HPS Weekly Report
24 Apr 2018
Volume 52 No. 16
World Malaria Day, 25 April 2018
Each year the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights World Malaria Day as a way of getting a key message out about malaria. This year the key message is: ‘Ready to beat malaria’.
The main points of this key message are:
- There continues to be a commitment within the global malaria community to make the world malaria free.
- The 2017 World Malaria report highlights areas where great progress has been made towards eradication whilst also showing areas where disease has worsened.
- Current progress is insufficient to meet the 2020 goal of 40% reduction in malaria incidence and death rates.
Countries with on-going transmission fall into two categories:
- Those heading towards elimination.
- Those with a high burden of disease and significant increases in disease.
The WHO is also calling for greater investment in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of malaria.
European Immunization Week, 23-29 April 2018
European Immunisation Week is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the objective to increase awareness of the importance of immunisation throughout life to help build and sustain herd immunity in all communities.
In Scotland, thanks to the Scottish Immunisation Programme, we have excellent uptake rates for the vaccines offered to all babies and children, protecting our most vulnerable people from serious diseases. However, there is lower uptake of some vaccines among other eligible groups across the life course – teenagers, pregnant women and older people. People living in poorer areas, who may be at greater risk of diseases and illnesses that immunisation can prevent, are least likely to take up the offer of vaccines.
NHS Health Scotland provides a range of print and online resources describing what happens at appointments, the benefits of immunisation, side effects and other important information. It includes leaflets in a variety of languages and in easy-to-read format, video clips for relevant target audiences, and the shingles eligibility calculator for people aged 70 years and over. NHS Health Scotland also hosts and updates the national immunisation website for the public.
OPCW issues report on technical assistance requested by the UK
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has sent the UK its report of the OPCW’s mission to provide requested technical assistance, with regard to the Salisbury incident on 4 March 2018.
The results of the analysis of the environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.
Source: OPCW, 12 April 2018
Final warnings to Exxonmobil Chemical and Shell for environmental non-compliance
Petrochemical companies ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited have been served with final warning letters by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) following an enhanced unplanned flaring event at the Mossmorran complex in Fife, during June 2017 (see Current Note 51/2609).
In addition to Final Warning Letters, SEPA has commissioned a full review of the environmental permits to operate both sites, with a view to strengthening environmental compliance and reducing the impact of flaring on local communities. An enhanced programme of air quality monitoring has also been announced by the regulator, to inform relevant public agencies.
Following an intensive investigation by SEPA, which included formal statements from local residents, the regulator found that whilst flaring is an important safety feature in the event of a process fault, a series of maintenance failures led to elevated levels of unplanned flaring in breach of environmental controls between 12 and 18 June 2017, following the breakdown of a condensate pump.
SEPA found residents were subject to considerable disturbance in their homes from noise, vibration and black smoke over the seven-day period in summer 2017, during which a total of 74 complaints were received by the agency.
Air pollution and domestic combustion information and guidance
Domestic heating appliances such as woodburning stoves and open fires can have an effect on local air pollution. The Burn Right website has been created to provide information and guidance on best practice techniques to help reduce their effect.
In addition, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a practical guide on open fires and wood-burning stoves.
Banning asbestos found to have no negative economic impact
The global asbestos industry is shrinking as countries increasingly move away from reliance on asbestos, and country-level data show no negative economic impact from asbestos bans or decline in asbestos production or use.
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that countries currently consuming and/or producing asbestos, in quantities similar to countries that have already banned asbestos, would not experience an observable effect on gross domestic product from a ban on or decline in asbestos consumption and/or production.
The report further emphasises that the continued use of asbestos carries substantial costs related to health, remediation and litigation. For example, the annual global health-care costs associated with the health effects of asbestos are estimated to be US$ 2.4–3.9 billion, excluding the additional costs of pain, suffering and welfare losses. In the US alone, asbestos litigation costs have been estimated at another US$ 2.3 billion per year.
A summary of the key methods and findings of this report was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in the special issue ‘Global panorama of national experiences in public health actions to ban asbestos’.
