Saturday, November 9, 2013

Man woken from coma chooses to die

Timothy Bowers, now deceased. Timothy Bowers, now deceased. Source: Supplied

TIM Bowers loved the outdoors.

Hunting gave him the chance to reflect on a busy life that included a new wife, a successful business and a baby on the way.

Bowers was hunting for deer in the US state of Indiana on Saturday when he fell almost five metres from a tree and suffered a severe spinal injury that paralysed him from the shoulders down. Doctors thought he might never breathe on his own again.

Confronted with that prognosis, Bowers' family made an unusual request of Tim's doctors: Could he be brought out of sedation and told of his condition so he could decide for himself whether he wanted to live or die?

The doctors said yes, and Bowers made his choice.

"We just asked him, 'Do you want this?' And he shook his head emphatically no," his sister, Jenny Shultz, said.

US courts have long upheld the right of patients to refuse life support. The American Medical Association says competent adults can craft directives stating if or when they want such systems withdrawn or withheld.

But it's rare that a patient would get to make such a decision for himself. The heart-wrenching call to remove life support is more often left to family members. Even when a patient has outlined his wishes clearly, the decision can tear families apart.

Ms Shultz, who has been medically trained, understood the severity of her 32-year-old brother's injuries. His C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were crushed. Though his brain was not injured, his body was irreparably broken.

Surgery could fuse the vertebrae, but that would only allow Bowers to sit up. He would never walk or hold his baby. He might live the rest of his life in a rehabilitation hospital, relying on a machine to help him breathe.

Ms Shultz said her brother wanted to talk but couldn't because the ventilator tube was still in place. She told him they weren't sure how long he would live if the tube were removed.

But when she asked whether he wanted the tube reinserted if he was struggling, he shook his head no.

Doctors asked Bowers the same questions and got the same answer. So the tube was removed on Sunday.

The last five hours of Tim Bowers' life were spent with family and friends, about 75 of whom gathered in the hospital waiting room. They prayed and sang songs.

Through it all, Ms Shultz said, her brother never wavered in his decision to die.

"I just remember him saying so many times that he loved us all and that he lived a great life," she said. "At one point he was saying, 'I'm ready. I'm ready.'"

Medical ethicists say it's rare for patients to decide on the spot to be removed from life support, especially so soon after an injury. But standard medical practice is to grant more autonomy to patients, and courts have upheld their rights to decide on end-of-life care.

Patients often change their minds after they've had time to meet with "spiritual advisers" and family, said Art Caplan, director of the medical ethics program at New York University's Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Dr Paul Helft, director of the Charles Warren Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics in Indianapolis, said cases in which the patient makes the decision usually involve a debilitating illness such as Lou Gehrig's disease, which compromises the patient's body but leaves the mind intact.

Dr Helft said patients have been legally and ethically permitted to make their own decisions on life support for several decades, due in part to court cases and the evolution of the practice of medicine, which places more emphasis on patients' rights.

"We give patients autonomy to make all kinds of decisions about themselves," he said. "We've recognised that it's important that patients have the right to self-determination."

Ms Shultz said her family had an idea of what her brother would want because he had previously talked with his wife, Abbey, about never wanting to spend his life in a wheelchair.

She knows not everyone would make the same call. But she's thankful her brother was able to make his own decision.

"No outcome was ever going to be the one that we really want, but I felt that he did it on his terms in the end," she said.

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Five mysterious cases that gripped the world

Detectives in Ireland have identified a mystery girl who turned up in Dublin and are working with Australia.

The mysterious people who appear from nowhere Police in Dublin have identified the mystery girl found wandering the streets in a distressed state. Source: Supplied

A MONTH ago a woman was found wandering the streets of Dublin, dazed and confused.

She appeared mute and as her image was released to the globe, speculation was rife about who the mystery woman could be.

After mass speculation, she was identified as 25-year-old Australian Samantha Azzopardi.

As more details emerge about her troubled life, we take a look back at some of the other mysterious cases that have gripped the world.

