When the drugs don’t work…

I’ve just finished the most intriguing read; a welcome break from the revision stress, but a thought  provoking one non the less. The Drugs Don’t Work, by Professor Dame Sally C. Davies is a thought provoking yet blunt incite into whats going to happen in the next 30 years as our antibiotics stop working.

There has been no new antibacterial discovered in the last 26 years, and simple infections that could once be cured by our antibiotics are becoming harder and harder to treat. Professor Dame Davies proposes realistic methods to prevent deaths from simple infections, things that could be easily enforced globally to give us added time to address the situation.

The antibiotic crisis also highlights the need for scientific research in todays world. We need new blood, to take creative ideas and make them a reality, to discover the undiscovered, and say that money should not define life. Because the thats the sad reality of the last 26 years; no new antibiotic classes have been discovered because pharmaceutical companies see no profit to be found in them.

The conclusion to Davies’ book is a likely reality; when infection hits home quarantine and home infection testing is the norm, you have to recover alone until the infections die out and our antibiotics work again. If the world doesn’t work together to fight this crisis and inspire research in this area, then we will rapidly run out of options, and hope for a infection safe future.

Based upon the words of Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England.

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NHS Cyber Attacks: why did no one listen?

The NHS cyber attacks crippled the systems yesterday and some health trusts are still affected. Yet the government has received not one but two warnings about the network systems susceptibility to attack. An EU funded SIRENS (Securing internet routing: Economics vs. network security) Project was published four days before stating that the border gateway protocol (BGP) is highly vulnerable to cyber attacks. BGP is a vital component of the internet routing infrastructure and the findings showed the protocol downgrade attacks were extremely effective with some S*BGP were useless against attacks. The SIRENS Project suggested a routing protocol that would make the internet work more securely.

It also appears Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, was warned last summer about 60 hospitals, GP surgeries and dental practices whose “computer hardware and software could no longer be supported” and needed to be urgently replaced; the hospitals were still using these outdated system, on Windows XP. It seems to be a huge coincidence that the WannaCry virus attacks machines running Windows and some hospitals are using the same outdated software.

Everyone is aware of the multiple problems facing the NHS, but with the risk of patient care being halted and valuable data being lost or stolen, why was security not improved sooner? Money plays a large part of it, but Security Minister Ben Wallace insisted to the BBC that the NHS trusts have enough money to provide the security measures. Data must be regularly backed up and the security patches must be installed correctly in order for the safety to be continually up to date.

The recent cyber attacks were a huge wake up call for the NHS into the security of its healthcare software. Surgeries were cancelled, patients records withheld and issues with test and scan results are among the problems faced by trusts with computer systems held hostage. We are fortunate that most of the systems have been restored and that so far there has been no sign of a second wave; but 11 trusts are still affected, including Barts Health NHS Trust, whom operates 5 hospitals in London, has reduced or cancelled surgeries and outpatients appointments in response to the current issues.

The attack has raised many questions, including how safe our personal hospital records are or the effectiveness of the UK’s cyber security means reports such as these two are coming more and more important as the world becomes more reliable on the digital age. Hopefully this attack is the only one of its kind and while unsuccessful for the perpetrator, it has successfully shown the world where its vulnerability lies, its not terrorism, its cyber-warfare.

Protesting is about expressing an objection to what someone has said or done; since when did violence become part of the process?

There has been sixteen cases of civil unrest in america this year; where seemingly peaceful protests turned violent. The UK is not left out of this worrying trend a famous example being the 2011 protest into the death of Mark Duggan which sparked five days of rioting in London and other cities.

What benefit does being violent bare on protesting against the actions of larger parties? Turning a protest violent is usually not the aim of most peaceful protests; though there are some protesters who will go to do just that. Many protests turn violent when they are frustrated and when aggravated; or at the will of others.

