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Found 193 results
  1. Content Article
    Official data on whooping cough show that reports of suspected cases are at a 15-year high in the first three months of 2024. This article in the Pharmaceutical Journal looks at why cases are increasing, including falling rates of children receiving the childhood 6-in-1 vaccine and maternal vaccination. It outlines the symptoms of whooping cough, describes how it can be treated and includes a map identifying infection 'hot spots' in England and Wales. This article is free to read but you will need to sign up for a free Pharmaceutical Journal online account.
  2. Content Article
    About 1 in 5 people who have had chickenpox develop shingles, predominantly those who are over 70. However, uptake rates of the shingles vaccine are falling in London and across England. The purpose of this toolkit is to help GPs better protect their patients by suggesting ways to improve uptake of the shingles vaccine. These suggestions are based on best practice and evidence and have been shown to work with little or no cost to practices.
  3. News Article
    Shortly before Joseph Ladapo was sworn in as Florida’s surgeon general in 2022, the New Yorker ran a short column welcoming the vaccine-skeptic doctor to his new role, and highlighting his advocacy for the use of leeches in public health. It was satire of course, a teasing of the Harvard-educated physician for his unorthodox medical views, which include a steadfast belief that life-saving Covid shots are the work of the devil, and that opening a window is the preferred treatment for the inhalation of toxic fumes from gas stoves. But now, with an entirely preventable outbreak of measles spreading across Florida, medical experts are questioning if quackery really has become official health policy in the nation’s third most-populous state. As the highly contagious disease raged in a Broward county elementary school, Ladapo, a politically appointed acolyte of Florida’s far-right governor Ron DeSantis, wrote to parents telling them it was perfectly fine for parents to continue to send in their unvaccinated children. “The surgeon general is Ron DeSantis’s lapdog, and says whatever DeSantis wants him to say,” said Dr Robert Speth, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at south Florida’s Nova Southeastern University with more than four decades of research experience. “His statements are more political than medical and that’s a horrible disservice to the citizens of Florida. He’s somebody whose job is to protect public health, and he’s doing the exact opposite.” Read full story (paywalled) Source: Guardian, 3 March 2024
  4. News Article
    Mothers of babies who died or suffered brain damage from a Group B Strep (GBS) infection say routine screening is needed. Oliver Plumb, from the charity Group B Strep Support, said it was a "small number of babies" exposed to the bacteria that developed a serious and potentially fatal infection. He said around 800 babies a year developed the infection - which is about two babies a day - and about one a week will die, while another a week will be left with a lifelong disability. "It's a heart-breaking start to life for families and that often the first they hear of Group B Strep is when their baby is sick or in intensive care". The charity has called for GBS to be a notifiable disease to make it a legal responsibility for infections to be reported. It added that current figures could be "missing around one fifth of the infections". There was a "postcode lottery" in terms of how many families will hear about GBS, he said. The charity also backed calls for screening. "In the UK we don't sadly have a routine testing programme, that's at odds with much of the rest of the high-income world. " A DHSC spokesperson said a public consultation on the notifiable diseases list was carried out last year. "DHSC and UKHSA are considering the responses and confirmation of any changes will be published in due course," they said. Several reasons for not recommending routine screening have been given by the committee, including that results can change in the last few weeks of labour, and that GBS does not cause infection in every baby. Read full story Source: BBC News, 26 February 2024 Further reading on the hub: Leading for safety: A conversation with Jane Plumb, Founder of Group B Strep Support
  5. Content Article
    England is well on the way towards its goal of eliminating hepatitis C; with over 84,000 patients treated and cleared, there are now more people that have been treated than are left to treat. However, there are still up to an estimated 70,000 people left to find—and what has worked to find patients so far, might not work so well for those that remain to be found. This is where former patients, also known as peers, come in. In this blog, Hepatitis C Trust CEO Rachel Halford and Mark Gillyon-Powell, Head of programme for hepatitis C at NHS England, look at how patient engagement has been essential to efforts to eliminate Hepatitis C in England.
