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Vietnam raises alarm about H7N9 bird flu spread

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health (MoH) recently sent an urgent circular to provinces and cities, asking them to beef up the prevention and fight against H7N9 bird flu.

Appearing on MoH’s General Department of Preventive Medicine website on Monday, the circular said although Vietnam has not reported any H7N9 case so far, the country has witnessed two deaths caused by H5N1 virus since the beginning of 2014.

In a recent development, a 39-year-old woman who was hospitalized at Vietnam’s National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in a serious health condition of respiratory failure has reportedly showed positive results for avian influenza or H5N1 bird flu. The patient had not contacted with poultry, but there were dead chicken in her family, said the circular.

According to the department, H5N1 bird flu risks have loomed large to be able to spread in Vietnam together with the threat of H7N9 bird flu from neighboring countries due to geographical proximity as well as border trade and exchange activities.

Nguyen Tran Hien, head of Vietnam’s National Hygiene and Epidemiology, said on local Vietnam Economic Review on Monday that there are high risks of combination of different influenza viruses or creation of new virus that will have greater virulence and cause greater danger to local people’s health.

MoH thus asked local bodies to strengthen supervision of bird flu viruses including H7N9, H10N8, H6N1 and H5N1 at border gates and communities, collect samples of suspected bird flu viruses in hospitals and increase people’s awareness of prevention and fight against bird flu viruses.


H7N9 epidemic unlikely: health watchdog

China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Friday that a large-scale H7N9 epidemic is unlikely, following 28 cases reported nationwide this year.

“Current cases are scattered, and no mutation of the virus has been idntified so far that could affect public health,” said a Friday statement from the commission.

The 28 cases of human infection of H7N9 so far were reported in east China’s coastal regions of Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu as well as south China’s Guizhou and Guangdong provinces.

Guangdong reported on Thursday two new cases of human H7N9, and another avian flu patient that died on Wednesday after treatment failed.

“The virus is still spreading from birds to human, and the chances of large-scale human H7N9 infection are slim,” the statement said, citing experts.

However, the commission noted that cases will keep rising as the country’s urban and rural fowl markets are scattered while the transporation and trade of poultry will become more frequent to meet the demand around the upcoming Spring Festival.

The commission urged local health departments to strengthen monitoring and step up treatment of patients while carrying out detailed prevention and control measures and timely risk evaluations..


China reports new H7N9 death in south China’s Guangdong Province

Another H7N9 avian flu patient had died after treatment failed in south China’s Guangdong Province, according to a statement from the provincial health authorities on Monday.

The patient, surnamed Yang, died at 4:10 a.m. on Sunday due to respiratory failure, the statement said.

It was the third death in a human H7N9 case in Guangdong since August, when the disease resurged in China.

The statement also said two patients were discharged from hospital on Sunday.

Guangdong has confirmed 18 human H7N9 cases since August.


China reports 11th vaccine-related infant death

Health authorities in northwest China’s Gansu Province said late Friday that they are investigating a new infant death linked to hepatitis B vaccination, the 11th such case in the country since November.

A baby in the provincial capital of Lanzhou died after receiving the vaccination manufactured by the Dalian Hissen Bio-Pharm Inc., a major supplier of free hepatitis B vaccine, the Gansu Provincial Health and Family Planning Committee said in a statement.

The infant’s body had been buried, but doctors said they cannot rule out vaccination as the cause of the infant’s death.

Further investigation is under way.

Also Friday, health authorities in east China’s Yongjia County, Zhejiang Province reported that a two-month-old boy died one day after receiving a hepatitis B shot on Dec. 20. The vaccine was also produced by the Dalian Hissen Bio-Pharm Inc.

The parents of the boy are from central China’s Hubei Province. They had a fight after the baby’s death and buried the boy without reporting the case, according to an initial investigation.

The parents agreed on an autopsy of the boy on Friday. The result will out after a month, according to authorities.

Previously, nine infants have died following hepatitis B vaccination since November, including four in south China’s Guangdong Province, three in central Hunan Province, and two in southwestern Sichuan Province.

Of the nine fatalities, the majority came after use of vaccines made by BioKangtai from Shenzhen, Guangdong. Two of them died after receiving vaccines from the Beijing Tiantan


Foundation expands aid to kids


The China Foundation for Disabled Persons (CFDP) is expanding its assistance to children with cerebral palsy (CP) by establishing a special “DeerKids” relief fund in Beijing on Friday.


DeerKids plans to fund at least 20 poverty-stricken families with children suffering from the mental illness each year. Under these new guidelines, every such child will receive 4,000 yuan (US$654) every month to help with their medical expenses and living allowances.


The fund’s initiator, Ms. Jia Li, said her daughter’s recovery from CP has prompted her into launching the fund in alliance with CFDP so that “more poverty-stricken families with CP children to will feel the warmth of sunshine.”


“A cerebral palsy child will cause the family [to pay] a medical bill between 3,000 and 7,000 yuan (US$494-1,153) each month, meaning at least 500,000 yuan (US$82,388) throughout the child lifetime – an extremely heavy financial burden for any normal family, let alone those struggling to make ends meet,” said Jia, whose donation of 5 million yuan (US$823,723) will set the relief fund into motion.


Some 6 million people in China are suffering from CP, including 2 million aged between zero and two. This figure is set to increase by 40,000 to 50,000 each year, given CP’s incidence rate of 5 in 1000, with around 10 million newborn babies each year.


Around 70 percent of people with CP in China have failed to treat the illness in its early stages and consequently missed out on the best rehabilitation opportunities, according to Ms. Fei Wei, deputy chairperson of CFDP.


Aside from financial assistance, DeerKids aims to promote a rehabilitation therapy measure, one that combines modern sports medicine and traditional Chinese medicine massage techniques. The therapy, established by Dr. Li Yuguang, is exempted from any surgical procedures or medication, yet consists of a 100 percent physical treatment.