The Piano Man The scared face of The Piano Man. The scared face of The Piano Man. Source: Supplied

A German man was found wandering the streets of Kent, England in 2005. He refused to speak, instead communicating through drawing and playing the piano. As intrigue increased across the world, he was dubbed The Piano Man.

He was discovered by police in a saturated business suit and tie. He refused to answer questions, so hospital staff left him with a pen and paper with the hope he would write down his name. Instead, the man drew a detailed picture of a grand piano.

The staff brought him a piano and for hours he sat and played music from a range of genres.

In the hope of tracing his identity, orchestras across Europe were contacted and his photo was posted on a missing persons' website.

As hype increased, numerous theories circulated.

One was that he was a French busker called Steven Villa Masson. This theory was dismissed by The Independent after they tracked the identified man down in his home town.

Another theory, claimed by the drummer of a Czech rock band, was that The Piano Man might be a pianist called Tomáš Strnad, as he had a striking resemblance to the musician. This lead was destroyed when Strnad was found and interviewed by Czech TV.

The first snippets of information revealed by The Piano Man himself about his identity were communicated via images. He pointed to Oslo the capital of Norway on a map, so a Norwegian translator was brought in. He failed to coerce The Piano Man to speak.

There were then reports he sketched the Swedish flag.

His identity was finally revealed, when the UK tabloid The Mirror published an article, citing sources claiming The Piano Man was a gay German man who had arrived in Britain on the Eurostar train after losing his job in Paris. It was suggested the man was flown back to Germany where his family resided.

The same day, the BBC revealed the man was a 20-year-old Bavarian man who had been flown home. This was confirmed by the German embassy in London, who advised they had provided a man with replacement travel documents.

Finally, his identity was revealed as Andreas Grassl, the son of farmers from a village in eastern Bavaria. His parents said their son was mentally ill and had told them on his return he had "no idea what happened to me. I just work up and realised who I was".

The Forest Boy The boy who turned out to be telling tales. The boy who turned out to be telling tales. Source: Supplied

In a tale that captured the public's imagination, a young boy turned up in Berlin claiming he had survived in the wild for years.

With broken German and speaking English, "Ray" who claimed to be 17 years old, said his father had died suddenly in the forest and after burying him he had hiked for five days to find help in Berlin.

He spoke to workers at Berlin City Hall saying: "I'm all alone in the world, I don't know who I am. Please help me."

Believed to be an orphan and a minor, the teen was given shelter and thousands of euros in benefits.

Not long after, holes started to appear in Forest Boy's story and police could not locate his father's body.

When attempts to identify Forest Boy failed, police released a photograph of the youth. After a month-long international appeal for answers, the truth was finally revealed.

A former girlfriend alerted authorities after recognising the boy in the photo and he admitted having made up the whole story.

The Forest Boy was in fact a young Dutch man, Robin van Helsum, who had left home nine months earlier. His friends say he was inspired by the films of the Zeitgeist Movement.

His stepmother was contacted and confirmed his identity. His real father had died earlier in the year.

The Isdal Woman An image of the woman believed to be a spy. An image of the woman believed to be a spy. Source: NewsComAu

In 1970, the unidentified charred body of a woman was found in "Death Valley" in Bergen, Norway, by a professor and his two daughters while out hiking. The circumstances surrounding her death are still considered a profound mystery.

She was naked, tags had been removed from all her clothing, her fingerprints had been sanded away and next to her was a burnt passport. At the scene, a significant amount of sleeping pills were discovered, along with bottles of petrol.

The body was traced to two suitcases at a train station in Bergen, where police discovered a prescription for lotion - though the name and address of the doctor had been removed. They also discovered 500 German marks and a journal with entries in code.

Police established the deceased woman travelled around Europe with up to nine false identities: Jenevive Lancia, Claudia Tjelt, Vera Schlosseneck, Claudia Nielsen, Alexia Zarna-Merchez, Vera Jarle, Finella Lorck and Elizabeth Leen Hoywfer.

Witnesses said she would wear various wigs and spoke many languages including French, German, English and Flemish.

