Category Archives: health

COVID-19: The urgency to ‘flatten the curve’

What do we mean by ‘flatten the curve’?

When dealing with a pandemic like COVID-19, the ultimate goal is to stop the overall spread of the virus. In order to do so, the slowing down of the spread is a critical phase in achieving this. Hence, the social distancing measures in place across the world.

To ‘flatten the curve’ means to reduce the growth in the number of cases – giving medical professionals, institutional bodies and government officials more time to prepare and respond. As well as this, it accommodates for effective planning in a stressful situation as such.

For hospitals to function – doctors must be readily available to treat patients. However, with an influx of patients they must quickly adapt to the escalation of cases. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 cases through measures such as social distancing will not only save lives but ensure that we continue to progress ahead.

What do the curves on the graph represent?

‘Flatten the curve’

The curves represent the number of cases and how they are increasing/decreasing over time. A steep, higher curve signifies that cases are increasing fast. The lower curve indicates that cases are emerging slower, and that the virus is not spreading as faster.

By keeping the curve low, it allows for added time and preparation in controlling the spread of the virus.

How will social distancing determine the outcome of this pandemic?

The spread of the virus depends on how contagious it is, who is more vulnerable to it and how fast it impacts our immune systems. According to the World Health Organisations (WHO) COVID-19 is an ‘infectious disease’ primarily spreads through ‘droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose’ when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Seasonal flu has a lower fatality rate because people have been vaccinated against the virus or developed immunity. Coronavirus, on the other hand, does not have a vaccine and is known to have vigorous symptoms. As a result, people are more vulnerable to it.

Social distancing measures such as self-isolation and quarantine will decrease chances of transmission and consequently the spread of the virus.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that prior to the lockdown – one positive person would infect 2.6 other people. However, after social distancing measures were implemented – the figure reduced to 0.62. This means that the virus is being detained and should eventually burn out given the measures in place are strictly followed.

How should we go about this situation as individuals?

NHS guideline

In these uncertain times, it is natural to be overcome with anxiousness and self-awareness. Essential workers, doctors and patients are battling a wide-scale pandemic that is challenging day-to-day routines. As individuals of society, we have the duty to protect the most vulnerable of people amid this pandemic. By staying home, maintaining our hygiene and social distancing – we can encourage a safer, less disastrous outcome.

Coronavirus fake news: how to spot it before you spread it

It seems as though misinformation about the dreaded coronavirus is in its own way contagious.

It’s easy to hit share or ‘retweet’ or to even send a quick factoid you read about the virus to someone else and the temptation is just as understandable but spreading this fake news doesn’t help anyone and only scares people even more.

Many of the people who share these hoaxes and false information don’t do it to mislead – they think they’re sharing some truly valuable information with their family and friends.

From checking sources to verifying accounts, here are a few steps you can take to spot fake news and verify information correctly before you decide to share it.

REMEMBER: If you see someone on social media posting something that isn’t true, be gentle and kind when informing them or pointing it out. Correcting information that is false can sometimes backfire. People are likely to be defensive when they’re challenged so always make sure you’re kind during this tense moment.

 

Video sources

 

Forgotten heroes near “breaking point”

Care workers up and down the country are calling for people to be more understanding of their position, after prime minister Boris Johnson labelled them as key workers in his lockdown guidelines.

NHS staff, social care workers, childcare and teaching staff, as well as those working  in supermarkets and other similar positions are only a fraction of those whose careers are considered essential for society to continue running.

However, many have complained that measures that are being taken to protect the vulnerable are not being extended to the right people.

KEY WORKER

©Chloe Rose

Many supermarkets in the UK have implemented designated hours in the day to NHS staff, as well as those over 70 to shop alone for their own protection. But a lot of care workers believe no consideration has gone in to their situations, with many of them having the responsibility to shop for elderly or vulnerable clients, as well as a duty of care to practice strict social distancing measures for the sake of their clients.

One care worker complained how it was “atrocious” that supermarkets were letting NHS workers skip queues while “not letting carers for vulnerable people do the same”. She stated that she knew “at least one elderly man who might not get his shopping now because a carer with a one hour time limit was not let in to stores in time”. 

The same carer commented that while “designated hours are good, not everyone can be there at the times they’ve been put in place, they’re early in the morning which is when most carers are in the community helping those most vulnerable with showering, medication and other essential daily duties and by the time we get the opportunity to get to shops we’re turned away because we’re not NHS”.

 

Care workers across the nation are also complaining of services being “near breaking point” due to shortages of Personal Protective Equipment.

Unison, a trade union representing all in the public sector, have recently called on the prime minister to do more to end severe shortages of PPE before the situation in the care industry becomes dire.

