UN warns of Zimbabwe cholera jump

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

The UN Children’s Fund in Zimbabwe says it is preparing to deal with a possible 60,000 cholera cases in coming weeks, four times current official estimates.

The Unicef chief in Harare, Roeland Monasch, said such a jump could bring the number of deaths to around 3,000.

Official figures say nearly 600 have already died from the disease but aid agencies fear the toll could be higher.

UK PM Gordon Brown says it is an international crisis and the world must tell Robert Mugabe “enough is enough”.

Mr Monasch told the BBC that they were doing all they could to bring mortality rates down.

But he warned that if as many as 60,000 people became infected in the next few weeks, then the cholera epidemic could kill another 2,700.See detailed map of cholera affected areas

He says the actual number of people who have already died is probably far higher than official figures as many clinics and hospitals are closed and people in rural areas frequently just bury their dead.

"Children in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone’s focus must now be on their survival"
Roeland Monasch

Unicef’s Zimbabwe Communication Officer Tsitsi Singizi said local authorities did not have the capacity to provide safe water and rubbish collection. Cholera is often linked to contaminated supplies of drinking water.

Tsitsi Singizi said health services had also collapsed, making it impossible to treat the high number of infections.

“The outbreak is really outpacing our response. It’s becoming endemic. Nine out of 10 provinces have reported a cholera case.”

Unicef has launched an emergency response programme to focus on providing basic services – increasing health outreach services, providing nutritional supplements, boosting school attendance, and increasing access to safe water in the short term.

“Children in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone’s focus must now be on their survival,” said Mr Monasch.

The disease has spread to neighbouring South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana.


The situation has forced President Mugabe’s government to declare a national emergency and appeal for international assistance.

But it has also drawn increasing international condemnation of Mr Mugabe, including calls from key African figures for military force to oust him.

Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power in September to tackle the country’s economic meltdown but they have been unable to agree on the allocation of cabinet posts.

The deadlocked agreement followed disputed elections, which both men claimed to have won.

In the UK, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu joined in criticism of Zimbabwe’s government and called for Mr Mugabe and his allies to be overthrown so they can stand trial in The Hague.

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This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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‘Injectable bone’ helps fractures

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

A material that can be squirted into broken bones where it hardens within minutes, has been developed by UK scientists.

The toothpaste-like substance forms a biodegradeable scaffold over which the body’s own bone grows.

Its makers, from Nottingham University, said it could help remove the need for painful bone grafts in many cases.

They are working to start clinical trials in the UK, and expect it to be used in the US within 18 months.

The “injectable bone” won a prestigious medical innovation award last week, and is the brainchild of Professor Kevin Shakesheff, from the University of Nottingham.

Its advantage over traditional bone cements is in the hardening process.

While conventional cements give off heat as they harden, killing surrounding cells, and making them unusable in some parts of the body, this polymer does not.

The material has the texture of toothpaste at room temperature, and when it rises to body temperature, this is enough to trigger the hardening reaction.

"The fact that it doesn’t heat up when in the body… is a significant breakthrough"
Mr Andy Goldberg, orthopaedic surgeon

Professor Shakesheff said it was easy to inject into the right part of the body without a surgical incision, unlike bone grafts, which use bone taken from another part of the patient’s body, such as the hip, to plug a damaged gap.

“Not only does the patient need to be opened up, he or she is left with a damaged area – using this would avoid that.

“We believe we can just insert the needle, follow it to the right spot and inject the polymer, which will fill the desired area, and set as hard as the bone on either side.

“Because the material does not heat up, surrounding bone cells survive and can grow.”

Some limitations remain – even though the polymer is as hard as bone within minutes, the join between itself and old bone is weaker, and a leg fracture fixed this way would still need metal pins to stop it shearing apart when the patient tried to walk.

However, he said that the lack of heat as the substance set meant that it could potentially be used in other applications where a tough scaffold was needed to support the growth of new cells.

This could one day even stretch to other damaged areas such as the heart, he said.

‘Fantastic potential’

Mr. Andy Goldberg, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, and a co-founder of the Medical Futures awards, which honoured the invention last week, said: “This technology has fantastic potential.

“As an orthopaedic surgeon, being able to work with a substance that is flexible, as opposed to using hard bone will make a real difference.