The final sight of The Isdal Woman was when she checked out of room 407 of Hotel Marlin, paying cash and leaving in a taxi. She was described as 30-40 years old, 164cm in height and good looking. She smoked cigarettes, appeared to be on guard and was heard saying the words "I am coming soon".

Three decades later, a man came forward saying he saw the mystery woman walking into the forest with two men in black coats following her. He said police had told him to keep quiet at the time.

The case remains unsolved to this day, with most assuming The Isdal Woman was a spy.

Cornelia Rau The tragic tale of Cornelia Rau The tragic tale of Cornelia Rau Source: Supplied

Ill and alone, a German woman going by the name Anna roams Cape York in Queensland during the wet season. She hitchhikes her way across the state, taking food and shelter from kind strangers.

In March 2004, Queensland police are called by concerned locals to the Exchange Hotel in Coen. Residents had become concerned for her well-being after she gave different accounts of her travel plans and identified herself as Anna Brotmeyer, but had no documentation to verify her identity. Speaking in both German and English, she told police she was from Munich.

The Department of Immigration had no record of Anna Brotmeyer, so they detain her as a 'suspected unlawful citizen'. She had in her possession a Norwegian passport, a book with two names which didn't include Anna, and $2413. She spoke in childlike German and could not recall basic information about her past.

She was transferred to Brisbane's Women's Correctional Centre where her mental health deteriorated.

Around this time in NSW, the family of Cornelia Rau reported her missing to police. She suffers from a schizo-affective disorder and had disappeared after discharging herself from Manly Hospital. She was not considered in serious danger as she had vanished numerous times before.

In August 2004, police launch a public appeal, advertising in newspapers and with posters.

It took another five months before Anna and Cornelia were identified as the same person after family saw a newspaper story.

Even after the discovery of Cornelia's true identity, she managed to become a mysterious wanderer yet again. In 2008, she was allowed to travel overseas during a break from medication. She bought a one-way ticket to Germany, but was committed to a psychiatric ward there after her condition deteriorated further.

Once she stabilised, she scraped together enough money for a plane ticket to Turkey but was turned away on arrival. She arrived in Dubai in December.

After wandering the Middle East without medication for months she again disappeared off the map. Then Cornelia was arrested after behaving erratically and refusing to pay her hotel and taxi bills in Jordan in 2009. The Germany embassy in Amman said: "She seems to have suffered a total loss of reality."

The same year she taken back to Australian with a nurse and guardian and admitted into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide.

Huntington's Jane Doe The unidentified woman in a police sketch. The unidentified woman in a police sketch. Source: Supplied

In 1990, a woman was struck by two vehicles when she stepped on a highway in Huntington Beach, California. She was killed instantly.

She carried no identification but wore a strange ring on her finger - made of human hair - and a hotel key was discovered in her pocket.

As media reports surfaced of the unidentified crash victim, many residents came forward claiming they had information on her movements before the accident.

She had reportedly said her name was Andrea and that she was 25 or 26 years old, though she looked 10 years younger.

One witness, a salesman, said Andrea was homeless and he had taken her in to his family home after feeling sorry for her. It was here, he said, where she cut her hair and created a ring out of it.

Others said she was from Virginia or New York, with some accounts saying she was searching for her "well-known" birth family after discovering she was adopted.

More than 20 years on, the case remains open.

More stories:

• Australian link to mystery girl found in Dublin

• Who is Samantha Azzopardi?

• High school student found after decade missing


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Helpline: 'We didn't hang up on Laurie'

Happy moment: Belinda, Laurie and their eldest son Charlie meet baby Henry. Picture: Supplied Happy moment: Belinda, Laurie and their eldest son Charlie meet baby Henry. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

He could dial the numbers but it took him a long time to press call. Picture: Supplied He could dial the numbers but it took him a long time to press call. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

A SOBBING dad of two little boys told his wife a helpline hung up on him two days before he killed himself.

Victorian policeman Laurie Fox, 32, spent more than an hour working up the courage to call the national counselling service MensLine on Saturday, December 29 last year.

The distressed father told his wife, Belinda Sowter, that he "poured his heart out" to a counsellor for 27 minutes.

