Calls for investigation into claims of ‘vetting’ for submissions to hospital chemotherapy inquiry

The report could not find a compelling reason to explain Dr John Grygiel’s decision to flat dose his patents. Photo: SuppliedThe clerk of the NSW parliament has been asked to investigate claims health department employees were required to get approval from senior bureaucrats before making submissions to an inquiry into under-dosing of chemotherapy patients at Sydney hospitals.
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MPs have asked the clerk to investigate whether the inquiry into the widening under-dosing affair has been stymied after a claim was made that employees in eight south-eastern Sydney hospitals were told to secure approval from the health district’s CEO and the department before submitting statements.

One Greens MP has accused the health minister Jillian Skinner of “vetting” witnesses to the inquiry into the widening scandal that has dogged the Baird government since news first broke in February.

A spokeswoman for the health ministry said that employees were allowed to make statements on their “own behalf” but the health department’s code of conduct meant they could only provide official comment on health matters when authorised.

Ms Skinner declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to local authorities and the department.

“Minister Skinner should say why she is trying to cover up this massive scandal at every turn,” Greens health spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said. “First the minister intervened to stop a special commission of inquiry and now it seems she is vetting witnesses”.

Fairfax understands the inquiry has heard evidence from a range of witnesses who have questioned how allegations of under-dosing could have been unnoticed by hospital staff.

Allegations of under-dosing of chemotherapy patients of Dr John Grygiel at St Vincents Hospital were the subject of a scathing report from the head of the Cancer Institute, Dr David Currow.

News initially broke that treatment of up to 70 of Dr Grygiel’s St Vincents patients was being questioned.

But MPs have said that number could hit 300 when Dr Grygiel’s patients across central-western NSW hospitals over past decades were accounted for.

Patients were found to have been given “flat” or “reduced” doses of carboplatin, or the oral chemo drug capecitabine, according to the Currow Report.

At a press conference given by the minister in August, she updated the media on allegations of under-dosing at another hospital, said to have been revealed by a nurse.

Ms Skinner then said there was no reason to believe that hospital employees would be discouraged from, or punished, for speaking out about problems in the health system.

“I have a great deal of admiration for the nurses who spoke out. I think we have a greater deal of transparency and openness now than ever before,” she said. “If it can improve patient care then they should speak out […] I believe that they have an obligation so to do”.

It was alleged by the health department that another doctor, Dr Kiran Phadke, of Sutherland Hospital, part of the south-eastern local health district, had dispensed “off protocol” treatments to three patients.

Dr Phadke recently spoke out about the allegations, claiming he had been “publicly vilified” and “cast adrift” by the health ministry without being given a chance to defend himself.

Submissions to the inquiry closed in the last week and have been sent to members of the committee today.

The inquiry is due to report its findings by March.

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Fanning receives hot civic reception

RELAXED: Bernard Fanning appeared at ease with his audience and even enjoyed a cheeky State of Origin barb. “I love you Bernard.” It seemed to be called out incessantly, almost to the point of annoyance, when the former Powderfinger frontman returned to the ornate surrounds of Newcastle’s Civic Theatre.
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There was certainly a lot of love in the room for Bernard Fanning. After all, he is the voice behindthe biggest Australianbandof the last 20 years.

Fanning live is an entirely different beast to Powderfinger. Less grunt and more tenderness. More country-infused balladry and less rock theatrics.

Perhaps it’s his 47 years, perhaps its fatherhood, but Fanning appearedcomfortable in his own skin on stage. Where he was once slightly awkward while delivering stage banter, at the Civic Theatre he was chatty, relaxed and extremely amusing.

Before even playing a note he began a conversation with “Newie” and it continued throughout the evening. At one point hisrant about the lack of political vision in Australia when introducing the trackBelly Of The Beastmight have becometoo long-winded for some, but the exchange was rescued by Fanning’s wit.

