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Health News

LOCALS’ CONCERNS ABOUT THE COVID-POSITIVE CASES AT CHINDERAH AS NSW HEALTH CONFIRMS “SEVERAL PEOPLE” ARE ISOLATING IN ORGANISED ACCOMMODATION

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LOCALS’ CONCERNS ABOUT THE COVID-POSITIVE CASES AT CHINDERAH AS NSW HEALTH CONFIRMS

LOCALS’ CONCERNS ABOUT THE COVID-POSITIVE CASES AT CHINDERAH AS NSW HEALTH CONFIRMS “SEVERAL PEOPLE” ARE ISOLATING IN ORGANISED ACCOMMODATION

Margaret Dekker

There’s mounting concern across the Tweed Valley the two COVID-19 positive cases detected at the Ampol Northbound Service Station at Chinderah last week were not truck drivers as widely assumed.

An initial alert from NSW Health stated the pair had attended the “Chinderah truck stop” overnight.

Tweed Shire Councillor Warren Polglase told The Northern Rivers Times he’s been contacted by a number of people in the Tweed concerned about the identities of the COVID-positive pair and what they were doing at the service station between 8:30pm on Tuesday, July 13 and 7:30am on Wednesday July 14.

“Maybe there’s a bigger issue here than is being let on, and NSW Health is keeping a lid on it until it gets all the test results back,” Cr Polglase said.
Cr Polglase also said of the 40 people contacted by NSW Health for testing, some were from Murwillumbah. He believes residents of Far North NSW have a right to know if they are at heightened risk.

“If it was mentioned there was an issue or concern, awareness would increase dramatically he said.”

In a statement, Acting Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District, Lynne Weir said

“There are currently no confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents of Northern NSW Local Health District, nor any confirmed cases isolating here.
Several people are completing their 14 days of isolation in accommodation arranged by NSW Health with the assistance of NSW Police and the North Coast Public Health Unit, after being identified as close contacts at the Ampol Service Station in Chinderah at the same time as positive COVID-19 cases.
The accommodation has been arranged so that the individuals have suitable accommodation to be able to isolate properly.

These isolation accommodation arrangements provide a secure and supportive environment for these guests.

All guests will undergo the required testing during isolation, and will receive regular wellbeing checks from NSW Health,” the statement by Lynne Weir, A/Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District said.

A spokesperson from NSW Health said owing to privacy, NSW Health does not comment on individual cases and unless there is reason for the community to be concerned, it will not be providing further comment.

But Cr Polglase said the community is concerned.

“People want to know where these people in isolation are, are they in a house next to me? The state government should be honest and clear in their interpretation as to what is taking place,” Cr Polglase said.

“We basically need to know what is going on from Gladys Berejiklian,” he said.

Cr Polglase said he was particularly concerned given the Tweed Shire’s ageing population who he believed would be on tenterhooks.
Federal Labor member for Richmond Justine Elliot told The Northern Rivers Times “everything” about the handling of this COVID-19 exposure site concerns her.

“Everything about it concerns me, the lack of information about where the infected pair were before they were at the service station, where they went afterwards, we have no answers on that,” Justine Elliot said.

“All the close contacts, have any tested positive, how many are in quarantine, and what are the specifics of the quarantine and is it secure?” she asked.
Justin Elliot described it as a “massive fail” by the NSW Government to provide crucial information to residents of northern NSW and called on the NSW Government to come clean, given the detail provided on other COVID-19 exposure sites in the state.

She said the Tweed’s vulnerable situation also illustrated the need for a dedicated ‘Border Zone’ to better protect the people of northern NSW.
“It is just inexcusable, treating our community with such contempt, I call on Tweed MP Geoff Provest to respond,” Justine Elliot said.

Member for Tweed Geoff Provest told The Northern Rivers Times he had spoken to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Wednesday afternoon asking for more detail about the accommodation “several people” are now isolating in after the Chinderah exposure site, and added he was also concerned.
“I will have more details for the public on Thursday morning,” Geoff Provest, Member for Tweed, said.

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Health News

Whooping Cough and Pneumonia Cases Surge in NSW, Posing Significant Risk to Children

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Whooping Cough and Pneumonia

Whooping Cough and Pneumonia Cases Surge in NSW, Posing Significant Risk to Children

 

Whooping cough rates have surged to their highest levels in nearly a decade in New South Wales (NSW), and the number of young children hospitalised with pneumonia has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, according to state health data.

Pertussis Cases Reach Alarming Levels

The latest NSW Health respiratory surveillance report reveals that there have been 103.1 notifications of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, per 100,000 people in the state so far this year. The last time figures were this high was in 2016, with a rate of 139.6 per 100,000.

Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, attributes the rise to several viruses and bacteria, including pertussis and mycoplasma, actively spreading, particularly among primary school-aged children.

“Both [pertussis and mycoplasma] are causing pneumonia, leading to hospital admissions, emergency department presentations, and the need for antibiotic treatment,” said Professor Booy.

Public Health Advisory

NSW Health advises individuals to stay home if unwell and to wear a mask if going out is necessary, in an effort to reduce the spread of these respiratory illnesses.

Young People Particularly at Risk

Health data indicates that pneumonia rates among children aged zero to 16 are “unseasonably high” and exceed levels recorded in the past five years. In early June this year, nearly 140 children under the age of four presented to emergency departments with pneumonia, compared to fewer than 60 at the same time last year. For children aged five to 16, the number was 400, up from fewer than 50 last year.

The increase is attributed to a specific strain of pneumonia, commonly referred to as “walking pneumonia.” The report states that Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a frequent cause of pneumonia in school-aged children, with epidemics occurring every three to five years. The last epidemic in NSW occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expert Insights

Dr. Rebekah Hoffman, chair of the NSW and ACT branch of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, noted that while most individuals contracting Mycoplasma pneumoniae would remain “quite well,” they might suffer from a persistent cough for several weeks or months. “For some kids, especially if they are immunocompromised or have other respiratory problems, they might get really sick and need hospitalization,” Dr. Hoffman said.

Both Dr. Hoffman and Professor Booy highlighted that social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in 2020 and 2021, resulted in children not being exposed to other respiratory illnesses, such as whooping cough and pneumonia. Professor Booy explained that the absence of exposure created a group of susceptible young children who are now developing and spreading whooping cough in school and other settings.

Resurgence Patterns

Whooping cough typically surges every three to six years, but due to the pandemic, this interval has now stretched to six to eight years. Dr. Hoffman noted that the spike in respiratory illnesses reflects young people “catching up” on infections they missed in previous years. She expressed surprise at the significant increase in whooping cough rates.

Professor Booy emphasized the seriousness of whooping cough for certain groups, particularly newborn babies. “The children at most risk are the very young… they need protection from their mother being vaccinated during pregnancy to develop antibodies which pass to the baby before it’s even born,” he said.

The health department data also indicated that COVID-19 cases remain “high” in the state.

Conclusion

The surge in whooping cough and pneumonia cases in NSW is a significant public health concern, particularly for young children. Continued vigilance, vaccination, and adherence to public health guidelines are essential to manage and mitigate the spread of these illnesses.

 

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Mental Well-Being Crucial for Healthy Aging, New Study Reveals

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Mental Well-Being HEALTHY AGING

Mental Well-Being Crucial for Healthy Aging, New Study Reveals

 

A recent study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour has established the significant impact of mental well-being on healthy aging. The research evaluated the causal effects of mental well-being on genetically independent aging phenotypes (aging GIP), providing new insights into the relationship between mental health and aging.

Key Findings:

  • Human Longevity and Challenges: While human life expectancy has increased over time, the aging population poses challenges for both individuals and society. Mental well-being is known to correlate with lifestyle behaviours and morbidity and is linked to physical health and increased survival.
  • Socioeconomic Status (SES) Connection: Socioeconomic status (SES) is interlinked with both aging and mental well-being, but a direct causal relationship between mental well-being and healthy aging had yet to be established until now.

Study Overview:

Researchers utilised Mendelian randomisation (MR) to assess the effects of mental well-being on aging phenotypes. Summary-level genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from people of European descent were used. The exposures included various well-being traits such as life satisfaction, neuroticism, depressive symptoms, and positive affect. SES indicators—education, occupation, and income—were also considered.

A total of 106 candidate mediators were screened, including lifestyle factors, physical function traits, diseases, and behaviours. These mediators were selected based on their causal association with aging GIP and the well-being spectrum.

Methodology:

  • Linkage Disequilibrium Score Regression: This was used to examine genetic correlations between mental well-being traits, aging phenotypes, and SES indicators.
  • Univariable and Multivariable MR Analyses: These analyses were performed to assess the causal effects of mediators and mental well-being traits on aging phenotypes and to investigate the impact of SES indicators on mental well-being traits.
  • Two-Step MR Analysis: This tested the mediating effects between the well-being spectrum and aging GIP.

