Monday, March 24, 2008

African refugee brings rare and dangerous disease to Britain

Health officials are screening the close contacts of a man who has become Britain's first case of a virtually untreatable form of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The man, believed to be a Somali asylum-seeker in his thirties, has a rare strain, Extremely Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB), which has a high mortality rate.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that XDR-TB accounts for possibly only 2 per cent of the 9 million cases of tuberculosis in the world, but that it poses a grave public health threat, especially in populations with high rates of HIV and where there are few healthcare resources.

Health chiefs said yesterday that close contacts of the patient, who is in isolation at Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, were being screened. He has been in the hospital since January.

Dr Oliver Blatchford, consultant in public health medicine in Glasgow, said yesterday: "It is no more infectious than ordinary TB but it does require different treatment. The contacts of this case are being screened in the same way as ordinary TB contacts. They will be monitored closely to ensure that any further cases are identified early and treated quickly."

A health board spokesman added that the man had been admitted to hospital at the end of January but was unable to give any personal details or provide information about his condition. It is understood that the man arrived at Heathrow last November and when screened for infectious diseases was found to have TB scarring on his lungs.

The condition was not active, however, and the man told doctors he had recently had a six-month course of treatment for TB. After an immigration interview, he was allowed to go to Scotland, where the disease became reactivated.

XDR-TB poses a far greater challenge to doctors than MDR-TB (Multidrug Resistant TB), which is resistant to at least the two main first-line tuberculosis drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin. XDR-TB is a form of MDR-TB that is also resistant to three or more of the six classes of second-line drugs. Doctors can only try to contain the disease with a cocktail of second-line drugs. In some cases, part of the lung can be cut out. This is the first case reported in Britain since the revised definition of XDR-TB was published by the World Health Oorganisation in 2006. Recent findings from a survey of data from 2000-04 found that XDR-TB had been identified in all regions of the world but was most frequent in the former Soviet Union and Asia.

Professor Peter David, the secretary of TB Alert in Britain, said that drugs could contain the disease but not cure it. Treatment takes 12-18 months and is estimated to cost more than 100,000 pounds per patient. [AND the patient has got to comply with his treatment regime]


Global cooling hits Britain

Britain is enduring its most miserable Easter for 25 years as Arctic winds sweep in, bringing snow, hail and sleet. Snow began falling in Scotland yesterday and was expected to move south over the next few days, with forecasters saying that a white Easter looked increasingly likely across much of the country.

People wrapped up warmly to take a stroll along the seven-mile promenade in Bournemouth, Dorset, as temperatures dropped to 7C. Last Easter thousands of people sunbathed on the sandy beach as temperatures topped 20C. Holidaymaker Andy Hemmings, 55, from St Albans, Herts, said: "The sun is out but the winds are very chilly. We are warming ourselves up with a hot chocolate."

Beverly White, of Bournemouth council's tourism department, said that hotels were full despite the freezing conditions. She said: "We have had a lot of last-minute bookings. The weather is pretty atrocious all over Britain but I think people have just said, 'to hell with it'."

A yachtsman was airlifted to hospital after he was tossed into the Solent from a race boat during a force-eight gale. He was suffering from hypothermia when he was hauled out of the water by the crew of another vessel.

In Hampshire a sudden heavy downpour caused a string of accidents including an eight-car pile-up near Basingstoke which, in turn, caused delays of several hours on the M3. A family of four, including two children, were taken to hospital.

Parts of the rail network were crippled by engineering works, with timetables on some of Britain's busiest routes slashed to one train per hour or fewer as operators made way for 75 million worth of track-laying and bridge repairs. The two million passengers using the rail system each day over Easter will face further problems as they try to return home on Monday. Iain Coucher, Network Rail's chief executive, said: "We are doing this for the benefit of the passengers. We never do any unnecessary work."

Police in Dover said that many travellers had been unable to catch ferries because of high winds in the Channel and heavy road traffic. About 16 million cars are expected on the roads over the weekend. Motoring organisations said that the great getaway had passed off relatively smoothly as people staggered their leaving times. But the real test will come on Monday when millions of drivers try to return home at roughly the same time. By then the weather will have worsened leading to icy road conditions. Up to four inches of snow is expected in Scotland.

Bob Syvret, a forecaster at the Met Office, said: "There are several cold fronts coming down from the Arctic, which will continue for the next few days. This will be a mixture of rain, hail, sleet and snow and most places will be at risk." Easter Sunday temperatures could drop to as low as -3C at night with a band of snow and sleet forecast to move down from the North. The bad weather is most likely to affect the Midlands but snow could even reach London, forecasters said. During Easter 1983, Scotland, the Midlands and Kent received up to four inches of snow.

Motoring groups yesterday reported jams in the South West and East Midlands, and 10-mile tailbacks on the M4 in Wales. Severe weather warnings were issued to drivers on the Taye, Skye and Erskine bridges in Scotland.


Massive NHS payout for 'malingerer' mother wrongly blamed for death of her newborn baby

A grieving mother accused of contributing to the death of her newborn baby by ' malingering' during labour has been awarded hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. Hospital staff blamed Kerry Jones after her daughter Bron was starved of oxygen and left brain-damaged. The claims were made after life-support was removed from the day-old child following a traumatic delivery.

At a "hostile" inquest, a hospital lawyer called Miss Jones a "malingerer", criticised her for bringing a birth partner and said her failure to communicate with staff helped cause Bron's death. A midwife accused her of "burying her head in the pillows" and staff complained they "couldn't make somebody do something they don't want to".

