable vendors at Rungis, but the numbers probably offer little comfort to French cucumber farmers.

A delegation of cucumber farmers was turned away from the Elysee presidential palace on Wednesday, but was later received by Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire. The minister reassured the farmers he would fight for their compensation in Brussels and took a bite out of a cucumber in front of reporters.

“We’re not asking for the impossible,” said the delegation’s leader Jacques Rouchaussé, “Only to reassure consumers about the quality of cucumbers produced in France.

France 24’s “Health” programme: 05/08/11

“Battle for life”

Health – Maternity matters are at the heart of this week’s Health show. First we meet the twin sisters behind Europe’s first ovarian transplant. After fifteen years without falling pregnant, one French woman accepted her sister’s ovary. Next we explore how doctors in the United States are helping cancer patients avoid infertility later in life. And finally, have scientists discovered the cause behind sudden infant death syndrome? We head to Strasbourg to find out .

Parisian teens handed “contraception chequebooks”

by France 24’s Sophie PILGRIM| April 27 2011

The “contraception pass”, which the local authorities describe as a “chequebook”, was launched across the Paris region Tuesday. The pass will allow students aged between 15 and 18 to access free contraception anonymously, without having to visit a family planning centre or see their family doctor.

At a school specialising in beauty and fashion in the east of Paris, where over two thirds of the students are girls, the news was warmly welcomed. “It’s great!” shouted Morgane, 18, as she was applying eye shadow to a fellow student. “It will motivate people to use contraception earlier”.

The programme, originally conceived by socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, has already been launched in the western Poitou-Charentes region, where she is the leader of the regional council. There, the passes are distributed by a family doctor or family planning practitioner, but in Paris, they’ll be handed out by the school nurse.

“In a system where young people have to go through their parents to access healthcare, the right to acquire contraception and decide on abortion autonomously is not being provided for”, a leaflet on the project explained.

Coupons for condoms

Along with the pass, the local authorities want to boost sexual health and pregnancy awareness among teenagers in the Paris region. Over 20,000 abortions are carried out each year in France – around the same number as in the late 1970s. A quarter of those take place in and around Paris and 5.7% of the women concerned are under the age of 18.

“I think fewer people will get pregnant if free contraception is available at school”, says Leticia, 17, a communications student. “Students form a bond with the school nurse, so they’re more comfortable asking her [for contraception], instead of going to some woman in a clinic they don’t know”.

The chequebooks comprise a selection of coupons: two for check-ups with a sexual health practitioner, two for a chosen type of contraception, and one for tests for sexually transmitted infections.

Parental guidance

“With this system, we’re not forced to tell our parents”, says Tina, 17. “Of course it’s better to talk to your parents about it, but for those who can’t, there’s a way around.”

Until now, the girls at this college have been travelling 10 kilometres to get free contraception. “We don’t always have much money, and the family planning centre is ages away”, says Morgane. “We’re always at school, so it’s far more accessible”.

When one of her friends, who preferred not to be named, voiced concerns that accessible contraception would make it easier to have sex, Morgane rolled her eyes. “Just because you can get contraception at school doesn’t mean you’re forced to start having sex”, she said.

Boys at the school were less willing to discuss the issue, refusing to “talk about that” with a journalist.

France’s right-wing ruling party has also shied away from the issue. Just last year, Education Minister Luc Chatel tried to stifle the same project in Poitou-Charentes by banning schools (rather than doctors) from distributing the chequebooks.

But apparently Chatel has since made a U-turn. On Tuesday, he participated in the scheme’s launch event, and described the project as “educational for both boys and girls”.

Royal, who was applauded for her “inspiring spirit” at the launch, has expressed hope that the programme will be expanded to other regions across France.

© copyright 2011, France 24

Welcome to the new Health blogpage from Asnycnow News!

This blogpage will feature the latest Health news from various news sources from around the world.

The stories listed on this blogpage are copyrighted and owned by their respective owners and listed under copyright.

This blogpage will be updated daily from Saturday-Thursday with a roundup on Friday.

If you have a story idea, let us know via email at or send us a Tweet @AsnycnowRadio with the hashtag #health.