Category: Health

Education and awareness on vaccines should be ramped up to prevent anti-vaxxer ideologies from taking root in society, urged Malaysian paediatricians.

This comes in light of the transition to a hexavalent vaccine for babies under the Health Ministry’s National Immunisation Programme (NIP).

Also known as a six-in-one vaccine, the hexavalent vaccine protects against six life-threatening and infectious diseases, namely diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and hepatitis B.

It’s a step up from the NIP’s previous five-in-one vaccine which did not include protection against hepatitis B.

While the hexavalent vaccine is nothing new on the market and has been used in Malaysian private practices since 2013, Ara Damansara Medical Centre’s department of paediatrics head Dr Rakhee Yadav said that more awareness is needed so parents will not be swayed by misinformation from anti-vaxxers.

Convincing parents who are “on-the-fence” when it comes to vaccinating their children is especially important to ensure successful implementation of the hexavalent vaccine in Malaysia.

“One anti-vaxxer could spark a cluster of misinformation involving all their peers and we don’t want that to happen.

“We need to educate parents and encourage them to seek information from the right people, whether it’s their general practitioner or their paediatrician, and not someone on the internet or a dodgy website.

“Once we cater to them, they will most likely convert to the pro-vaccine side,” said Dr Rakhee.

Concerns over anti-vaccine sentiments flared up after a three-month-old boy in Sabah fell ill with polio in December 2019, causing Malaysia to lose its status as a polio-free country.

As of October 16 this year, the Health Ministry has recorded four polio cases in Sabah and three of these cases involve children who had never received a polio vaccine in their lives.

Malaysian Medical Association president-elect Dr Koh Kar Chai said that parents cannot afford to become complacent with vaccinating their children just because deadly diseases like polio are no longer common.

Vocal fear-mongering by anti-vaxxers could also reduce vaccine compliance and threaten public health at large.

“The Malaysian public generally looks at vaccination in a favourable light except for the odd anti-vaxxer who puts a spanner in the works, so overall education is really the way to go.

“We tend to let our guard down when things get easy and the reason why we don’t see any of these deadly diseases anymore is that we’ve had our NIP in place since the 1950s.

“The programme not only helped to reduce the number of people with these diseases but it also eradicated some of these diseases,” said Dr Koh.

Child immunisation is not mandatory in Malaysia but Dr Rakhee said that making vaccines compulsory by law will not be a clean-cut solution for combating anti-vaccine sentiments.

Following the example of countries like Germany, where unvaccinated children are not allowed to attend school, would spark concerns on the rights of children when it comes to education.

“We’ve seen a huge reduction in vaccine-preventable diseases because of vaccine programmes throughout the world but making them compulsory brings up a whole host of legal issues to deal with.

“For example, stopping unvaccinated children from attending school touches on the rights of education for a child.

“We cannot withdraw one right (education) for the sake of another right (health) and there’s a lot of debatable issues in regards to making vaccines compulsory, so education and awareness is the way to go,” said Dr Rakhee.

What are the benefits of the hexavalent vaccine?

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that as of October 20 this year, 49 countries have added the hexavalent vaccine to their respective NIPs.

Malaysia’s Health Ministry also stated that large-scale clinical trials and studies have proven the efficacy and safety of the hexavalent vaccine with no adverse side effects being reported.

It also brings several benefits to parents and their babies as it reduces the number of injections needed to protect children against six diseases.

The hexavalent vaccine is administered to babies with three primary doses at the age of two, three, and five months and one booster dose at the age of 18 months.

Along with a separate hepatitis B vaccine given after birth, children will only need five injections in total for protection against six diseases compared to the seven doses needed for the five-in-one vaccine.

“The inclusion of hepatitis B in the hexavalent vaccine means fewer injections and fewer reasons to come to the clinic.

“Fewer injections means fewer crying episodes for the child and parents won’t have to take as many days off work to bring their child to the clinic,” said Dr Rakhee.

The hexavalent vaccine is aimed at reducing the likelihood of missed injections, thus keeping children up-to-date with their vaccinations and safeguarding public health.

Parents can direct any questions on the hexavalent vaccine to the Health Ministry by calling 03-88834042/ 03-88834504 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or visit the nearest public health clinic for more information.