Dr. Li has reportedly treated more than 1,000 patients, among whom more than 95 percent have effectively recovered. Jia’s daughter was one of them.


“Rehabilitation for a CP child is a long process with the best treat opportunity starting from the sixth month after birth. If treated well and timely, some CP children are able to rehabilitate to healthy people,” he said.


Many children suffering from CP do not show clear signs of the disease until much later, one reason why their parents often fail to get them proper treatment in a timely manner, said Dr. Li.



New H7N9 case reported in Guangzhou

South China’s Guangdong Province reported a new human H7N9 case on Thursday, raising the total number of H7N9 cases in the province to six since August.

The new patient is a 38-year-old resident surnamed Ou in Shenzhen city, according to the provincial health authority.

Ou showed symptons of fever and cough on Dec.9 and went to a clinic in Nanling village of Longgang District.

On Dec. 17, a sample from the patient tested positive for the H7N9 avian influenza virus at the Shenzhen disease control and prevention center, and the results were confimed by provincial authorities one day later.

The patient is receiving treatment at the Shenzhen No. 3 People’s Hospital and is in critical condition.

So far, Guangdong has confirmed six human H7N9 cases since Aug. 10, with two in Dongguan, two in Yangjiang, one in Huizhou and one in Shenzhen. The province’s first case, a 51-year-old woman in Huizhou, recovered in September after being treated in a hospital for more than one month.


New health law may allow traditional Chinese doctors to practice in Hungary

traditional chinese medicine doctor

Hungary’s parliament amended the Health Act on Tuesday, opening the way for the Ministry of Human Resources to issue a decree that would allow doctors of traditional Chinese medicine to obtain permits to practice.

Until now the Ministry of Human Resources, which is responsible for the functioning of the national healthcare, was obliged to require that all medical practitioners have degrees equivalent to Hungarian ones.

If and when the ministry issues the decree, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who have certificates from schools requiring at least five years of university-level study and who can prove that they have not been banned from practicing at home or in the last country where they worked will be able to apply for permits to practice in Hungary.

The new law authorizes the Scientific Council on Health to issue the permits. The degrees would not have to be recognized as equivalent to Hungarian diplomas since the law recognizes that Hungary has no equivalent to traditional Chinese medicine.

Thirteen permits to practice traditional Chinese medicine were granted in Hungary in 2003 when Peter Medgyessy was prime minister, but none have been issued since because of the equivalency requirement, which the new law now allows the ministry to bypass for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.

Yu Funian, Chair of the Hungarian Traditional Chinese Medicine Association, is one of the thirteen doctors who got permits to practice traditional Chinese medicine in Hungary. He told Xinhua that he was very glad and pleasantly surprised by the Parliament’s decision. He said that this is an affirmation of the work done by all the practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in Hungary.

Lajos Olah, a Member of Parliament, told Xinhua that the legislative proposal relating to traditional Chinese medicine was supported by the ruling and opposition parties. Traditional Chinese medicine is part of the Chinese culture, and in this area Hungary’s “Eastern opening” policy should also be involved,he added.


TCM should “learn rules”

An expert in China’s natural health products has one crucial suggestion for traditional Chinese medicine-makers interested in selling their products in the United States: Know the rules.

Though TCM is slowly gaining acceptance in the US, most remedies are sold as over-the-counter herbal supplements. Experts at the First China (Guizhou) International TCM Seminar on Tuesday in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, said familiarity with US Food and Drug Administration regulations will help Chinese TCM companies sell their products in the US.

“The FDA has very specific regulations on the ingredients of dietary supplements, especially for TCM, due to the fact that most of the ingredients are herbs and some of them are controversial in the US,” said Jeff Crowther, executive director of the US-China Health Products Association, a nonprofit organization that helps its members with their businesses in US and Chinese markets.

Crowther said customers in the US generally don’t approve of traditional Chinese medicines and that TCM companies that have been successful in the US are those that sell ingredients rather than packaged TCM products.

“The only time a US citizen will take Chinese medicine is if they go to a Chinese-medicine doctor and the doctor tells them to take these herbs. Then they will take them,” he said. “But if it’s presented as a dietary supplement — for example, some very successful, well-known US companies can take some ingredients like licorice — and put it in a capsule for nutrition — people will buy it.”

He said sales of dietary supplements in the US in 2012 were more than $32.4 billion, of which herbs and botanicals accounted for 19 percent.

He said Chinese companies should get legal consultation to learn more about FDA regulations before doing business in the US.

“Companies that are successful have staff from the US or (they have) Chinese that have lived in the US. They really understand the legal system,” said Crowther. “If a company wants to enter the US market, it should hire a US consultant or someone who understands how to navigate the system.”

Nevertheless, TCM is gaining in acceptance in the US, said Huang Lixin, president of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is based in San Francisco.

“Among the 50 states, 43 have passed legislation and regard TCM acupuncture as a legal method of treatment,” she said.

Australia is also warming to TCM, said Lin Ziqiang, vice-president of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies.

“Victoria was the first state in Australia to recognize the legal status of a TCM doctor in 2000. By 2012 all the states in the country had given TCM doctors legal status. Now in Australia, licensed TCM practitioners are regarded as doctors like modern medicine practitioners,” he said.

Lin said there are about 4,000 doctors in Australia who have been licensed and are allowed to treat people using traditional Chinese methods and to prescribe traditional Chinese medicines.

One major challenge in the country, however, is the quality of TCM ingredients and products.

“Problems, such as high amounts of heavy metal and pesticides, seriously hinder the development of TCM. TCM companies haven’t set aside money to conduct rigorous studies to develop a kind of medicine that is accepted by the West,” he said.