Tag Archives: London

What is Meningitis and why is it dangerous?

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Sources NHS ONLINE, OXFORD VACCINE GROUP ONLINE, MENINGITIS NOW ONLINE

After a peak of 2295 cases of meningitis in 1999 in UK the meningitis type C cases dropped of the 90% in the vaccinated groups, and consequently of the 66% in the non vaccinated ones, thanks to the introduction of the MenC vaccine.

But recently, due to a decrease in the vaccination coverage, the cases of meningitis in UK are rising again with two cofirmed cases of meningitis B at University of Bristol, the past November. Because of this (and in the light of the recent measles epidemic in universities) the debate shifted recently in questioning if non- vaccinated students should be allowed in universities.

So what is meningitis? Why is it sparking a debate?

Meningitis is an illness, and it defines the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect our brain and our spinal cord (called Meninges). It’s usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and it’s very quick in its development – capable to kill a patient in a span from less than 2 to more than 20 hours.

Generally, it first manifests “slyly” like a bad temperature, with symptoms such as severe fever, headaches, and diarrhoea; maintaining an apparently “stable” condition in the victim.

Symptoms change with the development of the illness, including symptoms such as difficulty in staying awake, irritability, dislike of bright lights, stiff neck, pale/blotchy skin, vomit, severe muscular pain, convulsions and, the most significant, severe fever with cold feet and hands.

Normally, not all symptoms necessarily manifest, or manifest in a specific order; and they tend to escalate in a terrifyingly rapid time. For this reason, many patients die of meningitis worldwide. Diagnosis of this disease is sometimes too late because it’s difficult distinguishing meningitis from a severe flu.

What usually kills a patient affected by meningitis it’s septicaemia, which is the poisoning of blood induced by an infection. It usually leads to organ failures, severe nerve and brain permanent damage.

Meningitis is usually caused by a virus or a bacteria, and there are different types of meningitis, with different symptoms depending on its causes. Viral meningitis is considered less dangerous than bacterial, even though more common. But bacterial meningitis is most commonly caused by the bacterias Meningococcal, Pneumococcal, TB, Group B Streptococcal and Escherichia Coli. Bacterial meningitis is a rarer condition but much more dangerous if not treated.

What sparked the debate about vaccines in universities, is the virality of meningitis, and its most common target age. There is a current debate about whether universities should make vaccines compulsory, and many people disagree with the concept.

The misleading idea that meningitis is an illness which only infects and kills infants or very young children, is a common misconception held by many people today.

Meningitis, in fact, can also occur in adults with immunodeficiency but manifests in young adults between 15 and 23 years old with similar ease to children cases.

It spreads through cough, sneezes, kisses, or through sharing utensils, cutlery or toothbrushes; and more commonly spread by healthy carriers.

Although there are many different, effective vaccines and remedies available to treat meningitis; it is also true that these remedies offer some defences against certain kind of meningitis, but not all the different causes of meningitis.

Star Wars Day: How to celebrate

From the UK to galaxies far, far away, fans of the Star Wars franchise can be found clad in capes, a collectors t-shirt and ready with a lightsaber. Since 2011, May the 4th has been heavily regarded as Star Wars Day with a play on words of the famous line, ‘May the force be with you’.

Although not affiliated with George Lucas or his former film company Lucasfilms, the day is recognised by the creator, and is celebrated by fans every year. From viewing parties, to costume parties, and even a murder mystery, here are the best ways to spend Star Wars Day 2019. And may we just say, ‘May the force with be with you’.

Events in and around London

Star Wars Experience at Madame Tussauds

The Star Wars Experience at Madame Tussauds is a permanent fixture but what better way to spend May 4th than immersing yourself in the Star Wars world? Travel to a galaxy far, far away with 18 life-like figures of famous Star Wars characters and 12 sets. From Jabba the Hutt to Chewbacca, and Yoda to Darth Vader, there’s everything you need to become part of the franchise. Prices start from £29 for an adult (16+) ticket.