Results:

  • Genetic Correlations: Positive genetic correlations were observed between all mental well-being traits and aging GIP components (except for longevity). The well-being spectrum was linked to increased aging GIP, resilience, health span, parental lifespan, and self-rated health.
  • Positive and Negative Associations: Positive affect and life satisfaction were positively associated with aging phenotypes, while depressive symptoms and neuroticism were inversely associated.
  • SES and Well-Being: Higher income, education, and occupation were causally linked to improved mental well-being. The well-being spectrum independently correlated with higher aging GIP, even after adjusting for SES indicators.

Mediators:

Out of 106 candidate mediators, 33 met the criteria for inclusion. Key findings included:

  • Unhealthier Lifestyle Factors: These were associated with lower aging GIP.
  • Positive Influences: Factors such as later smoking initiation age, higher cheese consumption, appendicular lean mass (ALM), cognitive performance, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and fresh fruit intake were associated with higher aging GIP.
  • Significant Diseases: Heart failure, hypertension, stroke, and coronary heart disease had the highest effect sizes on aging GIP.

Several factors, including antihypertensive medication, smoking initiation age, and television watching time, mediated at least 7% of the effect of the well-being spectrum on aging GIP. Other mediators, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, waist-to-hip ratio, and fresh fruit intake, also played significant roles.

Conclusion

The study illustrated the causal effects of mental well-being on aging phenotypes independent of SES. Better mental well-being was linked to improved aging GIP, with the causal effect partly explained by various mediators, including lifestyle factors, physical functions, diseases, and behaviours. These findings underscore the importance of prioritising mental well-being to promote healthy aging.

 

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Beyond Blue champions peer support for men’s mental health

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men's mental health Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue champions peer support for men’s mental health

 

Beyond Blue is encouraging men to check-in with peers online for early mental health support as part of Men’s Health Week.

The annual week’s theme for 2024 is ‘men’s health checks’, with a focus on encouraging men to adopt new, healthier habits to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Beyond Blue Clinical Spokesperson Dr Luke Martin said men are less likely than women to seek support for mental health issues and there remains a stigma which can stop them seeking support.

“Many men like to be self-reliant and often try to handle problems on their own and can be reluctant to confide in friends and family about how they are feeling,” Dr Martin said.

“Unfortunately, this can lead to unhealthy coping behaviours, which can result in problems snowballing. Taking steps to get support early on can really help people feel better sooner and anonymous online forums can provide that safe and less confronting option that some men need to open up.”

Research reports the effectiveness of digital peer support models, which provide people with a safe and supportive environment to discuss their issues.

In the digital age, online forums, like Beyond Blue’s Forums are a valuable platform, providing people with a free, accessible, anonymous, welcoming place to discuss their mental wellbeing with those who understand because they have had or are having similar experiences.

Beyond Blue Forums are moderated by trained professionals, together with experienced volunteers known as Community Champions, who ensure the Beyond Blue Forums remain a safe and supportive place, and that everyone who posts a question is heard and responded to.

Now in his mid-70s, Community Champion Mark Davis volunteers approximately 20 hours a week to support others through the Forums.

“In Australia, we’ve been brought up in a culture where men don’t complain, they have traditionally needed to be the strong, stoic ones; and they just want to fix the problems,” Mr Davis said.

“The forums offer anonymity and discretion, allowing men in particular to express themselves openly without fear of judgment or stigma.”

Mr Davis often helps young men to navigate relationship break ups and study stress, and supports mature-age men experiencing depression, relationship problems, are single parents, or worried about family member’s mental health.

“I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and was suicidal, and about 10 years ago, I wanted to see how other people handled the same thing,” he said.

“I had medical support, but I was battling my issues in isolation, so I joined the Beyond Blue Forums, to just look at them; I had no intention of writing anything – and I had no intention of ever using my real name; I simply wanted to see how others were coping with similar mental health issues.”

Dr Martin says getting support early, means you get well sooner and stay well.

“Latest research shows that 40 per cent of users of the service are men; but we encourage more men to reach out to our Forums; whether it’s to take that first step to ask for help, or to complement existing treatment, our team is available whenever you need them.

“By destigmatising mental health conversations and promoting peer support initiatives, we can create a culture where men feel comfortable seeking the support they need to get back on track – no problem is too big or too small to ask for help,” Dr Martin said.

Beyond Blue’s Peer Support Forums average 150,000 visits to the forums every month.

The content is monitored by moderators 24 hours/7 days a week.

Men can also check-up on their mental health using Beyond Blue’s online checklist, and receive recommendations tailored to their need. Beyond Blue Forums. For people who need more immediate support, the Beyond Blue Support Service provides 24/7 free counselling, advice and referrals via phone 1300 22 4636, webchat or email.

 

 

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