Archive for the ‘illness’ Category

Recalling Fr. Damien of Molokai, Hawaii

February 25, 2009

Vatican announced that Fr. Damien de Veuster (1840-1889), the late 19th century Belgian priest who selflessly ministered to leprosy-stricken people in a settlement in Kalaupapa, Hawaii will be declared saint on October 11, 2009. Considered a “martyr of charity,” Fr. Damien served the quarantined patients in Molokai, Hawaii where he contracted Hansen’s disease (leprosy) until he died at the age of 49.

“Damien’s life was suffused with horror, yet he refused to be broken by it and refused to permit his little flock to be swept into despair. He ran foot races for the sports-loving lepers, even though some of them had no feet. He formed a band, even though some had few fingers to play the instruments. One witness reported two organists who played at the same time, managing ten fingers between them.”—Damien, the leper (

A protector of those shunned by society because of disease affliction, the Roman Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious group, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 4, 1995. He had been identified as a champion of the outcasts—those with HIV-AIDS, leprosy, and other contagious diseases.

The remembrance of Fr. Damien is timely as the Catholic Church observes Ash Wednesday on February 25, 2009, the onset of lent, the days of fasting, penance, and reconciliation. (Photo Credit: Hawaii State Archives x 2 PD) =0=


"Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and Sen. Miriam D. Santiago’s tiredness

February 6, 2009

I hope Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was correct when he said that Sen. Miriam D. Santiago needed an indefinite leave from her legislative work because of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS.) I don’t know if what he meant coincided with what we know of the disease.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a nebulous medical condition with unknown cause whose manifestations run from physical to the psychological. As such CFS comes as a diagnosis only after careful and thorough health investigation which considers a plethora of possibilities—-hormonal problems (i.e. thyroid disease, diabetes,) chronic infections (TB, malaria,) exogenous drugs (substance abuse), malignancies, organ dysfunctions, nutritional, immunologic, and metabolic derangements (malnutrition, poisonings, autoimmune diseases) and psychiatric problems (bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia) among others.

CFS is a hard diagnosis to make because there are no specific tests or laboratory markers to pinpoint the ailment; many illnesses have fatigue as among their prominent symptoms and a good fraction of patients looks well. The manifestations of CFS vary in severity and its course is characterized by periods of remissions and exacerbations.

A CFS diagnosis should be considered in patients who present with six months or more of unexplained fatigue accompanied by other characteristic symptoms. These symptoms may include:

• cognitive dysfunction, including impaired memory or concentration
• malaise or exhaustion lasting > 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
• unrestful sleep
• joint pain without signs of inflammation
• persistent musculo-skeletal pain
• depression
• mood swings
• headaches
• tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
• sore throat
• cardiac and respiratory symptoms

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), an illness which presents with overrid ing tiredness. A fraction of patients are seriously impaired; at least a quarter are unemployed or on disability. About 50% of those affected come to their doctors and 40% of them have previously unrecognized medical or psychiatric condition.—Source: Center for Disease Control (CDC) at

What CDC tells us is just the tip of the iceberg. From the medical perspective, one can however surmise if Sen. Miriam D. Santiago really suffers from a serious disease. Is she really sick? Does she have CFS or is she plainly tired. Let her doctor investigate so she can be treated.

The flamboyant senator who is known for her “intelligence and tartness” just wrapped up her investigation on the scandalous World Bank (WB) allegations that top-ranked officials in government colluded in rigging of project deals by contractors. She must really be tired as the Filipinos— for nothing of great significance came out of a senate probe of this nature. The investigation only broke open the unhealing wounds of corruption that has left the country mired in shame. (Photo Credits: St.ChristopherLucky; diong) =0=


Young Brazilian beauty queen dies of sepsis

January 25, 2009

The 20 year old Brazilian beauty queen Mariana Bridi da Costa died of the effects of sepsis after weeks of fighting an overwhelming systemic infection caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative bacteria.