“How does it feel Newcastle knowing youhave the fifth best rugby league player of all time?” he asked cheekily.“There’s Wally Lewis, Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Alfie [Allan] Langer and then Andrew Johns.” It attractedthe only boos of the night.

The 19-song set drew heavily from Fanning’s latest and third solo albumCivil Dusk. On the record some songs veer intomiddle-of-the road territory, but live they breathed with life.

The openingUnpicking A Puzzleshowed off the beautiful fragility of Fanning’s voice,Sooner Or Laterbounced along with country charm and lead singleWasting Timehad added punch.

Fanning introduced his backing band the Black Fins as the “greatest” in the world. That suggestion was a stretch, but there was no doubting their quality.

Keyboardist Sally Campbell performed one of the night’s highlights with her blazing violin solo onThrill Is Gone.

The Black Fins also included the Wilson Pickers’Andrew Morris and John Bedgood, and the former took lead vocals onthe cover onthe Steve Miller Band’sJet Airliner.

Fanning’s 2013 albumDepartureswas mostly avoided, bar the folksy title track, with the remainder of the set focused on his wildly-popular 2005 debutTea & Sympathy.

We heardSongbird,Not Finished Just Yet, Fanning solo on piano forWatch Over Meand his biggest hitWish You Well, which had people up and dancing for the only time throughout the show.

Fanning has always been keen to separate with solo work from Powderfinger, and that continued.

Sail The Wildest Stretchwas an interesting choice given it’s one of Powderfinger’slesser-known singles from their last albumGolden Rule, but Fanning did it justice alone on acoustic guitar “like Ifirst presented it to the band.”

Arguably Powderfinger’s most popular song, the ultimate mid-life crisis anthemThese Days, closed the show, before segueing in the Prince classicPurple Rain.

Fanning’s enduring appeal may be based on past glories, but he proved on Friday night he remains one of the greatest performers and voices in Australian music. Bernie’s here to stay.

Melbourne Victory fan group North Terrace withdraw support

Passionate Melbourne Victory fans in December last year. Photo: Quinn Rooney Victory fans have previously walked out during a match in protest of the league’s treatment of fans.
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Fan group North Terrace will stop actively supporting Melbourne Victory, but has not made a clear statement as to what has prompted its latest protest.

Victory will play Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Tuesday night, but as North Terrace organisers posted on their Facebook page, the group will not have a presence in the stands.

The club’s administrators said they were incredibly disappointed by the decision.

A post on the North Terrace Facebook page said that it would stop operating due to the “unworkable circumstances” present at Melbourne Victory matches in Victoria.

“All fans wishing to continue to support within the designated active areas will not be aligned with the North Terrace identity. All materials and leadership will not be present at future matches. OUR WAY.”

It is thought that the Terrace’s grievances were not with Victory, rather with policing and security at and around matches.

It is not the first time North Terrace has attempted to make a statement about the problems it sees with the treatment of A-League fans.

Last last year, about 1000 supporters left Docklands Stadium half an hour into Victory’s match against Adelaide United, a protest against what they saw as the FFA’s overly harsh treatment of supporters banned from matches.

In a statement, Melbourne Victory administrators said the club was not notified of North Terrace’s decision to cease operations, despite both parties having agreed to keep communicating throughout the season.

“The club is incredibly disappointed to be advised that those currently representing the North Terrace are proposing to cease coordinated support at the North End in future matches,” it read.

“The timing is also alarming on the eve of a derby. To be clear, we will not change our stance of zero tolerance on anti-social behaviour. There is no place for it at our club or in our game.

“As a club, we are fully committed to ensuring our active areas will always be vibrant, safe and enjoyable, creating a unique and inclusive atmosphere.”

Fairfax Media has attempted to contact North Terrace.

