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Patient Data At Risk After Wind Blew Documents Away

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Patient records at risk of breaching due to wind blowing data away

Global security and safe data advocates have warned governments and organizations of cyber attacks that are meant to access and steal their web databases and urged them to build strong encryptions to make sure that their systems are safe and data breach is unavoidable.

However, one thing about data handling has been overlooked over the few years. As the sophistication of tech-based attack increase, many governments and organization have focused their attention on online data security.

They forgot about their offline data – printed information and written forms. They overlooked the possibility of a data breach in offline systems.

Just like what happened recently in New Zealand when the wind blew out papers including personal patient history data. No hackers, no phishing emails, but patients’ data are at risk of being stolen by criminally intent individuals.

Canterbury and West Coast District Health Board have been alerted when some of the documents were picked up by a passerby in Hornby, a suburb five miles outside Christchurch after the Board said that an employee mislaid printed papers and they were ‘blown away in a gust of wind.’

According to a report by Stuff, about 40 pages were lost during the incident that includes the names and health numbers of around 300 individuals. Detailed clinical notes of another 15 people are also blown away.

At the time of reporting, Stuff said that only six pages were recovered by the authorities and the rest of the lost documents are still ‘in the wind.’

A Health Board Spokesperson said: “as time passes it seems more likely that these misplaced documents have been picked up by someone and destroyed.”

The Forbes reported that it is challenging to safeguard contents of printed or written records especially when they are exposed in a public space. They can be destroyed by fire and water, photographed by the media and other people, and apparently, can be blown by winds.

During the press briefing by Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Munchin last January 28 to announce the new sanctions imposed by the US against Venezuela’s oil industry, a significant data was captured by the camera of the press.

The press briefing was attended by National Security Advisor John Bolton who after a brief statement, left the podium clutching a yellow notepad. In it, he wrote the words ‘5,000 troops to Colombia’ that was exposed to the public after the official held the notebook to his chest.

Both of these data leaks are unintentional, but there are several cases of intentional data breach done not by hackers or data phishers.

On late February of 2019, Mikhy Farrera – Brochez was charged by the United States for leaking the names, identity numbers, and addresses of HIV patients in Singapore.

According to the Health Ministry of Singapore, Farrera-Brochez, angered by his deportation, had disclosed the personal information from names and identity numbers to addresses, of 5,400 citizens diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013, and of 8,800 foreigners diagnosed up to December 2011, on his Facebook account.

“The criminal complaint alleges that Farrera-Brochez illegally possessed and intended to distribute data containing sensitive medical and other identifying information,” the U.S. Attorney’s office of the eastern district of Kentucky said in an interview.

“While living in the eastern district of Kentucky, Farrera-Brochez sent links to the data from his e-mail account to several news outlets. He also sent e-mails to several government officials in Singapore containing links,” it said in a statement on its website.

As required by Singaporean law, everyone’s HIV status should be declared and should be added to a national database. The HIV registry was established in 1985 by the Ministry of Health to keep track of the infection situation and trace potential cases. The database includes personal information, names, and addresses of more than 14,200 people.

According to Forbes, there are different ways that criminals can use data that are leaked through either intentional or unintentional data breach.

They wrote: “Personal data like this is a significant score for cybercriminals who will likely look to capitalize on it any way they can. One of those ways is by selling off bits like SSNs and drivers’ licenses — which can fetch as much as $20 apiece, according to Patrick Tiquet, Director of Security & Architecture at Keeper Security. And even though Social Security numbers sell for just 1/20th that price, multiply that by 143 million and the attackers could be looking at a major payday.

“Another way they may try to profit is by launching targeted phishing campaigns. Noted security researcher Kenneth White believes that “Based on the disclosure, the impact of this could be as far-reaching as the OPM breach.” The OPM — Office of Personnel Management — fell victim to a hack in June of 2015. Months later, ransomware criminals used the 22 million stolen email addresses to launch a large-scale attack.” /apr

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama. I also own a cybersecurity blog called Zero Day.

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Drug-Resistant Malaria Spread Across Southeast Asia

Researchers found that malaria-causing parasites have spread across Southeast Asia but the threat is potentially worse if it spreads to Africa.

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Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash

A new study discovered that multidrug-resistant forms of malaria parasites are rapidly spreading across Southeast Asia, leading to “alarmingly high” treatment failure rates of widely used frontline medication. Furthermore, researchers fear that the parasites may travel across to other regions.

In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal revealed that the parasites have moved from Cambodia to Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, where first-choice drugs are not curing half of the patients. Additionally, the study noted that 80% of the most prevalent malaria parasite were now resistant to the two most common anti-malarial drugs.

The Plasmodium falciparum parasites have also acquired resistance linked to the failure of treatment in half of the cases to one of the newest and most potent frontline drug combinations, they said.