In late December 2008, the young model and family breadwinner who represented her country in international beauty contests was initially suspected to have kidney stones and urinary tract infection (UTI) which worsened and led to septicemia (presence of infection in the bloodstream,) loss of consciousness, and the amputation of both her hands and feet.

Pseudomonas is commonly found in soil and water and can cause a gamut of conditions ranging from mild local skin infections to systemic overwhelming ones which involve deep-seated body organs. In severe cases, like the case of Da Costa, the virulent organism can cause poor blood circulation (hypoperfusion,) shock, and breakdown of tissues leading to organ failure, and eventual death.

A rare cause of UTI, the bacteria can be anti-biotic resistant. It may infect patients with low immunity (immunocompromised,) diabetes, cystic fibrosis, hospitalized patients, and those made vulnerable because of certain debilitating illnesses. Known to be in good health before her illness, Da Costa’s infection has baffled her doctors.

The death of the beauty queen on January 24, 2009 sent shock waves to those who admire her. Many concerned individuals who learned about her plight expressed their sympathies and prayers. Her website was overwhelmed by outpouring or support from people all over the world. (Photo Credit: AP)=0=

Cancer races to be #1 disease killer in 2010

December 10, 2008

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that cancer will lord as the leading cause of death by 2010. The disclosure predicts that if trends continue, by 2030 new cancer diagnosis can reach 27 million, jacking up the number of sufferers to 75 million worldwide. A staggering 17 million of them are expected to die in that year surpassing the top killer: cardiac diseases.

It has been noted that cancer worldwide is on the rise, eclipsing the upward climb of infections and heart diseases. Countries like China, Russia, Indonesia, and India are known to have a huge smoking population. It is believed that tobacco-smoking in developing countries is the main reason for the increase in cancer cases, mostly in developing countries where at least 40% of smokers reside. Population growth and better disease recognition also add to fresh cancer diagnoses which are expected to reach 12 million this year.

Country/%/# of Smokers in Millions
Malaysia————2.90%——– —-3.65
ASEAN Countries–Total————- 125.8
Source: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) Philstar (09/04/07, Crisostomo, S)

Cancer is one of the greatest untold health crises of the developing world…Few are aware that cancer already kills more people in poor countries than HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. And if current smoking trends continue, the problem will get significantly worse,” said Dr. Douglas Blayney, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“This is going to present an amazing problem at every level in every society worldwide,” added Peter Boyle, director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. —Reuters (12/10/08)

The concern for the cancer problem is real. Though it is potentially preventable and treatable among the major life-threatening chronic diseases, malignancies are blamed for 1 in 8 deaths worldwide. With the rising cost of medical services and the sharp increase of those who need care, treatment for cancer will over-burden the healthcare services.

Many countries worldwide aren’t prepared. The medical infrastructures needed to manage cancer patients are lacking or virtually non-existent. Governments are therefore urged to embark on aggressive cancer prevention programs, grassroots anti-smoking and anti-cervical cancer campaigns among others, to combat the emerging top killer. (Photo Credits: Andreia; Laura la Fataliste)=0=

RELATED BLOG: “The Death Clock and the Dangers of Smoking” Posted by mesiamd at 10/22/2008; “Cancer races to be #1 disease killer in 2010” Posted by mesiamd at 12/11/08.


Ships hijacked by pirates, an earthquake in Indonesia and the decline of RP peso

November 18, 2008


Is the total number of ships hijacked by Somali pirates on since November 5, 2008 in the Aden Gulf. The latest hijacked ships are operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and that of Saudi Arabia, a super oil tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude oil. In the past ransoms were paid to recover the ships, but nations are finding ways to foil piracy in the busiest sea lane of the world.


At the close of business trading on November 18, 2008, the peso-dollar exchange has floundered close to P50/per dollar. The slide of the peso value is expected to continue as local and foreign effects of recession take its full effect.