Source: WHO, 19 April 2018
Proposed Recovery of Medical Costs for Industrial Disease (Scotland) Bill
A consultation has been launched, in order to enable Scottish ministers to recover, from the party responsible for causing an industrial disease, certain costs incurred by the NHS in providing care and treatment to those suffering from that disease.
The consultation closing date is 22 June 2018.
Public urged to report potentially hazardous blue-green algae blooms
NHS Tayside is issuing a reminder to people in Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross to be on the lookout for blooms of potentially hazardous blue-green algae in the region’s waterways.
Blue-green algae are tiny organisms which develop naturally in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and in the sea. They are a common seasonal occurrence and waters which have been affected by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges are most at risk of developing the algae.
The algae can multiply during the summer months and discolour the water which then appears green, blue-green or greenish brown and, occasionally, they clump together to form a scum on the surface of the water. At the shoreline, algal crusts may appear brown to almost black in colour.
People and animals can be affected as a result of direct contact with water affected by blue-green algae and NHS Tayside is advising the public, especially people undertaking water sports, anglers and dog owners, to be alert to the blooms as temperatures rise.
NHS Tayside reassured the public that public water supplies are always treated to prevent any harmful effects to health due to blue-green algae.
Where monitoring reveals higher than acceptable levels of algal bloom, warning notices will be posted at the affected waterways.
Anyone who finds a loch, pond or river which they suspect is affected by blue-green algae and which is not displaying a warning sign, should contact their local environmental health service.
Source: NHS Tayside, 19 April 2018
Commitments on plastics and marine waste
Countries from across the Commonwealth have pledged to take action to eliminate the use of avoidable single-use plastic. New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ghana have joined the UK and Vanuatu-led Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, an agreement between member states to join force to cut plastic pollution.
Britain has called on other countries to pledge action on plastics including a ban on microbeads, cutting down on single use plastic bags and other steps to avoid plastic waste.
The UK Government has pledged £61.4 million to boost global research to help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the world’s oceans.
The money will be used to tackle the issue from a scientific, technical, economic and social perspective; to prevent plastic and other environmental pollution in other countries; and to tackle waste management at a national and city level.
Due to a passionate response from the UK public on the issue, from later this year, the Department of International Development will match public donations pound-for-pound to tackle the issue of plastic waste in the world’s oceans and rivers.
The Department of International Development will also support research into solutions to reduce manufacturing pollution and carry out waste management pilot programmes to help tackle waste from cities that ends up in the world’s oceans.
Further to this, the UK Government has also agreed to take action to end the sale of plastic stirrers, plastic straws and cotton buds in order to further cut down on marine waste.
Single-use plastics items such as straws, stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds have a significant impact on the environment. A recent study showed 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK every year.
Subject to consultation, the government will ban the sale of these items in England in order to protect rivers and seas and to meet the 25 year Environment Action Plan to cut avoidable plastic waste.
EU Insights - consumer perceptions of emerging risks in the food chain
The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) surveyed 6,200 consumers in 25 EU member states, asking them about potential emerging risks related to food safety.
Overall, respondents were more concerned about risks that are already known to scientists than about emerging risks. Consumers expressed a desire to be informed about emerging risks early on in the process of identification, even if there is scientific uncertainty. They also indicated a preference for receiving such information via traditional media channels such as TV and newspapers, and the websites of national authorities. Social media and the websites of European authorities were also popular channels among 18 to 34-year-olds.
The results of this survey will help EFSA and its partners in national food safety authorities to develop communications strategies and materials on emerging issues.
The EU Insights report, ‘Consumer perceptions of emerging risks in the food chain’, was published 16 April 2018.
Practising Realistic Medicine
The Chief Medical Officer’s third annual report was published on 20 April 2018.
Realistic Medicine has always had people at its heart. This latest report aims to move the conversation on from a set of guiding principles to a discussion about how Realistic Medicine can be practically applied.
The report’s contents include:
- build a personalised approach to care
- change our style to shared decision making
- understand and manage medico-legal risk
- value our workforce
- tackle unwarranted harm and waste
- share knowledge
- take a realistic approach to population healthcare
The report concludes with a summary of the health of the nation.