-malaymail

Medicaid expansion has likely improved care of colon cancer, researchers said in a study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The researchers compared states that expanded Medicaid health insurance in 2014 to non-expansion states and found that expansion led to earlier diagnosis, better access to care and improved surgical care.

The reason states had more stage 1 diagnosis after Medicaid expansion is unclear, but may indicate better access to care, Samer Tohme, senior investigator on the study, said in a press release.

“Studies show that patients who are diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage are more likely to have better treatment options, improved quality of care, and longer survival,” said Tohme, a surgical oncologist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center.

Tohme added that Medicaid expansion has allowed people who were otherwise uninsured to see a primary care physician and undergo colon cancer screening.

“A paucity of studies looks at how Medicaid expansion affects cancer treatment and outcomes, as our study did,” lead author Richard Hoehn said in a statement.

“Our study also differed from others in that we analyzed data only from people who were most likely affected by Medicaid expansion: those aged 40 to 64 who had Medicaid or no health insurance,” said Hoehn, a surgical oncology fellow with the department of surgery at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Using data from the National Cancer Database, the researchers compared colon cancer data from 4,438 patients in 19 Medicaid expansion states to data for 6,017 patients in 19 non-expansion states.

They also assessed the impact by comparing data in years before expansion to years post-expansion.

The data showed that patients in the first three stages of colon cancer who were in expansion states were more likely to receive primarily surgical treatment within 30 days than those in non-expansion states.

Medicaid expansion was also linked to fewer urgent cases and more minimally invasive surgery.

Patients in expansion states in the final stage of colon cancer were also more likely to receive palliative care to improve quality of life.

Earlier this month, a another study found that expanded Medicaid passed in certain states as part of the Affordable Care Act significantly reduced deaths from newly diagnosed breast, lung and colon cancer.

Most states expanded Medicaid with opportunity under the Affordable Care Act of 2010 to cover nearly all low-income Americans under age 65, but some states did not. Initially, 19 states did not implement Medicaid expansion. To date, all but 12 states have adopted the expansion.

-upi

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is targeting a R naught value or infectivity rate of below 0.5 through public health activities in preventing and controlling the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Health director-general  Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the number of new cases reported yesterday, which was 1,210 cases, put the value of the country’s immunity rate at between 1.1 and 0.9.

“MoH is targeting R naught or infectivity rate below 0.5 by increasing public health activities to prevent and control infections (Covid-19),” he said via his official Twitter today.

Yesterday, Covid-19 positive cases in Malaysia continued to record four digits with 1,210 cases, bringing the total cumulative in the country to 49,730 cases. 

-malaymail

The World Health Organisation yesterday launched a strategy to rid the world of cervical cancer, stressing that broad use of vaccines, new tests and treatments could save five million lives by 2050.

“Eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, but we now have the cost-effective, evidence-based tools to make that dream a reality,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

More than half a million new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed around the world each year, hundreds of thousands of women die from the disease, and the WHO warns will rise significantly in the years to come without action.

The good news is that cervical cancer, which is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted infection — is preventable with reliable and safe vaccines, and also curable if caught early and adequately treated.

During the WHO’s main annual meeting last week, all 194 member countries agreed to a plan towards eliminating the cancer.

‘Huge milestone’

“This is a huge milestone,” WHO Assistant Director-General Princess Nothemba Simelela told a virtual press briefing.

“For the first time the world has agreed to eliminate the only cancer we can prevent with a vaccine, and the only cancer which is curable if detected early,” she said.

Urgent action is needed.

The WHO forecasts that if countries do not act swiftly, the number of global cases could jump from 570,000 in 2018 to 700,000 by 2030, while deaths could increase from 311,000 to 400,000 during the same timeframe.

Simelela insisted “decades of neglect” were responsible for the high number of cervical cancer deaths, especially in low and middle-income countries, where there are twice as many cases and three times as many deaths from the disease as in wealthy nations.

While most high-income countries have introduced wide-spread vaccination, testing and treatment, access has remained far more difficult elsewhere, in part due to the high cost of vaccine doses.

“If we can improve access for low and middle income countries we really can be on the road to elimination,” she said.

The strategy announced yesterday calls on countries by 2030 to ensure that at least 90 per cent of girls to be fully vaccinated against HPV before they turn 15.

It also calls for at least 70 per cent of women to be tested for cervical cancer by the time they are 35 and again by 45, and for at least 90 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease to receive treatment.