Recorded in the Richter’s scale is strength of the quake that hit Indonesian island Sulawesi on November 17, 2008 which reportedly killed at least 6 persons, toppling houses and injuring scores of people. A tsunami warning from US officials in the area was raised within 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the quake’s origin, but was later lifted.

$1.2 billion

Bangko Sentral of the Philippines (BSP,) discloses this amount of deficit in the balance of payments (BOP) mainly attributed to capital flight, weak exports, and payment of maturing obligations. BOP is the record of the country’s transactions with the rest of the world and its deficit in October 2008 reduces this year’s surplus in a 10 month period to $345 million, down from $7.87 billion registered year-on-year.


Is the reported number of people who contracted typhoid fever in Quezon. Caused by Salmonella typhosa, the diarrheal disease with systemic manifestations is linked with contaminated water supply. The Department of Health (DOH,) advises boiling of water and frequent hand-washing to counter the spread of the disease. In a separate outbreak, 2 persons died of another diarrheal illness in Misamis Oriental. Reported on 11/18/08, about 1,000 people have sought treatment in the hospital for complaints which are suspicious of cholera. (Photo Credit: by Moody_fingers) =0=

Bolante’s medical drama continues, but doctors say “telling the truth is therapeutic.”

November 8, 2008

When Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante stepped out of the airport after he was deported back to the Philippines from USA, the former agricultural undersecretary went straight to the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in an ambulance to start the tale of his illness. It is the familiar props of accused felons and shady characters which blur the distinctions between malingering and actual illness.

For sure, as I suggested in an old blog, Bolante is most likely suffering from health conditions that do not need a protracted “vacation” in a hospital suite. There are sicker patients out there who need his bed and people are tired of the drama which puts the medical profession’s credibility in a precarious balance.

In spite of the high-brow medical jargon SMLC’s Dr. Romeo Saavedra tells the press, Bolante appears in no immediate danger to die. His medical tests are long-drawn(running up to two weeks,) and sluggishly elaborate, belaboring the public to harbor doubts. One thing is sure though— Bolante needs to quickly come out of the hospital and answer the allegations surrounding the misuse of P232 million for fertilizer in 2003.

The murder of Marlene Esparat, the journalist-complainant of the case remains unsolved. And another scandal links Bolante to the P728 million misuse of money allegedly distributed to help Pres.Gloria M. Arroyo in her reelection. Think of the poor helpless farmers who have been adversely affected because government officials are neglectful and corrupt.

According to Senate Pres. Manuel Villar, Jr, Bolante is still under arrest and he sums up by saying “You know it is hard for us who are not doctors to talk about (Bolante’s condition) because even if he has no serious (health problem), we do not want to be blamed for whatever might happen to him.”

Rightfully, doctors of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) added Bolante could heal himself by telling the truth on the fertilizer fund scam. “Truth-telling is therapeutic,” says HEAD’s general secretary Dr. Geneve Rivera. Philstar (11/08/08, Punay, E.) Who will disagree? (Photo Credit: Icarusrising; mindmanifesting)=0=

RELATED BLOGS:Hospital: a vacation house or a sanctuary for malingerers?” Posted by mesiamd at 10/29/2008; “Accused of Plunder, Jocjoc Bolante, Returns from US a Deportee’ (10/29/08, Gimpaya, A)

UPDATE: After a long-drawn stay in the hospital (12 days confined in a suite as of November 10, 2008) doctors at St. Luke’s Medical Center released Jocelyn Bolante with a clean bill of health. This is what the public expects when the suspiciom is raised that felons and shady characters seek hospitals as vacation houses and malingerer’s sanctuary.

The Death Clock and the Dangers of Smoking

October 21, 2008

In the last week of September 2008, Mar Arguelles wrote in Bicol Mail about a “death clock” which ticks for millions including Filipinos who use tobacco. In support of the anti-smoking initiative, I thought I must blog on smoking because it is truly a menace that is linked to a myriad of respiratory illnesses notably lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and other airway diseases. The adverse effects of smoking go beyond the lungs. The heart, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, the nervous and urinary systems are among the body organs that bear the brunt of continued exposure to the hazardous biochemical pollutants in cigarette smoke.

