Monday, June 13, 2011

EC directive 'bans blood donations after US trips'

Blood donors are being banned from giving blood for a month after returning from the US because of a European directive. Donors who reveal they have just returned from the States are being told to defer their appointments because of the - very small - risk that they might be harbouring the West Nile Fever virus.

In 2004 and 2005, the National Blood Service started screening donors who had been to North America for the virus, which is borne by mosquitoes and can be passed on via infected blood donations. They found no infected donors.

That followed a 2003 epidemic across North America, where it had previously been almost unheard of.

In 2004 an European directive (2004/33/EC) was then introduced stipulating a mandatory 28 day no-donation rule for people who had returned from areas with "ongoing transmission" of the virus to humans, such as the US and Canada. It came into effect the following year.

Last year there were 1,021 reported cases of West Nile Fever in the US, according to its Center for Disease Control (CDC), resulting in 57 deaths. Many American states reported few cases, including Washington DC (District of Columbia) , Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The virus can cause inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, as well as meningitis and acute inflammation of the spinal cord. Since 2004 there have only been two cases reported in Britain, both of which originated in Canada.

The website of the National Blood Service admits that "many of the rules implemented in the UK on who can give blood are a requirement of European law".

Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP, said last night that the directive sounded like the typical product of the EC bureaucracy. He said: "They very often supply solutions to non-existent problems, because the job of the bureaucracy is to justify it's existence". He added: "I've observed over many years how they will always tend to err on the side of maximum regulation in order to justify their budgets, rather than saying 'To what problem is this a solution?'"

A spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant, which runs the National Blood Service, said officials had "no discretion" to deviate from the directive. She said: "Because we are a government body, we follow the EC guidelines. There's no discretion." She added: "We are working up plans to implement a [screening] test because the West Nile virus is becoming endemic in Europe."


If it's endemic in Europe itself, what is the sense of the Anerican ban? I think this is just a pretense of superiority. Perhaps America should ban Germans from visiting America in case they are carrying the deadly E.coli strain that originated in German organic farms

More British kids being diagnosed as obese

There have always been fat kids. It's genetic. The main difference is that fat is now diagnosed as a disease where once it was not. Increased diagnosis does not mean increased incidence

Dramatic evidence showing how young children and even babies are falling victim to the obesity epidemic is disclosed today.

Babies are being treated in hospital because of their weight – some after being weaned on puréed junk food – and children as young as six are suffering strokes.

Doctors say rising numbers of babies and toddlers are being diagnosed as clinically obese and even suffering weight-linked diseases that normally appear in later life.

Figures show that hundreds of children under three are being treated for obesity at hospitals around the country. At least 40 babies aged under one have been admitted in the past five years.

Public health experts warned that because hospitals only see the most extreme cases, the true levels of obesity among babies and young children will be far higher.

Specialists working in hospital obesity clinics report that they are seeing one year-olds who weigh as much as three stone – nearly twice as much as healthy youngsters of the same age.

They say much of the problem is being caused by parents who attempt to wean their babies while they are too young and feed them inappropriate foods.

Doctors have seen babies fed crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks. In some cases parents have been found to be giving their infants puréed chips with milk, or mashing up takeaway food. Experts said some parents needed to be taught what to feed babies. The data also shows that many of the overweight children are suffering breathing difficulties and displaying the early signs of obesity-related diabetes.

In two extreme examples, a six year-old and an eight year-old suffered strokes that were thought to have resulted from their weight.

The figures, which were released by 66 of Britain's 168 acute hospital trusts under the Freedom of Information Act, show that more than 5,500 children under the age of 16 were diagnosed or treated for obesity in hospitals in the past five years. Some of the youngsters had surgery such as gastric bands and gastric bypasses to treat their condition.

In one case a 15 year-old who weighed more than 25 stone was treated at a hospital in North Staffordshire before her family took her to Mexico to have a gastric band fitted.

Entire families have also been sent on healthy eating and dietary counselling courses.

Forty-four of the hospital trusts contacted provided figures for diagnosis and treatment broken down by age. Four hundred children under five were treated in hospital after being diagnosed with clinical obesity. These included 40 children under one, 49 one year-olds and 85 two year-olds.

Dr Ken Ong, clinical lead for childhood obesity at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: "I certainly see children under the age of two years old. We are seeing more and more referrals in that age range.

"The one and two year-olds we see are massively obese but it is only the very extreme who are coming to hospital clinics. There will be many more who are in the community or are not being recognised at all. The popular hope is that it is just baby fat and they will grow out of it, but our studies show that it is more likely to continue being obese and even become more obese."

By the time they leave primary school, one in three children is classified as obese. Research suggests that unhealthy eating can "programme" young children's tastes for the rest of their life. Other researchers are finding evidence that a child's genes may be programmed in the womb by the lifestyle of their parents.

Paul Sacher, of the British Dietetic Association and chief research officer for MEND, a charity that runs obesity treatment and prevention programmes, said many parents simply did not know what they should be feeding their children.

He added: "I see children all the time who are being given a lolly, a chocolate bar or packet of crisps. I see mums pouring fizzy pop into their baby's bottles and in parts of Wales they put chips in milk in bottles."


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