Bio-surveillance algorithm forecasting flu outbreaks

Department of Defence scientists have developed an algorithm, “EpiDefend”, that accurately predicts influenza outbreaks up to eight weeks in advance.

The Department’s Defence, Science and Technology Group, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, has expanded its work within public health disease prediction. The collaboration has also provided the Department better access to health and disease data to facilitate accurate and reliable forecasting of disease outbreaks.

In addition to EpiDefend helping to defend against the impact of disease outbreak, it has the added benefit of detecting maliciously released biological agents, which will contribute to the development of a national and global bio-surveillance system.

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Unconscionable conduct finding against AMI upheld

The Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia has upheld a finding that AMI engaged in unconscionable conduct by targeting vulnerable consumers with its advertising and sales techniques.

The Court noted that the vulnerability related to the sensitive and personal nature of the services supplied and upheld a permanent restraining order against AMI’s business owner, preventing it from making statements and representations to any patient or prospective patient as to the efficacy of treatments provided unless those statements or representations were made by a medical practitioner in a face-to-face (or video) consultation.

The ACCC has warned that it will not hesitate to take enforcement action against businesses exploiting the vulnerability of consumers.

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Tighter regulations proposed for stem-cell therapy operators

The Department of Health has proposed regulations preventing the use of Medicare services for unproven stem-cell treatment.

The proposed regulations follow the death of Sheila Drysdale, a 75-year-old New South Wales woman who died in 2013 after receiving unproven stem-cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Under the proposed regulations, Medicare benefit schedule items will not apply to services provided to a patient at the same time or in connection with the harvesting, storage, in-vitro processing or injection of non-haematopoietic stem-cells.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has endorsed the proposed regulations. Dr Frank R Jones, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said that ill and vulnerable consumers were liable to be misled and in some cases harmed by unproven stem-cell therapies.

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IVF committee considers allowing sex selection of third child

A committee constituted by members of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council is considering whether parents undergoing IVF treatment should be allowed to select the sex of their third child where they already have two children of the same sex.

Currently, parents may only select the sex of a child for compelling medical reasons, such as genetic diseases which affect one sex. A number of IVF experts have called for the change as a means of enabling parents to balance their families. However, committee chairman Dr Ian Olver has indicated that the committee will not endorse gender selection for cultural or racial reasons.

The committee is reviewing Australian assisted reproduction laws and is expected to present its recommendations to the Australian Health Ethics committee towards the end of this year.

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