Thursday, February 05, 2004

Some reading material:

Cover story for Time Asia Feb 9 issue: Bird Flu - Is Asia hatching the next human pandemic?


"As early as mid-October, says Ah Tong ( an Indonesian chicken farmer ), his chickens began to die in tens every day. At first, officials insisted that the birds were merely suffering from Newcastle disase, a viral infection that's deadly to chickens but which poses no threat to humans. By late November, about 100 chickens were dying each day. The vet then sent a blood sample from a dead chicken to the veterinary research bureau of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, near Jakarta. "They found it was not Newcastle disease that killed my chickens, but AI - avian influenza," says Ah Tong. "But the government still insisted it was Newcastle disease.""

"In Thailand, it wasn't just the bureaucrats who were reluctant to face reality. Politicians also publicly vilified would-be whistle-blowers. Senator Malinee Sukavejworakit, a medical doctor who represents one of the worst-affected provinces, convened a meeting of the Senate Committee on Public Health, for which she is chief adviser, and revealed her findings. The same day she held a press conference, asking the government to release the results of tests on the hospitalized butcher and to explain what was killing chickens in such terrifying numbers, Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob accused her of being "irresponsible to the motherland" and endangering is economy. Thie attitude of aggressive denial went right to the top: a few days earlier, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dismissed the idea of a bird-flu epidemic as "fantasy and imagination"."

"This time round, China has shown alarming signs that it has somehow failed to learn the lessons of SARS. For weeks, while avian flu rampaged through much of Asia, Chinese officials insisted - to the disbelief of many experts - that the disease had not struck their country. During that time, they made little effort to tell farmers what to do if their flocks began dying, and failed to offer timely information to UN organizations in Beijing that had requested briefings."

Last night's "American Idol 3" picked up the pace a little, after faltering a week ago ( William Hung was the only highlight in the previous episode -- he's now famous on local radio, with a few stations playing a special "remix" of him singing "She Bangs", together with the judges' comments, haha! :D ). Yesterday, the 120 shortlisted contestants went through two extra rounds of singing, with quite a few nervous wrecks messing up their lines and annoying the judges. What's funny about this is how some of them attempted to cover up with lame excuses -- "The lights are blinding me and I can't concentrate," offered one blonde. "Can we switch them off please?" Simon Cowell countered. The spotlights went dark, and the hapless girl still failed to remember the lyrics. "Guess that theory was wrong," Simon snapped. Heh heh. :)

As for shocking moments, get a load of one African-American gal with a major attitude problem, bashing Simon repeatedly with rude insults, even incurring the usually tolerant Paula Abdul's wrath in the process. Abdul's "I'm shocked by your disrespect" comment subdued the girl sufficiently, and believe it or not, she wasn't eliminated when it came down to the crunch. She even went up to Simon and gave him a hug. Well, if this teaches her a thing or two about manners and class, then good for everyone.

I managed to catch the names of 3 out of 4 of my favourites. The one I still can't remember is the Macy Gray soundalike, who by the way, has a lovely personality and is a likely shoo-in for the semi-finals. The 3 guys are: Matt Rogers ( the beefy fellow with a short beard ) and the two "Jon's" -- Jon Peter who resembles Brian Littrell from Backstreet Boys and practically crackles on-stage, and "the other Jon", a 16-year-old redhead who sounds 30 years older and loves to do jazz classics. The hunky blonde with the washboard abs doesn't appeal to me, though lots of people I know think he's hot. :) As for Michael Keown, who did "Unchained Melody" for his first AI audition, he's starting to come across as a little bland, especially with a boring song he composed during the last round. Sure, he can sing, but you won't last in Hollywood if you put people to sleep after the first 5 minutes.

My reading of "LIFE: Our Century In Pictures" continues. I've gone through WWII, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, JFK's assassination and the Civil Rights movement, and the photos are absolutely riveting. Images of Pearl Harbour in flames, a little boy walking past a mass of dead Jews, a corpse burnt beyond recognition by napalm, JFK's head exploding in a fountain of blood and brains, and multiple shots of riots fuelled by racism are just some of the amazing photos featured in this book, aided by informative captions that vividly describe the history, mood and ripple effects of each event. Highly recommended!

Nothing much going on in the ER today, so I'm just catching up with some reading. Guess I should mention a complaint letter in The Forum Page today, from someone whose father's stroke was missed at the SGH A&E Department in August 2003. I'm still wondering why s/he decided to bring this up 6 months after the actual incident, but at least the language used isn't as strong as some other complaints published previously. From my standpoint, if the facts given by the writer are correct, then not admitting the patient was a little inappropriate. From the looks of it, it might have been a medical officer attending to this particular patient, rather than a senior doctor. But that's the way it is in ERs. The ideal situation would be if all ERs were run purely by trained emergency physicians, but manpower issues don't allow for this -- not currently, anyway. When I did my first MO posting at SGH in 2001, I was very inexperienced where surgery and orthopaedics were concerned, but I always made it a point to consult a registrar or consultant if I wasn't sure. Most A&E MOs are either medically or surgically trained -- they do an ER rotation because it's part of the requirement for their post-grad exam -- so deficiencies in certain areas is expected. Thus, those of us who have already done countless postings in various specialties are understandably more well-equipped for making the right diagnoses.

If the author of this complaint thinks s/he is doing a great service, then s/he is sadly very wrong. Unless it can miraculously change the A&E system overnight, the same problem will still crop up from time to time. You need experienced ER physicians running the departments, not MOs with limited training. Ministry of Health, take note!

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