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News | Wednesday, 19 May 2010 Issue. 164

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HIV cases peak at 28 in 2008

Better awareness programmes could lead to more diagnosis – family doctor

The number of HIV cases peaked at 28 in 2008 while the number dropped in 2009 to 18, more or less the figure reached in 2007. AIDS cases were also at an all time high in 2008 when 8 were recorded compared to 2 both in 2007 and 2009. So far there have been no reported AIDS cases in the first quarter of 2010.
This information was revealed in the latest issue of the report of notified infectious diseases published by the Health Promotion Unit. Other infectious diseases which appear to have peaked during 2008 include Salmonella (142 cases), Chlamydia (116 cases) and Chickenpox (284 cases). In 2009 there was a higher incidence of Gonorrhea (63 cases when compared to 49 in 2008 and 53 in 2007) and Campylobacter which peaked at a rather staggering 127 cases when compared to just 69 in 2008 and 92 in 2007.
Asked to comment on the findings of this report, family doctor Dr Etienne Grech said that one must always treat these figures with caution although they do provide a good indication of which diseases are actually on the increase.
“All the figures given in statistics about infectious diseases have to be interpreted with caution, because there might be diseases which might actually be there although under-reported, on the other hand there are some diseases of which incidence is increased (sometimes temporarily) due to an increase in testing which could be due to public awareness or a public scare. HIV cases in Malta are shared by Maltese and also cases in immigrants and the surge in the notified 2008 cases of HIV could be related to the increase in the inflow of immigrants that particular year”.
Dr Grech explained that the higher incidence of sporadic cases in some diseases could be due to more awareness and campaigns on such diseases. Scarlet fever in fact registered an all time high of 100 cases in 2009 when there were only 38 cases in 2008 and just a single one in 2007.
“The high numbers of salmonella, chickenpox and scarlet fever during 2009 is probably due to increased vigilance in detection and notification of these illnesses during that particular year. There was particular media exposure about scarlet fever during year 2009”.
Grech also said that the Health Promotion Unit has to act with caution when publishing such statistics as the public may be alarmed unnecessarily.



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