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Health News

Queensland close the border to NSW

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Premier Steven Miles
Acting Premier Steven Miles

Queensland close the border to NSW

From 1am tomorrow morning Queensland will slam shut the border to New South Wales.

Acting Premier Steven Miles made the announcement alongside the news there were no new cases of COVID 19 recorded in Queensland overnight, although mask wearing will still be mandatory for seven days.

“In order to be able to ease these restrictions, we need to close the border to the rest of New South Wales,” Mr Miles said.

“That will mirror the arrangements currently in place in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania.”

A bubble, to include as far south as the Clarence Valley, will be established to allow NSW residents who live near the border to enter Queensland for essential services, such as work, education, medical visits and caring for vulnerable people.

Mr Miles confirmed the bubble does not include Coffs Harbour.

Key check points will be installed at different locations.

Health News

There’s more to health than hospital beds: Australia needs a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

There’s more to health than hospital beds: Australia needs a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

The Public Health Association of Australia welcomes the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to establishing an Australian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) should it win the federal election on 21 May.

In addition to this Centre, Australia desperately needs a federal commitment to invest in the national Public Health workforce, such as through expanded training programs tailored to local communities, working with states and territories, so as to ensure the pipeline for the future public health leaders and experts.

“Both of these actions would help set Australia up for the looming public health and infectious disease challenges that are coming, because the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated existing weaknesses in our health systems,” PHAA CEO, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin said.

“Our Public Health workforce is under severe strain across the continent, and while political parties don’t want to talk about the pandemic this election, the virus continues to spread, take lives, and upend them.

“While the ALP first announced its position on an ACDC in October 2020, we have been mystified by the absence of broader discussion about public and preventive health policies in the election campaign from any of the major parties.

“The ALP policy states the ACDC will focus on pandemic preparedness and management, and on chronic and infectious disease prevention.

“We are pleased that the ALP has also included a charter for chronic non-communicable disease prevention.

“We urge the Coalition, in these last few days before the election, to match that commitment.

“Whoever forms the next Australian government must be prepared to commit resources to improving our capacity to deal with the public health crisis of today, and prepare for the enormous public health crises of the future.

“As we’ve heard at the Preventive Health 2022 conference underway in Brisbane, the countries which put COVID-19 in a box and fail to learn the lessons are the ones which will be least prepared for the next public health emergency.

“We continue to see announcements about investments in a wide range of programs through this election campaign. But we have learned that, if we do not get public health right, most other parts of society simply cannot function.

“We must fix public health. This election campaign cannot be allowed to finish without specific commitments to the future of public health.”

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Health News

A study that showed changes in the brain in those at risk of developing bipolar disorder raises new hope about early intervention.

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

A study that showed changes in the brain in those at risk of developing bipolar disorder raises new hope about early intervention.

A brain imaging study of young people at high risk of developing bipolar disorder has for the first time found evidence of weakening connections between key areas of the brain in late adolescence.
Up until now, medical researchers knew that bipolar disorder was associated with reduced communication between brain networks that are involved with emotional processing and thinking, but how these networks developed prior to the condition was a mystery.
Today in a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from UNSW Sydney, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), the University of Newcastle and international institutions showed evidence of these networks diminishing over time in young adults at high genetic risk of developing bipolar disorder – which has important implications for future intervention strategies.
The researchers used diffusion-weighted magnetic imaging (dMRI) technology to scan the brains of 183 individuals over a two-year period. They examined the progressive changes in the brain scans of people with high genetic risk of developing the condition over a two year period, before comparing them with a control group of people with no risk.
People with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are considered high genetic risk, and are 10 times more likely to develop the condition than people without the close family link. In the brain image scans of 97 people with high genetic risk of bipolar disorder, the researchers noted a decrease in connectivity between regions of the brain devoted to emotion processing and cognition between the two scans during the two years between scans.
But in the control group of 86 people with no family history of mental illness, they observed the opposite: strengthening in the neural connections between these same regions, when the adolescent brain matures to become more adept at the cognitive and emotional reasoning required in adulthood.
Scientia Professor Philip Mitchell AM, a practising academic psychiatrist with UNSW Medicine & Health, says the findings raise new ideas about treatment and intervention in bipolar disorder developing in young people with a higher risk.
“Our study really helps us understand the pathway for people at risk of bipolar,” he says.
“We now have a much clearer idea of what’s happening in the brains of young people as they grow up.”
Prof. Mitchell says that being a clinician as well as a researcher, he sees first-hand how young people can have their lives suddenly turned upside down when they experience their first manic episode.
“We see a lot of bright, capable kids really enjoying life and then bipolar disorder can be a huge impediment to what they want to achieve.
“With our new knowledge about what actually happens in the brain as at-risk teenagers approach adulthood, we have the opportunity to develop new intervention strategies to either stop the condition in its tracks, or reduce the impact of the illness.”

