Monday, June 30, 2003

Higher SARS perk for health personnel
From The Star
BANGKOK: Responding to feedback, the Health Ministry will revise upward the allowance given to healthcare personnel dealing with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases, its minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said yesterday.

He said the ministry opined that the revision was necessary in view of the high risk taken by the personnel when handling SARS patients.

“This is important because we do not want some of them resigning from the healthcare service,” he told Malaysian reporters after the conclusion of the special one-day Asia Pacific Health Ministers Meeting here.

In deciding on the revision, Chua said the ministry considered the experiences of healthcare personnel around the globe, in particular countries where some personnel left the service because of their unsatisfactory allowance, which did not justify their health risk in treating SARS patients.

Chua declined to reveal the new quantum, saying it would be revealed upon approval by the Cabinet.

He said the revision was important to the Malaysian healthcare personnel as it reflected the Government's deep appreciation for the doctors, nurses and other medical care personnel, including those involved in conducting the screening process. – Bernama

More foreign docs sought
From The Star
SINTOK: The Health Ministry will recruit more foreign doctors to overcome the shortage of medical officers in the country, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Suleiman Mohamed said.

He said the country needed another 1,000 doctors but only managed to recruit 275 foreign doctors on a two-year contract in a recent exercise.

“There will be a second round of recruitment,” he said after launching a health festival at Universiti Utara Malaysia here yesterday.

Dr Suleiman said the foreign doctors recruited in the exercise so far were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Should you cryopreserve your baby's stem cells?

The Star today features prominently an article entitled "A cord of riches". In this article Cryocord, a local cord blood cryopreservation private concern, promotes the advantages of freezing one's newborn baby's cord blood.

I thought the report was woefully short on the ethical matters of private cord blood banking. The issue of a community cord blood bank (which would serve the community in a more cost-effective way) was not mentioned at all.

From the CNN article by Jeffery Kahn on the ethical matters of private Cord Blood Banking :

Lessons from blood banking

Blood banking created a system that has inspired community confidence that blood will be available to anyone who needs it, such that there is very little talk of personal banking of "autologous"blood. The exception came when AIDS was first thought to be transmitted by transfusion, but before testing for HIV was available. Patients preparing for elective surgery might elect to give a unit or two of blood in advance of the surgery to assure that any transfusion would use their own blood. Since the terms of the donation were often that any blood not used while the patient was in the hospital would revert to the general pool. The unused blood this practice created led to a short-term increase in the blood supply.

No such increase will exist with personal cord blood banking since the selling point of storage is that it will remain available throughout the individual's life. Instead of reverting to a community supply, unused cord blood would remain frozen and effectively wasted.

Personal cord blood banking is a classic example of "me first" thinking, but it is wrong headed. Community cord blood banks will serve our collective interests without asking individuals to sacrifice theirs, and save many lives in the process. These are the ultimate goals of any public policy, and they are well within reach. Only those profiting by trading on the worst fears of parents will see their interests undermined, but those are interests not worth promoting.

Asia Pacific ministers warn that SARS fight not over, pledge further cooperation

PDT BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) --

Asia Pacific health ministers pledged Saturday to share more information about SARS and other infectious diseases to stem future epidemics that could threaten the region's public and economic health.

While screening measures have lowered the risk of the virus spreading, "we are fully aware ... that this is only the start," the ministers from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum countries said in a joint statement.

"Controlling SARS requires continued vigorous surveillance and containment of new cases, intensive regional and global collaboration," said the statement, a 14-point plan calling for greater cooperation in fighting the virus.

The ministers agreed to share all relevant information immediately with the World Health Organization and through an APEC network set up to monitor emerging diseases. They also resolved to support plans to revive tourism and trade.

"Early resumption of normal business travel and tourism is essential for overcoming the economic damage caused by SARS in recent months," the ministers said.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told the ministers that SARS had caused more rapid economic damage than the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and warned that "there is no telling when it will re-emerge."

He said the disease had revealed weaknesses in regional public health systems, and that screening measures needed to be improved so each country could better cope with future outbreaks of SARS or other diseases.

He said much was still unknown about the virus, such as whether it is seasonal.

The meeting Saturday was organized to complement a World Health Organization conference last week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the SARS epidemic was declared "dead in its tracks."

The WHO meeting focused on scientific and health issues related to SARS, while Saturday's APEC conference also considered economic implications.