Mr Fox said the operator hung up on him after he was told calls had a 30-minute limit and while he could call back anytime he would have to "make it brief".

"He said to me afterwards 'This is why I can't talk to anyone, because no one has the time to listen to me.' That quote just rings in my head all the time," Ms Sowter, a former media buyer, told news.com.au this week. "I was just so angry at them."

She does not blame the incident for Mr Fox's tragic decision to take his own life, but said it was a "setback" to her attempts to get him to seek help.

MensLine recorded the conversation between Mr Fox and the counsellor and said "the content of the call is not at all consistent" with Mr Fox's account to his wife.

Laurie and Belinda's eldest son Charlie wore his father's police cap at his father's funeral. Picture: Supplied Laurie and Belinda's eldest son Charlie wore his father's police cap at his father's funeral. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

MensLine will not allow news.com.au or Mrs Sowter to listen to the taped conversation, citing privacy laws.

"We can confirm the counsellor did not terminate the phone call, nor did the counsellor give any time limit, at any stage of the call," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Our clinical director is 'confident the counsellor acted professionally and appropriately in supporting Mr Fox and handling the concerns he presented during the call' ".

Mr Fox killed himself on New Year's Eve last year. Ms Sowter and sons Charlie, 5, and Henry, 4, were away in Brisbane with the extended family for Christmas.

Mr Fox stayed in Victoria for work. The couple had planned to visit a psychologist when Ms Sowter returned home.

Ms Sowter said the incident should not in any way prevent troubled people from seeking help.

"I would be encouraging more (people to make calls). I don't want what happened to Laurie to discourage them to call. I think it was just a tragic circumstance."

MensLine "suggests a 40 minute timeframe to be most effective for regular calls" and said more than 10 per cent of calls lasted more than 40 minutes.

"Counsellors must stay on the phone with any caller who shows any sign of risk for as long as it takes to get to a safe place," a spokeswoman said. "If that means staying on the phone all night, that's what we'll do."

Loving couple: This picture was taken on Belinda's birthday last year. Picture: Supplied Loving couple: This picture was taken on Belinda's birthday last year. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

As her husband's legacy, Ms Sowter has pledged to launch an effort to help police families affected by suicide and to stop tragedies such as Laurie's.

Four Victorian police committed suicide in the past 12 months. She wants to erase the stigma in the emergency services surrounding mental health treatment.

"There's this whole stigma attached to police in general with mental illness. They have all the services available to them but no one accesses them."

Ms Sowter, who is raising a young family, told her eldest son Charlie his father left each member of the family a part of him before he died.

"I said to him before Daddy died he actually got his heart and gave you some of his heart, he gave your brother some of his heart and he gave me some of his heart.

"I said: 'so wherever we go, Daddy's actually with us.' And he's really clung onto that."

MensLine, which is dedicated to assisting men with their problems, extended its condolences to Mr Fox's family.

"We were very distressed to hear this tragic news. We know that the loss of a loved one to suicide can have a devastating impact on family and friends."

If you are at risk, contact BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Anyone affected by suicide can contact the national Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) and SuicideLine (1300 651 251). Counsellors are specially trained to support bereaved people.

Do you know more? Daniel.Piotrowski@news.com.au. This reporter on Twitter: @drpiotrowski @newscomauHQ

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Is this a wonder cure for the flu?

Is it worth ingesting Japanese pickle to avoid this? Pic: Thinkstock Is it worth ingesting Japanese pickle to avoid this? Pic: Thinkstock Source: ThinkStock

A NEWLY discovered probiotic drink could help prevent the flu, according to scientists.

But the drink has one very surprising, and less-than-appetising ingredient.

Research suggests the immune-boosting powers of Lactobacillus bacteria could help fight the flu virus, The Daily Mail reports.

These Lactobacillus bugs are found in Japanese pickled turnip.

Scientists have tested the probiotic drink on mice with encouraging results. They're now starting to test it on humans.

The key to the Lactobacillus bacteria's protective qualities could be a layer of sugars called exopolysaccharides, which are known to have immune boosting effects.

When the drink was tested on mice, the special bacteria led the rodents' immune systems to create more flu-fighting antibodies, the Mail reports.

