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BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 28 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1030

As ever more airlines equip their aircraft with automatic defibrillators it seems reasonable to ask how common medical emergencies during flights are. Recent records from the nine airlines that carry 90% of the passengers in the United States gave a figure of 10 471 events in 580 million passengers in one year (JAMA 1998;279:738). These included only 433 episodes of chest pain and 2136 of faintness.

Since 1993 obstetricians in France have been legally obliged to offer HIV testing to all pregnant women, and a report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology(1998;105:269-74) says that 73% of those being delivered know their HIV status. A commentary in the journal (249-51) contrasts those results with the fact that in London only 16% of HIV positive women were known by their obstetricians to be HIV positive before delivery. In Sweden rates of voluntary antenatal testing of over 95% have been achieved. Different countries have been tackling the problem in different ways. The British approach doesn't seem much good.

Children in Africa like to defecate behind termite mounds; termites collect faeces; children who eat dirt often choose the surface crust of termite mounds. This all helps explain the finding (Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1998;92:7-11) that …

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