Researching into many protests that have turned violent, the flash point is usually found within a fraction of the group itself; people who have gone with the intention of causing unrest, usually against the police as a figure of authority and government. Protests that turn into civil unrest over a number of days escalate as people join who are not there to protest about the original issue but are their to incite violence; this was the case of the London riots, social media was used to encourage others to uses the protest as an excuse to loot shops and burn down buildings.

Think about how many protests you hear about in the news, national or otherwise. How many of these feature stories about peaceful protests? How many feature headline news of violence breaking out at such protests?

The answer is that the majority of protests unfortunately only make the news if fighting occurs or major damage; so people are taking the stance that in order to be heard violence must be synonymous with their protest.There are also some issues protested on that are based upon issues of hatred, normally racially based, these are more likely to incite violence due to the people protesting clashing with members of the clique they found hatred towards.

Its sad really, that people of the world feel they have little choice to be heard except for cause harm and upset to their fellow humans. What does the violence achieve; in the case of Charlotte, violence towards the police does nothing but harm the stigma that coloured people are violent against the police, only providing more evidence.  I am not alone in feeling this way; the free hugs campaign posted a video of the North Carolina Riots where a member of their campaign was abused for showing peace. He’s an inspirational man; and he should be listened too.

 

We are all humans, and the irony of Charlotte is they are blaming a group of people for the actions of one, the very stigma they are campaigning against. How is this helping? You should be fighting for better policies and training in profiling not just on race, harsher punishments for police who fire their weapons unnecessarily and prove to the police force that you are no a threat to their safely and those singular entities within their organisation are wrong. The women in this video in this case are doing nothing but feed the vicious circle police and Charlotte residents are trying to get out of.

Has the war on terror not taught us fighting gets us no where… can we not talk to each other like decent human beings?

When I grow up I want be a humanitarian aid worker…

There are special people in the world who have the ability to share their humanity, give up so much of their own life to help others, in dangerous countries and with few resources and today is the day we can thank them.

When war breaks out it’s not only soldiers that arrive on the frontline, it’s humanitarian workers too. People who advocate for unity among people and provide healthcare and refuge to victims of war, poverty and natural disaster. Today marks World Humanitarian Day designed to coincide with 2003 bombing of UN Headquarters in Baghdad. Humanitarian Work a harsh career, fraught with risks, often facing blockades on multiple sides and the knowledge that you unfortunately are often unable to save everyone. So when I tell people I want to work as a humanitarian, people are often shocked and at most job interviews most people ask why I would choose such a path.

The answer is simple; it aligns with my values and combining my passion and career with a sense of fulfillment doing something like this, is a dream career for me. I have the ability to achieve my dreams, make a difference to peoples lives and pay my bills, why would you not?

The work of a humanitarian aid worker never stops, its more of a lifestyle than a career something you never get away from and spend most of your time thinking about. You’re surrounded by committed and enthusiastic colleagues in a new and cultured environment; days are never the same and you often don’t have the same view out of your office window.

I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a well established country, in an area filled with wealth despite spending a lot of my childhood struggling for money. I am able to spend all this time in education and learn what ever I want despite my gender. We have free healthcare and as many vaccinations as I need to stay safe for diseases. This country makes everyone equal and safe, people in countries that need humanitarian aid don’t have any of this, or if they do its so hard to achieve this without money, which again they have no access too.

Equality should be given to everyone; I want to allow everyone the change to live and better themselves. Given an education, healthcare and safety from wars they do not ask for. Its a vision that all aid agencies and their staff share and work towards. Today, on World Humanitarian Day we have the chance to thank all the people who work hard and risk their lives so the world can be one step closer to this vision. Last year 109 workers died, 110 were injured and 68 kidnapped in the line of duty, for what they believe in and you can not be anything but inspired by what they do every day.

So, to all of them out there…

Thank You

Zika is not the problem: Rio’s real health crisis

The Rio 2016 Olympics have started, with weeks of controversy and worry about the health risks surrounding it. The Zika outbreak has been seriously impacting Brazil in the months before the games began with some olympic athletes pulling out due to the risk of health implications. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes, known for carrying other vector based diseases including yellow fever. The disease itself is not very dangerous with symptoms such as headache, conjunctivitis and muscle and joint pain lasting approximately only a week. The infection is also easily treated, with patients often prescribed rest with plenty of fluids. So what is causing the huge worry concerning the Zika outbreak?