May the Fourth Be With You Cabaret at The Apple Tree 

Hosted by Marc Anthony and headlined by Lily Snatch Dragon, why not head to The Apple Tree in Mount Pleasant, London for a night full of sci-fi themed cabaret? Priced between £5-£10, the independent pub is offering alien themed performances, karaoke and a DJ to celebrate one of their favourite days of the year. The venue is encouraging dress up so you might as well go all out and channel your inner Yoda for the night.

Star Wars Day Stand Up Comedy at the South Kensington Comedy Club

We all love a bit of comedy so, if you’re celebrating May 4th, head to the South Kensington Comedy Club for a night of Star Wars themed comedy. Hosted by the club’s resident MC Star Wars fanatic Ashley Gorman, the night will be full of laughs – especially if you really embrace the theme and dress up. Oh, and it’s free!

See our other Star Wars coverage here: 

May The Fourth Be With You: The Jedi Robe Shop

Star Wars fans and actors pay tribute to Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew 

If you can’t get to London, don’t panic – there are plenty of other ways you can celebrate.

Dress up!

What’s more fun than becoming someone else for a day? Especially when it’s your favourite movie character.

Throw a Star Wars party

Grab your friends and get partying. Make it a viewing party – you can watch the films in order of release or spice it up a little. This is the order that we prefer:

WNOL'S STAR WARS TIMELINE

Comics

Interestingly, Free Comic Book Day is on May 5th. What better way to continue your celebrations of May 4ththan reading the Star Wars Adventures comics? Set in the Star Wars universe, the comics are the perfect way to experience the franchise in another way.

How is mental health handled in Universities?

Between 2007 and 2015 the number of student suicides in the UK increased by 79 per cent, and its with this data that questions about the mental health support available in universities increases.

Today universities offer different support systems when it comes to mental health, with various way to access it. It’s possible to seek support in various ways on campus, and often from different platforms online too. Also, in some universities, a “mental health day” occurs once a year, and they provide a constant on-campus counsellor.

But the problem with some of these services is the fact that they are efficient as long as they aren’t in use.

One of the problems with the help offered right now by some universities is that real help is not well organised, but its advertised as so; to a point in which it seems that some universities are doing their best to only provide enough support to not to end up in legal troubles. With all the energy invested in such support tools, it’s ridiculous the way it fails facing real dangerous situations.

The majority of the support offered by universities, comes from the antiquated medical ideology. This includes the belief that people living certain deep life experiences are going to seek help automatically themselves when at their lowest moment. But this is not the case, and the majority of times, this creates misconceptions.

People facing certain life crisis are willing to get help, but more likely can’t find a reason or the strength to seek it. It takes an enormous amount of strength for certain people to finally seek help, but it can be in vain easily, especially when the quality of the help is mediocre or coming from the wrong conceptions.

Seeking help in the university environment should be facilitated, but often leads to confusing online pages, making this crucial procedure really frustrating and further from the help needed.

But there is no number of emails, of webpages and or 15-minutes-tutorials that can actually have an incisive effect in every situation, which is why I think blaming universities entirely is not the answer, and why I think this current helping system is not working.

The first step towards a better mental health support in universities should be in a utopic, but concrete and constant sensitising of students and staff on the topic mental health, not with a badly advertised “Mental Health Day”.

The amount of help universities can provide is of course limited in both amount and efficacy, no matter how organised. Especially in extreme cases, the help provided by universities is never gonna be the final answer, and we shouldn’t expect it.

The goal shouldn’t be to save someone, but rather to guarantee the right supportive environment to then try to effectively help. The environment sourrounding a student often tends to marginalise certain attitudes or to generally misunderstand them, aggravating a situation that is unstable itself.

A more vigil and less naive attitude in the entirety of the university environment needs to form, due to these incidents of mental illness progressing.

