Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 2 June 2023

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Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s bulletin will focus on several updates in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day, which occurred on 31 May 2023 


Medical professionals in Thailand are increasingly concerned about a rise in pneumonia and bronchitis cases linked to e-cigarette usage, particularly among cannabis oil users. Under-reporting of these cases is prevalent. This is often due to a lack of awareness and adequate patient questioning by physicians, according to Assoc. Prof. Sutat Rungruanghiranya, Secretary-General of the Medical Professionals Network for Tobacco Consumption Control. E-cigarette users, especially those consuming cannabis oil, are at a higher risk of developing lung and bronchial problems and often face significant challenges in quitting due to the high, more addictive synthetic nicotine content in e-cigarettes. The long-term effects of e-cigarette usage remain unclear, with early data suggesting possible links to lung and bladder cancer.


The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines, along with other concerned agencies, has launched a local period tracker app called “Oky Philippines”. The app aims to provide young Filipino girls with accurate menstrual health information and was created with input from various demographic groups, including indigenous peoples and children with disabilities. The Australian government supported the app’s localization as part of its AU$48 million Indo-Pacific Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights COVID-19 Surge Response. DOH officer-in-charge, Maria Rosario Vergeire, hopes the app will enable adolescent girls to make informed, healthy decisions. The app’s launch aligns with an improvement in sanitary product access in public schools and the Department of Education’s plan to introduce sexual and reproductive health rights education from Grade 4.


The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Malaysia plans to present the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill to Parliament in June. The bill aims to regulate all smoking products, including vapes and e-cigarettes, and implement a generational endgame (GEG) policy. Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni explained that the legislation is crucial for protecting the health of young people. E-cigarette use among teenagers has significantly increased from 9.8% in 2017 to 14.9% in 2022, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS). The bill, which was approved by the Cabinet, had previously been delayed due to the dissolution of the government.


Vietnam witnessed at least six cases of botulism in May, including three children, according to health officials this week. The patients contracted the disease after consuming contaminated food. Botulism us a rare but life-threatening condition caused by toxins produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Following an antitoxin shortage in hospitals, the World Health Organization (WHO) supplied six vials of Botulism Antitoxin Heptavalent (BAT) to treat the patients. This high-cost, scarce medication is not included in the health insurance fund. Going forward, the Ministry of Health intends to establish measures to ensure a supply of rare drugs in stockpiling centers, despite the challenges posed by their cost and expiry.


Singapore has recorded 15 cases of Zika in 2023, with a significant increase of 14 cases in May alone. Most of these cases emerged from a cluster in the Kovan area. These grew from four cases on May 19 to 11 cases by the end of the month. The virus, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, can lead to symptoms such as fever, rash, and joint pain. However, many infected individuals remain asymptomatic. After a quiet period since March 2020, two cases were detected in 2022. The Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency have advised residents, particularly pregnant women due to the virus’s potential to cause microcephaly in unborn babies, to be vigilant and seek medical attention if symptoms of Zika appear.


The Indonesian Health Ministry reported this week an increasing trend in the number of smokers from 2013 to 2019, particularly among children and teenagers. The prevalence of smokers aged 10 to 18 rose from 7.2% in 2013 to 9.1% in 2018. Indonesia ranks third globally in terms of the number of smokers. Over 27 million adult smokers are at risk of various diseases. They include cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart problems, and diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, social and economic impacts are notable, with families reportedly spending three times more on cigarettes than on protein-rich food. The Health Ministry disclosed this information this week as part of a press conference for World No Tobacco Day 2023. The occasion aims to increase public awareness of the importance of nutritious food over tobacco consumption.

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