  6. News Article
    Respiratory syncytial virus is killing 100,000 children under the age of five every year worldwide, new figures reveal as experts say the global easing of coronavirus restrictions is causing a surge in cases. RSV is the most common cause of acute lower respiratory infection in young children. It spreads easily via coughing and sneezing. There is no vaccine or specific treatment. RSV-attributable acute lower respiratory infections led to more than 100,000 deaths of children under five in 2019, according to figures published in the Lancet. Of those, more than 45,000 were under six months old, the first-of-its-kind study found. More children are likely to be affected by RSV in the future, experts believe, because masks and lockdowns have robbed children of natural immunity against a range of common viruses, including RSV. “RSV is the predominant cause of acute lower respiratory infection in young children and our updated estimates reveal that children six months and younger are particularly vulnerable, especially with cases surging as Covid-19 restrictions are easing around the world,” said the study’s co-author, Harish Nair of the University of Edinburgh. “The majority of the young children born in the last two years have never been exposed to RSV (and therefore have no immunity against this virus).” Read full story Source: The Guardian, 19 May 2022
  7. News Article
    Cases of monkeypox are being investigated in European countries, including the UK as well as the US, Canada and Australia. Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the same family of viruses as smallpox, although it is much less severe and experts say chances of infection are low. It occurs mostly in remote parts of central and west African countries, near tropical rainforests. There are two main strains of virus - west African and central African. Two of the infected patients in the UK travelled from Nigeria, so it is likely that they are suffering from the West African strain of the virus, which is generally mild, but this is as yet unconfirmed. Another case was a healthcare worker who picked up the virus from one of the patients. More recent cases do not have any known links with each other, or any history of travel. It appears they caught it in the UK from spread in the community. The UKHSA says anyone with concerns that they could be infected should see a health professional, but make contact with the clinic or surgery ahead of a visit. Initial symptoms include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, aching muscles and a general listlessness. Once the fever breaks a rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body, most commonly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The infection usually clears up on its own and lasts between 14 and 21 days. Experts say we are not on the brink of a national outbreak and, according to Public Health England, the risk to the public is low. Prof Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology, University of Nottingham, said: "The fact that only one of the 50 contacts of the initial monkeypox-infected patient has been infected shows how poorly infectious the virus is. "It is wrong to think that we are on the brink of a nationwide outbreak." Read full story Source: BBC News, 20 May 2022
  8. News Article
    Parents whose children have mysteriously fallen ill with hepatitis and received a delayed diagnosis could be entitled to negligence claims, lawyers believe. Officials are no closer to explaining a recent and unusual outbreak in cases of liver inflammation recorded among young children across the UK. To date, a total of 163 children have been diagnosed. Eleven of these have received liver transplants, while 13 are currently in hospital. Globally in recent months, 300 children have been struck down by the illness, which has no clear cause. Because the UK cases have been identified retrospectively, there is potential that doctors and medics may have “missed signs” which would have led to earlier hepatitis diagnoses and treatment, lawyers say. “There are a significant number of these diagnoses which are actually retrospective,” said Jonathan Peacock, a partner at VWV specialising in clinical negligence. “The obvious issue there from a negligence point of view is if you have missed signs, which ought to have led you to a diagnosis of hepatitis earlier, as a result of which it’s gone untreated and the outcome is worse, then potentially you’re negligent. “There’s two stages: was the care diagnosis, treatment, intervention, was that of a reasonable standard? If the answer is no – there was clearly a negligent delay, or a breach of duty of care, then the second question that then arises is has the individual been harmed by that delay?” Read full story Source: The Independent, 10 May 2022
  9. News Article
    UK health officials say they are still no clearer on the cause of a rise in liver inflammation, or hepatitis, in children. A common adenovirus is thought to play a role, but other possibilities are still being investigated. In the UK, 163 cases have now been identified, and 11 children have received liver transplants. Cases have been detected in 20 countries worldwide, with nearly 300 children affected, and one death. "It's important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low," said Dr Meera Chand, from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). She said parents should still be alert to the signs - particularly jaundice, a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes - and they should contact a doctor if concerned. Since last week, another 18 children in the UK with hepatitis have been identified - 118 live in England, 22 in Scotland, 13 in Wales and 10 in Northern Ireland. The children's most common symptoms were jaundice and vomiting - and most have been under five years old. Read full story Source: BBC News, 7 May 2022
  10. News Article
    A spike in the number of measles cases around the world has sparked concerns over the potential for serious outbreaks this year. Almost 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of last year – which represents a rise of 79%. Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that there is a “perfect storm” for serious outbreaks of the vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles. As of this month, the agencies report 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world in the last 12 months. The five countries with the largest measles outbreaks since the past year include Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. The coronavirus pandemic has seen much of health funding and resources diverted to deal with the spread of the virus since 2020. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019. These pandemic-related disruptions – as well as increasing inequalities in access to vaccines – has left many children without protection against contagious diseases while Covid restrictions are eased in most countries, the two organisations said. Read full story Source: The Independent, 28 April 2022