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Census debacle laid bare: Malcolm Turnbull to decide which heads will roll

Malcolm Turnbull has the report on the collapse of the census website. Photo: Andrew Meares ABS chief David Kalisch appears before the economics references committee. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon: “They were indeed small attacks.” Photo: Andrew Meares

The Prime Minister’s special adviser on cyber security has told the Senate the denial of service attacks on the census website were small and predictable and should not have brought it down on census night.

Malcolm Turnbull now has the report Alastair MacGibbon conducted on behalf of the Prime Minister to determine “which heads will roll and when” as a result of the debacle.

“They were indeed small attacks,” Mr MacGibbon told a Senate committee on Tuesday. “The attacks were around three gigabits per second. To have some comparison, it’s not uncommon now to see attacks of 100 gigabits per second, and some of the attacks against some of the internet infrastructure such as domain name servers are up to 1000 gigabits per second.

“There was a massive difference between the size of the attacks on the Bureau of Statistics’ census website and the ones that are encountered routinely by corporations and governments.”

While the bureau had contracted IBM to defend its sites against attacks, its behaviour after awarding the contract was similar to that of a homeowner who employed a builder but then rarely went on site to check how work was progressing, he said.

The bureau’s back-up plan to protect the site if denial of service attacks couldn’t be overcome was logically flawed.

Labelled “Island Australia”, it was to ask IBM to block traffic from overseas. But the password reset facility IBM used was hosted offshore and relied on traffic coming in from overseas to give Australians that password, suggesting it hadn’t been properly thought through.

Larger failures were that IBM was unable to implement Island Australia in any event and that ABS staff misread a report they thought suggested census data could have been leaving the system as a result of hacking and decided to shut the system down.

IBM was for many hours unable to restart it because it had incorrectly coded a router connecting to Telstra, so that when it was turned off the coding “fell out”, turning it into a “dumb unit” that had to be recoded.

Had the router been turned off and then turned on again as a test, the error would have been discovered.

“Had the router been properly configured, and had the router when it had been turned off fired back up again, then we wouldn’t have a problem,” Mr MacGibbon said. “But the most significant problem was really the misinterpretation of the traffic on the load monitoring system. We wouldn’t have had the problem if the people monitoring the system had properly monitored the system, which was functioning oddly.”

Millions of Australians were unable to complete the census on census night as a result of the shutdown and were locked out of the site for two days.

Mr MacGibbon delivered his report to Mr Turnbull on October 14.

IBM Australia managing director Kerry Purcell told the hearing no IBM staff had been dismissed as a result of the failure of the census website and none had been disciplined.

IBM had offered to pay the extra costs the ABS incurred as a result of the outage, estimated by the ABS to be $30 million. It is in “commercial negotiations” with Secretary of the Treasury John Fraser.

Mr MacGibbon also criticised the closeness of the bureau to IBM, saying there was a degree of “vendor lock-in”, where the ABS saw IBM as a natural partner because it had worked with it in the past.

A representative of Capability Driven Acquisition, the company that advised the ABS on hiring IBM, said several other potential bidders had told it there was little point in competing against IBM because it would win the contract.

The bureau’s chief, David Kalisch, told the committee he would have considered an open tender had “IBM not been able to satisfy the ABS that it could deliver”.

One of many “learnings” the bureau had taken from the experience was that it might be worthwhile running the next census in-house and that the slogan “Get Online on August 9” may have contributed to the problem.

Mr Kalisch defended the bureau’s decision to retain the names submitted with this year’s census and revealed that in the past no one who declined to submit their name had ever been prosecuted.

A former head of the bureau, Bill McLennan, told the the hearing that in his time the bureau had received legal advice telling it that it lacked the power to compel people to provide names.

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Pokie payouts a ‘myth’: landmark legal action

The 85 per cent return figure is calculated over the lifetime of a machine. Photo: Erin JonassonAustralia’s voracious gaming machines are facing a landmark legal test, with a former pokie addict set to challenge the industry’s assurance that players are returned a minimum 85 per cent of their stake.
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In the Federal Court on Wednesday, Adelaide-based lead applicant Shonica Guy will seek a declaration against industry giants Crown casino and pokie manufacturer Aristocrat that the machines she played for 14 years were misleading and deceptive.

