Wed | Aug 15, 2018


Published:Wednesday | February 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
From left: Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson greets Eric Hosin, president, Guardian Life Limited while Dr. Cecil White, CEO, University Hospital of the West Indies looks on, during the hand over ceremony of equipment to UHWI.
Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse


 Immunisation for children offered at no cost at government health centres


As Jamaica closely monitors the measles outbreak, which has affected several states in the United States and Mexico, Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse is reminding persons that immunisation for children against certain vaccine preventable diseases, including measles, is offered at no cost at government health centres.

DuCasse is, therefore, urging parents who have not yet fully immunised their children for their age to do so immediately. Compulsory immunisation for children begins at birth and continues until six years old.

DuCasse indicated, however, that Jamaica has been free of endemic (local) transmission of measles since 1991 because of the success of its Expanded Programme on Immunisation.

"Through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation which was established in 1977, endemic measles transmission was interrupted in 1991. Our immunisation coverage is usually in the 90 per cent range. Despite this, we have seen how diseases can cross borders, and so we have to ensure that we keep a close watch on the situation in the United States and any other country where measles cases occur. All Jamaicans are, therefore, urged to ensure that they and their children are protected," DuCasse said.

The most common and first symptoms of measles include a fever, conjunctivitis or sore eyes and a runny nose. Small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or so later. A harsh dry cough is usual, as well as a reduction in appetite, tiredness, aches and pains. After several days, a rash erupts on the face and upper neck, which spreads downwards, reaching the hands and feet.

Measles is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It is spread through direct contact and through the air. Complications include pneumonia and can lead to death.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) issued a measles alert on January 28 because of the outbreak that is affecting several US states and Mexico. The agency has recommended enhanced vigilance given the strong travel ties between the Caribbean and the USA, and given that the region is in the midst of the tourism high season.


- Medical equipment worth $9m handed over to UHWI


Medical equipment valued at $9 million was handed over to the University Hospital of the West Indies by Guardian Life during an official ceremony held on the hospital's grounds last week. Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said the event marked the continuation of a fruitful public-private partnership.

"I want to thank Guardian Life Limited for their support, which once again shows strong public-private partnership in health. As I recommend that more attention be placed on health education and prevention, we also recognise the challenges we face in the health sector.

"Guardian Life Limited, along with several other companies, chose to promote healthy lifestyle through physical activity and also to partner with the University Hospital of the West Indies to provide well-needed equipment to the facility. We are very happy for this support," Ferguson said.

Among the equipment handed over were: autoclaves, ventilator, MRI compatible pulse oximeters, defibrillator, vital signs monitors, ultrasound probes, and water cooler. Areas receiving items are: radiology, departments of medicine and surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, main operating theatre, intensive care unit, cardiology and accident and emergency.

Guardian Life Limited hosted its inaugural 5K night run in 2014 under the theme 'Keep it Alive' and saw more than 6,000 participants. The proceeds from the event were used to purchase the equipment.


- Scientists find new target for most aggressive breast cancer


A new study has linked deficiency in a gene that controls autophagy - a process that recycles cell waste - with triple-negative breast cancer. The researchers suggest increasing activity of the gene could be an effective way to treat patients with this most aggressive and stubborn cancer.

Reporting in the journal EBioMedicine, the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center team - Beth Levine, a UT professor and director of the Center for Autophagy Research, and colleagues - analysed data from more than 3,000 patients in two large breast cancer databases: the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC).

They found that reduced activity of beclin 1 was linked to both a higher rate of triple-negative breast cancer and a poorer prognosis for breast cancer patients.

The team believes this is the first study to report a link between beclin 1 and triple-negative breast cancer in humans, and confirms similar findings from mouse studies.

Levine, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern, says their findings suggest decreased beclin 1 activity contributes to breast cancer and poor survival outcomes.

"With low beclin 1 expression, you have up to a 35-fold higher risk of having triple-negative breast cancer. That's really strong," she said.

Triple-negative breast cancer is when the cancer cells are low in three types of receptor: oestrogen, progesterone and human growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). A receptor is a protein that responds to particular chemical signals.

Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for around 10-20 per cent of breast cancers. Unfortunately, this most aggressive cancer often resists chemotherapy, the standard treatment.


- CARPHA issues warning ahead of influenza season


The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is warning Caribbean people to practise good personal hygiene in order to reduce the risk of transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

CARPHA said seasonal influenza affects many thousands of people in the region annually, and as the 2015 season approaches, it is advising that persons practise good hygiene measures, including covering their mouth with a tissue or handkerchief, or using the elbow, when sneezing or coughing, as well as safely disposing of used tissues.

CARPHA Executive Director Dr James Hospedales said the "primary form of influenza transmission is through interpersonal contact. Given elevated flu activity in the United States, combined with the high travel season to the Caribbean, it is important that persons take the necessary steps now to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu."

CARPHA said the most effective way to prevent the disease or severe outcomes from the illness is vaccination.

"Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for more than 60 years. Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can prevent 70 to 90 per cent of influenza-specific illness. Among the elderly, the vaccine reduces severe illnesses and complications by up to 60 per cent and deaths by 80 per cent," CARPHA said.

It said that most deaths associated with influenza occur among people age 65 or older.