Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Expert: Treat stings with vinegar, not urine or water.

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

GEORGE TOWN: Never use urine to ease a jellyfish sting.

The best first aid treatment is vinegar, said Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan.

“Vinegar will stop any stingers still stuck on the victim’s body from firing more venom,” she said.

She also said not to wash the affected part with freshwater.

“Stingers are microscopic. They are inside the nearly invisible tentacles of a jellyfish, which could still be stuck on a victim’s body.”

Dr Tan said now that two box jellyfish species are breeding in Penang, tourism players need to do more to ensure public safety.

She said medical practitioners must be alert to the possibility that victims may have had a brush with a box jellyfish and develop Irukandji Syndrome.

She said Cemacs, under Universiti Sains Malaysia, is planning a workshop on dealing with jellyfish on Dec 4 for anyone invol­ved in sea or beach activities in Penang.
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Drug abuse could lead to acute mental disorder, says doctor.

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Drug abuse, especially club drugs, may not only induce short term mental problems but also trigger schizophrenia among those who are predisposed to it, said consultant psychiatrist Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid.

He said cannabis and methamphetamine could trigger schizophrenia in drug users who have risk factors such as family history.

The Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Addiction Science Research director warned that an early onset of schizophrenia due to drug use would require treatment for life.

For drug-induced psychosis, the users’ behaviour could suddenly become abnormal and they suffer from hallucination or delusion and behave aggressively, which mimic schizophrenia, said Dr Rusdi.

“If drugs are taken in the long term, some psychosis may be persistent and may turn into schizophrenia. It is not known yet if the condition will become permanent,” he said.

He said drug-induced psychosis might be acute and could lead to drug users harming or killing others.

Dr Rusdi said the University Malaya Medical Centre sees 30 to 60 cases of drug-induced psychosis every month.

Patients usually recover within three days to two weeks with treatment but if a drug user returns to the habit, he or she will have continued psychosis, he said.

He added that those wanting to kick their drug addiction may require life-long counselling.

Young patients are usually school dropouts who become dependent on their parents, he said.

He said most addicts start abusing drugs between the ages of 20 and 30 but some start as young as 12.

Dr Rusdi said there was effective treatment for opiates available but no medication yet for newer drugs.

He said most major hospitals had treatment for drug addiction and those with affected family members can seek help there.
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Exclusive: ‘Kiddie packs will help fight illicit cigarette trade’

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

ALLOWING the sale of smaller packs of cigarettes makes sense for a number of reasons, tobacco companies argue.

The major reason, of course, is financial, but it is not just for the benefit of these companies, but others, such as retailers and the government.

The reason for this is the staggering numbers of illicit cigarettes available in the market, which go for anywhere between RM3 and RM5 per pack of 20 sticks, compared with between RM12 and RM17 for legal ones.

Citing government-culled statistics, they say an average of 60 per cent of cigarettes in the Malaysian market are illicit, meaning that the government loses out on 60 per cent of the revenue in the form of excise duties, and this amounts to billions of ringgit.

British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd (BAT Malaysia) managing director Erik Stoel says the biggest challenge the industry faced is competing against illegal cigarette trade in Malaysia.

“The trade in illegal cigarettes in Malaysia has grown to an extent that it now dominates the market in the east coast states, where retailers are openly selling them on their shelves.

“These smugglers and retailers are not deterred by the punishment and fines they get, if caught, because the profit they make is worth the trouble.”

Stoel says penetration for illicit cigarettes varies.

For instance, he says, in states with more urban areas, the statistics are below the national average of 60 per cent.

But in the east coast, where the earning power is lower, the numbers are much higher.

Kelantan, he says, has a penetration of 83 per cent for illicit cigarettes, while Terengganu shows a 75 per cent market penetration.

“While enforcement is crucial and ongoing, it is a very challenging task to clamp down on the supply of more than 11 billion sticks of illegal cigarettes that is moving around.

“Strong enforcement to curtail supply is important, but this alone will not shift illegal into legal consumption.

“Due to this uncontrollable influx of smuggled cigarettes, the Customs Department has lost a lot to the illegal trade, especially in terms of tax revenue.”

JT International Bhd (JTI Malaysia) managing director Guilherme Silva shares Stoel’s views on the reintroduction of smaller packs, adding that there is the possibility of a reduction in cigarette consumption.

He says when a consumer buys a 20-stick pack, it is likely that he or she will finish the whole pack in a day and not keep it overnight because of freshness issues.

“If they buy smaller 10-stick packs, they might stop at one box a day and get a new box of 10 the next day.”

With the increased cigarette prices, says Silva, more and more smokers are turning to illicit ones, even though they know the risks of smoking such cigarettes are higher due to unregulated amounts of nicotine and tar.

