Brexit Health Alliance calls for co-operation on infectious diseases

The UK risks the spread of antibiotic-resistant and other infectious diseases if it leaves the European Union’s (EU) early warning system after Brexit without an effective replacement, the Brexit Health Alliance has warned.

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This briefing from the Brexit Health Alliance (BHA) and the Faculty of Public Health, a sets out how people across Europe currently benefit from the close collaboration between the UK and EU on public health, and proposes solutions to maintain and improve a high level of public health protection after the UK leaves the European Union.

The Alliance is calling for:

  • Both the EU Commission and UK government to prioritise the public’s health in negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
  • A security partnership based on strong coordination between the UK and EU in dealing with serious cross-border health threats, such as pandemics, infectious diseases, safety of medicines (pharmacovigilance) and contamination of the food chain. Ideally, this would be by continuing access to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and other relevant EU agencies, systems and databases.
  • Alignment with current and future EU regulatory and health and safety standards relating to (for example) food, medicines, transplant organs and the environment, to avoid the need for replication of inspections and non-tariff barriers at the UK/EU border.
  • The UK government to commit to a high level of human health protection when negotiating future free trade and investment agreements.

Full briefing: Protecting the public’s health across Europe after Brexit

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Measles, mumps and rubella in England

Laboratory confirmed cases of measles, mumps and rubella, England: January to March 2018 | Health Protection Report Volume 12 Number 19 | Public Health England

This latest Quarterly report, provides commentary on cases confirmed by Public Health England’s Virus Reference Department.

Measles:

  • In England, 265 new measles infections were confirmed in the first quarter of 2018
    compared to 149 in the period between October and December 2017
  • In this quarter there has been a relative increase in confirmed cases amongst adults with 42% confirmed cases in adults aged 20 years and above compared with 19% in the previous quarter. 11% confirmed cases occurred in infants under the age of 1; this is higher than the 7% reported in the previous quarter. The hospitalisation rate remains high at 36%, although lower than the previous quarter (45%).

Laboratory confirmed cases of measles by month of onset of
rash/symptoms reported, London and England: January 2014 to March 2018

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Image source: http://www.gov.uk under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Mumps:

  • An increase in mumps activity in England was observed this quarter with 275 laboratory confirmed mumps infections compared to the 160 the previous quarter, in line with usual seasonal trends and similar to levels observed in quarter 1 of 2017
  • Mumps cases were reported in all regions of England predominantly in young
    adults aged 15 to 24 years

Full document: Laboratory-confirmed cases of measles, mumps and rubella (England): January to March 2018 | Health Protection Report | Volume 12 Number 19

Scarlet Fever update

Public Health England (PHE) is advising parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever following a substantial increase in reported cases across England in 2017 to 2018.

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Scarlet fever is a very contagious, seasonal bacterial illness that mainly affects children and is not uncommon for this time of year.

In the latest publication of  PHE’S  Health Protection Report  there were 6,225 reported cases of scarlet fever since mid-September 2017, compared to 3,764 for the same period last season. There were 719 cases reported for the most recent week (22 to 28 January 2018).

The full new story is at Public Health

Guidelines for the management of Scarlet Fever are also available from Public Health here

Measles: Don’t let your child catch it

This poster highlights the current new campaign to encourage parents to get their child vaccinated | PHE

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Image source: PHE

This poster has been revised and updated as part of the measles elimination strategy. The number of young people catching measles is rising. To be protected they need to be immunised with the MMR vaccine. It’s never too late to be vaccinated. It’s time to make measles a disease of the past.

An A3 size downloadable poster is available here

Can vitamin D really stop you getting cold and flu?

New study claims that Vitamin D can reduce the risk of colds and influenza. A new study, published in the British Medical Journal found that daily pills of the vitamin reduced infections by 12%

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Objectives To assess the overall effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of acute respiratory tract infection, and to identify factors modifying this effect.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data (IPD) from randomised controlled trials.

Results 25 eligible randomised controlled trials (total 11 321 participants, aged 0 to 95 years) were identified. Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection among all participants.  In subgroup analysis, protective effects were seen in those receiving daily or weekly vitamin D without additional bolus doses but not in those receiving one or more bolus doses.  Vitamin D did not influence the proportion of participants experiencing at least one serious adverse event. The body of evidence contributing to these analyses was assessed as being of high quality.

Conclusions Vitamin D supplementation was safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall. Patients who were very vitamin D deficient and those not receiving bolus doses experienced the most benefit.

Full reference: Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data  | Published 15 February 2017 | BMJ 2017;356:i6583

See also: BBC News: Vitamin D pills ‘could stop colds or flu’

Promoting better hygiene with children and young people

NICE and Public Health England recommend children and young people are taught the importance of hand washing to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

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The guidance recommends children in nurseries and young people at university be taught when and how to wash and dry their hands, for example after going to the toilet and before preparing food, in order to prevent the spread of infections. Public Health England’s (PHE) educational resources, e-Bug and Germ Defence, are listed as two ways to promote better hygiene.

The guidance by NICE and PHE, is aimed at NHS organisations, local authorities and health and social care professionals so they can provide information to people in their care.

Record numbers of NHS frontline staff have had flu jab this winter

Record numbers of NHS staff have had their flu jab this winter, official figures from Public Health England (PHE) show | OnMedica

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Some 594,700 (61.8%) frontline NHS staff across England were vaccinated against flu between 1 September and 31 December last year. That figure is expected to increase in January and February.

The highest level achieved by the end of February in previous winters was 541,757 (just under 55%) in 2014-15.

PHE does not have recorded numbers of deaths from flu. But it is estimated that, in 2015-16, there were about 2,300 excess deaths over the winter linked to the time of year. Flu and extreme cold weather are the two most likely causes.

Read the news story here