Meanwhile, scientists in Europe and Britain are reportedly preparing to start large scale trials of a universal flu vaccine, and have predicted a new "Holy Grail" vaccine granting lifelong protection against the virus could be available within five years.

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Bottoms up: What kind of drinker are you?

What kind of drinker are you? What kind of drinker are you? Source: ThinkStock

DRINKING is a huge part of the Australian culture.

Just look at the images that surfaced in the wake of this week's Melbourne Cup for proof.

Most race-goers spent the day with one - or several - drinks in their hand, and there were quite a few punters who finished the day face down on the grass, retching. Not really a classy look.

This Melbourne Cup punter might have had a bit too much. This Melbourne Cup punter might have had a bit too much. Source: AAP

A research study from the RMIT University has investigated the role that alcohol plays in Australian culture. Researchers interviewed thousands of alcohol drinkers in Victoria to reveal four 'drinking types'.

The question is, which type of drinker are you?

"Heavy drinking is viewed as acceptable in almost all social situations, from weddings to sports matches, and even at funerals or baby showers," stated the research report. "There are very few occasions where drinking alcohol is not encouraged."

A bit of sport with your booze? A bit of sport with your booze? Source: ThinkStock

The report found that our "society's inherent and deeply embedded drinking culture makes most people feel they need a specific reason not to drink, rather than a reason to drink."

The research matched people's personal values, motives and lifestyle factors with the frequency of their alcohol consumption, and found that certain factors corresponded with people who drink greater amounts of alcohol.

So, what are the four types of drinkers and which one are you? The full research report from Victoria Health gives us the run down.

The Initiator likes to have fun ... with alcohol of course. The Initiator likes to have fun ... with alcohol of course. Source: ThinkStock

THE INITIATOR: "I drink what I want and I know what I'm doing."

Initiators comprise of 40 per cent of the drinking population. Typically they:

- are outgoing and the 'life of the party'

- love to have a drink and 'let loose'

- like to be an expert on alcohol brands

- are spontaneous and love to make things happen

- drink to have fun

- like to go out and drink at bars and clubs and meet people

- can sometimes be a booze bully

The Follower is influenced by the enthusiasm of Initiators around them. The Follower is influenced by the enthusiasm of Initiators around them. Source: ThinkStock

THE FOLLOWER: "When I do drink, I wish I could stop at just one or two ..."

Followers make up 13 per cent of the drinking population. They are usually:

- fun, social and easy-going

- influenced by social and cultural pressures

- persuaded join in or go with the flow

- swept up in the moment and enjoyment of social situations

- inclined to drink at home with friends and family

Moderators enjoy a drink over dinner. Moderators enjoy a drink over dinner. Source: ThinkStock

THE MODERATOR: "I choose not to drink much. I like to have a drink with friends over dinner, then go home at a decent hour."

Moderators are a surprising 26 per cent of the drinking population. They are generally:

- self-disciplined and self-sufficient

- relaxed and prefer a more chilled-out experience

- confident about saying 'no'

- inclined to have a glass or two, but that's it

- happiest when drinking at home

The Protector is like your guardian angel. The Protector is like your guardian angel. Source: ThinkStock

THE PROTECTOR: "Not having a drink when others are drinking doesn't bother me."

Protectors represent 21 per cent of drinkers. They typically:

- are controlled and conscientious

- enjoy having fun in a safe environment

- look out for others when socialising

- are not overly interested in drinking alcohol

- are the designated driver

Think you know which type of drinker you are? Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter @newscomauHQ | @gracekoelma | @VicHealth

Take the 'what kind of drinker are you?' quiz here.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Can your postcode predict your death?

Living longer: Mahjong enthusiasts (from left) Marjorie Taylor (89), Wendy Sierp (71) and Norma Merrett (77yrs). Pic: Tricia Wat Living longer: Mahjong enthusiasts (from left) Marjorie Taylor (89), Wendy Sierp (71) and Norma Merrett (77yrs). Pic: Tricia Watkinson Source: News Limited

AUSTRALIANS are living longer than ever with the average life expectancy increasing by two and half years in the past decade.