“(If we have smaller packs), there is a possibility that these smokers will buy legal cigarettes with regulated amounts of nicotine and tar.”

Both Stoel and Silva insist that “kiddie packs” will not encourage the young to smoke.

They say excise duties on tobacco products are based on each stick, meaning that the price of a pack of 10 — between RM7 and RM9 — will still be higher than buying a pack of 20 sticks of illicit cigarettes.

Silva says the industry hopes that the government could consider their proposal for the reintroduction of small packs as a pilot project with a three-year duration, before observing its trend and impact.

“Malaysia is among the top three Asean countries in the trade of illicit cigarettes, above the Philippines, Cambodia and even Indonesia.”


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Teaching educators about healthy eating

Sunday, September 10th, 2017
Huee explaining the importance of consuming nutritious food and drinks to pupils of SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong.

Huee explaining the importance of consuming nutritious food and drinks to pupils of SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong.

TEACHERS need to be taught about healthy eating to prepare them in the fight against junk food, says the Association of School Canteen Operators Malaysia (Ascom).

Its president William Huee said some teachers were not aware of how unhealthy certain foods and beverages were, such as carbonated drinks that were packaged as sports drinks.

A canteen operator since the 1970s, Huee founded Ascom in 1976 after realising that canteen operators like him could be selling food that was unhealthy.

“The authorities fined me RM500 for selling teh tarik and RM700 for selling popcorn. Once I realised these foods were unheal-thy, I wondered if other canteens sold equally unhealthy food,” he said.

Huee now works with Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd’s #SaySomethingNice campaign to run the #EatSomethingNice project to educate students to stay away from junk food and eat more nutritious meals.

He visited three schoolsin the last two weeks and plans to visit more after the UPSR exams.

During the #EatSomethingNice roadshow at SJK(C) Kheng Chee Puchong on Wednesday, he conducted interactive classes with about 900 primary students.

Huee, who had run his programme with 1.5 million students from kindergarten to college, said #EatSomethingNice planned to start a workshop to teach teachers on what students should be eating.

School headmaster Lim Wah Lim said while the school canteen offered healthier food options like fresh buns and noodles, unscrupulous hawkers outside school grounds still sold junk food to students.

“When we see the ice cream sellers outside the school, we immediately call the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to ask them to leave.

“But if the students know about healthy eating habits and nutrition, they will not buy the junk food,” he said.

Under the Local Council Guidelines, street vendors – often seen on three-wheelers and small vans – are illegal if operating without a business licence.

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New ways to fight obesity

Saturday, September 9th, 2017
There are collaborative community nutrition promotion programmes between professional bodies and companies targeting groups like children, and pregnant and lactating women. FILE PIC

THE obesity epidemic is rapidly escalating in Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, where a recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlighted that the country has the highest obesity and overweight prevalence in the region — 13.3 per cent and 38.5 per cent of the population, respectively.

This is leading to a huge economic burden, with the cost of obesity spiralling to US$1-2 billion (RM4.3-8.6 billion) last year — equivalent to between 10 and 19 per cent of the country’s healthcare spending.

This makes the country the second-highest spender in Asean for obesity-related health problems, according to the report commissioned by the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN).

To address this healthcare burden, a paradigm shift is needed. This includes more attention on preventive healthcare; consumer, especially childhood, education on healthy nutrition, multi-stakeholder partnerships and knowledge exchanges.

Obesity in Malaysia is largely driven by rising income — more money means greater access to food, and often times, unhealthy food choices. This, coupled with the high-calorie food that is consumed daily and a lack of exercise, is making more people gain weight faster.

More critically, the issue is amplified by a lack of awareness and the general view held by most Malaysians that obesity is a cosmetic issue rather than a health issue, with many failing to make the connection between obesity and non-communicable diseases, such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which account for nearly three out of four deaths.

Solving the obesity crisis requires tailored strategies that fit within the local environment.

More importantly, it requires strong partnerships and open engagement between the government, food industry and civil society — from both the public and private sectors.

Taking into consideration the important roles that each of these parties play will be vital in tackling obesity.

For example, government bodies and agencies set the strategic direction for obesity prevention and ensure that necessary measures and policies are well implemented. That said, initiatives at a national level, especially those targeted at the diverse health and food industry, can be quite limited.

This is where the private sector plays an equally important role, by recognising the significance of promoting healthier choices as a core part of their business.

Fortunately, the country’s food industry is steadily incorporating this as part of their business plans.

Business leaders are increasingly engaging with the government and other public players on ways they can provide better food options through product re-formulations and “healthier choice” labels.