David Heymann, WHO's executive director for communicable diseases, cautioned Saturday that although new cases have fallen to zero in recent days, the SARS scare "certainly won't be over for another year" because the next phase is "intense surveillance for the next year to see whether the virus is still present or whether it's gone."

Severe acute respiratory syndrome has killed at least 812 people worldwide since it first surfaced in November in southern China.

The disease has claimed a heavy toll on the region's economy by strangling tourism and business travel.

APEC's members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Malaysia goes into vaccine research: Chua
From the Daily Express

Kuala Lumpur: A multi-million ringgit research centre to produce vaccines will be set up to prepare the country against microbe attacks or bio-terrorism.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the country needed to rely on locally produced vaccines to protect the people from such threats.

“When are we going to be attacked? Maybe not for many years, maybe next year...the same with bio-terrorism. It is a global threat.

“We must be prepared for any microbe attack whether disturbances through the eco-system or bio-terrorism,” Chua told reporters after a briefing on the National Institute for Natural Products and Vaccinology (NINPV) at his office here.

He said Malaysia was currently a net importer of vaccines, a risky position especially in a volatile economic situation.

“To depend entirely on imported vaccines means to allocate vast funds for controlling infectious diseases...serious implications in times of geopolitical emergencies as multinationals will reduce production of vaccines, rendering new born babies unprotected,” Chua said.

He said Malaysia needed to be independent and to establish its own research centre to produce vaccines especially those that were vital to prevent child mortality.

The lack of vaccines would lead to rampant spread of preventable infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B and measles, which could have an adverse affect on community health and the economy, he said.

Chua said the vaccine unit of the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) produced a range of vaccines for diseases, ranging from smallpox, rabies, cholera and typhoid for 24 years before it was closed down on the recommendation of a foreign consultant.

He said at present there were no concerted efforts to produce vaccines in the country nor was there a national blue print for the industry.

The NINPV, to be located in the bio-valley within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), would be a research and development (R&D) hub for herbal medicines and selected vaccines, while production would be carried out by the private sector.

NINPV estimated expenditure is RM220 million over a five-year period, both for natural and vaccine research.

The annual operations cost would be about RM5 million. - Bernama

Friday, June 27, 2003

Malaysia to set up lab against bio-terrorism threat

Malaysia will spend some $US58 million to set up a research centre aimed at guarding its people against the threat of bio-terrorism and new infectious diseases.

Health Minister Chua Jui Meng says the institute will begin operations in 2005 and will be located in the so-called "BioValley", which has been established south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, in line with Malaysia's aim of becoming a bio-technology hub.

Mr Chua says the government has a duty to protect its citizens against terrorists and new infectious diseases, the latest being the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the anthrax scare in the United States following the September 11 attack.

Mr Chua says because of current "geo-political instability", Malaysia, which depends on imported vaccines, may face a shortage if a crisis breaks out.

Mr Chua says the government will source some of the best brains from within and outside the country to work in the medical institute.

27/06/2003 17:20:49 | ABC Radio Australia News

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Sime Darby aborts sale of SJMC
From The Edge

Sime Darby Bhd has aborted the proposed disposal of the Subang Jaya Medical Centre Sdn Bhd (SJMC) after it could not agree to the prices and terms offered by several bidders.

In a short statement to the KLSE on June 24, Sime Darby said its unit SD Holdings Bhd had decided not to proceed with the proposed disposal after considering "the pricing and terms of the bids received from the bidders".

"The board, after careful deliberations, has decided not to proceed with the proposed disposal," it said. SJMC owns and operates the 375-bed Subang Jaya medical centre.

Sime Darby did not state its next course of action.

On May 29, Sime Darby chief executive Tan Sri Nik Mohamed Nik Yaacob had said the final decision on proposed sale hinged on whether the bids from several bidders measured up to the group's expectations.

The Edge Weekly had reported that it was asking for more than RM200 million cash in the proposed sale, but the bids came in at between RM150 million and RM180 million.

Pantai Holdings Bhd, which already owns six hospitals, and Singapore's Raffles Medical Group were believed to be among the bidders.

Sime Darby had on March 28 announced that it was selling its entire 64.26 million shares in SJMC by way of a bidding process.

The proposal was aimed at freeing capital not directly related to its core businesses in plantations, motor vehicles and heavy equipment distribution, property, engineering and power generation.

SJMC is the group's only investment in the healthcare industry. SJMC's net profit of RM6.7 million in the financial year ended June 30, 2002, represented less than one per cent of the Sime Darby group's profit of RM771.22 million.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Ministry: Winter may see new SARS outbreak
From The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: A new wave of SARS could break out towards the end of the year, the Health Ministry warned.

