People who take part in outdoor pursuits must protect against Lyme disease
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Wednesday) urged people who take part in outdoor pursuits to protect themselves against Lyme disease, which is spread by tick bites. Lyme disease can, in a minority of cases, cause severe debilitating heart and nervous system disease.
As people are more likely to engage in out door pursuits in the summer months, ramblers, campers, mountain bikers, and others who work and walk in forested or grassy areas must be vigilant against tick bites, says HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.
"Ticks are tiny insect like creatures that feed on the blood of mammals and birds and will also feed on humans. Ticks are more numerous and more active in the summer months and protecting against tick bites protects against Lyme disease.
"Tick bites can be prevented by:
Wearing long trousers, long sleeved shirt and shoes
Using an insect repellent
Checking skin, hair and warm skin folds (especially the neck and scalp of children) for ticks, after a day out
Removing any ticks and consulting with a GP if symptoms develop
"Only a minority of ticks carry infection. If a tick is removed within a few hours, the risk of infection is low. The entire tick, including any mouthparts which might break off, should be removed with a tweezers by gripping it close to the skin. The skin where the tick was found should then be washed with soap and water and the area checked over the next few weeks for swelling or redness. Anyone who develops a rash or other symptoms should visit their GP and explain that they have been bitten by a tick.
"Although the true incidence of Lyme disease is not known it is likely that there are at least 50 -100 cases in Ireland every year," added Dr McKeown.
Further important information to protect against Lyme disease is available here.
HPSC publishes HIV and AIDS figures for 2009
New figures released today (Tuesday) by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre show 395 newly diagnosed case of HIV in Ireland during 2009 - a 2.2% decrease compared with 2008 - and 33 new cases of AIDS.
The cumulative number of AIDS cases reported up the end of 2009 is 1038, with 414 deaths reported among AIDS cases. There were two deaths among AIDS cases reported in 2009. The total number of HIV infections reported up to the end of 2009 is 5,637.
156 of the newly diagnosed HIV cases were heterosexually acquired, 138 new infections were among men who have sex with men (MSM) and 30 were among injecting drug users (IDUs). However, this data must be interpreted with caution as information on risk group is not available for 65 cases, making analysis of trends difficult.
258 of those diagnosed with HIV in 2009 were male, and 137 were female.
There were five new diagnoses of HIV infection in children during 2009. All are likely to have been infected through mother to child transmission (MCT). Of these, one was born in Ireland and the remaining four were older children who were born in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Of the 307 HIV cases where geographic origin is known, 141 were born in Ireland, 96 were born in sub-Saharan Africa, 21 were born in Western Europe, 13 were born in Central Europe, 15 were born in Eastern Europe and 14 were born in South America.
HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Aidan O'Hora, said that the one of the key findings of this year's report was the number of MSM who have been newly diagnosed with HIV.
"The number rose from 97 in 2008 to 138 in 2009 - a 42.3% increase in twelve months. The majority of these men - 63% - were born in Ireland and most likely acquired their infection here. Young men under 30 years of age accounted for 35% of new diagnoses. This trend is consistent with what is being seen in many other western industrialized countries.
"The overall drop in HIV cases is welcome. 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.
"The epidemiology of HIV in Ireland is complex and due to the voluntary nature of the reporting system, it is likely that the number of case reports is an underestimate,” added Dr O’Hora.
The full report is available here.
'Don't lick spoon' when cooking or baking with duck eggs warns HPSC as children fall ill with salmonella
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) warned parents not to let children lick the spoon used in baking or cooking with duck eggs as an investigation continues into a salmonella outbreak.
So far in 2010, seven cases of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 have been identified by HPSC and the National Salmonella Reference Laboratory, and have been linked to duck eggs by a public health investigation. At least three have occurred in children who licked the spoon used by their parents in food preparation, says HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.
"Many children love to lick the cake or food mixture from the spoon during baking and unfortunately in this outbreak it has probably resulted in some falling ill. As yet, the precise location and extent of the problem is not sufficiently clear for us to offer guidance on food distribution or recall so the only way to stay safe is by thoroughly cooking all duck eggs and by preventing cross-contamination between any raw egg and ready-to-eat foods. People should also wash their hands, any preparation surfaces and cooking utensils after handling or using duck eggs.
"The symptoms of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 infection can include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. Occasionally, the illness can be severe, especially in children and the elderly. Anyone who may have these symptoms after recently eating duck eggs or products made with duck eggs, should contact their doctor for advice.
"The investigation into the outbreak is ongoing. HPSC is continuing to work closely with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and public health colleagues to control this outbreak and to prevent further cases," said Dr McKeown.
Pet farm visitors should follow basic guidelines to avoid infection as children begin school holidays - HPSC
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) today (Friday) urged visitors to Open or Pet Farms to follow basic guidelines in order to reduce the risk of picking up infections, especially VTEC E.coli O157.
As schools break up for the Easter holidays and the clocks go forward this Sunday children and their parents are more likely to come into contact with farm animals and their environment, said HPSC specialist in public health medicine Dr Paul McKeown.
"Adherence to a number of basic guidelines will make sure that visits to farms are a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, especially children, who get to learn more about rural life and experience contact with animals.
Observe farm notices
Avoid consuming unpasteurised products
Avoid tasting animal feedstuffs
Cover all cuts or broken skin with waterproof plasters
Avoid letting your face come into contact with animals
Eat only in designated eating areas
Wash and dry hands after contact with animals or animal feed and before eating and drinking
Ensure that children's handwashing is supervised by adults
Ensure that children under the age of five are very closely supervised in the presence of any animals
Avoid eating anything off the ground
Avoid putting fingers in your mouth or in the mouths of animals
Avoid touching manure or slurry
Only feed animals under supervision from a farm worker
Pregnant women should avoid handling sheep or lambs
Wash their hands and make sure that their shoes are free from animal dung when leaving the farm
"These guidelines are particularly important for vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or immunocompromised people. VTEC can cause severe bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. Usually there is little or no fever, and patients recover within five to 10 days. However, some people, particularly children under five years of age and the elderly, are at risk of a complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. This happens in up to 10% of child cases. HUS is the principal cause of acute kidney failure in children, and the majority of cases of HUS are caused by E. coli O157:H7.
"So far in Ireland we have had no confirmed cases connected with Open or Pet Farms, although the UK has seen over a hundred such cases. Adherence to these simple guidelines, will ensure that such cases are kept to a minimum here," he said.
New guidelines will make a real difference in fight against hospital infections - HPSC
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Monday) published two sets of national expert guidelines which aim to reduce hospital acquired infections associated with intravascular (IV) catheters and to manage the use of antibiotics in Irish hospitals.
These recommendations will make a real difference by reducing the number of IV line infections in Irish hospitals and by improving our ability to successfully treat infections with antibiotics, says the chair of the Strategy for the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland (SARI), Dr Olive Murphy. Both sets of guidelines were published by HPSC on behalf of the National SARI Committee.
"The guidelines for the Prevention of intravascular Catheter-related Infection in Ireland pull together best international practice in a single document and make recommendations for the prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and clinical management of infections associated with IV catheters. Adherence to these new guidelines can significantly reduce IV infections in Irish hospitals.
"The Guidelines for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Hospitals in Ireland aims to promote the sensible prescribing of antibiotics. Antibiotics are one of the great medical advances of the 20th century and their appropriate use is essential to protect this precious resource. Inappropriate use can lead to bugs becoming resistant to drugs. These guidelines aim to help cut antibiotic resistance and to make sure that antibiotics work when they are really needed," said Dr Murphy.