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Aussies were surviving to a median age of 81.7 in 2012, the highest figure on record.

"Health literacy, access to services and socio-demographic background are all factors in leading a long, healthy life," said Dr Steve Hambleton, President of the Australian Medical Association.

"Nationally, smoking has also decreased to 16 per cent and with it comes the benefit of longer life."

A boy born in Australia today would be expected live to 79.9 years and a girl to 84.3.

"Australia's life expectancy at birth continues to be among the highest in the world," said Bjorn Jarvis, Director of Demography with the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

And Dr Hambleton predicts we will soon see the average life expectancy hit 100, possibly higher.

"The person who will live to 150 has already been born," he said.

"The only obstacle may be obesity. Obesity had been proven to increase cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As long as we take it seriously, our life expectancy will continue to increase."

STATE BY STATE BREAK-DOWN: NSW

In 2012, the median age of death in New South Wales was 82 years.

According to the data, Coolamon, Manly and North Sydney were the best place to live in Australia to reduce the likelihood of death.

These local government areas in New South Wales had the nation's lowest death rate, 3.8 deaths for every 1,000 locals.

Woollahra was the next best area of the state with 4 deaths in every 1,000 followed by Ku-ring-gai with 4.1 deaths in every 1,000.

VICTORIA

The median age of death in Victoria was 82.6 years in 2012.

According to the data, Stonnington was the best place to live in state to reduce the likelihood of death.

This local government area had the lowest death rate, 4.3 deaths for every 1,000 locals.

Boroondara and Manningham were the next best with 4.5 deaths in every 1,000 followed by Monash with 4.6 deaths in every 1,000.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

South Australians were living to a median age of 83 in 2012.

According to the data, Mitcham is the place to live in South Australia to reduce your likelihood of death. In 2012 it was the local government area with the state's lowest death rate, 4.2 deaths for every 1000 locals.

Adelaide Hills ranks second with 4.8 deaths in every 1000 and Burnside and Naracoorte and Lucindale took out third spot with 4.9 deaths in every 1000.

QUEENSLAND

In 2012, the median age of death in Queensland was 80.4 years.

According to the data, Barcaldine and the Sunshine Coast were the best place to live in Queensland to reduce the likelihood of death.

These local government areas had the state's lowest death rate, 5.2 deaths for every 1,000 locals.

Gold Coast was the next best with 5.3 deaths in every 1,000 followed by Brisbane and Redland with 5.5 deaths in every 1,000.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

In 2012, the median age of death in the Northern Territory was 59.8 years, the lowest nationally.

According to the data, Darwin was the best place to live in the territory to reduce the likelihood of death.

This local government area had the lowest death rate, 6.7 deaths for every 1,000 locals.

Katherine had the nation's worst death rate, with 13.6 deaths in every 1,000.

TASMANIA

In 2012, the median age of death in Tasmania was 81.3 years.

According to the data, West Tamar was the best place to live in the state to reduce the likelihood of death.

This local government areas had the lowest death rate, 5.8 deaths for every 1,000 locals.

Kingborough and Latrobe the next best with 5.9 deaths in every 1,000 followed by Kentish and Meander Valley with 6 deaths in every 1,000.

"We provide a standardised death rate to reduce factors such as age on the overall figure," explained Mr Jarvis.

"We then need to ask questions about why some areas are performing better than others."

Members of the Mitcham's Mahjong Group in Adelaide believed the key to living longer was to keep busy and active.

Norma Merrett, 77, of Unley said it was important to get out and about and participate in activities which stimulated the mind, like the Chinese game mahjong.

"I walk every day, I think it's very important to keep active and make your brain think," she said.

Another member of the group, Wendy Sierp, 71, of Kingswood said joining groups also kept her active by creating new friendships.

"It's about eating well and making sure you've got lots of different people in your life so you are stimulated all of the time and exercising as well," she said

After steadily declining over the past several years, there were surprise increases in the number of deaths among younger Australians.