Mental image
Professor Michael Breakspear, who led the team at HMRI and the University of Newcastle that carried out the analysis of the dMRI scans, says the study illustrates how advances in technology can potentially bring about life-changing improvements to the way that mental illnesses can be treated.
“The relatives of people with bipolar disorder – especially the siblings and children – often ask about their own future risk, and this is a question of high personal concern,” he says.
“It’s also an issue for their doctors, as the presence of bipolar disorder has important medication implications.
“This study is an important step in having imaging and genetic tests we can perform to help identify those likely to develop bipolar disorder, before they develop disabling and stressing symptoms of the disorder. This would bring psychiatry closer to other branches of medicine where screening tests are part of standard care.”
The researchers stress that more research is needed before changes are made to current modes of treatment. It also would not be practical, nor cheap, for all people with a genetic risk of developing bipolar disorder to have brain scans to see if the brain is showing signs of weakened connections.
“The significant finding of our study is that there is progressive change in the brains of young people with risk of bipolar which suggests how important intervention strategies might be,” says Prof. Mitchell.
“If we can get in early, whether that’s training in psychological resilience, or maybe medications, then we may be able to prevent this progression towards major changes in the brain.”
Dr. Gloria Roberts, a postdoctoral researcher working primarily on the project since 2008 with UNSW Medicine & Health, has seen how new onsets of mental illness in youth at risk of developing bipolar disorder can significantly impact psychosocial functioning and quality of life.
“By advancing our understanding of the neurobiology of risk as well as resilience in these high-risk individuals we have the opportunity to intervene and improve the quality of life in individuals who are most at-risk.”
As a result of the new findings, the researchers are planning to do a third follow-up scan of participants in the study. They are also in the early stages of developing online programs that assist in the development of resilience while providing young people with skills in managing anxiety and depression, which they hope will reduce their chances of developing bipolar disorder.

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Health News

Can severe weather changes make allergies worse?

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severe weather changes make allergies worse

Can severe weather changes make allergies worse?

Although allergies are normally associated with the spring and fall, it may feel like allergy season never left this winter. From cold fronts to rainy days and back to warmer days, an allergy expert at Baylor College of Medicine explains that it is not uncommon for frequent weather changes to worsen people’s allergy symptoms.

“People who have allergies, sinusitis, asthma or any other airway inflammatory disease frequently complain that their symptoms get worse with changes in the weather, and it seems like it’s when various fronts come through and there is a big temperature change,” said Dr. David Corry, professor of medicine-immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor.

Pollen
Tree and grass pollen are one of the most common triggers for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. When the weather brings a mix of several cold and warm fronts, Corry explains that it can carry pollen in the air from other parts of the country, such as pollen from Juniper Ashe trees in West Texas.
“When fronts come from the west to the east, they can bring a lot of pollen, particularly in the ‘cedar fever’ season, which is roughly during mid-January to February,” Corry said. “Those fronts can bring in that cedar pollen, which is extremely abundant and irritating.”

Mold
Another main cause of allergies is mold spores. When weather fronts bring in a series of thunderstorms, rain or other forms of precipitation, the wet environment can cause mold to bloom strongly and trigger allergy symptoms.
“The main thing that might be bothering people’s allergies is mold, which can be in the air at any time of year,” Corry said. “It gets worse with major rain or precipitation, especially if a big storm like a hurricane comes through. Cases of severe allergy or asthma can skyrocket.”
Changes in humidity
Although research is still being done on the topic, Corry said that some studies suggest that changes in humidity levels might also trigger allergies. When a cold front comes in, the humidity can plummet after the initial rain and the nose can dry out, which can cause irritation and lead to allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Allergies vs. COVID-19
With the rise of the omicron variant that appears to cause milder symptoms in those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, it might be difficult to determine whether you are experiencing COVID symptoms or allergies.
Allergies mainly cause itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, congestion and sneezing. Corry said the main differences between allergy and COVID symptoms are a fever, sore throat and itching, such as itchy eyes, nose and ears.
“Viruses, including the omicron variant of COVID-19 and the common cold, can first appear like allergies, but there are certain symptoms that help distinguish the two,” Corry said. “You almost never get prominent itching with a virus, and COVID often produces fever, which you never see in allergies. A prominent sore throat also indicates a virus.”
Allergies also are unlikely to cause profound tiredness, fatigue and muscle and joint aches.
If you are still unsure if you are experiencing allergies or an illness, try taking over-the-counter antihistamines to see if it helps with symptoms.

Treatment
Corry recommends treating allergies by using over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays for up to two weeks and taking oral antihistamines like cetirizine, loratadine or fexofenadine.
If symptoms are not relieved, Corry recommends reaching out to a primary care provider or an allergist for further treatment or allergy testing

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