In September, Fairfax Media revealed details of Ms Guy’s claim that the popular Dolphin Treasure machine was designed to mislead players. This included an uneven spread of symbols needed to win across the game’s five “reels” and the disguising of losses as wins through images and sound.

But in an updated claim, Ms Guy will also argue that information to players provided on machines is deceptive, notably the assurance that players will get a “theoretical” return of 85 per cent (the figure varies by state and by machine).

The 85 per cent return figure is calculated over the lifetime of a machine and includes jackpots that occasional players rarely win.

Prominent Melbourne-based law firm Maurice Blackburn is representing Ms Guy. Principal Jacob Varghese slammed the 85 per cent advice to players as  a “myth” based on the average return from a single spin.

Ms Guy’s team will claim that, contrary to federal consumer law, players are tricked into believing that if they enter a pokies venue with $100 they will leave hours later with $85.

But because 15 per cent on average is lost each game, the return cumulatively diminishes, with average players losing $5 every minute and $10 in five minutes.

“So if you put money into the machine and have multiple spins, you likely will be left with nothing,” said Mr Varghese. He said that to be confident of an 85 per cent return a player would have to have unlimited funds and use a machine for its lifetime.

Mr Varghese said the case was the first to focus on the effects of poker machine design on the prospects of winning. If successful it would have ramifications for the design of all pokie machines across the industry.

The case centres on the Dolphin Treasure machine and the claim the machine is designed – including in its reels and symbols – to make winning far more difficult than it appears to players,

Ms Guy said the machines took over her life for 14 years. “I do not want that to happen to another family.

“People deserve to know what is going on with the design of these machines, which deliberately give people false hope that they have a chance of winning to keep them playing. It is wrong, and it has to stop,” she said.

The legal action is being supported by the Alliance for Gambling Reform and backed up with analysis by researchers at Monash University.

Australians lose more than $11 billion on pokies each year. Some $2.5 billion is lost in Victoria alone, with $1 billion flowing to state coffers through taxes. Crown has a licence to operate 2628 poker machines.

Pokies manufacturer Aristocrat did not comment on Tuesday but has previously said it would “vigorously” defend any legal action.

It has said it “emphatically rejects” that its games are designed to encourage problem gambling or do not comply “with all relevant regulations and laws”.

In a brief written statement a spokeswoman  for Crown in Melbourne said it would also defend any claim.

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Canberra Raiders prop Junior Paulo ready for boxing rumble with Paul Gallen

Junior Paulo has impressed ringside observers of his boxing training. Photo: Jay CronanCanberra behemoth Junior Paulo is looming as the most likely opponent for Paul Gallen as some of the biggest names in rugby league prepare to take their rivalries into the boxing ring.
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The identity of Gallen’s foe for the upcoming footy charity fight night has been a heavily guarded secret. But it’s understood the forward enforcers will be the headline act in a series of bouts between NRL stars in Sydney on December 8.

Paulo and Gallen almost crossed paths a month ago when the Raiders met the Sharks in the opening week of the final series. The Cronulla captain had to sit out that encounter due to injury, instead watching on as his side won the match en route to their maiden premiership victory.

Paulo, considered one of the most intimidating forwards in the game, will have a chance to earn payback for the Green Machine when he laces up for his boxing debut. There is already bad blood between supporters of the teams after Canberra coach Ricky Stuart took exception to veteran hooker Michael Ennis’ mocking of the popular “Viking clap”.

Gallen will likely go into the encounter as the favourite after emerging undefeated from five professional bouts. The most recent was a technical knockout of Herman Ene Purcell in Toowoomba, Gallen’s second win over the Queensland bouncer.