Covid hit vaccinations

While a range of recent advances promise to simplify testing, push down costs and ease access, WHO acknowledged that its new strategy comes at a challenging time, with the world focused on battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has interrupted vaccination, screening and treatment for cervical cancer, while border closures have reduced availability of supplies.

“We probably lost a sizable number of women,” Simelela said.

She added though that the testing infrastructure and systems being created for Covid-19 could hopefully be maintained for screening for other diseases, including cervical cancer.

“We can make history to ensure a cervical cancer-free future,” she said.

-malaymail

Treating critically ill Covid-19 patients with corticosteroid drugs reduces the risk of death by 20 per cent, an analysis of seven international trials found on Wednesday, prompting the World Health Organisation to update its advice on treatment.

The analysis – which pooled data from separate trials of low dose hydrocortisone, dexamethasone and methylprednisolone – found that steroids improve survival rates of Covid-19 patients sick enough to be in intensive care in hospital.

“This is equivalent to around 68per cent of (the sickest Covid-19) patients surviving after treatment with corticosteroids, compared to around 60per cent surviving in the absence of corticosteroids,” the researchers said in a statement.

The WHO’s clinical care lead, Janet Diaz, said the agency had updated its advice to include a “strong recommendation” for use of steroids in patients with severe and critical Covid-19.

“The evidence shows that if you give corticosteroids … (there are) 87 fewer deaths per 1,000 patients,” she told a WHO social media live event. “Those are lives … saved.”

Jonathan Sterne, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at Britain’s Bristol University who worked on the analysis, said the trials – conducted by researchers in Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Spain and the United States – gave a consistent message throughout, showing the drugs were beneficial in the sickest patients regardless of age or sex or how long patients had been ill.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reinforce results that were hailed as a major breakthrough and announced in June, when dexamethasone became the first drug shown to be able to reduce death rates among severely sick Covid-19 patients.

Dexamethasone has been in widespread use in intensive care wards treating Covid-19 patients in some countries since then.

Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford who worked on the dexamethasone trial that was a key part of the pooled analysis published on Wednesday, said the results mean doctors in hospitals across the world can safely switch to using the drugs to save lives.

The WHO’s updated guidance, published on its website late on Wednesday, said corticosteroids should only be used in treatment of the sickest Covid-19 patients, and not in non-severe cases, since “the treatment brought no benefits (in milder cases) and could even prove harmful”.

The UN health agency also urged countries to maintain sufficient stocks of corticosteroids, “while not maintaining excessive stocks which could deny other countries access”.

Researchers said the benefit was shown regardless of whether patients were on ventilation at the time they started treatment.

-asiaone

Recent studies have found alongside older age and chronic health conditions, obesity is a risk factor for becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

It’s true a number of the health conditions which we know increase the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 are also associated with obesity. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and respiratory disease.

But new research suggests obesity independently is a strong predictor of severe illness, particularly in those aged under 60 years.

This is concerning given two-thirds (67 per cent) of the Australian adult population have a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range.

BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres (kg/m²). While it’s an imperfect measure for an individual person, BMI is very useful in comparing health and weight across a population and between groups.

For adults, overweight is a BMI of 25 or above, but less than 30kg/m². For a woman of average height (162 cm), this would be equivalent to a weight of 66kg or above, and for a man of average height (176 cm), a weight of 78kg or above.

Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30kg/m² or above. This equates to a weight of 79kg and above for a woman and 93kg and above for a man, both of average height.

-asiaone

PAPRIKA is set to spice up our lives with global market growth of nearly 5.8 percent by 2026, according to researchers in the US, who foresee an increased appetite for this mildly spicy condiment. As well as being used in food, the spice is likely to make its way into some unexpected products, like day creams and medicines. 

Some of paprika’s medicinal virtues are already known, such as its power to unblock sinuses or to clean the pores of the skin. However, the spice appears to have many other properties, from anti-oxidant to anti-inflammatory and even anti-depressant. Manufacturers are increasingly looking to these qualities, with a slew of new cosmetics in the pipeline, according to a report from Research & Markets. According to the analysts, demand for paprika is set to grow in the coming years, especially due to the recently discovered anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of the ingredient.

