MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 31 November 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 covers the Philippines’ and Indonesia’s response to the rising respiratory cases in China, HIV in Malaysia and more. 

Thailand

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has urged importers of instant noodles to conduct checks for ethylene oxide contamination. This follows the European Union’s discovery of the chemical in vanilla flavouring used in ice cream. Ethylene oxide, categorised as hazardous by Thailand’s 1992 Hazardous Substance Act, can cause cancer, reproductive issues, and irritate the eyes, skin, respiratory, and central nervous systems. The ministry’s Medical Sciences Department has developed a detection method, Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), aligning with EU standards for pesticide checks. Noodle importers can have their products tested for a fee of 5,000 baht per sample.

Malaysia

In Malaysia, about eight people are diagnosed with HIV daily, with the majority being young males infected through sexual transmission. The Health Minister also highlighted a slow in the reduction of new cases. This poses a challenge to the 2030 target for ending HIV/AIDS. The government’s response includes the “PrEPGov2023” project, offering pre-exposure prophylaxis in health clinics, and initiatives like the Prostar module for youth awareness. There’s also collaboration with NGOs and community health workers for support and counselling, emphasising the role of parents in guiding healthy lifestyles among the young.

Also reported this week:

The Rise of Nicotine Poisoning In Malaysia: A New Challenge

Philippines

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) has addressed concerns regarding the increase in respiratory illnesses among children in China, stating there is no cause for alarm in the Philippines. The rise in China is attributed to relaxed COVID-19 measures and the colder season. Despite an increase in flu-like illnesses, there is no evidence of new pathogens or unusual clinical symptoms in the Philippines. The DOH advises people, especially those with comorbidities or autoimmune diseases, to take precautions like wearing masks. Benito Atienza from the Philippine Federation of Professional Associations emphasised the difficulty differentiating flu from COVID-19 without testing and advised seeking medical help if flu symptoms persist for over three days.

Also reported this week:

Combating Pneumonia in the Philippines Through Comprehensive Vaccination Strategies

Surge in HIV Cases Among Filipino Teenagers

Singapore

A 13-month-old boy passed away from COVID-19 on October 12, marking the first death in 2023 of a patient under 12 years old from the virus. The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that the child was unvaccinated and had a pre-existing congenital condition. He was admitted to the hospital on October 10 after testing positive for Covid-19. MOH noted that while the risk of severe COVID-19 is lower in young children, severe outcomes can still occur, especially in those with underlying medical conditions and who are unvaccinated. The ministry urges everyone aged six months and older to keep their Covid-19 vaccinations updated, with an additional dose recommended a year after their last vaccination.

Also reported this week:

Nutri-Grade Measures in Singapore Effective End Dec 2023

Termite Infestation in Singapore Condo Avenue South Residence: Medical Perspective

Vietnam

The second 2023 campaign for free vitamin A supplementation for children aged 6-35 months will start on December 1. Deputy Director Truong Tuyet Mai of the National Institute of Nutrition highlighted Vietnam’s progress in reducing child malnutrition and eradicating blindness due to vitamin A deficiency. However, challenges like high rates of malnutrition, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies among women and children persist. In 2020, 19.6% of children under five were malnourished. Meanwhile, 19.6% suffered from nutrition anaemia and 9.5% from vitamin A deficiency. Dr. Vu Van Tan also emphasised the importance of vitamin A for children’s health and development. Over 98% of children receive vitamin A supplements through biannual campaigns.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin clarified that new pathogens like COVID-19 or Ebola did not cause the recent pneumonia outbreak in China. According to research by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a circular from the Indonesian Health Ministry, the outbreak was attributed to long-existing viruses and bacteria. The WHO also called for countries to strengthen preventive measures and ensure readiness to handle surges in diseases like pneumonia. Treatments and detection methods for pneumonia are already available, noted Sadikin. Additionally, He urged parents to focus on boosting their children’s immunity to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

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