  11. News Article
    The UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says it is investigating after finding more than 100 cases of sudden hepatitis in children. Doctors said they had seen "increasing" evidence the problem is linked to adenoviruses - a group of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold and flu. The HSA said it cannot rule out other possible causes such as Covid, which it is also investigating, but that an adenovirus has been identified in 40 out of the 53 cases so far tested. In Britain, cases have reached 81 in England, 14 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland, with the majority of patients under five years old. No children in the UK have died, it was confirmed, after the World Health Organization said there had been 169 cases globally with at least one child who had died from the illness. Read full story Source: The Independent, 26 April 2022
  12. News Article
    Health officials say they are now investigating unexplained cases of hepatitis in children in four European countries and the US. Cases of hepatitis, or liver inflammation, have been reported in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the US, health officials say. Last week UK health authorities said they had detected higher than usual cases of the infection among children. The cause of the infections is not yet known. The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) did not specify how many cases have been found in the four European countries in total. But the World Health Organization (WHO) said less than five had been found in Ireland, and three had been found in Spain. It added that the detection of more cases in the coming days was likely. Investigations into the cause of the infections are ongoing in all of the European countries where cases have been reported, said the ECDC. In the US, Alabama's public health department said nine cases have been found in children aged one to six years old, with two needing liver transplants. Investigations into similar cases in other states are taking place, it added. Read full story Source: BBC News, 20 April 2022
  13. News Article
    Pregnant women should be tested for Group B Strep to save the lives of dozens of babies every year, campaigners have warned. Group B Strep is the most recurrent cause of life-threatening illness in newborn babies, with an average of two babies a day identified with the infection. Each week, one of these babies goes on to die while another develops an ongoing long-term disability. More than one in five women carry Group B Strep, a common bacteria that normally causes no harm and no symptoms. However, its presence in the vagina or rectum means babies can be exposed to it during labour and birth. Pregnant women in Britain are not routinely tested for its presence, but a trial led by the University of Nottingham is examining whether such a move would be effective. Campaigners have called for more hospitals to join the pilot to ensure it is successful. Jane Plumb, chief executive of campaign group Group B Strep Support, said: “It’s taken over 20 years of campaigning to get this trial commissioned. It’s devastating that only 30 of the 80 hospitals needed have signed up. We can’t let this trial fail. “We need to fight for the 800 babies per year that are infected with this too-often-deadly infection. We need more hospitals to take part. We need to rally together and get this trial over the finish line.” Ms Plumb said the majority of Group B Strep infections in babies are preventable. “If we don’t know, then they can’t be offered the protective antibiotics in labour,” she said. “Families so often tell us that the first time they hear of Group B Strep is after their baby falls ill. For a mostly preventable infection, this is unforgivable – and must change. “We want to encourage every hospital to take part. We need people to ask for their MP’s support. This is an opportunity to save so many babies’ lives, but we only have six months to get hospitals on board. It really is now or never.” Read full story Source: The Independent, 19 April 2022
  14. News Article
    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recently detected higher than usual rates of liver inflammation (hepatitis) in children. Similar cases are being assessed in Scotland. Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and may occur for a number of reasons, including several viral infections common in children. However, in the cases under investigation the common viruses that cause hepatitis have not been detected. UKHSA is working swiftly with the NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate the potential cause. In England, there are approximately 60 cases under investigation in children under 10. Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said: "Investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, including any possible links to infectious diseases. We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out. This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases." "We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes – and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns." Read full story Source: UK Health Security Agency, 6 April 2022
  15. News Article
    Hundreds of people identified as contacts following a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak in a Carmarthenshire village are yet to attend a screening, health officials have said. Public Health Wales (PHW) said 31 cases of active TB had been identified since the 2010 outbreak in Llwynhendy. PHW urged the 485 people who have been identified as contacts, but not attended a screening, to act. More than 2,600 people have attended screenings since June 2019. TB is a bacterial infection, spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It is a serious condition, but can be cured with proper treatment. PHW said since 2010, 303 people - or more than one in 10 of those who had been screened - had been diagnosed with latent TB, which is not infectious and does not affect a person's quality of life, but may develop into active TB at a later date. Dr Brendan Mason, from Public Health Wales, said: "We understand that during the coronavirus pandemic people may have been reluctant to go to a hospital to have their screening done, but I can assure them that there are safety measures in place in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. "Now is the time to get tested. "It is really important that we screen all the contacts identified and make sure that anyone diagnosed with latent or active TB gets the monitoring or treatment that they need to prevent any further spread." Read full story Source: 24 February 2022