And when it comes to food, consumer demand for spicy flavors is also likely to drive demand for paprika. In 2019 alone, the global paprika market accrued almost $458.1 million. The spice could also find use as a natural coloring agent for new foodstuffs. 

Where does paprika come from? 

Whether for marinades, adding flavor to a bowl of cooked rice or for tandoori chicken, paprika is a spice-rack essential. But did you know that the spice is made from a type of pepper originating in the Americas? Its mildly spicy flavor was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonists.

However, paprika is now also made in Hungary, where it is used to flavor traditional dishes like goulash. The Hungarian population developed a taste for paprika during the Napoleonic wars, when it was used as a substitute for pepper, an inexpensive way to add flavor to dishes.

In Serbia, the ingredient is celebrated every fall in the village of Donja Lokošnica, in the south of the Balkan country, where life revolves around these little red peppers.

-thevibes

A 23-year-old bride-to-be has died during a cosmetic surgical procedure conducted by an unlicensed medical practitioner in Kuala Lumpur

According to Sin Chew Daily, the deceased, Coco Siew Zhi Shing, was planning on getting married next year to her long-time boyfriend in South Africa and came home to Malaysia for liposuction surgery of her arms in preparation of the wedding.

Siew’s brother told the Chinese daily that she found the beauty salon on the Internet and paid RM2,500 for the surgical procedure.

He said that she went accompanied by a friend to the beauty salon in Cheras for her appointment at 2.30pm on Saturday, 17 October.

Siew received an anaesthetic injection upon arriving at the clinic. However, according to the friend who went with her, the surgeon became visibly flustered within half an hour of the operation.

Sensing something amiss, Siew’s friend immediately called an ambulance and rushed Siew to the hospital. Unfortunately, she was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at 5pm.

After finding out what had happened, Siew’s brother said his family immediately made a police report against the beauty salon and its practitioner

He said the 23-year-old beauty practitioner also visited the hospital on Saturday night after hearing about her client’s death when his family apprehended her.

“Under our repeated questioning, the person in charge of the beauty salon revealed that her salon did not have an aesthetic clinic licence. The place was operating under an ordinary beauty salon licence, and the aesthetic doctor, as she claimed she was, who performed the operation on my sister did not have a professional aesthetic medical licence either,” he said.

He also told China Press that after the incident, he did a simple check of the beauty salon online and found that the business was registered as a beauty product wholesaler by the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) and was obviously doing all her beauty and cosmetic procedures illegally.

“I hope my sister’s experience will serve as a warning to other young women so that a tragedy like this won’t happen again.”

In memory of Siew, the brother added that she had always been healthy and placed great importance on her figure as a professional model

It was reported by the Chinese dailies that Siew started her modelling career at the age of 16 when she won the Asia New Star Model Contest in Petaling Jaya as a Form 4 student in 2013.

A close friend of Siew’s, a Facebook user named Ke Xin, has also since taken to social media to write a dedication in her memory which went viral overnight, being shared over 24,000 times.

“We got to know each other at 13 years old in school and you were already then so tall and beautiful, and was always the talk of the school,” her friend wrote, adding that Siew was not just a pretty face but also had a kind heart and would always stand up for her when she was bullied in school or lent her clothes to dress up for an occasion.

“When I heard that you found your true love and was planning to get married next year, I was so happy and excited for you. I told myself that I had to work hard to save the money to attend your wedding in South Africa. I was really looking forward to that,” she said.

“But now, I can’t accept this news. How could you leave me like this?”

“For the girls who love chasing perfection, I hope you will be more cautious and responsible in choosing a clinic. I’m so sorry this happened to her. I hope the one who did wrong takes responsibility for this,” she added.

The results of Siew’s post-mortem is not yet known and the police are currently investigating the unlicensed beauty salon

However, according to China Press, the beautician has since deleted all her social media pages and has yet to apologise or admit a mistake.

Siew’s brother said that he saw the salon’s Facebook and Instagram accounts before they were deleted and noted that dozens of women have been there before for surgery.

The beauty salon started in 2012 in Kuantan, Pahang before moving to Selangor in 2018.

From the chat record between his sister and the beauty salon, he said the salon was popular and she had trouble booking an appointment because there was always limited slots available.

A screenshot of the business’ website as sighted by SAYS also shows that the beautician was offering many other surgical procedures, priced between RM1,500 to RM6,800, that can legally only be conducted by a licensed medical practitioner.

