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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-05-04
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Friday, May 4, 2001
 Meningitis: the factsBy Noah Haglund
THE TERM 'meningitis' refers to both bacterial and viral infections of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
Bacterial meningitis is the more serious of the two. According the World Health Organisation (WHO), symptoms of bacterial meningitis include the sudden onset of intense headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and stiff neck. Other signs are lethargy, delirium, coma and/or convulsions. Infants may have illness without sudden onset and stiff neck. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and treated quickly, it is fatal between five and 10 per cent of the time and as much of 50 per cent without treatment. Up to one in seven of survivors is left with severe handicap, such as deafness or brain damage.
According to the Meningitis Foundation of America (MFA), there are two major strains of the bacterial form of the disease, meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis, both of which live naturally in the back of the nose and throat, or the upper respiratory tract.
People of any age can carry these germs for days, weeks or months without becoming ill. In fact, being a carrier helps boost natural immunity to the disease. At any one time, between 10 and 25 per cent of the population are carriers. Only rarely do the bacteria overcome the body's defences and cause meningitis.
The bacteria are spread between people by coughing, kissing and sneezing. They cannot live outside the body for long so they cannot be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, buildings or factories.
Urgent treatment with antibiotics is essential for someone with bacterial meningitis.
Laboratory examination of the cerebrospinal fluid will usually confirm the presence of a bacterial meningitis. The sooner someone is diagnosed and treated, the greater chance there is they will make a full recovery. Full isolation is not necessary.
While anyone in any part of the world can contract meningitis, those most at risk are children under five, teenagers and young adults and older people.
In recent years, the most affected countries have been Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, which are located in the so-called 'meningitis belt', which stretches across Sub Saharan Africa from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west. Epidemics occur in the dry season in this area.
The WHO estimates that at least 1.2 million cases of bacterial meningitis occur every year, and 135,000 of these are fatal, although this figure does not include epidemics.
Viral Meningitis is more common than the bacterial form, but generally less serious, although it can be very debilitating. Many different viruses can cause it. Some are spread between people by coughing or sneezing, or through poor hygiene. Others can be found in sewage-polluted water. Most cases occur in the summer months.
In mild cases of viral meningitis, people would not even go to their doctor. However, as the symptoms are similar to the bacterial form, someone with a severe case of viral meningitis will need to be admitted to hospital for test to find out which form they are suffering from.
As people with very mild forms of meningitis would not even see a doctor, there are no reliable figures for the number of cases.
The best way to prevent it is simply by taking basic hygienic precautions, such as washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet, after changing diapers, before touching food and eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
Antibiotics will not help viral meningitis, only good nursing care and proper hygiene. Patients usually make a full recovery, but headaches, tiredness and depression may persist.
Epidemiological data form the Health Ministry indicates that from the number of cases recorded so far this year, Cyprus will have twice the number of viral cases in the current year than observed 2000.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Investigation ordered into surgery death of boyBy George Psyllides
HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides announced yesterday he was launching an administrative investigation into the untimely death of a 14-year-old boy who died on the operating table while doctors were trying to clean an infected wound.
A criminal investigation is already under way, while toxicological and tissue tests are expected to shed light into what killed Giorgos Hadjidemetris from Yeri.
A post mortem on Wednesday failed to determine the cause of death, though pathologists did find a piece of fabric lodged in the wound.
Yesterday, pathologist Marios Matskis, who was appointed to represent the family during the autopsy, matched the fabric with the trousers Giorgos wore the day he received the wound in the backside.
Matsakis said: "My suspicion has been confirmed during the examination of the boy's clothes.
"The fabric is a piece of the clothes he wore."
It is thought that the piece of clothing was causing the protracted infection to the boy's wound, which prompted doctors to operate on it twice in order to clean it.
Hadjidemetris was injured last Saturday and was rushed to hospital where he was stitched up, but surgeons apparently missed the piece of fabric.
On Thursday, the boy was again taken to hospital suffering from high fevers and pain in the area of the wound.
On the same day he underwent surgery and his wound was cleaned, but again doctors missed the fabric.
On Monday and with his condition worsening, Hadjidemetris entered surgery for a second time in order for his wound to be cleaned anew, but complications ensued and the boy died.
The post mortem found no evidence of pulmonary embolism, initially thought by surgeons to be the cause of death.
Pathologists said septicaemia had not been diagnosed, so the boy did not die from the infection.
Matsakis was adamant yesterday: "The final ruling will be given in court, but I think that to stitch up a wound of this kind and go through all the known procedures while failing to clean the wound is medical negligence."
But the Chairman of the Doctors' Union, Stavros Stavrou, yesterday avoided comment on the essence of the issue, arguing he did not know exactly what had happened and saying it would be wise to wait for the findings of the investigation.
He did, however, criticise the mass media, mostly television stations, which the union said in a statement had "tried and convicted (the doctors) before the inquest was complete, thus interfering with the procedure".
The statement also condemned the broadcasting of a scene outside the hospital morgue, where distraught parents held up a sign with the names of two surgeons they held responsible for their loss, branding them as murderers.
The union said it reserved its right to appeal to justice after the investigation was completed.
Indirectly slamming Matsakis and fellow pathologist Panicos Stavrianos, the doctors condemned their "colleagues who, for election campaign reasons, make statements which interfere with justice".
Matsakis retorted, urging the union to try and improve public health provision instead of trying to muzzle doctors.