  16. News Article
    A malaria vaccine created by Oxford researchers “is really exciting” and could contribute towards drastically reducing the number of children who die from the infection, experts suggest. A new study reports on the effectiveness of a malaria booster vaccine which shows long-lasting high efficacy in African children, meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) specified 75% efficacy goal. The research found that a vaccine booster dose one year after children received three doses as their primary vaccination regime maintained high efficacy against malaria. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute and Lakshmi Mittal and Family Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford, said: “We think these data are the best data yet. “And very importantly, this is a vaccine that we think can be manufactured and deployed, very widely.” He added that the vaccine could be produced for a few dollars a dose, and together with existing measures, like mosquito nets and sprays, could help save children’s lives. Read full story Source: The Independent, 8 September 2022
  17. News Article
    There is an urgent need to develop evidence based clinical guidelines for managing cases of monkeypox, scientists said, after finding that existing guidance frequently lacked detail and was based on poor research. They urged establishing a 'living guideline' for infectious disease to ensure that up-to-date information, based on robust research, was available globally and in any setting. The study, published in BMJ Global Health, also called for investment to back research into optimal treatments and prophylaxis strategies. The study authors wrote: "The lack of clarity between guidelines creates uncertainty for clinicians treating patients with MPX [monkeypox] which may impact patient care." They concluded: "Our study highlights a need for a rigorous framework for producing guidelines ahead of epidemics and a recognised platform for rapidly reviewing and updating guidance during outbreaks, as new evidence emerges." Current global concern over the spread of monkeypox was an opportune time to act, they argued. Read full story Source: Medscape, 17 August 2022
  18. News Article
    The monkeypox outbreak has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. According to the UK Health Security Agency, early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and chills, as well as other features such as exhaustion. Monkeypox does not spread easily between humans, and requires close contact. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is thought that human-to-human transmission primarily occurs through large respiratory droplets. Globally, there have so far been 16,016 monkeypox cases – 4,132 of which were in the past week, according to WHO data. It is now in 75 countries and territories and there have been five deaths. The European region has the highest number of total cases, at 11,865, and the highest increase in the past seven days, with 2,705. The west African strain of monkeypox is generally a mild infection for most people, but it is important those infected and their contacts are identified. The virus is more of a concern among vulnerable people such as those with weakened immune systems or who are pregnant. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 23 July 2022
  19. News Article
    Diminishing rates of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) jabs have prompted a Royal College warning over the risks to pregnant women, as the NHS raises concerns over London “lagging” behind the national uptake. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s immunisations lead, Dr Helen Bradford, said the falling uptake of the MMR vaccine could present a serious risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. The warning comes as London health authorities are planning a major summer drive to improve uptake in the capital, The Independent has learned. Documents seen by The Independent setting out NHS plans for a summer MMR campaign put the focus on social media, including approaching “influencers” to spread messages. The plans also rely on free publicity, with proposals to approach broadcast media. Risks to increasing uptake, according to the document, included anti-vaxx sentiment towards MMR, apathy towards the vaccine, controversy meaning influencers won’t work with the NHS, and a lack of internal data. Read full story Source: The Independent, 27 June 2022
  20. News Article
    The UK needs to do more to use diagnostic testing in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the chair of a government-commissioned review on AMR told MPs. Lord O’Neill, an economist and former treasury minister, warned in the review’s final report in 2016 that a continued rise in AMR would lead to 10 million people dying each year by 2050 and made ten recommendations, including the need for rapid diagnostics to reduce unnecessary use of antimicrobials. Speaking to a Commons Science and Technology Committee evidence session on 22 June 2022, Lord O’Neill said that while he was pleased with progress on some of the recommendations published in his review in 2016, especially in the reduction of antimicrobials in agriculture, progress on diagnostics was “woeful”. He said it was “alarming to me how we are not embedding state-of-the-art diagnostic technology right in the middle of our health systems”, adding that it could “really make a huge difference about whether an antibiotic is needed or not, and the right kind of antibiotic”. “Our most aggressive recommendation was that we should ban the use of subjective prescriptions in secondary settings, at least in Western countries, until they’ve gone through a state-of-the-art diagnostics,” he continued. “And nobody’s done it; they claim it’s a vicious circle, the technology isn’t there, but we have to give incentives in order to get this embedded because that would make a permanent difference.” Read full story Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal, 24 June 2022