There are about 219 million cases of malaria around the world each year. The disease kills about 435,000 people every year – most of them are children under the age of five.

Symptoms include cycles of feeling cold and shivering followed by high temperature with severe sweating. Without treatment, the parasite can lead to breathing problems and organ failure.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told in a 2018 report that the development of resistance to drugs poses one of the greatest threats to malaria control and results in increased malaria morbidity and mortality.

Furthermore, resistance to currently available antimalarial drugs has been confirmed in only two of the four human malaria parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum, and P. vivax. While the agency also noted that it is unknown if P. malariae or P. ovale has developed resistance to any antimalarial drugs. 

P. knowlesi, zoonotic monkey malaria that infects humans in forest fringe areas of Southeast Asia, is fully susceptible to chloroquine and other currently used drugs.

Initially, malaria was treated with a combination of two drugs – artemisinin and piperaquine, which was introduced in Cambodia in 2008.

By 2013, the first cases of the parasite mutating and developing resistance to both drugs were detected, in western parts of the country.

The latest study analyzed blood samples from patients across South East Asia to inspect the parasite’s DNA showed resistance had spread across Cambodia and was also in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It had also picked up further mutations, making it even more problematic.

Though the study showed that malaria parasites had developed resistance to the two primary drugs used to combat its symptoms, there are alternative drugs that can be used instead.

“With the spread and intensification of resistance, our findings highlight the urgent need to adopt alternative first-line treatments,” Prof Tran Tinh Hien, from the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, in Vietnam, said.

That could include using different drugs alongside artemisinin or using a combination of three drugs to overcome resistance.

However, what researchers fear more is that the findings raise the “terrifying prospect” that drug-resistance could spread to Africa, where more than nine in 10 cases of the disease are.

“This highly successful resistant parasite strain is capable of invading new territories and acquiring new genetic properties, raising the terrifying prospect that it could spread to Africa, where most malaria cases occur, as resistance to chloroquine did in the 1980s, contributing to millions of deaths,” Prof Olivo Miotto, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Oxford, said.

Specifically, researchers are wary of the fact that drug-resistant malaria would yield similar results as P. falciparum, a malaria strain that has developed resistance to nearly all of the other currently available antimalarial drugs, such as sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine, mefloquine, halofantrine, and quinine. 

Chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum first developed independently in three to four areas in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and South America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since then, chloroquine resistance has spread to nearly all areas of the world where falciparum malaria is transmitted.

More than 200 million people are infected with the P falciparum parasite, which is responsible for nine out of ten malaria deaths globally.

Despite the current news, researchers say that this is not something that people should panic or worry about.

“These parasites are scary beasts, there’s no doubt,” Prof Colin Sutherland, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

“However, I wonder if these parasites are not very fit because the population as a whole is crashing.”

Notably, the number of cases in Cambodia was 262,000 in 2008 and dropped to 36,900 cases in 2018.

“The implications are not as severe as we might think,” Sutherland said. Furthermore, he added the even though drug-resistant malaria has spread; it’s unlike for it to be considered as a global health threat.

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Stop Taking Daily Aspirin To Prevent A Heart Attack, Doctors Warn

Doctors warn against people taking daily aspirin therapy without a physician’s recommendation

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Source: Marco Verch | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Daily aspirin therapy may lower the risk of a heart attack, but new research shows that the treatment isn’t right for everyone. Furthermore, the study found that millions of people are popping the pill daily without a doctor’s recommendation—a habit that health providers are warning against.

If a patient has had a heart attack or stroke, doctors will likely recommend they take a daily aspirin, unless there are other complicating situations such as having a severe allergy to the drug or history of bleeding.

In other circumstances, if patients have a high risk of having a first heart attack, their doctor will likely recommend aspirin after weighing the risks and benefits.

More or less, aspirin medications are that needs to be prescribed by a physician and not by people themselves who are following a dated concept.

In a new study conducted by Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, it was found that about 29 million people aged 40 and older were taking an aspirin a day despite having no known heart disease in 2017, the latest data available.

Meanwhile, nearly half of people over 70 who don’t have heart disease — estimated at 10 million — were taking daily aspirin for prevention, the researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

About 6.6 million of that statistic claimed that they were doing so on their own, an act that doctors warn to stop doing.

“Many patients are confused about this,” said Dr. Colin O’Brien, a senior internal medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the study.

While taking an occasional aspirin or two is safe for most adults to use for headaches, body aches or fever, daily use of aspirin can have serious side effects. Notably, doctors recommend that people shouldn’t start regular aspirin therapy on their own because the drug can cause serious complications such as internal bleeding that could ironically result in more cardia-related problems.

Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.

But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart with blood. If your blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries — a fatty deposit in your vessel lining can burst.

Then, a blood clot can quickly form and block the artery. This prevents blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets — possibly preventing a heart attack.