Its secretary-general Datuk Alias Ali said World Health Organisation (WHO) experts concluded during the recent Global Conference on SARS that the new outbreak could come during the start of the winter months in the north.

“Although Malaysia is not subject to seasonal changes, we still have to maintain a high level of alertness (because) the disease is a travelling bug.

“We will maintain all the SARS wards in the designated hospitals nationwide and look into upgrading laboratory capabilities to ensure we are ready to face the disease and the emergence of other old or new viruses.

“We are glad the overall SARS situation has improved but health screening at entry points will continue,” he told a press conference after chairing the weekly technical committee meeting on SARS yesterday.

Health Ministry Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said winter was viewed as a risk period due to people's lifestyle.

“Based on history, winter is a higher risk season for infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumonia to spread due to the movement (of people) that mainly takes place indoors.

“Indoor activities with overcrowding and close contact can contribute to the transmission of virus,” he said.

Dr Hassan said based on the latest WHO report, the focal areas affected by SARS had shifted from Asia to North America, where most new cases were occurring.

He said of the eight new SARS cases reported between June 16 and 20 worldwide, three each were reported in Canada and the United States.

The other two new cases were in Taiwan while two deaths were registered in Canada, four in China and three more in Taiwan during that period.

Health card firm ordered to pay up

From The Star Online

MALACCA: The Consumer Claims Tribunal has ordered a health card promoter to reimburse its 30 cardholders seeking medical claims.

Tribunal presidents Noor Azian Shaari and Eddie Yeo – who listened to the cases separately – made the decision in default against NHP Health Club (formerly Samlid Global Network), whose representatives failed to turn up.

The highest claim was for RM9,312.90 and the lowest RM120.

The tribunal handled 48 cases yesterday, 41 of them from the cardholders.

Noor Azian said that of the 41 cardholders' cases, eight were struck off as the complainants did not turn up or failed to produce their membership cards or medical bills.

At an earlier sitting on May 12, the tribunal had ordered NHP to reimburse 39 other cardholders' medical claims when no company representatives turned up.

Malacca Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Department deputy director Teo Sean Chang said the department would consult the Public Prosecutor to press criminal charges against the company for failing to comply with the tribunal’s orders to pay.

Under Section 117 of the Consumers Protection Act, offenders are liable to a maximum fine of RM5,000 or two years' jail, or both, for failing to comply with the tribunal's orders.

For each continuing offence, the offender is liable to a maximum fine of RM1,000 for each day the offence is continued after conviction.

Noor Azian urged claimants to inform the tribunal if they were not reimbursed.

Higher allowance for public health personnel
From The Star Online
KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is working with the Public Services Department to bring the public health allowance at par with specialist allowance enjoyed by doctors.

Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the move, which would benefit some 500 public health personnel, was to recognise the important role they play.

He said the Education Ministry had already recognised those holding a masters degree in public health as specialists and that they were entitled to the specialist allowance.

A total of 103 public health physicians had already been gazetted as public health specialists, he added.

The three universities which offer the four-year masters degree since 1997/1998 – Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – produce about 50 graduates yearly.

At present, public health specialists enjoy 70% of the allowance given to clinical specialists, which is between RM910 and RM1,680 as compared to RM1,300 and RM2,400 for the latter.

“The incentives for public health personnel must be the same to prevent their migration to other sectors or countries,” Chua said at the 2003 Malaysian Health Conference yesterday.

Pointing out that “preventive work” carried out by public health personnel was important in the healthcare system, he said that health authorities in some countries had great difficulty handling SARS.

“SARS demonstrated the importance of the public health system.

WHO said SARS had mercilessly exposed the weaknesses of the system in some countries where their hospital bed care was strong but public health structure was weak, Chua said.

Malaysia to make synthetic bone grafting

From The Star Online

MALAYSIA will produce and commercialise its own synthetic bone grafting materials for medical applications by 2009, an effort that will help reduce imports of such item by 60%.

Science, Technology and Environment Deputy Minister Datuk Zainal Dahalan said his ministry had allocated RM12mil for the project under the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas.

The synthetic bone grafting materials will be jointly produced by the Malaysian Institute for Nuclear Technology Research (Mint), Sirim Bhd, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Datuk Zainal Dahalan looking through a microscope to view the development of bone graft substitutes. With him are Datuk Dr Mohd Ariffin Aton (left) and Sirim head of composite and bio material Dr Ishak Yahaya.
“Currently, synthetic bone grafting materials required for surgeries are fully imported and with the joint effort, we would be able to produce such materials on our own and reduce imports by 60%,” he said.