It’s not the final help that truly counts, but rather the support to finally seek help, and its that we should improve.

How safe are you in Harrow?

A man was shot dead and another seriously injured outside Queensbury Tube station on Tuesday evening.

This is the 60th murder in the capital being investigated by London Police this year.

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Image credits: BBC news

 

The incident happened two days before residents of Harrow voted in the local elections, raising big concerns for public safety in London.

A resident speaking to BBC London said they didn’t feel that Harrow was normally dangerous, but they are certainly worried by the spike in violence and killings.

Previously between March and May 2017, a violent criminal terrorised in areas of Northolt, Ruislip and Harrow by robbing at BP, Shell, Asda and Esso petrol station using a BB gun sprayed black to make it look more realistic. The criminal was caught recently by the police and was sentenced to nine years in jail on 26 February 2018, Monday.

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Bob Blackman, Conservative member of Parliament (Harrow East) brought up this incident during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, and took the time to appreciate the efforts of police but also raised the bigger question of safety of people across London.

In response, PM Theresa May said: “I recognise the importance that’s attached to Queensbury station and also say I join-in in commending the actions of the police in emergency services to other such incidents. He’s right in the importance in dealing with the offensive weapons. We’ve announced plans under my right honourable friend, previous home secretary,  to be taken forward by the current home secretary it’s why we have launched a serious violence strategy and the serious violent task force which actually brings together ministers and representatives from across this house together with police and others to deal with this issue met for the first time.”

Watch recap of Prime Minister’s Questions here. Find Bob Blackman’s questioning at 47:57 minutes

Currently he is at the Harrow Count, but his representative has shared with us the statement he issued upon the shooting incident:

“I was saddened to learn of the fatality of one individual and wounding of another in a shooting last night, Tuesday 1 May, at Queensbury station. My thoughts are with the loved ones of those involved. I shall be having discussions with the police and also liaising with City Hall concerning this.”

“The police have reassured the local community tremendously and I would like to thank first responders for their work here and as ever.”

“We must take action to remove offensive weapons from our streets and anyone caught with such a weapon should, in my opinion, be prosecuted and imprisoned if found guilty.”

A spokeperson for Mr Blackman said: “Harrow remains one of the safest boroughs in London. Mr Blackman has solid relations with the police and engages positively with them as often as possible. He supports the Force in their efforts to combat crime and has continued to urge the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to respond to calls from officers for assistance from City Hall.”

With the local election results moving towards the count of votes, and the room heating up with anticipation, it’s becoming increasingly interesting to see how the winning party leader will move forward to combat this situation of violence.

Brent Council Election: Good result for Labour

Labour has gained the three Brondesbury Park seats from the Conservatives, leaving them with only three seats in Kenton.

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Find the full results here.

Results are in for local elections and there is not much change for the Brent Council as it still holds majority Labour seats. The Lib Dems lost one seat in Mapesbury to Labour and the Conservative party kept its three seats for the Kenton ward but lost its hold on Brondesbury Park. This suggests rising crime rates in the area might be a reason for Labour’s takeover.

Councillor for Kenton Suresh Kansagra highlights the importance of having Conservative representation in the majority Labour council: “We are going to provide effective opposition and scrutinise the decisions of the council.” Reg Colwill, another Conservative councillor, says they “work very well with the labour group so we are working together and getting things done”.

It is certainly important when budget cuts are increasing as well as resident expectations. “The hardest thing is getting across to residents the gravity of where local government is in terms of its budgets and resourcing”, says Shama Tatler, Labour councillor for Fryent.

There were no wins for the Lib Dems or the Green Party, yet candidates for the latter beat Conservatives and Lib Dems in some wards. Samuel Hopkins, Green Party candidate for Kensal Green says this means there is “hunger for a Green representative” across Brent.

 

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Willesden Green was the only ward that didn’t hold elections after they were called off following the passing of Lesley Ann Jones, the ward’s longest serving Labour councillor on Monday 30 April.  A by-election will be held after the party has selected a new candidate.