A care worker in a Tyne and Wear convalescent care home complained that PPE arriving at her workplace was being distributed to the wrong people or used irresponsibly. Leaving those who have constant contact with the vulnerable with only gloves and limited numbers of aprons to protect them and their clients against the potentially deadly virus.

“We’re being treated like second rate citizens just because we don’t have an NHS badge hanging around our necks. We’re putting our own lives and our family’s lives at risk working in this sector but we’re still not considered equal to NHS workers.”

Not only are care workers being denied basic protection for the sake of themselves and those around them, many are seeing their workload increase as they are expected to take on the jobs of others in order to meet the high demand and fast turnover that COVID-19 is creating.

Short term care homes including convalescent and rehabilitation centres are seeing their turnover go from three to four weeks to just five days to keep up with hospital’s need to free up beds for patients suffering with novel coronavirus.

Sunderland care worker, Carol, also expressed concerns about the government’s lack of concern surrounding testing in the UK.

“People coming to us aren’t being tested before they leave hospital. They’re coming to us for convalescent care, but we don’t know what these people are bringing into our home. The cross infection risk is putting people in danger but again, because we’re not NHS it’s like we don’t exist.” 

With those working on the front line still not being considered for necessary testing, the risk of working with the vulnerable is far from over. But these unsung heroes of the care sector will carry on, knowing how vital their work is to the running of society.

For now, carers not working in the National Health Service can only hope their positions will begin to be held in the same regard as those working for the NHS, before they reach a point of no return.

CORONAVIRUS INFO

©Chloe Rose

 

Chloe Rose

 

 

Five coronavirus health tips you should ignore and why

With coronavirus cases increasing across the world, people are turning to anything to help them cope with and avoid catching the virus and that includes sloppy health advice ranging from ineffective and harmless to incredibly dangerous.

Most of these popular claims are being shared online so it’s important to look at the science behind it and what it says.

1. Drinkable silver

Colloidal silver, which are tiny particles of the metal suspended in liquid, was promoted on US televangelist Jim Bakker’s show. A guest on the show claimed the fluid kills some strains of the coronavirus within 12 hours.

The idea that it could be a potential treatment for coronavirus has been speculating all over social media, especially on Facebook by medical freedom groups.

Supporters of colloidal silver claim it can help the immune system, act as an antiseptic and treat a variety of health conditions. Although there are occasional uses of silver in health care, such as in bandages applied to wounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective to consume.

Advice from the US health authorities clearly state that there’s no evidence this silver solution is effective for any health condition let alone coronavirus. This is also because silver is not a metal that has any function in the human body unlike iron and zinc. Most importantly it could also cause serious side effects such as causing bluish-grey discolouration of the skin commonly known as Argyria.

People who are promoting the substance on social media for general health have found their posts now create a fact-checking pop-up warning from Facebook’s services.

2. Garlic

A majority of Facebook posts recommend eating garlic helps prevent coronavirus from entering your system and also lowers the chance of you getting it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there’s no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from the virus even though it is “a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties.”

Image from: EcoWatch

Even though they have the potential to be harmful, in a large number of cases these types of remedies aren’t harmful in themselves as long as they’re not stopping people from following evidence based medical advice.

A story of a woman who was left with a severely inflamed throat and who had received hospital treatment because she had consumed 1.5kg of raw garlic was reported by the South China Morning Post.

Even though we know in general that eating healthy foods such as fruit and veg and drinking water is good for staying healthy, there’s no evidence that particular kinds of foods could help fight this strain of the virus.

3. Homemade hand sanitiser

As many reports of shortages of hand sanitiser emerged in many countries, especially Italy, so did instructions for how to make home-made gel on social media.

Image from: Popular Science

But it turned out these recipes were alleged dupes of one of Italy’s most popular brands and many scientists pointed out they were only suitable for cleaning surfaces and not good for use on skin.

Hand gels that contain alcohol also contain emollients, which make them gentler on skin even though they have a 70% alcohol content.

Sally Bloomfield, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says she does not believe an effective hand sanitiser product could be made at home – including Vodka which has not been recommended to use as an alternative to hand sanitiser as it only contains 40% of alcohol and has proven to be ineffective.

4. Heat and avoiding ice cream

A variety of advice suggests that heat kills the virus, from taking hot baths to drinking hot water or absurdly enough, even using hair dryers.

A post that was falsely referenced to UNICEF that claimed drinking hot water and exposure to the sun will kill the virus was shared multiple times on social media in different countries. The post also suggested that ice creams should be avoided as cold things can increase the lifespan of the virus.