They also work closely with the government and other non-profit professional bodies through the annual Nutrition Month Malaysia (NMM) programme.

This is a collaborative initiative of three professional bodies, namely the Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Dietitians’ Association and Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity, and is supported by the Health Ministry.

A worthy illustration of a public-private partnership approach, the NMM is a national community education plan that sees different players working together to encourage the public to adopt healthier lifestyle through outreach events and activities.

There are also several other examples of collaborative community nutrition promotion programmes between these professional bodies and corporate companies, targeting specific groups like children, and pregnant and lactating women.

These examples highlight how a multi-stakeholder approach can efficiently reach out to the community.

It would be difficult for one sector to work alone to solve a country’s obesity crisis.

This is where public-private partnerships can be a part of the solution — by bringing the food industry, academia, civil societies and public sector together in a strategic alliance to identify and recommend intervention that can have an impact on the country’s obesity problem.

For the public and private sectors to collaborate successfully, there has to be a transparent and honest dialogue. Companies in the private sector need to identify and be open about any conflicts of interest that their respective businesses may have in relation to the promotion of a healthy and obesity-free lifestyle, and manage these appropriately with the public sector.


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Right posture can prevent text neck

Friday, September 8th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Simple adjustments to body posture will help prevent neck pain and soreness caused by prolonged mobile phone or tablet usage, also known as “text neck”.

According to rehabilitation science researcher Nizar Abdul Ma­jeed Kutty, electronic devices should be held at eye level in order to prevent the head from bending forward and straining the neck muscles and joints.

The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman senior lecturer in physiotherapy said people should sit up straight with their head positioned such that the ears are over the shoulders and the feet planted firmly on the floor, while using electro­nic devices.

“Good posture is not only good for the health of your spine, it is also good for the overall health and mood,” he said.

He said there are apps that can help alert users when they have stared at a device for too long.

This is so that users are reminded to take a break from the screen and avoid prolonged periods of straining their neck and eyes.

Chiropractor Eugene Yang said he has seen a growing number of young patients suffering from text neck.

“Children, especially from international schools, sometimes cannot help it because they are required to do a lot of work on the computer and their posture is often not right.

“They complain of neck pain and numbness in the hands,” he said.

A report in The Star yesterday stated that as many as seven in 10 people suffer from neck problems due to smartphone usage.

A 2014 study published in the journal Surgical Technology Inter­national used a computer model to calculate the force to the cervical spine (the seven vertebrae in the neck region) as a result of people using mobile phones in poor posture.

The researchers found that when the head is in neutral position, the neck carries a load of about 5kg. At a 15-degree forward tilt, the load is 12kg and at a 45-degree tilt, it is 22kg.

The more the neck bends forward, the more the stress is on the cervical spine.

The extra force results in more load on the cervical discs, which can eventually degenerate and lead to chronic neck pain.

“Your neck is like a pin and your head is a ball, so if the neck is flexed forward, it’s like trying to balance a bowling ball on a pin,” added Yang.

“Age is not a barrier when it comes to using multiple gadgets as I had one patient in his early 50s who was brought in by his wife because of neck problems.


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More affected by rat urine disease than Hepatitis B, HIV.

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: More Malaysians are affected by leptospirosis (rat urine disease) as compared to Hepatitis B and HIV, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam.

In a written reply in Parliament on Wednesday, he said a ratio of 17.1 leptospirosis cases to every 100,000 people has been recorded.

“Hepatitis B and HIV have 12.6 and 11.0 cases for every 100,000 people respectively,” he said.

He added that dengue remains as the infectious disease affecting the most Malaysians as 328 of every 100,000 people are affected by it.

He stressed that despite efforts by the government to curb the diseases and aid with the recovery, Malaysians need to do their part in preventing the infections.

“Cleanliness is important and we call on the people to abide by the advisories set by ministry to tackle the situation,” he said.

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Sabah on alert for rabies outbreak

Friday, July 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is maintaining a tight check on the movement of animals following the outbreak of rabies in Sarawak.

State Veterinary Department acting director Dr Nasip Eli said surveillance is being stepped up at the common borders with Kalimantan and Sarawak.

He said the department was monitoring closely movement of dogs and other animals coming into Sabah via Sindumin from Lawas in Sarawak.

“Our men are checking round-the-clock,” he said Friday, adding that so far, the department has not detected any move to smuggle in dogs or other animals into Sabah.

He said those using the land route to bring in dogs from Kuching, Sibu and Miri apart from Lawas in Sarawak would find it difficult because they had to pass through eight check points in the state, Brunei and Sabah.