The answer is two conditions that are being linked to the virus, the less deadly of the two is Guillian-Barre syndrome which causes temporary paralysis of the infected party. The major concern is Microcephaly; a potentially deadly condition that occurs in the unborn children of Zika infected pregnant women.

Microcephaly is characterized by a newborns smaller than average head size, denoting the underdevelopment of their brain, often it can be so severe the child is unable to regulate vital life functions. Brazil had 4700 reported cases since 22 October 2015 and despite the link between Microcephaly and Zika only being “strongly suspected” the autopsies of deceased Microcephaly newborns showed the presence of the Zika virus in their brain and in placenta and amniotic fluid as well.

Reducing the risk of the Zika virus and its complications is a more difficult battle than other recent outbreaks such as Ebola and yellow fever, because the solution is not putting people on the ground; but understanding the link between Zika and Microcephaly, how they communicate and the creation of a vaccine or treatment for Zika in an attempt to stop them working together; reducing the ability of Microcephaly on the pregnant population of Brazil.

So, you have no need to fear Zika, for have to fear the unknown that surrounds it; its not the first pathogen that has caused so much trouble due to humanities lack of understanding. Ebola was forty years ahead of doctors and scientists when the outbreak began and the time it took to catch up resorted in scientists treating the pathogen as if it was a completely new disease it had evolved so much. This is an important point in advocating for more research into viruses and other diseases that are prominent but unknown.

Boats, Lifejackets, Fear and Hope: The European Refugee Crisis in the Mediterranean

My interest in Public Health and desire to work for an NGO in the future means I actively follow the work many of them daily. Last night I read about the 541 passengers on the MSF Argos vessel who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea after coming into difficulty on the same day whilst attempting to flee from their homelands.

Wednesday the 13th of July saw four people drown in the exact same sea which is quickly becoming a mass grave for the ten thousand refuges who have drowned in its waters in the last three years. These are not facts and numbers these are people, people whose stories have not and will not make national papers; this cannot be ignored any longer. How many more people have to die in this situation, how many more are stuck in refugee camps or submitted to public hate because they are not seen as refugees but illegal immigrants?

The problem stems for the similar definitions for the terms migrant and refugee; and how people rarely understand the difference. Migrants choose to leave there homes in search of a better life for themselves, refugees flee their homes to escape war and the violence it includes often with no belongings or no idea of where they will go. We spend enough time and newspaper pages enlightening the world to the work of war bringers and their antics often just listening the dead as numbers. There is not enough talk about the victims, the people who did not die but lost everything and with nowhere to go and then head for the borders, or more dangerously the sea.

We need to take a stand; even the BBC spreads this confusion by naming the refugee crisis the ‘european migrant crisis’, the politicians do the same. Using a word in its incorrect form, misrepresenting people incites fear, why should we fear these people who have nothing to loose but everything to gain, the tenacity and the drive to engage in dangerous acts to be safe; people who have skills we could use and develop. A society who spend some much time preach tolerance of homosexuality, transsexuality and equality, so why aren’t these people granted the same rights?

MSF – Overview of the European Refugee Crisis

Twitter feed – MSF Sea

 

So long, fair well, Auf wiedersehen, goodbye

A new day, and the world has not fallen into disarray, much. The EU referendum has not caused the world to collapse despite the shocking Brexit vote. 

As a strong remain supporter I am sorely disappointed in the decision but I can understand the benefits people see in leaving the union and spending more on the independent running of the country, but the stalling and sudden backtracking on immediate initiation of the Lisbon treaty’s article 50 or NHS funding claims suggests that the politicians are hiding something. 