Image by: edexLIVE

Even though we know the virus doesn’t survive well outside the body during summer, we are still unsure on how heat impacts the virus. Many doctors have suggested that the virus could not die down during the summer or in hot temperatures as it is able to survive at the body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, outside the body, “to actively kill the virus you need temperatures of around 60 degrees Celsius”, says Professor Bloomfield.

However, washing bed linen and towels at 60 degrees Celsius is good as it can kill viruses in fabric but is not a good idea for washing skin.

5. Having a drink of water every 15 minutes

A post that has been circulating over Facebook as well as being posted by actor Jessie Williams on his Instagram story, quotes a Japanese doctor who recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out any viruses that may have entered your system through the mouth.

Image from: Snopes

Coronavirus infections can enter the body through respiratory tracts when you breathe in. Even though some of them might go into your mouth, continually drinking water isn’t going to prevent you from catching the virus.

Trudie Lang, a professor at the University of Oxford, says there is “no biological mechanism” that would back the concept of washing a respiratory virus down into your stomach to kill it.

However, generally drinking water and making sure you stay hydrated is good medical advice.

Calls in a crisis – the difference between adults and children.

According to WHO.int, with every 40 seconds that go by a person takes their own life. This totals around 800,000 people around the world every year.

With the growing concern surrounding COVID-19’s outbreak, it’s expected that the number of calls to organisations, such as Childline and the Samaritans will increase.

This may not be the case.

Recent reports have suggested that Childline has seen an increase of calls and the Samaritans have seen a decrease. Why is this?

Childline is aimed at helping young people in their times of need. Accessible through the web, the site offers children and young people the opportunity to chat with counsellors via phone or chat-room messaging.

The NCPCC has released a report stating that there is a growing number of children contacting the organisation due to the impact of COVID-19.

According to the report, 913 counselling sessions took place, with children concerned about the Coronavirus outbreak.

The reasoning for this sudden increase is yet to be determined. It’s speculated that it may be linked to the increased time spent at home and the disruption to their everyday routines causing increased anxiety.

Yet the Samaritans appear to be receiving fewer calls than expected.

The Samaritans is one of the UK’s leading helplines for those struggling in a crisis. Their vision is that fewer people will die from suicide.

On average, they answer more than 5 million calls each year. That’s roughly one call every 6 seconds.

Speaking to a Samaritans listener, more calls were expected due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but this is yet to be seen.

‘Personally I would have expected an increase [in calls], but interestingly we’ve had either the same number or, more often, fewer calls since COVID-19. Our branch director also noted a huge drop in calls relating to suicide or suicidal feelings.’

A local Samaritans listener, Leatherhead branch

It’s suggested that this change in reaching out could be due to people having more time to write emails at home or that people are more focused on COVID-19 than their own mental health.

‘In terms of the content of calls there are a high percentage that are discussing serious worries about COVID-19. Especially for vulnerable people like the disabled, the older generation and also prisoners. All these groups tend to also be isolated.’

Their advice to anyone stuck at home requiring help is to reach out as soon as you need to.

Don’t suffer in silence – be positive.’

Youtube: Samaritans – Small Talk Saves Lives – Everyday small talk.

If you know anyone isolated alone or suffering from mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, reach out to them. Whether an adult or a child, everyone needs to talk.

There are many organisations and helplines availiable for anyone who needs to talk to someone. Both Childline and the Samaritans are free to contact.

Visit their websites for more details.

No covid for under 19’s?

Despite growing concerns over the severity of the coronavirus, many young people have managed to remain complacent on the effects of the disease, and are failing to heed health warnings. 

The U.K saw its first reported fatality after a woman in her 70’s died from the disease in early March, and with the second confirmed death being a man in his 80’s the message seemed to be clear: coronavirus is only affecting the old, and young people are immune. Despite elder people and those with pre-existing health issues being more vulnerable to the virus, young and more healthy individuals are still advised to fellow health regulations, and this includes staying indoors too.  

The World Health Organisation has busted the immunity myth stating, ‘people of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus’. WHO also advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, and that includes, social distancing and washing hands with soap and water for no less than 20 seconds. 

According to the BBC, ‘current estimates from Imperial College London are that the death rate is almost 10 times higher than average for those over 80, and much lower for those under 40’. With these figures, it’s natural to assume that young people are therefore more safe from contagion, but that is not the case. Chloe Middleton, a 21 year old passed away from the illness, despite having ‘no underlying health conditions’ the BBC reports.

The rising number of confirmed deaths accompanied by the Prime Ministers televised crackdown on social distancing guidelines, is evidence that the coronavirus is not a trivial illness, therefore in order to stop the disease from spreading, people, including the young, must remain home.

