Latest News

By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

You may have seen them worn in nightclubs or at parties – colourful contact lenses. Cat’s eyes, snake eyes, all-white zombie eyes… the variety is endless.
Scores of websites offer these cheap, one-size-fits-all coloured contacts.
While they may seem harmless – a bit of eye-catching fun – the sale of contact lenses without a prescription is illegal in most Australian states.
But, illegal or prescribed, using contact lens can result in serious infections – even blindness in rare cases – if they’re not inserted, cleaned, or stored correctly and hygienically.
Contact lenses are actually medical devices. Although they’re a discrete substitute for spectacles, the important difference is that they come into direct contact with your eyes.
Ask anyone who currently wears contacts (or has worn them in the past). They’ll tell you that contacts can be just as problematic as they are convenient – especially during a trip overseas.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Thousands of Australian citizens and residents of Asian heritage will journey ‘home’ to their country of origin in coming weeks to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
In China, Lunar or Chinese New Year is a major holiday and its many regional neighbours – especially those with significant Chinese populations – celebrate the event on or around the same date as China. This year – the year of the monkey – it falls on February 8.
But, this annual cultural and religious event isn’t so much a single night filled with fireworks and fun as a festival extending over several weeks to herald the northern hemisphere spring.
The homecoming provides an opportunity to reunite with far-flung family and friends. During their stay the visitors from ‘Down Under’ often live in family homes in metro and rural areas.
But, the Lunar New Year celebrations can have serious health implications for both travellers and the wider Australian community.
Studies have shown that people travelling to visit friends and relatives (collectively referred to as ‘VFRs’ by travel medicine experts) are at much higher risk of illness than any other category of traveller, particularly if they visit a developing country.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Cancer is many diseases. Even people with the same type of cancer can experience a very different journey through illness and treatment.
So, when it comes to overseas travel, deciding on what is feasible (and what’s not) requires some very personal considerations.
Most people with cancer travel without problems and a holiday relaxing or visiting family and friends overseas is often just the tonic they need.
But, some shouldn't travel by air while undergoing treatment because of dangers associated with deep vein thrombosis or changes in the pressure or oxygen concentrations in the plane's cabin. More later on some of the factors that could make international air travel not advisable.
Planning for healthy overseas travel is smart for anyone – sick or well – but particularly for someone with cancer or recovering from it.
And, preparations should start early, allowing enough time to cover the steps suggested in this checklist.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

The world has learned something new – and worrying – about dengue fever.
An estimated 390 million people are infected with dengue fever annually and 50% of the world’s population is at risk of infection, according to the WHO.
Almost all of the 1638 Aussies who had their diagnosis of dengue confirmed through a blood test last year were infected while travelling overseas – mainly in Asia. (A small percentage was infected in North Queensland, where imported cases spark localised outbreaks each summer.)
But, only about 25% of people infected with dengue actually get its symptoms – a high temperature, headache, pain behind the eyes, rash, and severe aching of muscles, joints, and bones (the reason dengue is also called ‘breakbone fever’).
It was previously thought that it was only these ‘symptomatic’ people who were able to pass on the virus to someone else through a mozzie bite. The reasoning was that only those who were sick would have enough of the virus in their blood stream to actually infect a mosquito that bites them, before passing on the illness by biting another person who entered their territory.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Zika. Sounds more like a DJ than a disease, right?

In fact, it’s a virus passed from a person who has it to another person who doesn’t through a mosquito bite.

The symptoms of Zika virus infection are similar to the other two better-known mosquito-borne virus infections, dengue and chikungunya, which are a risk for travellers visiting tropical and sub-tropical destinations.

Zika can cause a fever, rash and joint aches, but generally milder than those of dengue and chikungunya. In fact, many people have no symptoms and are not aware they’re infected.

So, while it’s been disconcerting to see Zika epidemics sweep through the tropical world – first through Africa and more recently the Pacific, Caribbean and the Americas – relatively few deaths were expected. Certainly less than chikungunya’s relatively modest toll and far lower than dengue, with its potentially fatal haemorrhagic version.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

You don’t need to go overseas to experience ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’. You can get TD by swimming in your council or backyard pool – even if it’s properly chlorinated.
Australia is currently experiencing one of its worst years in more than a decade for the parasitic disease Cryptosporidium, which is a leading cause of TD in developing and developed countries.
‘Crypto’ is a notifiable disease in Australia and there have been 3568 confirmed cases nationwide in 2015, with Queensland (1237 cases) and NSW (898) already registering more than double last year’s total. Because the disease is not severe in most healthy people, many more cases have gone undiagnosed.
Notifications of cryptosporidiosis, the disease caused by swallowing the parasites, increased by more than three times the usual average in NSW during October and November, NSW Health Director of Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty said in a statement last week.
He urged people who have, or recently had, diarrhoea to stay out of public swimming pools for two weeks in an effort to prevent widespread outbreaks this summer.

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