These local elections are being held after anti-semitism, Windrush and Grenfell fire scandals have affected Britain’s major political parties, Conservatives and Labour. However, there has been little to no change to how local councils have been elected across the country.

Cycling in London: how is it going?

Cover photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

“It’s as easy as riding a bike” is a common phrase used to say that, well, something is easy. But just how easy is it to do it in London, one of the most congested cities in the world? Transport for London’s 2017 Analysis estimated that 730,000 journeys are made daily with bicycles in the capital.

The Mayor of London recently announced a commitment of an average of £169m per year over the next five years to improve London’s cycling conditions, contributing to its target of 70 per cent of Londoners living within 400m of the cycle network by 2041.

Cyclists and campaign groups, however, want more than that. Yes, appropriate infrastructure is needed, but that also requires a transition of established societal and institutional ways. A study done by the Portland State University showed that changing cycling infrastructure won’t change culture.

Having blue lanes segregated from cars and other motorised vehicles won’t do anything if people don’t know how to use them. Bruce Lynn, from the London Cycling Campaign, says the infrastructure is there but people won’t use it.

There are bigger issues TfL and the Mayor of London have to consider to make cycling a possibility for every Londoner. Today, there is a common idea of the typical cyclist in London: young white men, environmentally-friendly and mostly liberal. This is supported by various studies that argue people who don’t identify as any of the above, feel less inclined to try cycling.

Who is cycling today

Who is cycling in london today_

Graphics by author

In TfL’s 2016 report, the fact that people are highly against changing their routines was assumed to be one of the main reasons they don’t try it. Their 2015 Attitudes towards cycling report also showed that safety concerns, fear of collisions, too much traffic, bad weather, lack of time, health reasons and lack of confidence and accessibility are some of the most common deterrents that put Londoners off using bikes.

Just last Saturday, around 4,000 riders took the streets of London for the #BikesUpKnivesDown demonstration led by the #BikeStormz movement to raise awareness to the rise of knife crime and murder rates in the city. They rode from London Bridge to Oxford Street in one of the biggest youth-led rides against knife crime, showing that the use of bikes has turned their lives around.

Current cycling network

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Central London’s cycling paths mapped by Route Plan Roll.

The current cycling network is made up of quietways and cycle superhighways for the most part. TfL defines them as “cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

Existing ones go from the City to Tottenham, Stratford to Aldgate, Barking to Tower Gateway, Oval to Pimlico, Merton to the City, and Wandsworth to Westminster. The east-west and north-south ones are the newest additions with proposed ones to go from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, Kensington Olympia to Brentford, and Swiss Cottage to the West End.

 

 

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Graphic by author

 

Safety

Safety concerns is probably what discourages people from riding the most. A study done recently by Cambridge academics found that changes in behaviour and policies is what is needed to keep the system moving, and tackle these concerns. A change in work hours, in the number of cycleways and docking stations, and in how people cycle together are factors that will contribute to that.

Another study done by Injury Prevention found that the more number of cyclists and pedestrians, the less likely motorists are to collide with them. This is partly because they are more visible, but also because the so called “safety in numbers” makes riders feel more comfortable.

14.6 per cent of casualties in Greater London while travelling were of cyclists in 2016, according to TfL. However, only eight, out of 4,424, were fatal, a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before. It certainly shows how, compared to the car, the transport mode responsible for 39.3 per cent of the casualties, cycling is less likely to get people injured. The study by Cambridge academics, however, also points out that an increase in cycling traffic also means an increased risk for cycle coalitions.

Not every rider has the same experience levels, specially in urban area conditions. ‘Bikeability’ is something most of the campaign groups advocate for, because they know that is where it starts. The London Cycling Campaign offers free ‘bikeability’ training to anyone interested and the have regular group sessions. Everyone, not only cyclists, should know how to share a public road.