In Legazpi City, Philippines, the local government in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH,) multisectoral organizations and preventive medicine advocates introduced the “Death Clock,” a graphic count and warning system on the danger and lethality of smoking. It aims to discourage smoking and urge people to stop the habit. According the World Health Organization (WHO,) smokers in ASEAN countries account for 10% of the 1.25 billion smokers worldwide.

Country/%/# of Smokers in Millions
Malaysia————2.90%——– —-3.65
ASEAN Countries–Total————- 125.8
Source: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) Philstar (09/04/07, Crisostomo, S)

The “Death Clock” is a visual countdown on the number of smoking-related deaths since House bill 3364 or the Picture-Based Health Warning Bill was filed in December last year. The visual countdown indicated that 66,960 Filipinos have already died due to smoking-related diseases as of September 24, 2008. At least 1,680 are expected to die within the next seven days. DOH statistics showed that at least 240 Filipinos die every day, or 87,600 every year, due to smoking-related diseases.” Bicol Mail (09/25/08, Arguelles, M)

The smoking problem in the Philippines can be traced to the active promotion of cigarettes in the early 1960’s. As such it is a problem that can be solved by behavior modification—educational campaigns, designation of non-smoking areas in public places, tobacco warning labels, imposition of high cigarette taxes, regulation of tobacco advertising especially among minors, control of cigarette importation, disincentive to those who cultivate and sell tobacco, assistance to those who seek jobs away from the tobacco industry and prosecution of violators of anti-smoking laws.

A sharp drop in the smoking habit has been realized by wide anti-tobacco campaigns in developed countries, yet a sustained drive must be done to totally eradicate the dangerous habit. These approaches have applications in other health problems as well like alcoholism and obesity. (Photo Credits: CRDancer;; sunnyUK) =0=

Singapore reports of 3 cases of dengue from blood transfusion

October 4, 2008

With dengue virus endemic in the Philippines like in Singapore, it is worth knowing that three patients in Singapore contracted the virus through blood transfusions. Reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, (P. A. Tambyah et al, NEJM, Vol 359, No.14, 1526-1527,) this has practical applications to blood banking in the country which tries to make donations and transfusions safe.

Dengue, the world’s most-common mosquito-borne disease, is endemic in Singapore, where it has infected more than 4,600 people this year. The city-state doesn’t screen donated blood for dengue because existing tests are too slow, and faster, more expensive tests that look for RNA, the virus’s genetic code, haven’t yet been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority said.”—Bloomberg News (10/03/08, Bennet, S)

If Singapore doesn’t perform testing for dengue in its blood bank, it is likely the same is true in the Philippines. This increases the chance of transfusion-transmitted dengue infection in endemic areas, putting the safety of blood in question. Without the testing, the only major layer of protection is a focus on patient’s history—find hints of dengue infection among blood donors, hopefully keeping them out of the blood bank pool. Unfortunately, this alone can’t guarantee the safety of the blood. =0=

Import ban of 30+ generic drugs from India & melamine-contaminated milk from China

September 17, 2008

More than thirty (30) drugs which include acyclovir, cirprofloxacin and simvastatin, manufactured in two Ranbaxy Laboratories (Dewas and Poenta Sahib plants) in India will not be permitted into the US. Without asking for recall of drugs already on the shelf, the Food Drug Administration (FDA,) the decision is based on the lack of compliance to safety and manufacturing standards by the Indian drug company.

The Food Drug Administration says no report of harm has been so far reported.