The owners of the beauty salon have since been arrested

SAYS

China has given Malaysia priority recipient status for its COVID-19 vaccine once it completes development

According to New Straits Times, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said this was one of the things his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, had agreed to in a meeting during the latter’s official visit to the country today, 13 October.

CNN reported that, as of October, China has four out of 10 COVID-19 vaccine candidates worldwide that have successfully entered Phase Three clinical trials – the last step of testing before regulatory approval.

Hishammuddin said the country appreciated China’s commitment to prioritise Malaysia for their COVID-19 vaccine

“We also welcomed China’s agreement to encourage Chinese enterprises to establish all-round cooperation with Malaysian partners in vaccine research and development, and distribution,” said Hishammuddin during the press conference today.

Both Foreign Ministers also discussed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation between both countries in the post COVID-19 era

“This MOU provides the broad framework of pragmatic cooperation between the two countries in the post COVID-19 era,” said Hishammuddin.

“I hope to sign this MOU personally in my return visit to Beijing when the situation permits.”

The bilateral meeting also discussed, among other topics, the Belt and Road Initiative, South China Sea, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal, and the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) initiative.

SAYS

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Flu may be seasonal in the American and European continents but not so in countries like Malaysia.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre infectious disease unit head Dr Petrick Periyasamy said even though there were spikes during the monsoon season in the northern and southern areas of Malaysia, it was best to stay vigilant all year round.

“It is technically all year round because of the weather,” he said in advising people to remain vigilant for the illness.

“I think a lot of people do not realise the impact of the flu actually. Most of them might confuse the flu with the common cold where you only get a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat and they would usually wait it out.”

“But the flu or Influenza is more serious because aside from getting fever, cough and experiencing fatigue, those in the high risk group can actually develop complications.”

He said this included being prone to seizures or getting meningitis, lung pneumonia, severe muscle pain and heart failure.

High risk groups were usually children less than five years old and patients above the age of 65.

Apart from that, people with medical conditions such as heart, liver or lungs problems as well as people who take steroids and pregnant ladies are also categorised as high risk.

Those in this group have a higher chance of developing other serious symptoms if they were to be infected by the flu.

A report by the World Health Organisation states that the Influenza virus or commonly known as the flu has a whopping five million severe cases and results in 650,000 deaths yearly. Dr Petrick also highlighted that the flu was constantly misinterpreted with the common cold and it was important to recognise the symptoms.

“Once recognised, it is best for them to see a doctor immediately because the Influenza virus is best treated in the first 48 hours.”

“That is the best time to take the medication because the medication will work very well in the next two or three days,” he said.

In Malaysia, the amount of seasonal flu injections given is around 1.5 per cent of the general population, which is very low.

Dr Petrick and his team conducted a surveillance study on Influenza rate around the Klang Valley and Selangor and found that the Influenza rate for outpatients was 25 percent.

It is 15 per cent for hospitalised patients but this was based on surveillance with the actual numbers might be higher.

“The reason we’re not very sure is probably because the test itself is not thoroughly done.”

“Because it’s just like a Covid test where you have to go through swab test and not many people want to do it

“Plus it cost a bit of money to pay for the test, so people would rather just treat you with something rather than to test you, so we really don’t have any accurate numbers of our Influenza rate,” Dr Petrick told Malay Mail.

Most of the people who took flu shots were usually avid travellers or those who worked overseas and high risk groups.

Another recurring problem about the flu in the country was that most Malaysians did not want to bear the cost of vaccination while there were also the anti-vaxxers.

Dr Petrick also said the current Influenza antiviral being used in hospitals are only 40 to 60 per cent effective compared to medication like the Roche Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s newly-launched Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil).

The medication can reduce virus detection up to 50 per cent of the time whereas the normal antiviral can still detect the virus 90 per cent of the time after one day of being taken.

Xofluza, which needs to be taken only once, is also designed to attack the source of the virus which reduces the production of the virus within 24 hours.

“In a way what it means for us doctors is that we can probably reduce the chance of transmission of the virus to other people much faster.

“Because if you get influenza, you can pass the virus for seven days or even one day before the symptoms.”

“So, I can be well today, but I can still transmit the virus and only get the symptoms the next day.”

-malaymail

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