Zainal said between RM20mil and RM30mil worth of synthetic bone grafting materials were imported annually from Switzerland, Germany and the United States.

He said the joint research and development effort would be completed in three years and after a few years of clinical tests, the Malaysian-made synthetic bone grafting materials would be available for commercial production in 2009.

Zainal said this after witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on behalf of Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding in Kulim, Kedah yesterday.

The MoA was signed by Sirim president and chief executive Datuk Dr Mohd Ariffin Aton, Mint director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Sobri Hashim, USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifly Abdul Razak, UKM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Salleh Mohd Yasin and IIUM acting deputy Rector of Academic Affairs Associate Prof Dr Mohd Azmi Omar.

Bone grafting is done by using human or animal bones, or processed corals. It can also done using synthetic bone grafting materials.

Bone grafting is a common procedure in surgical operations such as in orthopaedics, dental, maxillofacial, ENT and neurosurgery.

According to Sirim, a total of 30,000 orthopaedic procedures are conducted annually in the country, of which one third is estimated to involve bone-grafting procedures.

Prof Dzulkifly said the locally produced synthetic bone grafting materials could be exported, especially to Asian countries such as Indonesia.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Health Ministry to present Cabinet papers on tobacco control treaty

From The EdgeDaily

The Health Ministry will soon submit a memorandum to Cabinet for consideration toward the ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty that sets tighter controls on the tobacco industry.

"The papers are now in final draft," said Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng, adding that the ministry would present the documents to Cabinet “very shortly”.

An international initiative by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the FCTC was unanimously adopted by WHO member states, including Malaysia, at the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003.

Speaking to reporters after delivering his keynote address at the 2003 Malaysian Health Conference on June 23, Chua pointed out that the government must endorse the treaty before it becomes law.

The FCTC is the first international treaty ever to be negotiated by WHO, the United Nations’ principal health agency.

Four years in the making, the treaty sets international standards for tobacco controls with provisions on advertising and sponsorship, tax and price increases, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

Signatories are expected to incorporate treaty elements into their national laws. They are free to legislate the FCTC at higher thresholds, but are obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat the treaty’s purpose.

Time to sell the BAT/JTI shares? :0

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Health officials ponder what's next after SARS

KUALA LUMPUR — Health officials from around the world gathered for a two-day meeting on SARS on Tuesday, certain that the worst of the disease was over but already girding for the next viral epidemic.

New infections and deaths from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome have almost dwindled to zero, but officials said there would be no let-up in fighting the disease which has killed almost 800 people worldwide and infected about 8,500 since it emerged late last year.
"We must continue to fight against this disease nationally, regionally, and globally, until the end," said Shigeru Omi, director for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific Region. "The SARS epidemic is now coming under control but the fight is by no means over. SARS is not defeated, other new diseases will threaten us in the future; we must be better prepared next time."

Around 1,000 delegates were gathering in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for the meeting. WHO plans to examine public health system responses to SARS, where the virus came from, and whether it can be wiped out. Omi said WHO had established that SARS originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong but added that questions remained over whether animals were responsible for spreading the virus.

"There are many studies that indicate to that effect. Final confirmation still has to be made," he told a news conference. One of the main issues at Tuesday's meeting, due to feature a speech by Chinese Vice Minister for Health Gao Qiang, will be China's sluggish response to SARS and the initial reluctance of its health officials and other government officers to publicise the outbreak. Their actions have been widely blamed for having delayed global action on the new disease and helping its spread.

Conference delegate Finn Zedler, whose Hamburg-based company Artus developed a test kit to aid early detection of SARS, said the priority should be to learn lessons for the next viral outbreak. He said the previously unknown SARS had been particularly frightening because of the speed of its spread via travellers.

"This is also a sign that there might be more diseases like this coming up for which we will need very early measures in place and open public health systems," Zedler said. "There will be a next time; that's indisputable. The question is when."

China has been worst hit by the SARS outbreak. Deaths have also been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and South Africa.