While Gallen sees Paulo as a stepping stone towards his ultimate ambition of stepping into the ring against Sonny Bill Williams, those in the Paulo camp are confident of his chances. The former Parramatta prop has been training for the fight in recent weeks and those overseeing his preparation have been amazed by his power and agility.

Gallen has retired from State of Origin football, opening up a vacancy in the NSW forward pack. Paulo could become a contender to replace him in the Blues engine room if he can continue his rapid rise in the nation’s capital.

Paulo earned notoriety for a series of off-field incidents this year. The 22-year-old made headlines after donning headgear and secretly running out for Oatley third grade rugby. The Samoan international was also one of several NRL stars to be issued with a consorting notice for associating with criminals.

Parramatta forward Peni Terepo and former Eels halfback Chris Sandow are expected to be part of the footy fight card, although their opponents are yet to be confirmed.

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Australian Boomers star Patty Mills puts Spurs culture and NBA dreams ahead of contract talks

Patrick Mills will put NBA championship dreams ahead of his individual contract ambitions as he prepares for one of the biggest seasons in his eight-year career in the world’s best league.
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The Canberra basketballer will join the San Antonio Spurs on the road for their season-opener against the all-star Golden State Warriors on Wednesday afternoon (AEDT).

It’s the start of a huge campaign for Mills as the three-time Olympian readies himself for free agency at the end of the year and the Spurs play for the first time in 19 years without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.

Challenges don’t come much bigger than taking on the Warriors at their home fortress in Oakland with Kevin Durant teaming up with Steph Curry for the first time as an NBA power couple.

But Mills has narrowed his focus to becoming a leader for San Antonio, declaring “I will play my heart out for the Spurs” this year as he chases a second NBA title.

“I want to accomplish more and achieve more,” Mills told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“Playing against the Warriors is not a bad way to kick things off … it’s pretty exciting to think that the season is already here.

“We haven’t looked too much at anyone else in the league at the moment because we’ve got our own growing plans for us to develop. It’s come around so quickly and playing against [Curry and Durant] is a good way to test ourselves.”

Mills will spearhead an impressive cast of Australians in the NBA this year, with No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons set to make an impact, Dante Exum coming back from injury, Andrew Bogut testing himself at a new team and Matthew Dellavedova starting a $US30 million contract in Milwaukee.

Mills has established himself as a significant role player on the Spurs roster but is still keen to leave a bigger mark on the league as he works with Tony Parker in the point guard job.

The former Canberra Marist College student has a burning ambition to become a starting point guard in the world’s toughest competition and a strong season will increase his bargaining power next year.

Mills is nearing the end of his $12 million, three-year deal with the Spurs, but he says he will bury contract speculation at the back of his mind to concentrate on a title bid.

“I can’t control anything about next year or beyond that at all, so for me it’s about focusing on this season,” Mills said.

“I’ll go about this year the same way I would for any other year and cross the bridge of all of the contract stuff when it’s all over.

“It’s not something that will affect me on or off the court. It’s just another year and another opportunity to get back to the finals, it’s not different on my end.”

Mills made his NBA debut in 2009 and has played 361 games with the Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers.

He has also been the Australian Boomers inspirational leader, taking charge of their Rio Olympic Games campaign earlier this year before suffering personal and team heartbreak in the dying seconds of a bronze-medal match.

Mills was intent on guiding the Boomers to their first medal at an Olympics and was on track against Spain when the referees controversially called a foul against him with 5.4 seconds left in the game.

Spain iced the free throws and won the match by one point. But Mills’ classy reaction spoke volumes for his character and now he wants to transfer the Olympic passion into the Spurs’ season.

Mills sees one of his major roles as stepping up as a leader to carry on the Spurs legacy after the retirement of five-time champion Duncan.

“The Olympics still stings and burns and I think it will linger for a while, but at the same time it adds a bit more fuel to the fire,” Mills said.

