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Press Releases - 2005

Visitors to malaria-affected areas must take appropriate advice and action following travel related deaths in UK


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) warned people travelling to areas where malaria is endemic to take appropriate medical advice and anti-malarial medication following six recent UK cases, including two deaths, in people returning from the Gambia.

None of the affected people had taken appropriate anti-malarial medication, according to HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.

"Malaria is a common and serious tropical disease passed on to humans by mosquito bites. There have been more than 40 cases so far this year in Ireland, in people who contracted the disease abroad. There are about half a billion cases each year globally.

"There are a number of different forms of malaria; the most severe and most fatal form, which caused the UK cases, is known as falciparum malaria. The best defence against malaria is to avoid getting bitten by infected mosquitoes by staying away from areas where mosquitoes gather and by protecting your skin using clothing, anti-mosquito sprays and mosquito nets. There are also effective prophylactic medications that can be taken to prevent the development of the disease. They may have to be taken for up to seven days before you enter the area and for up to four weeks after you leave.

"Failure to take the right medication is one of the commonest reasons for developing malaria. Anyone who becomes ill during or following a visit to a country where malaria is common should seek immediate medical advice and let their doctor know about their recent travel. Doctors should be suspicious of a fever or flu-like illness in such travellers, and should assume malaria until proven otherwise.

"Anyone planning a visit to a country where malaria is common should take a course of tablets. There are few side effects and it is a small price to pay for not contracting what is a best a very unpleasant, and at worst a fatal illness," said Dr McKeown.

Details of doctors listed with the Irish Society of Travel Medicine are available on www.istm.ie

More information on protecting yourself from malaria may be found here

Sexually Transmitted Infections up 12.1%


Notifiable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increased by 12.1% in 2004 when compared with 2003, according to the latest available figures released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Wednesday).

The most commonly notified STIs in 2004 were ano-genital warts, genital chlamydia infection and non-specific urethritis.

Commenting on the figures, HPSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Mary Cronin, said that while the increases in reported cases reflect unsafe sexual practices, other factors including the availability of more sophisticated testing methods and public and professional awareness of STIs generally, also contributed to the increases.

"Many STIs may have no signs or symptoms. For example, more than seven out of ten women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms and may not realise they are infected. STIs can have devastating consequences for people's health and fertility if undiagnosed and untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential if we are to control the spread of infections. I would urge those who are sexually active to practice safe sex. However, if a person feels they have put themselves at risk they should get checked out by their GP or clinic.

"Having another sexually transmitted infection also increases the risk of transmission and acquisition of HIV infection. The prevention messages have never been more important as there is no cure for HIV infection, although with advances in treatment more people are living with the infection." said Dr Cronin.

Details of the 2004 figures may be found in the full report here

Holidaymakers advised of hygiene precautions as illness reported in returning travellers


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Friday) advised holidaymakers to take extra hygiene precautions when travelling overseas following recent gastrointestinal illness in returning travellers.

People should take care with water and food, as they are a very common way of spreading 'travellers' diarrhoea' and other more serious forms of gastroenteritis, said HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.

"Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common illness contracted in parts of the world where hygiene might be a problem and occurs in up to half of travellers. It is generally a mild and self-limiting illness lasting a couple of days and appearing after the first week of a holiday.

"Holidaymakers should not spoil their break by assuming that the standards of hygiene in the countries they visit are the same as at home. They should:

"Increases in gastrointestinal illness are to be expected as more Irish people then ever take overseas holidays and Ireland's multinational population travel over and back to their countries of origin," he said.

HPSC publishes HIV figures for 2004


As Irish AIDS Day is marked on the 15th June, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) published figures outlining the number of HIV cases recorded in Ireland in 2004.

There were 356 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Ireland in 2004 - a 10.8% decrease when compared with 2003. The cumulative total number of reported HIV infections up to the end of December 2004 is 3,764. 

178 of the newly diagnosed cases were heterosexually acquired. This compares with 223 cases in 2003. However, this data must be interpreted with caution as information on risk group is unavailable for 39 of the newly diagnosed cases in 2004, making analysis of trends difficult.

192 of those diagnosed in 2004 were male, and 161 were female, while gender was unknown for three cases.

Of the 305 cases where geographic origin is known, 136 were born in Ireland and 130 cases were born in sub-Saharan Africa.

There were 62 new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) during 2004, compared with 75 for the previous year.

There were 71 new diagnoses among injecting drug users during 2004 compared to 49 in 2003.

41 people were diagnosed with AIDS at the same time as HIV diagnosis (where information is available). These people would not have had the opportunity to benefit from treatment prior to AIDS diagnosis.

HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Mary Cronin, said that it is important to note that these figures do not represent the number of people infected with the HIV virus in Ireland, but rather provide information on the number of new diagnoses in 2004.

"The number of new diagnoses reported is dependent on patterns of HIV testing and reporting and there is a need to raise awareness and dispel myths in relation to HIV/AIDS and to promote HIV testing particularly among groups at risk.

"The figures highlight the continuing need for appropriate prevention and treatment services for all risk groups in Ireland, including migrants and ethnic communities. The number of people living with HIV is growing and given the increases in sexually transmitted diseases which facilitate the transmission of HIV infection, people should heed the safe sex message. Anyone engaging in sexual activity should practice safe sex. A properly used condom provides effective protection from HIV.

"It has been clearly shown that mother to child transmission of HIV can be dramatically reduced or prevented by appropriate treatment and intervention measures. A policy to recommend and offer antenatal HIV screening to all women was introduced in Ireland in 1999. Of a total of 113 babies born to HIV infected mothers during 2004, only one was diagnosed with HIV infection, underlining the success of the antenatal screening programme in Ireland," said Dr Cronin.

Sexually Transmitted Infections up 6.5%


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) increased by 6.5% in 2003 when compared with 2002, according to the latest available figures released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Wednesday).

The most commonly notified STIs in 2003 were ano-genital warts, non-specific urethritis and Chlamydia trachomatis.

Commenting on the figures, HPSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Mary Cronin, said that while the increases in reported cases reflect unsafe sexual practices, other factors including the availability of more sophisticated testing methods and public and professional awareness of STIs generally, also contributed to the increases.

"Many STIs may have no signs or symptoms. For example, more than seven out of ten women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms and may not realise they are infected. STIs can have devastating consequences for people's health and fertility if left unchecked and untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential if we are to control the spread of infections. I would urge those who are sexually active to practice safe sex. However, if somebody feels they have put themselves at risk they should get checked out by their GP or clinic.

"Having another sexually transmitted infection also increases the risk of transmission and acquisition of HIV infection. The prevention messages have never been more important as there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS, although with advances in treatment more people are living with the infection.

"Notifications of syphilis and gonorrhoea decreased by 22.4% and 13.1% respectively in 2003 compared to 2002. Between 2000 and 2002, there was a dramatic increase in syphilis among men who have sex with men in Dublin which peaked in 2002. However, notifications have not returned to their pre outbreak levels and syphilis remains endemic in Ireland. The overall decrease in syphilis and gonorrhoea, may have resulted from the interventions put in place to control the syphilis outbreak," said Dr Cronin.


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