Nationally, deaths among children ages between 1 and 4 increased by 0.5 per cent, 10 to 14 by 6.8 per cent and 15 to 19 by 4.8 per cent.

The increase in deaths among children aged 10 to 14 was higher than the 6.2 per cent increase in deaths among Australians aged between 90 and 94.

"The total number of deaths in these age groups are small, but next year we will be looking to see if there is another increase which may show a change in the trend," said Mr Jarvis.

But the Australian Medical Association will be looking closely at the numbers.

"The biggest cause of deaths for Australians under the age of 18 is accidents," said Dr Hambleton. "We need to make sure we are not exposing our children to danger."

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The foods most likely to give you food poisoning

Picture: Thinkstock Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied

CHICKEN often gets the blame when you fall victim to food poisoning, but it's likely it was the salad in your meal that actually made you sick.

Dodgy takeaway foods are also assumed to be the cause of foodborne illnesses, but it's more likely that the leftover rice is what made you sick - not the curry or stir fry.

Lorraine Belanger, spokeswoman for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said a lot of foodborne illness happens in the home. And under the right circumstances anything can give you food poisoning.

"People think of chicken as the number one suspect but actually things like salads and cut fruit, if handled in wrong way or exposed to wrong things, can cause major foodborne outbreaks."

Many foodborne illnesses take days or weeks to manifest.

"When people get sick they think 'Oh it was that thing I ate at lunch' but it could be something they ate a week ago," Ms Belanger said.

Juliana Madden, executive officer at the Food Safety Information Council, says vegetarians and vegans often think they're more protected from food poisoning but this is not the case.

"Some of the largest food safety issues that have popped up in the last few years have been things like baby spinach and tomatoes," Ms Madden said.

In the lead up to Australian Food Safety Week next week, here are seven foods you should know pose food poisoning risks.

Picture: Thinkstock Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied

Rice

Rice can be infected with Bacillus cereus, which is present as spores and can survive easily in dry conditions such as a packet.

"People cook the rice which then activates the spores. So if you don't put [cooked rice] in the fridge you almost create a perfect environment for food poisoning," Ms Madden said.

Cooking rice doesn't kill the spores and warm, moist rice is a great place for bacteria to grow. So if you have leftover rice you should put it in the fridge it as soon as possible, and don't keep it longer than three days.

Raw vegetables

Lettuce and tomatoes carry the risk of salmonella and E. coli - which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Lettuce, celery or anything that grows on the ground can have E. coli present because it's in the soil.

Tomatoes and other vegetables can get contaminated when hand packed by unclean hands.

To avoid illness, wash vegetables well and make sure you use clean boards and clean knives.

Picture: Thinkstock Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied

Fruit

Listeria can grow on the skin of rockmelons which are grown on the ground. When people touch the skin and also the melon flesh when cutting up their fruit this can lead to cross contamination.

Sprouts

Sprouts can be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli, listeria, and salmonella.

To produce sprouts, seeds are soaked then kept moist for several days while they sprout. The conditions for sprouting a seed are ideal for bacteria growth. So if the seeds are contaminated with bacteria, the numbers may be very high in the sprout.

Cooking sprouts largely decreases the bacteria risk.

Picture: Thinkstock Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied

Chicken, duck and turkey

These birds risk can carry salmonella and campylobacter. The good news is the risk from bacteria is completely eliminated if the meat is cooked through properly.

But if you wash your meat you can easily splash salmonella onto vegetables or other items that won't be cooked, so they become cross-contaminated.

Eggs

Eggs can also carry nasty salmonella, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Cooking eggs thoroughly kills bacteria, but be careful to thoroughly clean utensils and wipe down bench tops if they come into contact with raw egg.

Foods made with raw and lightly cooked eggs can also pose big risks, including homemade mayonnaise, béarnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce, homemade ice-cream, mousses, custards, tiramisu and uncooked pancake batter, cake mix, pastry or biscuit dough.

Deli meats

Hams, salamis and other cold meats can carry listeria.

Listeria loves moist warm environments and it is reasonably naturally occurring. But it will grow even in refrigeration. It's mainly present in sliced meats because they're not always stored in a closed refrigerated area.

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