“What happened at the Olympics will hurt for a long while, but I’ve learnt you’ve got to use those experiences to motivate you to get better. In the long run I truly believe it will pay off if you handle it the right way.

“I’m going into my sixth season with the Spurs and the way I feel about playing for them and for the city, I’ve become to understand what it means to be a Spur.

“It’s very similar to the passion and pride I have for playing for Australia. That’s the growth I’ve had being in San Antonio, that contributes to the fun and the passion. I want to play my heart out for the Spurs.

“I want to establish myself more as a leader in this Spurs culture to get everyone to buy in. A championship goal goes without saying, it has to be our goal.”

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Teenager approached in Morpeth

Police are appealing for information after a girl was approached at Morpeththis week.
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About 5.30pm on Monday, October 24, police were told two men approached a 13-year-old girl at the Morpeth boat ramp and asked her to come over to their vehicle.

The girl ignored the men and walked away towards Swan Street. The men got into a silver-coloured single-cab utility, drove ahead of the girl and parked.

One man got out and approached the girl again before the girl asked a passer-by for help. The two men then left the scene in their vehicle.

Police from Central Hunter Local Area Command were notified of the incident and have started inquiries.

Investigators would like to speak with two men who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

The passenger in the vehicle is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 20 years old with short brown hair and had his left ear pierced with a spacer. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt.

The driver of the vehicle is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 20 years old with short blonde hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a brown shirt.

Anyone with information is urged to come forward and contact Maitland Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Meanwhile, the incident has again prompted police to encourage parents to discuss the ‘Safe People, Safe Places’ messages with their children, including;

Make sure your parents or another adult you know knows where you are at all times.Always walk straight home or to the place you are walking to. Walk near busier roads and streets, or use paths where there are lots of other people.Know where safe places are – a shop, service station, police station, library or school. If you are ever frightened, you should go to one of these places and ask them to call the police.Learn about safe adults you can look for and talk to if you need help – police officers, teachers at school, adults you know and trust.Don’t talk to people you don’t know and never get into a car with someone you don’t know. If a car stops on the side of the road and you don’t know the person inside, do not stop.If you are scared and can use a phone, call 000 and tell them you are scared.If someone tries to grab you, yell out, ‘Go away, I don’t know you’. This lets other people know you have been approached by someone you don’t know.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Labor push to protect ICAC public hearings

ICAC chief Megan Latham opposes a move to a three-member commission. Photo: Daniel MunozA push to require the unanimous agreement of three commissioners of the NSW corruption watchdog before public hearings can be held is set to be opposed by Labor, amid fears it will lead to more inquiries conducted in secret.
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On Tuesday, Fairfax Media revealed a draft report by the oversight committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption recommended a single commissioner be replaced with a three-member commission.

The report says any decision to hold public hearings during a corruption inquiry should require unanimous agreement of the commissioners.

The committee, chaired by Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, is considering a report on the watchdog’s powers by Inspector of the ICAC, David Levine, handed to Premier Mike Baird in May.

The committee’s draft report rejects a call by Mr Levine to scrap public hearings at the ICAC “to prevent the undeserved trashing of reputations”.

But it says introducing a three-member commission and requiring unanimous agreement before public hearings are held would “balance” Mr Levine’s concerns.

However, it is understood Labor members of the oversight committee will press in a meeting on Wednesday to allow public hearings if only two commissioners agree.

The government controls the 11-member committee, but Labor MPs led by shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch are expected to argue for the change in order to achieve a consensus final report.

At a committee hearing last month, ICAC commissioner Megan Latham spoke against a move to a three-member commission, which was proposed in a submission by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Ms Latham warned it would would increase costs and leave “a couple of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs”.

Former ICAC commissioner David Ipp described it as “an unnecessarily expensive and top-heavy absurdity”.

The draft report proposes a chief commissioner be appointed for five years and two other commissioners on a part-time basis.

