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The one week Myanmar Medical Conference is traditionally held from the third Thursday of January each year in Yangon. It was attended by more than a thousand doctors.

About 100 scientific papers were presented. Malaria, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, the ancient scourges of mankind, still hold centrestage. Three papers attracted our interest, namely that on the control of Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), liver abscess and hepatitis B vaccine development.

A five year study (1991-95) of age specific incidence rate of DHF per 100,000 population revealed that 16 out of 41 townships in Yangon had rates over 200. The cases in these 16 townships consistently accounted for more than two thirds of the total cases over the five years. Preventive measures have therefore focused on these townships in 1997. This paper reminded us of the recent outbreak of DHF in Singapore.

A paper presented on the experience in North Okalapo General Hospital revealed that amoebic liver abscess was five times more common than pyogenic abscess in a series of 35 patients. Surgical drainage plus medication gave more favourable outcomes in amoebic abscess more than 10 cm, while medical treatment was used in pyogenic abscess and amoebic abscess less than 5 cm diameter.

The paper on the manufacture of plasma-derived Hepatitis B vaccine in Yangon is an admirable example of how devoted doctors can make a difference. To mount a mass vaccination campaign against Hepatitis B involves spending millions of dollars to buy foreign made vaccines.

After the doctors obtained the patent and technology for production of the vaccine for free, trial batches of plasma-derived vaccines were produced. Chimpanzee studies were done in the New York Blood Centre. The World Health Organisation Collaborative Centre has now approved human trials which will soon lead to local mass production of safe and cheap vaccines to contain the menace of Hepatitis B and its sequalae.

         Cheong Pak Yuen