“The fact that it doesn’t heat up when in the body, like many other injectable substances is a significant breakthrough.”

Professor Shakesheff has created a biotechnology firm to help develop and market the invention, and is now working to prove its safety so that it can be used in hospitals.

He said that the swiftest route to market was in the US, where the product could be available some time in 2010.

Professor Richard Oreffo, a specialist in musculoskeletal science at the University of Southampton, said that the material had potential.

“As I understand it, the advantage it has is that the patient’s own cells and growth factors can be delivered with it, and because everything happens at room temperature, they are delivered intact to the patient.”

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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Warning signs

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a “silent killer” as women are generally unaware they have it until it has spread.

But health experts have warned that if women pay attention to their symptoms their chances of survival could be dramatically improved.

Survival rates are poor, with only 30% of those diagnosed surviving for more than five years.

However identifying the disease before it has spread can mean nine in 10 women make the five-year mark.

“The symptoms shout out at you, but you have to listen to your body and act,” said 52-year-old Shehnaz Khan, from Middlesex.

She first found out she had ovarian cancer 20 years ago after suffering for some time with constant dull aching abdominal pain and frequent tiredness.

Initially Ms Khan, an actress at the time, put the problems down to work stress, but doctors diagnosed ovarian cancer.

"It is the type of cancer that can get any woman"
Shehnaz Khan

She was told it had spread and had to have radical surgery, including a hysterectomy.

“In some ways I wish I had known what the symptoms were so that I could have acted sooner, but then I have been extremely fortunate that the treatment I received at the time has given me a long life and I am able to talk about it now and share my experience,” she said.

“For me the biggest shock was that I was going to lose my fertility and my chance to have children biologically.

“I had never heard of ovarian cancer before.”

Following her treatment, Ms Khan, now a designer, redoubled her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eating carefully and exercising.

In 2006, however, she started getting constant diarrhoea and feeling tired, she had period-type pain and started losing weight.


  • Persistent pelvic/abdominal pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating
  • Feeling full quickly

Initially, she suspected her high fibre diet was the cause.

But when the problem persisted and she started feeling faint, she went to her GP who advised a blood test called a CA125 to check for ovarian cancer.

This showed there were problems so she had further tests, which confirmed the disease had returned.

She said: “The tests said I had a big mass growing in the pelvic area and that it was ovarian cancer, which was hard for me to understand as I had no ovaries, but they said a cell must have remained and continued to grow and over the period had grown into this mass.”

She also had two small lesions in the upper abdomen.

Following chemo the tumour began to shrink and the lesions calcified, but she is now undergoing more treatment after they increased again.

Ms Khan said she would probably need regular chemo as they tumours were unlikely to completely disappear.

“But the prognosis is that the treatments will help to kick back that tumour again and start to reduce it and bring back my quality of life,” she said.

“I think the shocking thing as regards survival rates is that there have not been any changes in 20 years and that is so frightening.

“If you can catch it early you can get help and treatment.

“It is the type of cancer that can get any woman and because you can’t see it or feel it is hard.

“You have to rely on listening to your body.”

The Department of Health and cancer charity Ovarian Cancer Action (OCA) have issued the key symptoms to be aware of – persistent pain, persistent bloating, difficulty eating and feeling full quickly.

Peter Reynolds, of OCA, said: “We think awareness is really low.

“It was traditionally seen as a ‘silent killer’, but some women have the symptoms for a year before their cancer is diagnosed.

“It is important to say that if women have these symptoms they are unlikely to be ovarian cancer, but they should get them checked out.

‘Hardly improved’

“Survival rates for ovarian cancer in this country have hardly improved for the last 20 to 30 years and the mortality rates are shockingly high.”

OCA has recently doubled the funding it gives to the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, based at Hammersmith Hospital in London.

The centre’s researchers have been working to discover why the cancer quickly becomes resistant to chemotherapy and the role of ovarian cancer stem cells in the process.

Professor Hani Gabra, director of research, said they were developing new drugs and would soon be starting clinical trials.

“We are developing drugs that can re-sensitise the cancer again so it will respond again to chemotherapy,” he said.

“It probably would build up another resistance.

“But we are looking at ways of keeping people alive and improving their quality of life.

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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