How is London doing compared to the rest of the world?

 

Not good. It isn’t even on the top 20 of bike-friendly cities in the world. Infrastructure, safety and diversity (or lack of) are some of the reasons why the British capital is not considered in the 2017 Copenhagenize Design Company Index.

Tokyo, Munich, Helsinki and Oslo are new to the list because they have worked to fix issues that didn’t allow their cycling levels to grow. Closing the center to private cars, bike sharing systems, growth of network, parking facilities, and the creation of the Cycling Embassy (Tokio) and the Cycling Federation (Helsinki) are some of the things that are on place in this cities to improve the levels of cycling urbanism.

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As much as it is common thinking that more and better infrastructure will make London a top bike-friendly city, if Londoners don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) about ‘bikeability’ and cycling urbanism, the city won’t see any major changes in the years to come. The Mayor of London is committed to increase the use of bicycles in the city as it has been demonstrated that not only will it help with air pollution, but will also provide better quality public spaces.

 

What is this Siberian “Beast from East” and how did it make Britain so cold?

Why was the UK suddenly covered in heavy snow?

The blast of cold air sweeping in from Siberia to Western Europe, popularly dubbed as ‘beast from east’, is a result of a break down in jet streams over Scandinavia.

Jet streams are basically ribbons of strong, high altitude winds (upto 200mph), blowing across Atlantic west to east, that are responsible for the shifts in weather across the globe.

Jet streams naturally move either in a “wavy” irregular path or in strong-steady flow. And previous studies have shown the weather to be much cold moving south from the Artic towards the mid-latitudes, even bringing freezing temperatures when the jet streams move in a wavy path. Whereas, when jets streams move strong and steadily from west to east, winter weather conditions are milder in the countries that lie between the tropics and the Artic, including the UK.

And although there is no denying that last week’s bad winter weather has been a result of a natural shift, scientists are now linking the increasing frequencies of such weather shifts and anomalies to a larger change in global weather.

(Check out this video by Met Office on jet streams)

 

What is causing these weather anomalies across the globe?

While rest of the world is suffering from dropping degrees, scientists say temperatures have risen above freezing repeatedly at the North Pole, reaching as high as 30C above normal for the depths of winter.

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Source: Research on Arctic Temperatures by Zachary Labe

Such a radical difference (rise) in temperature in Arctic, especially in winter seasons, evidently does not bode well for the rest of the world. And the fact that these changes are in-part largely a result of man-made climate changes, makes things even more critical.

Professor Edward Hanna, of the University of Sheffield, said: “We’ve always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns.

“This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK.”

(Read more about his research on Extreme cold winters fuelled by jet stream and climate change here.)

The lead scientist at Berkerley Earth, Robert Rohde, too pointed out recently that the North Pole is warmer than much of Europe.

And this anomaly is due to the dark retreat of sea ice in Arctic winter, resulting in temperatures above the freezing level at the meteorological site in the northern extreme of Greenland for a record-breaking 61 hours, so far in year 2018. As shown by the graph (below) from Robert Rohde’s research.

But the bigger question that comes to mind is that what is the probability of such weather conditions repeating itself? They are possibly higher than what would have been few decades ago. Especially with recent studies showing an increase in frequency of warm air intrusions, making scientists believe that the further reduction in ice sea on the Arctic Ocean will allow warmer water to release heat into the atmosphere, resulting in knock-on effects for the jet stream.

The most worrisome thing is not what is happening right now to the weather but how often this has started happening in the recent years.

This video by the Robert Rohde and the Berkerley Earth division showing how climate has changed in 168 years.

Cars and street covered with heavy snow in Central London. As the snow and cold grew, many motorways were forced to close down due to high levels of invisibility and accidents. Trains were delayed when not altogether cancelled. Even the airways suffered, with British Airways cancelling many flights from Heathrow Airport, London.

 

 

 

 

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