"There are many good doctors whose names should not be marred by some who cause tragedies to families," Matsakis said.
The Health Minister and Attorney-general Alecos Markides agreed that no one should be suspended pending the findings of the investigations.
Savvides said he had appointed senior health ministry official Georgios Prountzos to carry out an administrative enquiry into the circumstances of the boy's death.
"The investigator will be looking out for possible negligence from the first minute the boy entered hospital until his death," Savvides said.
If negligence is found, then the Cabinet will proceed to order a disciplinary investigation into the issue.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Planning permission granted for new Akamas hotelBy Martin Hellicar
PLANNING permission has been granted for another hotel in the Akamas area, but the Paphos District Office yesterday vowed it was nowhere near approving a building permit for the proposed development within an area earmarked for national park status.
"Yes, the planning licence exists, but no building permit has been approved by the Paphos District Officer, who is the relevant authority," Panicos Pikrides, of the Paphos District office, said yesterday.
The state Environment Service last week approved an impact assessment study for a fresh development near the Anassa hotel, controversially built at Asprokremnos at the foot of the Akamas peninsula by the family firm of former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides. The approval of the environmental impact study - which was, irregularly, submitted after planning permission had been given - paves the way for the building permit to be given.
But Pikrides suggested the Paphos District Office was in no hurry to approve a building permit for what would be a highly contentious development. He expressed surprise at reports yesterday suggesting the granting of a building permit was a foregone conclusion.
Politis newspaper reported yesterday that the planning permit issued for the new hotel was in fact a renewal of an older permit. The paper suggested the granting of planning permission and the approval of the environmental impact study meant there was little to stop building permission being given.
Unperturbed by government promises to turn the whole Akamas area into a national park reserve, a number of companies are known to have submitted applications for tourism developments in on the coastal stretch near the Anassa.
Controversially, the cabinet granted relaxations to planning restrictions to allow then minister Michaelides' firm to build the massive Anassa complex, which opened in 1998. The hotel was recently slammed by the beaches committee for ignoring restrictions on its use of the Asprokremnos beach - a nesting site for endangered sea turtles.
Environmentalists, who have fought long and hard to have the remote peninsula protected, fear the Anassa represents the thin end of the development wedge.
The green cause appears to be gathering support within the EU. In late March, the EU-Cyprus joint parliamentary committee called on the Cyprus government to ban Akamas development and implement World Bank recommendations that tourism development be kept within existing village boundaries on the peninsula. British MEP Chris Davies last week said the European Commission was to demand proper protection for the peninsula - with its dramatic scenery, unique flora and turtle-nesting beaches - before it would let the island join the EU.
The government has yet to implement a contentious Cabinet plan, announced in March last year, that sanctions "mild and controlled" development on the pristine peninsula.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 EU is the path to security says SimitisBy Noah Haglund
GREECE declared yesterday that Cyprus' entry into the European Union was the best possible move towards security in the eastern Mediterranean, and urged both sides to resume the Cyprus proximity talks.
The announcement came at the end of President Glafcos Clerides' two-day official visit to Greece, during which he met with his Greek counterpart Costas Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
"Cyprus' entry into the European Union. gives us chance to ensure peace and security in the region," the Greek Prime Minister told a news conference after meeting with Clerides.
"The dialogue. for solving the Cyprus issue has entered a dead-end," said Simitis, but added, "we believe this dialogue is necessary and this dialogue must continue. from where it stopped last November."
"We hope the continuation of this dialogue can lead to solving the political problem," he said, adding that "the Turkish Cypriot side has the obligation to contribute to solving the Cyprus issue."
UN sponsored proximity talks stalled late last year when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash pulled out, demanding a confederation of two separate states.
President Clerides stated yesterday that Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash "are now giving the last battle" to achieve recognition of the regime in the occupied north.
"If they don't win now, they know there is no way they can return to the issue of recognition or confederation in the future. Therefore, they will remain firm on their position for a long time and will not abandon it," he said.
Earlier this week, Clerides stated that he did not believe that any decisions would be taken in Athens that would alter the Greek Cypriot stance in any way.
He added that after upcoming parliamentary elections, he would convene a meeting of the National Council and inform the members on developments in the Cyprus problem.
The President of the Greek Parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis, assured Clerides yesterday that the Cyprus problem would continue to be Greece's "first national priority" until "the final justification of the Cyprus people and until the restoration of the respect of human rights and principles of international law and order."
Clerides was accompanied on the trip by Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou and Under-secretary to the president Pantelis Kouros. They are scheduled to return tonight.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Cabinet official wins court battle over appointmentBy a Staff Reporter
PANIKOS Pouros, the general director of the Cabinet, has won a Supreme Court appeal against a District Court decision nullifying his appointment to the post in October 1996.
Pouros' appointment to the senior administrative post was challenged before the District Court by six other, unsuccessful, candidates for the position. In May 1999, the lower court threw out the legal challenges of four of the failed candidates, but upheld those of Evripides Demetiriades and Demetris Pelekanou, who has since died.
Pouros immediately challenged the District Court decision, which annulled his appointment, before the Supreme Court.
In a decision publicised yesterday, the higher court reversed the lower court's decision and ruled that Pouros' 1997 appointment as general director of the Cabinet had been entirely legal and proper.
The Supreme Court stated that Demetriades was not better suited for the post than Pouros and that years of service were not a deciding criterion when making appointments to senior administrative posts.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001