It recommends that all commissioners be appointed by the NSW governor on the recommendation of the government and that the oversight committee retain the power of veto.

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East coast meat allergy phenomenon linked to tick bites

Janelle Williams has a mammalian meat allergy, which she developed after a tick bite. Photo: Nick MoirJanelle Williams knew nothing about allergies or anaphylaxis when she walked into her doctor’s practice five years ago, covered in hives, eyes swollen shut and struggling to breathe.
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She certainly didn’t connect her predicament to the meat she had eaten the night before or the ticks that had bitten her in the grass around her Freshwater home.

The surgery was in panic mode, her GP was yelling for somebody to call an ambulance, and she wondered briefly who was in trouble.

Then she realised it was her.

“I’d never had an allergic reaction before, no hay fever, nothing,” Ms Williams said.

“I was totally naive when I started having breathing problems how quickly it could escalate to your throat closing.”

An allergy test six weeks later would reveal an insidious culprit in mammalian meat, which extended not just to beef, lamb and pork, but products made with animal products such as dairy, wine and fruit juice, as well as gel tablets, toothpaste, bandaids and tampons.

“There’s just a whole range – you have no idea. I had to basically clean out my entire house.”

Two months ago, she went into anaphylaxis after breathing in the fumes of beef served in a plane.

Mammalian meat is one of many strange allergens that have surfaced in recent decades, but its even more bizarre trigger – tick bites – could hold the key to a cure.

Mammalian meat allergy has become more common since it was first reported in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2007, and nowhere more so than the eastern seaboard of Australia.

In the tick endemic areas of the Sydney basin it is a more common food allergy than peanut allergy, with one in 550 people developing the condition in the northern metropolitan region.

Tick-induced Allergies Research and Awareness Centre immunologist Sheryl van Nunen made the connection between ticks and meat after noticing a trend of people admitted to hospital overnight with anaphylaxis, who developed reactions to the molecule alpha-gal in prick tests and had recently been bitten by the parasite.

She hopes that the cause-and-effect relationship between tick bites and a meat allergy could hold valuable clues to the causes of allergies generally.

“There’s no other allergy as far as food goes where we know why you became allergic to it,” Associate Professor van Nunen said.

“So we’ve got an unparalleled opportunity for both primary and secondary prevention of mammalian meat allergy.”

Alpha-gal is a combination sugar molecule found in all mammals apart from humans and old apes, but it is harmless when introduced orally because people have learnt to be tolerant to it.

But when it is injected into a human with the saliva of a tick that has picked it up from a mammal such as a deer, kangaroo or bandicoot, the body detects it as a foreign substance.

In some people, this process seems to reprogram their immune systems to detect the alpha-gal as an enemy the next time they meet it at the end of their fork.

Some research has shown that the number of bandicoot sightings has increased since fox baiting was permitted in 2003, which Associate Professor van Nunen points out was around the time that meat allergy started to be notified.

Some people lose the allergy after a few years if they have no further tick bites, but in others it appears to get worse.

The best prevention is to wear long clothes and insect repellent and avoid being bitten at all. If you are bitten, the tick should be removed with wart freeze rather than disturbed, which is when it releases its saliva.

It should not be squeezed or removed with tweezers, Associate Professor van Nunen said.

Shelley Peat’s daughter, Ella Bennett, was one of the first people in whom meat allergy was linked to tick bites.

Now 16, she developed the allergy when she was four, while attending a preschool on the northern beaches where ticks were plentiful.

“The last time she went to that preschool she would have had 100 ticks on her body,” Ms Peat said.

“I told the preschool they needed to do something about it and they said, ‘Oh, we’ve got lavender around the property’.”

Recently Ella’s allergy seemed to worsen – she has developed a reaction to barbecue fumes – but it has reduced in Ms Peat’s son, Kobi Bennett, 14, who thinks he is now clear.

“But he’s unwilling to have a bite of bacon.”

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