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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (9): 335. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.n1605
Published online: 16 May 2016

Parechovirus warning from ASID

The Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) has found that more than 100 Australian infants had developed brain damage and developmental delays 1 year after they were hospitalised with the virus in 2013 and 2014, according to a report in The Straits Times. The symptoms include rashes, irritability, muscle twitches and seizures, fever and diarrhoea, said ASID. In severe cases, it can cause hepatitis or encephalitis. Parechovirus is spread like the common cold, by direct contact with nose and throat discharges from sneezing, coughing, saliva, nasal mucus or faeces. There is no vaccine or treatment at present. Starting in December 2013, it spread quickly through parts of Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and over 100 newborn babies were hospitalised. They refused to eat, were lethargic and had high temperatures. The new study followed up on 46 out of 79 of the babies. Half of them showed developmental problems and nearly 20% had significant neurological problems by the time they were 1-year-old. In March, two infants from Toowoomba almost died from the virus. Left fighting for life in intensive care, one of them had to be given painful spinal taps and have her chest cut open.

Soap operas play role in mental health understanding

According to a report in The Guardian, soap operas involving storylines about mental health can play a valuable role in increasing understanding of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, and in encouraging people with problems to seek help. UK charity Mind conducted a survey of more than 2000 people, which found that half of the respondents who had seen a storyline involving a character with mental health problems said it had helped their understanding of the issues. Nearly a third of people with a mental health problem said they were encouraged to seek help after seeing or reading a news story, while a quarter were prompted to get assistance after seeing a soap opera or drama involving a character with mental illness. Mind, along with Bipolar UK, and Action on Postpartum Psychosis, worked with the soap EastEnders for a storyline over Christmas and the new year about a character with postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness that normally occurs shortly after giving birth.

  • Cate Swannell


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