The EU was a floored system anyway handing over too much control and sharing of resources was always going to end in trouble, it’s a lesson that children learn in school, and the world is now listening and more people are jumping on the exit bandwagon. This bares hedance to the report I read predicting the end of the Union by 2026. 

Who knows, with claims that the referendum wasn’t legally binding, the  petition for another more representative vote and other countries governments shock at our plans suggest that saying goodbye may be harder then we thought. 

Pumping Blood: Blood Donation Day 2016

Right now there is approximately five litres of blood pumping through your veins, with a blood cell making a round trip every minute. This water composite is vital to bodily functions; providing valuable oxygen to all living cells; it is donated blood that often is what save lives in medical emergencies. Today is World Blood Donor Day, designed to remind people how “blood connects us all” a sentiment should be listened to by people globally as a reminder to the importance of life.

Today 8,000 blood transfusions take place in UK hospitals; 5360 will be used to treat medical conditions, 2160 transfusions used in surgery and 480 transfusions will treat after childbirth blood loss. That is an enormous quantity of blood, and with only four percent of the populous donating, the UK especially, require more donations to compete with demand.

Not many people know how donated blood is used; that it is quite often split into component parts for use. The process is simple, starting with the removal from the volunteer. 470ml of blood is removed less than a pint in a intravenous process that takes less than half an hour, and often accompanied by a few biscuits. Blood is then scanned and placed as a record in a database; it is now tested for disease and contamination. If clean for use the blood is then centrifuged to split it into platelets, blood cells and plasma. These can then be given individually or as an unspun sample.

So today is a day to say thank you to the people who donate blood voluntarily and encourage more people to sign up to do so. In the UK 200,000 new donors are needed every year and as most donors are over 45 an appeal to get young people to donate a drop or two is regularly broadcast. Find out if you are eligible to donate blood here.

 

World No Tobacco Day 2016

World No Tobacco Day occurs every year on May 31st and is designed to highlight the health risks that come with tobacco use along with petitioning to governments to produce effective policies to reduce its consumption. Each year has a different focal point; 2015’s was to stop illicit trade of tobacco products; this year the theme is product packaging with the aims being to:

  • Highlight plain packaging role as part of multisectorial approach to control of tobacco
  • Globalization of standardized packaging
  • Support society against the oppressive industry interference of tobacco companies attempting to disrupt political processes against tobacco products.

 

WNTD and WHO are joining forces to promote the idea of plain tobacco packaging in all countries; similar to the landmark decision by Australia in 2012 to standardize tobacco packaging. Tobacco products must follow strict rules; the products must be in dark brown packets covered in large health warnings that can easily turn a weak stomach. They must also lack any promotional text from tobacco companies and names must be in small plain font below health warnings. Last year Ireland, France and the United Kingdom implemented the standardized packaging which began this month.

Many people will be wondering whether reducing attractiveness of packaging will actually contribute to fewer tobacco sales and thus fewer smokers; the Cancer Council Australia’s Tobacco Issues Committee have reported that smokers have commented on disliking the new packaging, as well as believing the unchanged recipe tastes worse. This is proof how this years campaign to ensure that tobacco products globally adopt the plain package policies is valid and important to promote.

This is a great start in reducing the attraction to smoking, making sure people really are aware of the health warnings. However this is a small step in controlling tobacco usage, which is one of the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, greater access to stop smoking programs along with increasing the legal purchasing age would also contribute to the cause. If anyone reading this does smoke, consider the risk that it is doing to not only yourself but your family and people around you; 80% of smoke is unseen, and it is this percentage that is most harmful as non smokers inhale this second hand causing lung damage that is not there own choice. Consider the effect an unnecessary habit is causing, you will find you like being smoke free a lot better.


World Health Organisation –  World No Tobacco Day

NHS Smoke Free – quit smoking today!

Brexit? What’s a Brexit?

You currently cannot go anywhere in the UK without hearing some form of conversation about the EU referendum, more commonly referred to as the Brexit. The referendum will occur on Thursday the 23rd of June, with the last day to sign up to vote being the 1st of June. Reading the newspapers it is clear that the Brexit campaign is something of a political gang war; imagine being in high school and a few people are having an argument; different people are picking sides and now there looking at you and saying:

“whose side are you on?”

