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Harry Dugmore by Alexa Sedgwich By Annetjie van Wynegaard

Around 60 journalists and media practitioners from health publications and organisations assembled at the Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies this past week, for the Discovery Centre for Health Journalism’s symposium on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The symposium ran for three days from 29 August and hosted acclaimed speakers from the health industry and medical research professions.

The NCDs are Non-infectious and non-transmissible among people, like diabetes and cancer, and media coverage around them is scarce.

On the first day the symposium’s hashtag, #NCDjourn13, was trending at number one on Twitter all day long.

Students and research staff in the Discovery Centre for Journalism at Rhodes tweeted, wrote stories, took photographs and asked questions about what it means to cover health issues in South Africa.

There was a constant buzz of excitement in the air as the attending journalists live-tweeted the latest statistic from leading health professionals.

Head of Corporate Sustainability at Discovery, Ruth Lewin, joined deputy vice chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Peter Clayton, and the deputy head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Prof. Herman Wasserman, to officially open the symposium.

During the symposium lecturer and researcher in the Centre, Jae Braun, presented her guide on reporting obesity. The guide is one in a series of “Reporting on…” guides that the Centre is producing.

On the second day the 2013 Discovery Health Journalist of the Year and former member of staff at the Centre, Mia Malan, joined Antoinette Oosthuizen, Kerry Cullinan, and Declan Okpalaeke in a panel discussion on emerging models for journalisms that enhance public understanding of medical and health policy.

A parallel panel on exercise as medicine took place in the room next door and was presented by the head of the Department of Human Kinetics and Ergonomics (HKE) at Rhodes, Dr Candice Christie, and PhD candidate Janet Viljoen.

The symposium was peppered with health talk, healthy food, and some ‘green’ field trips.

On the first day everyone embarked on a walking tour of Fort England Psychiatric Hospital where they received an overview of mental health services in the Eastern Cape, and on the last day they went to the Sibuya Game Reserve in Kenton.

For comprehensive speaker profiles, visit the Discovery Centre’s website


For those of you traveling from abroad to South Africa for the Highway Africa conference, here’s a health advisory on the pandemic Influenza A/H1N1 2009, commonly known as swine flu, that we recommend you to read. Swine flu is highly contagious, which means it is very easily and rapidly spread from person to person. But most people infected with the virus experience a mild case from which they can recover fully without medical or anti-viral treatment.

Those people at risk of a serious infection usually have underlying problems or chronic disease conditions. In particular, young children, the elderly and pregnant women are considered to be at increased risk of a more severe infection.

There are no clear features to distinguish swine flu from seasonal flu. Both cause “flu-like symptoms” which are typically: a recent onset of a fever of 38°C or higher; a sore throat; a runny or blocked nose; coughing and sneezing; muscle aches; and/or vomiting and diarrhoea.
In serious cases of flu, the following signs would indicate that urgent medical attention is needed:
• Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Confusion
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
It is no longer recommended that routine testing for swine flu be performed in people who have been in contact with an infected person. Most healthy people who become infected are expected to overcome the illness without any problems or complications. If people are in any doubt, they should contact a medical practitioner. These doctors will decide whether or not administration of oseltamivir (Tamiflu or its generics) is indicated.

Seasonal flu and swine flu viruses are relatively robust and the latter may survive outside of the body for between two and eight hours at room temperature. Infection can result if surfaces contaminated with the virus are touched within that time (e.g. computer keyboards, door knobs or other people’s hands) followed by the person touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. This is why regular hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand rub is highly recommended.
• Avoid contact with ill persons.
• When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (if
you do not have a tissue). Throw used tissues in a rubbish bin.
• After you cough or sneeze, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based
hand gel.
• If you think you are ill with flu, avoid close contact with others as much as possible.
Stay at home or in your hotel room. Seek medical care if you are severely ill (such
as having trouble breathing).

Grahamstown general medical practitioners
Drs Marx, Bennett & Partners 120 High Street: +27(46) 636-2063; Emergency no.: +27(82) 573 3678
Colcade practice, Hill Street: +27(46) 636-1732
Dr S Dwyer, Henry Street: +27(46) 622-4846
Dr F Oosthuizen, Pepper Grove Mall: +27(46) 622-6362
Dr SC Pelliser, 12 New Street: +27(46) 622-2970

This information has been primarily derived from the following sources:

Health advisory issued by the Faculty of Pharmacy at Rhodes University
Centres for Disease Control
World Health Organisation