However, the blood-thinning drug can also result in unwanted scenarios, specifically for people who shouldn’t be taking the medication daily.

Primarily, aspirin can increase the chances for strokes that are caused by a burst a blood vessel. While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).

Furthermore, there are also Gastrointestinal bleeding to watch out for. Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to flow more, which can lead to a life-threatening extent.

In some cases, people are allergic to the drug. If a person is allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a severe allergic reaction.

“What we were somewhat surprised at is the high numbers of older adults that were taking aspirin who don’t actually have existing heart disease or stroke, and that’s because it’s been known that the older that you are, the higher the risk of bleeding from aspirin,” said Dr. Christina Wee, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the obesity research program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was senior author of the new research.

“Our understanding of the benefits and harms of aspirin used to prevent heart disease is evolving and there have been recent changes in the evidence as well as a change in guidelines,” she said. The general public “really should talk to their doctor to see whether they should or should not be on aspirin to prevent heart disease.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59, you’re not at increased bleeding risk, and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or higher over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend aspirin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks in people who haven’t already had a heart attack, stroke, or another cardiovascular condition.

In March, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology set out new guidelines for people who should be taking a daily aspirin.

In the release, it states that people over 70 or young and doesn’t have heart disease should avoid daily aspirin for prevention. Only certain people aged 40 to 70 years who don’t already have heart disease are at high enough risk to warrant 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin daily, and that’s for a doctor to decide.

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Textured Breast Implants Linked To Cancer, Doctors Warn

A UK agency issued an alert that textured breast implants may be linked to human-made cancer.

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Docteur Spitalier Philippe | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Australian Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued an alert that proposes a regulatory action — which includes canceling, suspending or recalling textured — regarding breast implants after a review on its link with cancer.

The agency says that women with textured breast implants may be prone to breast implant-associated cancer, which is also known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Mainly, BIA ALCL is a rare cancer of the immune system. It is not like breast cancer that forms from cells in the breast, but instead, cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that forms around a breast implant. Less commonly, BIA-ALCL can take the form of a lump in the breast or the armpit.

In cases of BIA-ALCL, it occurs as soon as one year after the operation and as late as 37 years after the surgery. The average time to diagnosis is within eight years of the procedure.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons stated that BIA-ALCL occurs most frequently in patients who have breast implants with textured surfaces. To date, there are not any confirmed BIA-ALCL cases that involve only a smooth implant. BIA-ALCL patients seem to have an allergic reaction to textured devices over many years.

As of April, the TGA had received 76 reports of anaplastic large cell lymphoma associated with breast implants in Australian women. Additionally, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) states it received 1,586 Adverse Incident Reports for breast implants between 2014 and May 2019.

Meanwhile, there have been 457 cases in the U.S. linked between textured breast implants and the disease since 2011. The US Food and Drug Administration confirms that out of the 457 reported cases, nine women have died.

The latest FDA statement says the risk of developing BIA-ALCL in women with textured breast implants ranges from 1 in 3,817 to 1 in 30,000.

In line with latest TGA report, countries such as France and Canada acted in April to remove individual textured implants from their markets.

In March, the FDA recognized that textured breast implants most likely cause BIA-ALCL, but the agency did not proceed on ultimately banning the product, noting it wanted to continue studying the disease and tracking cases.

“The FDA is increasingly concerned about the potential BIA-ALCL risk for women with certain textured breast implants. Our experts have been reviewing new information presented since the public advisory committee meeting in March. We intend to update the public shortly with the findings of our analysis,” the agency said.

But an NBC News investigation in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last fall reported that BIA-ALCL could be much more common and can be as high as one case out of every 1,000 women with breast implants.

The FDA said the implants available in Australia are different from those sold in the U.S., which complicates efforts to figure out the actual risks.

Breast implants are gel or fluid-filled pouches inserted in the breast area. Furthermore, they differ in their size, shape, filling, and surface characteristics. Most implants are either round or teardrop-shaped. They may be filled with saline (sterile saltwater) or with silicone gel. The surface of the implant may be smooth or rough (textured), and different implants may vary in the amount of irregularity of the texture.

Notably, breast implants are not lifetime devices and need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years.

Contrary to popular belief, people may get breast implants for many reasons apart from cosmetic enhancement. The procedure is also popular for reconstruction purposes for people who underwent breast surgery for breast cancer.

It’s estimated that of the 400,000 women who get breast implants each year, about one in 10 has textured implants.

As of the moment, the Australian agency has “no decision to suspend or cancel the relevant products at this time.” Adding that “the next steps are for the sponsors to respond to the TGA’s notification and invitation to comment by 24 July 2019. The TGA will, as a matter of priority, consider the sponsor’s submissions before reaching any decision on whether to proceed to the proposed regulatory action.”

The TGA has also detailed the list of products and information on textured implants on its website.

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