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Top UK health news stories of 2014

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

In 2014, Ebola became the biggest global health story of the year as the disease claimed thousands of lives. As the international community joined forces to help combat the outbreak in west Africa, there were concerns about the disease spreading to the UK.

Health officials made it clear the risk of Ebola coming to the UK was low, but health checks were put in place at some airports to screen passengers coming to the UK from parts of Africa.

No specific treatments or vaccines were available for the Ebola outbreak, but as the year ends, clinical trials are underway.

Among the health workers infected with Ebola was 29 year old volunteer nurse William Pooley. He was flown home to the UK for treatment at the Royal Free Hospital in north-west London – which houses a high level isolation unit (HLIU) used for treating infectious diseases. Mr Pooley was treated with the experimental treatment ZMapp.

In other news, NHS funding was rarely out of spotlight again, from decisions over funding drugs, to the future of England's Cancer Drugs Fund and the strain on hospital A&E departments.

Meanwhile, William and Kate announced that they are expecting a little brother or sister for Prince George.

'Vape' became the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year due to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes.

So what are the stories that our readers have been clicking on the most?

Here are our top 12 health stories of 2014:

1. Prolonged or heavy periods common during menopause

In April, a study confirmed what many women already know, prolonged or heavy periods are common during the menopause. US researchers followed 1,320 women in the run up to menopause. On average, periods lasted for around 6 days. However, for 78 in 100 women, bleeding lasted for 10 days or longer.

The findings in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology may be reassuring for women who have been concerned at period changes during menopause.

2. Doctors missing chances to diagnose COPD

In February, a UK study found that in 85% of cases, doctors are failing to spot the signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and missing the chance of early diagnosis and treatment.

The findings were published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Author of the study, Dr Rupert Jones from Plymouth University Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry, said in a statement: "The substantial numbers of patients misdiagnosed and under diagnosed in this study is a cause for concern. It is important that COPD is diagnosed as early as possible so effective treatment can be used to try to reduce lung damage, improve quality of life, and even life expectancy."

Reacting to the study, Professor Mike Roberts, programme lead for the National COPD audit programme at the Royal College of Physicians, said efforts are underway to increase early diagnosis of COPD together with better management to help reduce hospital admissions.

By November, a report from the national COPD audit found that standards of care for patients with COPD have improved overall, but there is still wide variation and some hospitals are still not meeting national service standards.

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