  21. News Article
    The NHS is urgently tracking down the parents of 35,000 five-year-old children in London who are not fully vaccinated against polio. Health officials are hoping to contain the spread of the virus after detecting the first outbreak since 1984. They are trying to trace it back to a “single household or street” after identifying polio in a sewage plant serving four million people in northeast London. Experts are concerned polio, which had been eradicated in Britain in the 1980s, could take off again due to relatively low vaccination uptake in London. Latest NHS data shows 101,000 five-year-olds in England — 15% of the total — have not had their booster polio dose, offered when they reach the age of three. One third of these, 34,104 in total, live in London. Jane Clegg, the chief NHS nurse for London said they are “reaching out to parents of children aged under five in London who are not up-to-date with their polio vaccinations to invite them to get protected.” Read full story Source: The Times, 23 June 2022
  22. News Article
    A clinical trial to test pregnant women for Group B Strep (GBS) – the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies – will fail unless the Government intervenes, experts have warned. Some 80 hospitals are needed for the trial to go ahead but only 32 have committed to it, with a deadline for registering of September. The trial is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and will look at whether testing women for Group B Strep reduces the risk of babies dying or suffering harm. Now Dr Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, who lost her son Theo to the infection, is calling on the Government and NHS England to intervene to make sure the trial goes ahead. She said: “The reality is that unless a further 48 hospitals sign up for this trial, then it will fail. “The Government is waiting for the results from this trial to determine whether to test pregnant women for Group B Strep. “Yet there seems to be little acknowledgement that this trial is heading towards failure. “We need more hospitals on board and we need to make sure that the investment in this trial is not wasted. “This is about saving the lives of babies, and it really is now or never.” Read full story Source: The Independent, 20 June 2022
  23. News Article
    About 2 million people die a year as a result of a core group of fungi, and the WHO is concerned we are unprepared for the future. In October, the World Health Organization released its fungal priority pathogens list, the first global effort to create a mycological “most wanted” list of the 19 fungi most dangerous to humans . “Despite posing a growing threat to human health, fungal infections receive very little attention and resources globally,” the report said. “This all makes it impossible to estimate the exact burden of fungal infections, and consequently difficult to galvanise policy and programmatic action.” Fungi are the most populous life form on the planet, with an estimated 12 million species existing worldwide. Only a fraction of these species infect humans, but they are responsible for roughly a billion infections each year. “Most of those are superficial things like athlete’s foot, that no one’s particularly bothered about, but there is a core group that causes life-threatening infections, and particularly in susceptible populations such as the very old or young, and those with immune systems that don’t work properly,” says Mark Ramsdale, an associate professor of mycology at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology in Exeter. About 1.5 million people die a year as a result of these infections, says Ramsdale – although that may be an underestimation, because fungi predominantly infect people who already have major health problems. “The primary cause of death will probably be leukaemia or heart transplant, or whatever,” he says. “But the thing that actually kills the patient is a fungal infection, so there is a strong element of underreporting going on.” Underestimating them would be a mistake. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 10 February 2023
  24. News Article
    The extent of the gridlock in hospitals over Christmas has been revealed, with data in England showing record numbers of ambulances delayed dropping off patients at A&E. More than 40% of crews were forced to wait at least half an hour to hand over patients in the week up to 1 January. That is the highest level since records began a decade ago. But there is hope pressures could soon start easing, with flu and Covid admissions dropping last week. But the UK Health Security Agency is warning it is too early to say whether the flu season - the worst in a decade - has peaked, because reporting lags over the festive period may have affected the data. And Matthew Taylor, of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, said wards were still incredibly full, which was creating delays in A&E and for ambulances. He said hospitals were facing "crisis conditions" that were presenting a risk to patients. Read full story Source: BBC News, 5 January 2023
  25. News Article
    People have been urged to wear face coverings and remain at home if feeling unwell, as an already crisis-stricken NHS faces down multiple waves of winter illnesses. With children returning to school at a time when high levels of flu, Covid-19 and scarlet fever are all being reported, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued fresh guidance in a bid to minimise the diseases’ spread. Parents have been urged to keep children at home if they are unwell and have a fever, with adults told to only go out if necessary and wear face coverings if they are ill and avoid visiting vulnerable people. While transport secretary Mark Harper said the advice was “very sensible”, Downing Street insisted that such guidance was “pretty longstanding”, stressing that it was “not mandatory” and remained a far cry from ministers “telling people what to do” at the height of the pandemic. The government has also reintroduced travel bans for those testing positive for Covid-19 in China from 5 January amid a mass outbreak there. It comes as pressure on the NHS continues to grow, but Rishi Sunak said he was “confident” the NHS has the funding it needs despite accusations from senior doctors his government is in denial about the scale of the crisis in the health service. Read full story Source: The Independent, 3 January 2023
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