Heart disease biggest killer in Malaysia
From IRNA:
Kuala Lumpur, June 19, IRNA -- Heart disease was the leading cause
of certified medical deaths in Malaysia in 2001 and 2002, accounting
for 15.76 percent and 15.99 percent of deaths reported at government
hospitals in the two previous years, Health Minister Chua Jui Meng
told the parliament here on Thursday.
In 2001, there were 23,561 deaths reported in government hospitals
and 25,377 last year.
Other leading causes of death in both years were septicemia,
malignant neoplasm, cerebrovascular diseases and accidents, Chua
Chua was asked about the types of diseases which were the leading
causes of death in the country and how many deaths had been caused by
the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and dengue.
Chua said only two deaths this year were caused by SARS and 11
confirmed deaths caused by dengue fever in the first three months of
this year.
Last year, dengue killed 57 people, 50 in 2001 and 45 in 2000.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Medical info system for UPM
Source: The Star Online
PETALING JAYA: Xybase MSC (M) Sdn Bhd said it has developed a medical information system for Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) that has already gone live.

The UPM e-Klinik system is a complete information system that takes care of the medical information needs of the students, staff as well the general public within the compounds of the campus, the company said in a statement.

"It took us about eight months to develop the e-Klinik system, including user acceptance and functional tests backed by a team of only 15 professionals," said Abdul Muhaimy Shafee, the Xybase project manager currently based at UPM.

e-Klinik was built as a web-based application -- accessible via Internet Explorer -- which operates on a 24/7 basis, primarily catering for medical and dental consultations.

It has been integrated with other systems within UPM -- the IHRAMS human resource and payroll system, the SMP student information system and the EIS statistical reporting system.

Among the benefits of the e-Klinik system is that it enables the clinic consultation and medication processes to be as paperless as possible, from patient information, medication disbursement, setting appointments to viewing stock level of drugs and online reporting.

Patients no longer have to carry their medical papers from one division of the clinic to another. All the information is disseminated via the portal.

For example, instead of writing x-ray instructions on a form and getting the patient to pass the form to the x-ray department, the radiographer can access the instruction via e-Klinik. All records are kept in its database. This ensures records are updated instantly and are kept securely, Xybase MSC claimed.

e-Klinik runs on a Sun Fire 280R Server, operates on the Sun Solaris 8 operating system alongside the Oracle 9i relational database management system and Orion Application server.

The system was developed using Oracle 9i J Developer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Daun ketom has similar effect to morphine, study shows
From the NST June 16:
DEWAN RAKYAT, June 16: The herb daun ketom has effects similar to morphine but to a lesser extent, an Institute of Medical Research study has shown.
The study on the plant, which is widely believed to be addictive, has been carried out since 1990, said Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng in a written reply to Zawawi Ahmad (Pas-Padang Terap).
Zawawi had asked if daun ketom was addictive and a health hazard.
Chua said one of the main chemical compounds isolated from the plant, called "mitragynine", had shown effects similar to that of morphine.
It could cause hallucinations similar to those induced by morphine and can cause stimulation, unlike morphine.
The Health Ministry also carried out tests on the effects on the daun ketom on 54 users in 1994 and it was found that the majority used it to get off heroin or morphine addictions, he said.
Others used it as an energising tonic, de-worming and cough medication.
The study found that users showed only a low level of addiction and the use of daun ketom was not always detrimental, he added.
However, Chua said much more research had to be conducted into the effects of long-term use of the plant.


So what does this plant look like? I googled for an image and came up with this:

which takes one to this article from FRIM. So does it mean the Government may ban backyard cultivation of this plant? I predict this will be the next big thing after Tongkat Ali with food and drinks claiming to be spiced with an extract of "Daun Ketum".
As the good Minister alluded, much more research needs to be done. But I suspect greed will lead to marketing before good scientific studies what more any clinical studies.

Monday, June 16, 2003

WHO meet to scrutinise SARS

The Star Online > News > Monday, June 16, 2003


PETALING JAYA: The mysterious coronavirus that claimed over 750 lives will come under microscopic scrutiny when health experts meet tomorrow at the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) first Global Conference on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

According to WHO’s Collaborating Centre director Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit, the issues that would top the agenda included measures to reduce transmission in healthcare and community settings, the clinical management of SARS and studying the possible role of animals in the deadly flu-like disease.

“Better patient management in terms of viral therapy, disease prevention in terms of case detection, isolation and infection control, will be identified hopefully as a result of this meeting,” said Dr Lam who is also Universiti Malaya’s professor of medical microbiology.

The two-day conference here is a follow-up to the Asean health ministers' special meeting on SARS which ended in Cambodia on June 11.

It is also expected to review the scientific findings of the killer disease, to examine the public health interventions to contain the disease and how to contain the virus without risking too many lives.

Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said Malaysia would be able to share its experience in handling the disease at the WHO conference.

“This meeting is eagerly awaited by all as many are interested to know the latest development on the disease.

“The general measures to be adopted at the meeting are important to plan strategies for future outbreaks including bio-terrorist attacks,” he added.

WHO’s acting representative to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Dr R.W.K. Gee said the conference would bring together all those involved in research, care and treatment areas to exchange their understanding and knowledge of the disease.

About 1,300 scientists, medial experts and public health officials are expected to attend the gathering.

WHO communications officer Dick Thompson said the meeting was a “perfect opportunity” to examine how the world had responded to the outbreaks and proposed new ways of responding to similar outbreaks in the future.

On the first day, the plenary session will touch on the global impact caused by SARS, the global alert and response.

Various countries such as Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Canada and the United States will give country reports.

Among the aspects to be discussed include the aetiology of SARS, laboratory diagnosis and vaccine development.

On the second day, participants will discuss matters like preventing international spread, epidemiology, laboratory issues, clinical diagnosis, response co-ordination and surveillance.

By tackling the mysterious virus from all angles, experts are optimistic that the meeting will be fruitful in knowing the disease better and to come out with more effective measures to contain the global spread of SARS.
Ban on Prairie dogs
Know any owners of exotic pets? There's yet another zoonosis, this time in the US of A. And it's a Monkeypox Outbreak in the midwest, the likely source being Prairie dogs.
At least the Vet Dept has the good sense to ban importation of prairie dogs into Malaysia.
I wonder why we have been afflicted with so many zoonoses of late. There was the Nipah outbreak. Then the SARS outbreak. Now this. But the little critters sure are cute aren't they...

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Thailand promotes health tourism with Malaysia
Source: Malaysiakni
Thailand's burgeoning health tourism industry could earn an impressive 100 billion baht (US$2.4 billion) over the next three years as the country expands facilities and teams up with neighbour Malaysia, health officials said.

Thai Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said the kingdom could double its earnings in the lucrative sector and serve as Asia's health hub if it put in place measures aimed at boosting Thailand's recognition as one of the world's premier destinations for medical and health tourism.

"Health tourism is to draw foreign tourists and is expected to gain 100 billion baht over the next three years," Sudarat said in a ministry statement seen Sunday.


Well, well. I wonder how this "teaming up" will manifest and in what way the two countries will "cooperate". Sure, the short term gain will be for $$$$$. However I am of the opinion, the long term gain will be if the two countries and indeed countries in SEA can cooperate more in the area of scientific research and development. Health tourism will be only driven by businessmen with financial goals. We need governments and leaders with vision to see beyond this and look to the future.
Malaysian parasitologist Ramachandran honoured
From the NST June 14,2003
KUALA LUMPUR, June 14: Malaysian parasitologist Professor Datuk C.P. Ramachandran has been made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London, in recognition of outstanding services to tropical disease research.
He is noted for his initiative that led to the Global Programme for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis by the World Health Organisation.
Ramachandran is the first Malaysian to receive this honour from the Royal Society since its establishment in 1907.
Currently with Universiti Putra's School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ramachandran was formerly chief of filariasis research and control at the WHO.
He was a founder member and past president of the Malaysian Society of Tropical Medicine.
Ramachandran was instrumental in bringing world focus on the magnitude of the filariasis problem and highlighted its socio-economic burden on developing countries. The sheer scale of treatment costs can bankrupt health services.
In 1994, Ramachandran convened in Penang the first meeting at which all the arsenal to fight filariasis was reviewed to create a global strategy. By the turn of the century, two drug companies — SmithKline Beecham and Merck & Co — had donated all the medicine needed to wipe out filariasis by the year 2020.

Filariasis, better known as elephantisis, is a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by parasitic worms spread by mosquitoes which, when biting infected people, pick up parasites at its smallest stage.
Worldwide, some 120 million people are infected with filarial parasites. More than one billion people are at risk.
Filariasis does not rank high in Malaysia because of effective overall drug and vector control programmes but this country remains vigilant because the disease is still rampant in the region.
Filariasis, the most prevalent of all tropical diseases, is endemic in most parts of Asia east of India, nearly all the Pacific nations except Australia, most of Africa and Brazil.
Although rarely fatal, it is the second leading cause of permanent and long term disability in the world. More than 40 million people have its most easily recognised sign — grotesque swelling of the limbs. Hidden signs include genital disfigurement and damage to kidneys and the lymph circulation system.