Maybe its the scientist in me, or just that fact that I was involved in enough high school arguments to know that each side tells the story differently, but before I answer the question officially i’ve decided to look into both sides of the argument.

Its important to note that the Brexit itself lacks a solid definition and is a purely hypothetical event. There are multiple different ways that leaving the European Union could be done. It is highly likely that the government will attempt to follow the Norwegian’s whom still pay into the EU budget, yet implement block regulations on things they do not want to be involved with. The alternative is a distant relationship mediated by the World Trade Organisation and sounds vaguely like a divorced parents mediation. Thus I think that it impossible to have a complete idea into the impact of the Brexit and believe we are voting on a completely theoretical and unrealistic change. This fluid notion is allowing politicians to make rash statements in an attempt to sway voters and creating a lot of tabloid headlines which should always be read with a hint of skepticism.

In the red corner of our political grudge match is Nigel Farage (of course), Chris Grayling (leader of the house of commons), Conservative MP’s Lord Lawson, Bernard Jenkin, John Redwood, Liam Fox, Owen Paterson, Labour MP’s Kate Hoey, Kevin Hopkins, Graham Stringe and John Mills and interestingly enough my local MP Steve Baker (conservative).

In the blue corner is David Cameron, Alan Johnson, George Osborne, Baroness Karren Brady, and Lord Mandelson

Of course being spineless politicians, there a few who sit upon the fence about the situation and many of these (interestingly enough) are current key political players; Boris Johnson, Micheal Gove, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon (though leaving the EU makes it harder to achieve her dream of Scottish Independence).

David Cameron is championing staying within the EU, stating that the UK is not involved in policies such as no borders, the ever closer union and the euro. Staying in the EU gives us a single trade market and political alliances with help with the countries security. Mr Cameron also warns of the dangers of trying to negotiate an exit effecting the economy, businesses and jobs for as long as seven years after the referendum; this would damage the slow recovering economy that has developed in the last conservative government. Martin Wolf, who is a commentator for the financial times, points out that as we hold less than 1% of the world’s population, and produce less than 3% total output being part of a larger group (EU) allows the UK industry to be more effective.

Though supposedly on the fence about the situation Micheal Gove seemingly championed the Brexit when the referendum was first announced, now I don’t like Mr Gove; mainly from his frankly appalling work with our education system and his ability to make this worse not matter how bad they seem to be already (not biased I promise). If the UK left the European Union we would loose 20% of the current deficit due to gifted contributions to the EU along with gaining the ability to control out own laws and borders. Mr Gove talks largely about the failure of the EU and the Euro and how it is already bringing suffering to many of the countries and looking at Spain and Greece it is easy to see.

There are a million and one different articles and publications outlying the aims, hopes and limitations of a break away from the European Union, most focusing on the economic and immigration issues that have become a big political topic since the refugee issues causing havoc with the Eurostar and the increase publicity into immigration from the general election. I have included a small list at the bottom of this page of articles and publications that I read when doing research for this piece and for my own mind allowing me to thoroughly gage my opinion.

My opinion in conclusion to all the reading I have done when I should have been revising for my exams is that I will likely vote to stay in the EU, not because I agree we should but because the alternative is so insecure. Having no agreement in place means we are voting for an unknown variable, those have a habit of going wrong. Personally I think the vote is flawed but I know a lot of people who will simply vote for an exit because they want stricter immigration laws, well there is no promise of that mentioned anywhere.

So thats a quick summary of the EU referendum that takes place on the 23rd of June, don’t forget that the deadline for voting registration is June 1st it will affect everyone in the future and so you should all vote, the question is what corner are you in.

 


Financial Times – EU Referendum

Economists back Brexit

A background guide to the Brexit

How the Brexit will effect everyday life – Guardian

The EU will play hardball with post Brexit Britain – Telegraph