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Is COVID-19 just another flu?

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With the first case of COVID-19 now confirmed in Ireland, many people are wondering if it's all just a case of much ado about nothing. Surely it can't be as serious as the media are portraying it to be,... or can it?

To answer this question, we need to take a look at the numbers we know so far about COVID-19 to see how it compares to seasonal influenza.

Free GP Care Cheaper Than Previously Thought

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Former Health Minister Leo Varadkar said free GP care would overwhelm the system, but new figures from ESRI suggest otherwise.

According to the Economic and Social Research Institute the number of doctor visits in a free system would rise by 3.5%, or 700,000 trips annually.

They explain this by the fact that non-medical card patients tend to be healthier and that the time required to see a GP would deter excessive use of the system.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Autism Prevalence Up 78% in the US

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A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a 78% rise in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in United States since 2002 and a 23% increase since the last report in 2009.

The report's data show that in 2008, 1 in 88 children aged 8 years — 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls — had an ASD diagnosis by age 8, a significant jump from the current estimate of 1 in 110.

Some Patients Received Incorrect Dose of Flu Vaccine from Their Pharmacist

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Due to incorrect information being given to a number of pharmacists during their flu vaccination training programme, some patients have received only half the recommended dose (paediatric dose) of the flu vaccine.

These patients will be contacted by their pharmacist in the coming days to return for a revaccination. The vast majority of patients however have received the correct dose.

Majority in Favour of Universal Healthcare

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The 2011 Pfizer Health Index report, which was launched on the 24th October 2011, revealed that 1 in 5 Irish adults would place free universal access to healthcare, as one of their top three healthcare priorities, with 2 out of 3 being broadly in favour even if it would increase income tax rates by an average of 1%.

Vitamin E May Raise Prostate Cancer Risk

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According to the findings of the SELECT trial (The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) published in the 12th October 2011 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), vitamin E supplementation of 400 IU per day may carry a 17% increased risk for prostate cancer.

Some Vitamins May Increase Risk for Death

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A Finnish study published in the October 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine claims that some widely used vitamins and minerals can increase risk of death.

The study looked at the long-term effects of multivitamin and mineral supplementation in older women, aged between 55 to 69 years. A total of 38,772 women were included in the study that started in 1986 and continued for 22 years.

IMB Target Online Sale of Counterfeit and Illegal Medicines

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The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in association with Revenue's Customs Service and An Garda Síochána took part in the INTERPOL co-ordinated operation Pangea IV in a fight against the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines.

Authorities from more than 80 countries were involved in this week-long initiative focusing on websites that supply illegal and dangerous medicines. The initiative which took place from 20 to 27 September 2011, is the largest internet–based action of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).

Substances detained in Ireland included products for weight loss, erectile dysfunction as well as mood stabilisers. A total of 492 packages containing 51,621 tablets, capsules and creams with an estimated value in excess of €150,000 were intercepted by Customs officers.

IPU Reports That 1000 Pharmacists Have Signed Up to Vaccination Training

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The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) reports that over 1000 pharmacists have signed up to vaccination training in preparation for the 2011/12 flu season. If everything goes to plan, flu vaccinations will become available in most pharmacies very shortly.

Boots have confirmed that they will be launching their flu vaccination service on the 5th of October 2011, with most other pharmacies expected to follow suit.

UPDATE: Due to the delay in passing the necessary legislation the start of flu vaccination service has been pushed back by approximately two weeks.
NEW UPDATE: The legislation has been passed and we finally have a date. Flu vaccinations in Irish pharmacies will commence this coming Monday, 17th October 2011. Get those phones out and start booking your appointments.

RTE Reports on the Possible Link Between the Pandemrix Vaccine and Narcolepsy in Ireland

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Last night RTE aired their report into the possible link between the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine Pandemrix and narcolepsy, a debilitating sleep disorder.

Patients who suffer from narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty staying awake. Another common feature of the disease is cataplexy, a sudden muscular weakness often brought on by strong emotions, and vivid hallucinations, sometimes even after waking.

The HSE has so far received reports of 29 new narcolepsy incidents in children and adolescents, that may be linked to the Pandemrix vaccine.