He also said that surveillance has been stepped up along the remote land borders between Sabah’s southern Tawau and Pensiangan districts that straddles with Kalimantan.

“We have increased our surveillance and public health campaigns with the people in Salong, Pagalungan and Long Pasia as part of our measures,” he said.

Dr Nasip said there has also been an increase in cases of people being bitten by dogs but none of the animals were infected by the rabies virus.

On claims that dogs mainly for pets were still being brought from Sarawak illegally, Dr Nasip admitted that the department has been receiving such reports.

He, however, said there was no proof that the dogs had come in without any licences, dismissing claims spread on social media.

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Lam Thye: Focus on mental health of Malaysian youth.

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs to focus more on the mental health and emotional well-being of young people, said National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

Lee,a member of the Health Ministry’s Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council, said the recent increase in violent behaviour and suicidal tendency among Malaysian youth should be viewed seriously.

“The government and community cannot remain silent any longer and must address the issue, especially the stigma of mental disorder,” Lee said in a statement on Sunday.

He said that awareness of mental health issues must be raised in schools while mental healthcare be made more accessible.

“We must also ensure that patients’ rights are not being discriminated and they be allowed to make informed choices on their treatment and be legally protected,” he said.

Lee quoted data from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey, which found that 29.2 per cent of Malaysians above the age of 16 suffered from mental illness. This number constituted an 11.2 per cent increase from 2006.

He said a government campaign is needed to encourage those facing depression and other mental health disorders to seek help from mental healthcare centres.

“At the same time, the government must address the shortage of competent experts, especially clinical psychologists, to deal with mental health problems.

“Malaysia is also lacking in psychiatrists as at present, there are merely 360 registered psychiatrists in the public and private sectors,” he added.

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Tuberculosis still a threat in Sabah – doctor

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: About 40 per cent of 10,000 people screened last year showed no symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB) in the state, said Sabah State Health Department (TB/Leprosy) principal assistant director Dr Richard Avoi.

Dr Richard said the key strategy to TB control is to ensure the general public are aware of the deadly disease and know that the TB situation in Sabah is still not under control.

He added that compared to other infectious diseases, the airborne TB is actually the main disease to tackle.

“One of the main activities to control this disease is to diagnose it as early as possible. Those with the disease must take the medication and get cured from the disease. Now the challenge is to diagnose the disease as early as possible. That is where the awareness comes in,” said Dr Richard, who is also Sabah Anti-Tuberculosis Association (SABATA) medical advisor.

“One of the activities done is mobile TB screening through our mobile bus X-ray. We have screened more than 10,000 last year and we picked up a number of TB cases through these activities by doing X-ray among the high risk group population.

“What I found from our data so far, of the number of TB cases detected through these activities, about 40% do not have the symptoms but they have TB. That is why it is important that, even though you do not have symptoms, you must come forward for TB screening, especially if you have history of exposure to TB,” he stressed.

Dr Richard disclosed that a total of 4,953 newly diagnosed TB cases were detected in Sabah last year, which is 19 per cent of the national 25,739 figure.

From January to May 2017 there were 1,875 newly diagnosed cases, only 109 short of the 1,984 within the same period last year.

“It is almost the same. That means if the trend continues, at the end of the year, we will hit almost 5,000 cases of newly diagnosed TB cases (in Sabah),” he said.

“You see the burden of TB cases in Sabah is still high. Therefore a lot of activities must be carried out to control TB in the state.

“If people don’t come forward to check, the detection will be late. People must come forward as soon as possible if they experience chronic and prolonged cough for more than two weeks, that is the standard.

“Once diagnosed, they must take medication for at least six months without interruption as failure to do so would not cure them from the disease and they will continue to be the source of infection for other people,” he explained.

Dr Richard said 1,264 foreigners and 3,689 Malaysians were diagnosed with TB last year, and 255 foreigners and 732 Malaysians were found TB positive between January to March 20 this year.

He noted both foreigners and Malaysians alike have resisted coming forward to get tested for TB in the past.

“We have experienced a contact of a TB patient who did not want to come forward for check-up. We have to beg and tell them to come but yet they refused.

“The more activities we do to find TB cases, the more cases we pick up. It just means there are still a lot of TB cases out there that had not been detected, so the detection activities must go on.

“From our experience, to control TB among immigrant population is very challenging. I think most people know they are not coming forward and majority of them, once they are diagnosed, are not able to complete the six-month treatment because either they are sent back home or they just disappear and you cannot trace them, especially those with the status of illegal immigrants. These are the group of people who will not come forward until the disease become very severe and they have no choice but to come to us for check-up. We have seen a lot of situations where the patient ends up dying because of the late detection,” he disclosed.

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