Hepatitis A outbreak in Europe

Between June 2016 and May 2017, an unusual increase in cases of hepatitis A affecting mainly men who have sex with men (MSM) has been reported by low endemicity countries in the European Region.

15 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) reported 1173 cases related to the 3 distinct multi-country hepatitis A outbreaks. Most of the affected countries have routinely recommended hepatitis A vaccine for MSM, but there is currently limited availability of this vaccine worldwide.

In Spain, hepatitis A cases reported in 2017 are almost 8 times higher than the average number of cases reported during the same period between the years 2012 and 2016. Most cases are men aged between 15 to 45 years old, and MSM are the most affected group.

For more information about preventing Hepatitis A outbreaks on the euro.who.int website

Deaths from drugs overdoses still rising

For the third year in row deaths from drugs overdose in Europe have increased, with the UK and Germany together accounting for around half of these deaths, according to the latest European Drug Report.

A total of 8,441 overdose deaths, mainly related to heroin and other opioids, are estimated to have occurred in Europe in 2015, a 6% increase on 2014. Increases were reported in almost all age groups and the UK accounted for 31% of the deaths, with Germany a distant second on 15%.

The report finds that the three European countries with the highest volume of drug online sales are Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, with stimulants, in particular MDMA and cocaine, accounting for most of the sales revenue.

For more information and to download the European Drug Report from the ec.europa.eu website

Where to swim in Europe

More than 85% of bathing water sites monitored across Europe in 2016 met the most stringent ‘excellent’ quality standards — meaning they were mostly free from pollutants harmful to human health and the environment, according to the latest annual bathing water quality report.

Over 96% of bathing water sites met the minimum quality requirements set out under European Union rules.

The report covers bathing water locations across the EU, Albania and Switzerland. European bathing waters are much cleaner than forty years ago when large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water were discharged into water. The assessment compiled analyses of water sampled at more than 21,000 coastal and inland bathing sites and gives a good indication where the best sites with the highest water quality are likely to be found this summer.

For more information including country reports on clean bathing water sites in Europe on the europa.eu website

25% of Europeans still smoke

A recent survey shows no decrease in the overall smoking rate in the EU since 2014, with more than one in four Europeans still smoking. Amongst people aged 15 to 24 the rate has increased from 25% in 2014 to 29% in 2017.

Significant differences exist between EU countries, with the highest smoking rates in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%). At 7%, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU. Regular e-cigarette use remains stable at 2%, with 15% having tried such products at some point. With regard to attitudes to tobacco and e-cigarette control measures, the majority of those surveyed (63%) think e-cigarette use should be banned in places where there are smoking bans; and 46% are in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes.

To read the full Eurobarometer on attitudes of Europeans to smoking and e-cigarettes on the ec.europa.eu website

Healthier, fairer, safer: the global health journey 2007–2017

This independent report, commissioned by WHO and written by Sir Liam Donaldson, reflects on the trends, achievements and challenges in global health over the past decade. It discusses the role of WHO in dealing with such issues as the rise of noncommunicable diseases, leaps in life expectancy, and emerging threats like climate change and antimicrobial resistance.

The sections include:

  • Saving mothers and children
  • Microbes: old and new
  • The ascendancy of noncommunicable diseases
  • Healthy ageing

To download the full report ‘Healthier, fairer, safer: the global health journey 2007–2017′ from the who.int website

EU rules on medical devices

The EU has produced new rules on medical devices to enhance patient safety and modernise public health.

There are over 500,000 types of medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic medical devices on the EU market. Examples of medical devices are contact lenses, x-ray machines, pacemakers, breast implants and hip replacements and sticking plasters. In vitro diagnostic medical devices, which are used to perform tests on samples, include HIV blood tests, pregnancy tests and blood sugar monitoring systems for diabetics.

The new Regulations will help to ensure that all medical devices – from heart valves to sticking plasters to artificial hips – are safe and perform well. The new rules will improve market surveillance and traceability as well as make sure that all medical and in vitro diagnostic devices are designed to reflect the latest scientific and technological state-of-the art. The rules will also provide more transparency and legal certainty for producers, manufacturers and importers and help to strengthen international competitiveness and innovation in this strategic sector.

For more information on the new rules about medical devices on the europa.eu website

Feeling low in adolescence

About half of all mental health problems in adulthood have their onset during or before adolescence. Improving resilience to mental illness among young people is very important, as poor mental health in adolescence is linked to unemployment, crime, increased rates of smoking, drug use, obesity and future mental ill health. Support and early interventions designed to promote well-being are key to building such resilience.

Feeling low from time to time can be normal for adolescents. However, regular and prolonged periods of low mood can progress to depression and negatively impact long-term health, well-being and development.

Being in good emotional and physical health enables young people to deal with the challenges of adolescence and eases their transition into adulthood. Positive mental well-being in childhood is associated with increased social competence and good coping strategies that lead to more positive outcomes in adulthood. Addressing low feelings among young people and teaching them coping mechanisms that promote resilience is vital to protecting and promoting their mental health.

For more information about adolescents and mental health on the euro.who.int website

Blood management

The European Commission has produced two new guides about blood management:

  • Building national programmes of patient blood management (PBM) in the EU – a guide for health authorities
  • Supporting patient blood management (PBM) in the EU – a practical implementation guide for hospitals

To download these guides on patient blood management from the ec.europa.eu website

Over 1.2 million adolescents die every year, nearly all preventable

Across the world, more than 3,000 adolescents die every day from largely preventable causes according to a report from the World Health Organisation.

Road traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections, and suicide are the biggest causes of death among adolescents and most of these could be prevented with good health services, education and social support. However, in many cases, adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders, substance use, or poor nutrition cannot obtain critical prevention and care services – either because the services do not exist, or because they do not know about them.

In addition, many behaviours that impact health later in life, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and risky sexual health behaviours, begin in adolescence.

To read more about preventable adolescent deaths on the who.int website

Safe blood transfusions in Italy

There have been no HIV or Hepatitis infections from blood transfusions in the last 10 years in Italy.

More than three million transfusions of blood components were made in 2015, with 1709 positive cases of HIV or Hepatitis detected in 1691 donors, who were therefore disqualified from giving blood. This screening system ensures the safety of receiving blood and its components.

To read more (in Italian) about safe blood transfusions on the salute.gov.it website