An emergency room physician in British Columbia is warning of the misuse of a cooking tool that requires the use of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas.
A statement from Vancouver Coastal Health says Dr. Matthew Kwok reports seeing patients at Richmond Hospital who have intentionally inhaled the gas and suffered drug-induced psychosis and neurological effects.
Nitrous oxide is used in medical and dental offices for sedation and pain, but it is also readily available in small canisters, called whippits, that are attached to a kitchen utensil used to whip cream.
Kwok says addiction to nitrous oxide is possible and non-medical use of the gas can be “extremely dangerous.”
In the December issue of the BC Medical Journal, Kwok reports that no single agency in Canada is tracking non-medical overdoses, despite the dangers posed by the gas which is easily purchased.
Kwok is calling for restricted access to nitrous oxide, safeguards to minimize harm and greater awareness by medical staff and the public about non-medical use of laughing gas.
“When people present at the emergency department with unexplained neurological symptoms it’s important for clinicians to consider nitrous oxide as a possible cause,” Kwok says in the statement.
The article in the BC Medical Journal outlines the case of a 20-year-old woman who was hallucinating but had no history of psychiatric or medical illness, although she admitted to daily use of nitrous oxide, and had recently increased her dosage.
“It’s also important for users to know that using this product outside a supervised medical setting can cause serious health effects,” says Kwok.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2019
Austrian government proposes law to legalise assisted suicide
Austria’s federal government has submitted a draft law to make assisted suicide for seriously ill adults legal, the federal chancellery said in a statement on Saturday.
The new law lays out the conditions under which assisted suicide will be possible in the future, following a ruling by Austria’s Constitutional Court last December according to which banning assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to self-determination.
“Seriously ill people should have access to assisted suicide,” the federal chancellery said in the statement.
The new law allows chronically or terminally ill adults to make provisions for an assisted suicide.
They have to consult two doctors who have to attest the person is capable of making his or her own decisions. A delay of 12 weeks also has to be respected that can be reduced to two weeks for patients in the final phase of an illness.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Christina Fincher)
Namibia suspends use of Russian COVID vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns
Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.
Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector – which Sputnik V does – can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.
South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.
Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.
The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.
“Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally,” the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.
Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.
Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of Oct. 20.
Namibia has also been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.
So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations’ difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.
(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Alexander Winning and Ros Russell)
Britain reports highest weekly COVID-19 cases since July
Britain recorded the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since July over the past week, government figures showed on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown.
Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21.
Daily figures https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk showed there were 44,985 new cases on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday. Daily death figures were only available for England, and showed 135 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.
Deaths have risen by 12% over the past week, and the total since the start of the pandemic now stands at 139,461, the second highest in Europe after Russia.
While vaccination and better medical treatment have sharply reduced deaths compared with previous waves of the disease, hospitals are already stretched and Britain’s current death rate is far higher than many of its European neighbours.
Government health advisors said on Friday that preparations should be made for the possible reintroduction of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as working from home, as acting early would reduce the need for tougher measures later.
Johnson, however, said he did not expect a return to lockdown.
“We see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all,” he said on Friday.
(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincer)
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