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital later admitted doctors were negligent in failing to carry out a caesarean. Despite this, bosses then pulled out of a compensation meeting. But the High Court yesterday awarded 37-year-old Miss Jones compensation after hearing she had endured the "nightmare of feeling responsible" for the tragedy in 2002.

Mr Justice King said: "She suffered the trauma of hearing that Bron had severe brain damage, the trauma involved in withdrawing life-support, the trauma caused by the fact the trust felt she might be responsible for Bron's death. "Eighteen months later, the inquest she experienced was hostile, accusatory and blaming." "She was 'bright and personable' before her ordeal, he said, but had since 'shrunk in stature and personality'."

Miss Jones, of Crediton, Devon, had opted for a home birth with minimal medical intervention for her first child but agreed to go to hospital because her baby was three weeks overdue. She told staff she wanted a caesarean if necessary, but the request was ignored when there were complications. Bron was born at 4.35pm on September 8, but her mother was told she would not recover from the effects of oxygen starvation and she followed advice to turn off life-support at 6pm the following day. Within hours she was told the case would have to be reported to the coroner over "maternal matters".

At the inquest in 2004, the hospital barrister asked her more than 60 questions about decisions she took during labour. Midwives claimed they were "undermined" by the birthing attendant she had hired to provide emotional support, but the hearing heard staff had 'clear instructions' how to deal with such companions. The coroner ruled Bron could have survived if born by caesarean and recorded a verdict of accidental death, complicated by "difficulties in communication and monitoring".

Miss Jones split up from Bron's father, Marcus Bawdon, 34, after the inquest. Last night Mr Bawdon, of Exeter, said: "The ordeal was a nightmare. We were treated horrendously. "I haven't spoken to Kerry in a long time and this is something I don't want to discuss. It is still very painful."

The hospital admitted negligence in 2005 and apologised in 2006. But the case went to the High Court after it pulled out of a settlement hearing. Miss Jones's solicitor, Magi Young, said it was "one of the worst cases of injustice" she had seen in 20 years as a clinical negligence lawyer. "As a result of Bron's death and the fact she was blamed for it by the NHS, her life changed beyond recognition. "She was prevented from grieving because of the hospital's attitude towards her and because of the delay in her finally being told it was not her fault. "She developed serious problems including a pathological grief reaction. Her relationship broke up and she had to leave the job she loved as she could no longer function at work."

A hospital spokesman said: "We need to reflect on the views expressed by Mr Justice King and consider whether there are any lessons to be learned."


Drinking while pregnant risks autism in babies

This report is OK as far as it goes. There is no doubt that heavy drinking during pregnancy is harmful to the fetal brain and that the damage could in part manifest as autistic symptoms is no surprise. Note however that autism sufferers are often high-functioning in some ways and that is not characteristic of fetal alcohol sufferers. These findings are not then relevant to autism research in general. All they do is add symptoms to fetal alcohol syndrome

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may be putting their babies at risk of developing autism, according to new research. The consultant psychiatrist who alerted the medical profession to the finding that drinking while pregnant can give babies a condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has now found that the consumption of alcohol by expecting mothers can also cause autism. The research is the first to suggest that autism may be triggered by the child's mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The findings will heighten concern about the increase in alcohol consumption among women of childbearing age.

More than half of all mothers drink alcohol while pregnant, according to the Department of Health. This week the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will issue a new warning about the dangers. A recent survey showed 8% of women aged 18 to 24 had consumed at least 35 units of alcohol, the equivalent of about 15 glasses of wine, during the previous week. Binge drinking among young women has resulted in the number of alcohol-related deaths in women aged 35 to 54 doubling between 1991 and 2005. Earlier this year, the British Medical Association warned that the increase in alcohol consumption by young women will be reflected in a rise in drinking during pregnancy and, subsequently, will put more babies at risk of being damaged by alcohol while in the womb.

Raja Mukherjee, consultant psychiatrist at Surrey Borders Partnership NHS trust, has spent the past 18 months examining children who have been damaged by their mother's drinking during pregnancy and found that a high proportion of them have autism. The research has been presented at scientific meetings. Mukherjee, who has presented his findings to medical colleagues, declined to discuss them in detail before their publication in a medical journal but said: "Genetic conditions are by far the most common cause of autism but that is not to say that other things cannot cause it, and prenatal alcohol appears, possibly, to be [a cause]. "Unlike genetic conditions, this is 100% preventable."

Mukherjee has previously warned against any drinking during pregnancy and believes that even low levels of alcohol may endanger babies. Drinking during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the umbrella term for a range of disorders - from minor anomalies such as low birth weight to severe FAS, the symptoms of which include mental retardation and facial abnormalities such as a short nose. The number of cases of FAS in Britain has increased in recent years. So far the government and medical bodies have given out conflicting messages about how much alcohol it is safe to drink during pregnancy.


Britain's stupid Leftist government driving out hi-tech employers through high taxes: "Internet search giant Yahoo is moving its European headquarters from London's Shaftsbury Avenue to Geneva after being driven away by British taxes. Yahoo becomes the latest of a host of multinational businesses being lured away from the UK by rival countries with lower corporation taxes. The move came as a particular blow to Britain's efforts to keep technology companies here. Google, despite employing several hundred staff in London's Victoria, opted to base its European headquarters in Zurich. Video games maker Electronic Arts moved its engineering HQ from London to Zurich. EA's arch rival SCI last month announced it was moving dozens of jobs from its Wimbledon HQ to Canada. Swiss councils have been directly approaching wealthy London non-doms running hedge funds and other investment businesses to highlight the benefits of moving to the Alpine haven. Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive-the giant US companies, both elected to site their European HQs in Switzerland. Kraft recently upped sticks from offices near Kew."

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