Health CheckAuthor: BBC World Service
13 Nov 2018

Health Check

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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    Melanoma Death Rates Higher in Men Than Women

    The rate of men dying from the form of skin cancer called melanoma has risen over the last 30 years – whilst the rates for women are slowing down or falling. The data from 33 countries might indicate that public health campaigns need to be carefully targeted at men, to encourage sun-smart behaviours and to visit their doctor if they develop a suspicious-looking mole. Future research will also look at whether melanoma is more deadly in men than women. Delhi banned fireworks during the holy festival of Diwali last year because of the smog that covers the city. But many residents say farming, factories and cars create more of the toxic fumes. Doctors say they are seeing more respiratory problems. And some technology companies are now creating air-purifying systems and nasal filters to clean up the air. Cultural differences need to be taken into account when diagnosing autism – a fact highlighted in a study carried out in Japan, India and the UK. An in-depth assessment is ideal to diagnose autism but questionnaires given to parents can also help spot tell-tale signs. These were developed in the West – so researchers are now trying to pinpoint which features are universal, and which vary across the globe. (Photo caption: A man having sun cream rubbed on his back – credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Health and Science correspondent, James Gallagher. Producer: Paula McGrath

  • Posted on 07 Nov 2018

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    What’s Behind a Spike of AFM Cases in the US?

    AFM, or Acute Flaccid Myelitis, is a rare disorder of the spinal cord, mostly affecting young children. It manifests with really rapid onset of paralysis typically affecting the limbs, and in severe cases, the muscles needed for breathing and swallowing. Recently there been a spike of the disease in the United States, which has had over 190 suspected cases this year. As explained by Dr Olwen Murphy, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, it is thought to be triggered by a virus which only causes serious symptoms in a small percentage of people. TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, one of the top ten total causes of death in the world which kills more people every three days than the total number of deaths in the entire West African Ebola epidemic. It is treatable with antibiotics, but patients can face months of isolation and years of taking medicines. Some forms of TB have become resistant to first line antibiotics, leaving patients with no option but to take other drugs that risk of serious side effects such as blindness. At a recent high level UN meeting on TB, member states pledged to stop TB by 2030, but without the money and political will that have made other diseases household names, TB will remain a huge killer. Hannah McNeish reports from the Netherlands on the latest developments in treating the disease. A baby box is a cardboard box full of goodies for newborn babies, and which can also act as a cot. They were first used in Finland in the1930s, as a part of a drive to improve maternal and infant health, and have grown in popularity in recent years. Every baby in Scotland is now given one and there are various commercial options available as well, some of which are being donated to hospitals in England and Wales. However there is increasing concern about the way they have been promoted, particularly the link between use of the box and low rates of SIDS, of which there is no evidence. Furthermore there are several safety worries about the boxes and they may actually be harmful. Consequently, several senior doctors and academics have written to the British Medical Journal expressing their concerns. Francine Bates, Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust, a UK-based charity raising awareness about cot death, was one of the signatories. (Picture: AFM disease or acute flaccid myelitis medical concept as a neurologic condition representing enterovirus or polio virus as a 3D illustration. © Getty Images)

  • Posted on 31 Oct 2018

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    Stemming the Ebola Outbreak in the DRC

    The WHO are deeply concerned by the Ebola outbreak in the DRC and have emphasised that response activities need to be intensified and ongoing vigilance is critical. But the security situation is complex and ongoing armed conflict is continuing to hamper containment efforts. Increasingly Ebola response teams are having trouble keeping track of where the virus is spreading and more than half of the recently detected cases have not been on any lists of contacts. Dr Javier Tena Rubio is coordinating the response for the International Federation of the Red Cross and speaks to Claudia about the challenges they are facing. On average 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdose, which is about 42,000 a year. In San Francisco, a team of public health workers is focused on treating the most vulnerable populations: homeless people on the city’s streets, bringing their addiction care out to wherever they are. Next month voters will decide if the city’s largest businesses, many of them tech companies, should pay a special tax to help fund more homeless shelters and addiction centres like the one Alison Van Diggelen has been to visit. Listening to a story and making sense of it involves many different parts of the brain, and psychologist Dr Marco Bartolucci was interested in measuring the benefits of all these different processes involved. Because dementia patients have a lot of potential to improve, they seemed like ideal subjects and he wondered whether reading aloud cloud could help reduce their symptoms. So along with Professor Federico Batini and his team at the University of Perugia, he set up a trial in a residential care home which compared watching TV with attending a shared reading group. The results, which found big improvements in memory and attention, were recently published in the Journal of Psychology and Neuroscience. (Photo: An Ebola patient is lifted up by two medical workers after being admitted into a Biosecure Emergency Care Unit © John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Posted on 24 Oct 2018

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    What’s the Irish CervicalCheck Crisis All About?

    A few days ago saw the death of Emma Mhic Mhathuna, one of the most prominent campaigners affected by the CervicalCheck cancer smear test scandal in Ireland. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 after receiving two incorrect smear test results. This crisis in the national screening programme has delayed treatment for at least 221 patients with cervical cancer and the number of women implicated will undoubtedly increase. Fergal Bowers, RTE’s Health Correspondent, explains the background to the scandal. In Health Check last week, the programme looked at how everyday “tension type” headaches can usually be treated with ibuprofen or paracetamol, and the fact that having a cup of coffee at the same time increases the effectiveness of these painkillers. A headache can be one of the main symptoms of migraine, a condition which affects one in seven people. The BBC’s Katy Takatsuki finds out more about the new treatments available for migraine sufferers. It has been known for some time that people who are obese have an increased risk of developing asthma, but now a new large international study has found that the direction of causality may be the other way around. Lida Chatzi, Associate Professor of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California, followed more than 20,000 children from nine European countries, and after excluding children that were obese to start with, it was found that toddlers diagnosed with asthma are more likely to become obese children. The results have just been published in European Respiratory Journal. (Photo:Getty Images)

  • Posted on 17 Oct 2018

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    Acanthamoeba Keratitis

    Experts at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London have collected data from patients affected by a devastating eye condition called Acanthamoeba Keratitis. It is caused by an amoeba and although rare, it can affect eyesight and even lead to blindness. It is a waterborne pathogen and their advice is that people who wear contact lenses should take them out before going swimming, having a shower or even washing their faces. Professor John Dart is senior author of the research, which has just been published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. Headaches are for some a minor inconvenience and for others a debilitating pain that can stop them going about their daily life. They are very common and affect people of all ages, everywhere in the world. Health Check had an email from listener 16-year-old Izzy from Sydney in Australia, who gets a lot of headaches herself. She wanted to know what they are, what causes them and how they can be treated. The BBC’s Katy Takatsuki went to find out more. Could a simple breathing monitor used during surgery save the lives of thousands of patients in sub-Saharan Africa, who might otherwise die during anaesthetic accidents? The equipment is called a capnograph and although it is standard equipment in operating theatres in high income countries, hospitals in many low income countries do not have them. A new study, just published in the journal Anaesthesia, has piloted its use in Malawi to see what difference it could make. Ellen O’Sullivan, Professor of Anaesthesia at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, conducted the study. Image: Gentleman having an eye check at the National Eye Centre in Amritsar, India Credit: NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images Producer: Helena Selby

  • Posted on 10 Oct 2018

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