List of Drugs with Stop Order

acyclovir, cefprozil, cefuroxime axetil, cephalexin, ciprofloxacin HCl, clarithromycin, fenofibrate, fluconazole, fosinopril sodium, fosinopril sodium and hydrochlorothiazide, gabapentin, glimepiride, isotrentinoin, lamivudine, loratadine OTC, metformin HCl, nefazodone HCl, nitrofurantoin, nitrofurantoin and macrocystalline, ofloxacin, pravastatin sodium, ranitidine, simvastatin, terazozin HCl, valacyclovir HCl, and zidovudine (PEPFAR).” Medical News Today (09/16/08, Agus, Z, MD)

In a similar vein, in a growing scare after imported milk laced with melamine, a chemical substance used to “increase protein content” of milk has been reported to have killed undetermined number of babies and sickened at least 1,253 babies in China. It’s the same chemical that killed pet dogs in USA and Europe afte being fed imported Chinese milk reported earlier.

Melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics such as plates and saucers, is known to cause urinary malfunction, stones and failure of the kidneys when ingested.

Toxic History of China’s Products

— Half of all dangerous goods seized in Europe in 2007 came from China
— Last year China found two companies guilty of intentionally exporting contaminated pet food
— US authorities last year gave warning that monkfish imported from China may be puffer fish, containing a potentially deadly toxin
— In 2005 Sudan 1, a carcinogenic food colouring, was found in Chinese branches of KFC
— In January a survey found almost two thirds of Chinese people were worried about food safety
Sources: European Commission, Times archives /TimesOnline(09/15/08)/ChinaDaily/Reuters

Produced by Sanlu, China’s biggest milk power-maker halted its milk production. Ninetten (19) people were arrested in connection with the scandal of greed and lack of concern for people’s lives. The investigation of the scandal was delayed by a ban of news of this nature during the Beijing Olympics.

These two reports have practical implications in the Philippines who partly rely on India for its imports of medicines. They have more resonance with the passage of the Cheap Drug Legislation of 2008 signed into law of Pres. Gloria M. Macapagal. China also sells products to the Philippines which need tighter watch for adulteration and toxic contamination. =0=

UPDATE: On September 25, 2008, the PDI reported that 2 million kilos of milk was imported by the Philippines from China from Jan. to Aug. 2008. As the scandal of the melamine-contaminated milk widens worldwide, about 53,000 children, mostly in China, have been reported to have been sickened and several babies died. The DOH is monitoring hospitals for reports of children getting sick as result of ingesting milk and milk products.

Large and Heavy

September 15, 2008

Who strains in this picture? Is it it sitter or the chair? An obese person (body mass index BMI=or>30,) carries extra weight which is as heavy as a bar-bell on one’s shoulder. Loaded and bulky, the chair seems to strain as it supports the huge sitter waiting for a plane ride in Hearthrow Airport in London on September 12, 2008 (Reuters/TobyMelville.)

Obesity & the Fight Against the Bulge

As much as sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans are fat and the number is rising. In 2000, it has been estimated that the cost of obesity in the United States is about $117 billion. It is said that if the trend isn’t reversed, the gains of the past generation from improvements of medical care can be wiped out by the illnesses that go with excessive weight.

Obesity increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions like:
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
• Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
• Type 2 diabetes
• Coronary heart disease
• Stroke
• Gallbladder disease
• Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
• Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

That’s why like smoking, there are attempts to fight the bulge by altering the public mindset and behavior. Aside from education, diet and exercise, the people are warned of obesity’s long-term effects. Linked with hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, psychological disturbances and their multi-organ complications, obesity is causing a drain in health care as much as it spawns chronic morbidities which worsen as the person gets old.

There are initiatives to curb on excessive weight gain. Food values are required in processed food packets. A move to lessen food servings is offered in restaurants. Vegan diet is made available and recommended. In poor neighborhoods such as the one in South, Los Angeles, CA a moratorium to open new fast foods was made into legislation on July 2008.

Employers and medical insurance companies give health education lectures to their workers and subscribers. They give incentives to promote exercise and preventive consults with their doctors. The burden of obesity control rests largely on the discipline of individuals, but the environment on which the health problem thrives need some reprogramming. (Photo Credit: Lil’Miss) =0=