Probe sheds light on Italy childbirth deaths

Italy's health ministry said on Tuesday that probes into a spate of women dying in childbirth had uncovered issues in the handling of three fatal cases, but stopped short of suggesting lives might have been saved.

Probe sheds light on Italy childbirth deaths
Probes into a spate of women dying in childbirth had uncovered issues in the handling of three fatal cases. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Italy, which has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, suffered five deaths in seven days between December 25th and 31st.

That led some doctors to suggest staff shortages and cutbacks were endangering patients lives over the holiday period.

Leading gynaecologists suggested some of the patients might have been saved through better screening of older and overweight pregnant women at risk of thrombosis or heart problems.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin ordered investigations into four of the five deaths, resulting in the preliminary report on Tuesday.

It said all appropriate procedures appeared to have been followed in the case of Angela Nesta, 39, who suffered a cardiac arrest leading to a still birth during her labour in a Turin clinic on December 29th.

In the other three cases, the report highlighted communication and organizational problems in the response to emergencies without suggesting that life-or-death mistakes had been made.

It talks of “some misalignment” in staff accounts of the treatment of 29-year-old Giovanna Lazzari, who died in a Brescia clinic on New Year's Eve, a day after arriving in its emergency unit eight months pregnant and showing symptoms of gastroenteritis.

In the case of Marta Lazzarin, who died in Bassano del Grappa in northeastern Italy on December 29th, the report said the hospital had not communicated clearly with her family about the level of risk she faced as a result of a bacterial infection.

It also allegedly failed to manage the patient's pain adequately.

But the report said antibiotics had been administered appropriately as soon as the possibility of a dangerous infection had been identified.

The report said the case of Anna Massignan, a 34-year-old doctor who died in a Verona hospital after an emergency caeseran on Christmas Day, raised several questions of an organizational and clinical nature.

The report suggests these may have impacted the speed with which a decision to order the surgery was made, but emphasised there was no preliminary indication a different outcome could have been achieved.

Doctors delivered Massignan's son alive but he died several hours later.

According to World Bank figures, Italy has had one of the ten lowest rates of maternal mortality for the last decade.

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Sweden records world’s first case of bird flu in a porpoise

A porpoise found stranded on a Swedish beach in June died of bird flu, the first time the virus has been detected in one of the marine mammals, Sweden's National Veterinary Institute said on Wednesday.

Sweden records world's first case of bird flu in a porpoise

“As far as we know this is the first confirmed case in the world of bird flu in a porpoise,” veterinarian Elina Thorsson said in a statement. “It is likely that the porpoise somehow came into contact with infected birds,” she said.

The young male was found stranded, alive, on a beach in western Sweden in late June. Despite efforts from the public to get it to swim out to deeper
waters, it was suffering from exhaustion and died the same evening.

The bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in several of its organs. “Contrary to seals, where illnesses caused by a flu virus have been detected multiple times, there have been only a handful of reports of flu virus in cetaceans”, Thorsson said.

The virus has also previously been detected in other mammals, including red foxes, otters, lynx and skunks, the institute said.

Europe and North America are currently seeing a vast outbreak of bird flu among wild birds.