So how can young people stay safe? Firstly through social distancing, as the Prime Minister advised, ‘If your friends ask you to meet, you should say ‘no’’. This has been the hardest pill to swallow over the last week as the UK saw its first bout of sun. With outside contact being limited to essential food shopping, daily exercise and work if absolutely necessary, boredom is inevitable; here are a few ways to stay entertained whilst staying safe in lock down.

 

Purple Yellow Blue and Pink Disease Prevention Coronavirus Awareness Poster (1)

Created by Canva

Cannabis across borders

The use of cannabis has always been a great concern across the globe. There has been a vast majority of countries against the recreational use of cannabis. However, some have legalised it with restrictions to monitor its use; others have legalised it for medicinal purposes.

United Kingdom

  • Medical Purposes: Legal
  • Recreational: Illegal

Although cannabis can be viewed as an issue to some, others view it as an advantage of its medical purpose. According to the NHS, the use of cannabis (also known as marijuana) can be used for medical issues such as chronic pain, anxiety, fibromyalgia and many more. Only General Practitioners who are on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council are granted access to prescribe this product. For more information concerning medicinal cannabis visit https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cannabis-the-facts/

The legalisation of medical marijuana was set in 2018 by the UK government.

In the United Kingdom, cannabis is classified as a Class B drug, whereby if in possession of the substance the individual can be sentenced up to five years in prison. If caught dealing, the individual can receive a sentence up to 15 years or an initial fine. It can be viewed that the majority of possession of drugs found on an individual is from ‘stop and searches’ by the police. The police have the right to stop any individual under reasonable suspicion that they might take part in illegal activities.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is legal in the UK. The product should not hold any controlled compounds. There should be no trace of THC and CBN levels in any product wishing to be legalised by the UK. It is controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. For more information visit https://www.theextract.co.uk/is-cbd-legal-uk/.

Cannabis is the most commonly seized Class B drug, with 94% of all Class B seizures involving this substance in 2018/19.

Seizures of drugs England and Wales Financial Year Ending 2019 second edition – Home Office

According to the NHS, 10% of regular users of cannabis become more dependant on it. The more dependant an individual is on any form of the drug, the more chances are they could end up homeless due to these circumstances, this could also affect one’s mental health. Initially, the risk of using is higher when you start at a young age.

Canada legalised weed in 2018 – should Britain do it? | Newsbeat Documentaries

At present, there are many European countries looking to alter their laws on the use of marijuana.

Netherlands

Photographer: Paul Stafford for www.travelmag.com
  • Medical Purposes: Legal
  • Recreational: Decriminalised

Although being a popular hotspot for the use of cannabis, it is illegal. The use of recreational cannabis is tolerated in the Netherlands, only if bought in licensed shops; they can be found in most coffee shops. To purchase marijuana in the Netherlands, you must be 18 or over to do so. Additionally, an individual is only granted access up to five grams of the substance. The government have recognised that it is impossible to stop individuals from buying and using. Therefore with restrictions, the authorities can centre the attention on larger criminal activities such as someone who supplies and profits from marijuana. Ultimately, the use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in the Netherlands.

France

  • Medical Purposes: Illegal
  • Recreational: Illegal

The laws in France are viewed as conservative when concerning cannabis. The French law distinguishes that if an individual supplies or is in the possession of cannabis they can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison with additional fines. France can be viewed as one of the stricter countries when it comes to marijuana. With the majority of their neighbour countries legalising medicinal marijuana, France however, is still against the use of both medical and recreational use.

For more information about France’s cannabis laws https://straininsider.com/legal-situation-cannabis-france/

Canada

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

The first country to legalise cannabis completely was Uruguay, followed by Canada in 2018. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minster believed that legalising cannabis trade would help regulate its use and shift coinage out of the criminal domain.

United States

The use of cannabis is legal in 11 states. To purchase, an individual has to be over the age of 21. However, the use of marijuana can be used medically in 33 states.

California: Medicinal use in California became legal in 1996. However, the recreational use became legalised in January, 2018.

New York: In ‘The Big Apple’, the possession of marijuana was decriminalised for recreational purposes if the individual held up to two ounces as of 2019. At present, if in possession of the substance a fine could be given between $50-$200 according to The Cannigma. The use of medical marijuana was approved in 2014.

For more information concerning the legalisation of Cannabis across the states visit https://cannigma.com/us-regulation/cannabis-in-the-united-states/

Photo by Yash Lucid on Pexels.com

Although some countries are open to the use of marijuana. It can be seen that the substance can open new gateways for the governments across the globe to control and even minimise criminal activities if monitored.

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