Way to go, India!

Posted: 13 January 2012

Child in India receives anti-polio vaccination drops
NEW DELHI - India marked a year since its last new case of polio on Friday, a major milestone in a country once considered the epicentre of the disease and one that gives hope the scourge can be eradicated worldwide.

There were 150,000 cases of the highly contagious virus in India in 1985, but the country has now gone 12 months since discovering a new case - in an 18-month-old girl in the eastern state of West Bengal.

India, which until recently accounted for half of all the polio cases in the world, is one of four countries - with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria - where the disease is still officially endemic.

But if all laboratory tests for the wild polio virus return negative in January, India will follow recent success stories Niger and Egypt and be removed from the endemic list by the World Health Organisation by mid-February.

There was cautious optimism in New Delhi as health workers and the government celebrated the milestone while stressing that the virus - which mainly affects young children and can cause paralysis and deformed legs - could resurface at any time.

"We are excited and hopeful, at the same time, vigilant and alert," Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a statement to mark the occasion.

Since the last new case was reported on January 13 last year, another vast effort to immunise children has seen 2.3 million vaccinators travel across India to deliver 900 million doses.

"What India has achieved is reaching a first milestone in a very important process," Lieven Desomer, head of the polio unit at UN children's agency UNICEF in India, told AFP.

"It's not the end of the road, but it's something to be very proud of.

"Achieving this milestone is going to instil confidence in polio eradication efforts globally. If it can be done here, it can be done everywhere."

India will only be judged to have eradicated the disease if it stays polio-free for another two years.

Polio was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century for children, but it has been successfully controlled through a programme of vaccination in most countries.

UNICEF figures show India, where the crowded and impoverished northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have historically been the hotspots, had 150,000 cases of the disease in 1985.

This had fallen to about 6,000 in 1991, to 741 in 2009 and to just 42 in 2010.

The decline worldwide, through a concerted effort by governments, UN agencies and private donors, has raised hopes polio might go the way of smallpox, the only disease successfully eradicated globally.

"If we can achieve that it will be of great benefit to the children of the world," said Desomer. "But the last bit is the toughest."

The precipitous fall in polio cases in India is attributed by UNICEF to a huge campaign by the Indian government, which is often pilloried by critics for its failure to tackle malnutrition and poor sanitation.

It represents a rare public health success story in a country where four in 10 children under five are underweight due to malnutrition and only a third of people have access to toilets.

"India's success (with polio) is arguably its greatest public health achievement," said World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan.

Desomer estimated the Indian government contribution to polio eradication to be about $2 billion over the last 10-15 years.

The other two important factors in combating the virus were a new, more efficient oral vaccine introduced in 2010 and partnership comprising the government, private donors and UN agencies.

He singled out the Rotary International charity for helping kick-start efforts to eradicate polio in the 1980s, as well as more recent donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

- AFP/al

Taken from ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:
Polio breakthrough: India marks disease-free year

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More breathroughs, I suppose, in the medical field: would you be operated on by a human doctor when your time comes, or by an android, or perhaps, a really no-frills, no cosmetics metals-and-wires mechanical robot? Who can tell?

By Olivia Siong | Posted: 26 December 2011

A 3D simulation of the robotic gastrectomy procedure.
SINGAPORE: A more precise surgery method is now available to those suffering from stomach cancer. Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has become the first in Southeast Asia to perform the robotic gastrectomy procedure.

Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Singapore, and doctors say that stomach cancer is largely triggered by poor lifestyle choices, such as overeating or eating too much barbequed food. Only a small percentage is caused by genetic factors.

75-year-old Loh Ah Mye was diagnosed with stage one stomach cancer last month. But due to her age, doctors found it risky for her to go through the usual key hole surgery to remove cancer cells.

She opted to undergo the robotic gastrectomy procedure, and became the first person in Southeast Asia to do so. The procedure is commonly performed in Korea and Japan, where the incidence of stomach cancer is high.

Madam Loh said: "I really did recover quite quickly. When I woke up from the operation, yes I was in pain, but I could get up to walk around and also go to the toilet."

The surgeon performing the robotic gastrectomy procedure operates on the patient through the use of a console while watching a 3D high-definition screen. Instruments, which are mounted on robotic arms controlled by the doctor, are then inserted into the body.

The robotic arms are able to mimic the movement of the hand and the wrist within the abdomen. This allows freer movement and precision. This especially helps lymph node dissection, which is much more difficult to perform in laparoscopic surgery.

The portion affected by cancer cells in the abdomen is then removed.

The surgery is typically conducted on people with stage 1 and 2 cancer, when the affected area is still relatively small. Trials are underway to see if such a surgery is suitable for later stages of stomach cancer.

Dr Jaideepraj Rao, a consultant with the Department of General Surgery at TTSH, said: "In this kind of key hole surgery or robotic surgery, the incisions are extremely small, so the pain is much less and they recover faster. We have high-definition cameras that can zoom in, so really we see the field magnified, every small structure can be identified, so our dissection is very meticulous and there's less blood loss."

Madam Loh said she still suffers from some side-effects from the operation, as she still throws up some of her food.

But doctors said that this is a common response to most stomach surgeries.

Currently the robotic gastrectomy method costs more for the patient.

However, doctors said the price is likely to drop, as they expect more people to opt for this kind of surgery. This method has also been used in other hospitals in Singapore for prostate and colon cancer.


Taken from ChannelNewsAsia.com; source article is below:
TTSH first to perform robotic gastrectomy in SE Asia

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