The Independent and Health-Informed Tourist?

Mers-virus-3D-imageFULLBy Scinceside – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

An innocuous visit to Dubai
A young friend of my extended family was recently taken seriously ill and ended up in a London hospital following a short trip to Dubai to visit a partner working abroad for a few months. The symptoms of the infection, taken together with the location, and the fact that the trip involved taking a camel ride, led the hospital to suspect deadly MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). Acting on that basis, the partner was tested in a local hospital in Dubai and sent home to wait-out the 14 day transmission window for this disease.

About MERS
Its caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and infection is linked to travel in the Middle East and close contact with camels, camel secretions and uncooked camel products. The fatality rate is 40%, but deaths are usually linked to underlying medical conditions which weaken the immune response. There is no vaccine: disease transmission is controlled by hygiene, by contact tracing of confirmed cases and the wearing of personal protective equipment by hospital staff (1). Since 2012, 27 countries (including UK) have reported 2266 cases, the majority in Saudi Arabia, with a serious imported outbreak in 2015 in South Korea.

Fortunately the friend turned out not to have MERS but it was a very difficult and traumatic 24 hours finding information to reassure relatives (40% fatality is a scary statistic) … and it set me thinking:

How much can you be expected to know as an independent traveller and what is the responsibility of your tour organiser to inform you? Continue reading

One health – human, animal, environmental and plant health

Do you give advice on poultry SD

Ahead of One Health Day tomorrow (3rd November 2018), Robert Taylor, CABI’s Editorial Director, explores the relationships between human, animal, environmental and plant health…

The ‘One health’ initiative launched in 2007 was designed primarily to break down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, particularly for dealing with zoonotic diseases. The link between BSE and nvCJD, as well as the threat of new diseases like SARS and threat of old diseases like avian influenza made for a strong case that the health of humans and animals are inter-linked. Since then, ‘One health’ has been expanded to include environmental health as there are many examples of how human activity can harm the health of the environment, and how in turn, a polluted environment adversely affects human health.

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Did I really eat that?

Photographing food can help dietitians assess diets more easily
Photographing food can help dietitians assess diets more easily. Photo by Ruth Hartnup

There’s been a thing on social media for a while of photographing what you’re about to eat – whether it’s to brag about what fancy restaurants you go to or to show off your cooking skills, with hashtags such as #Eatingfortheinsta, #foodie and #foodporn. But food photography could play a useful role in helping dietitians to measure more accurately what people are eating.

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The impact of invasive species on human health

By Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy

mosquito 1
Mosquitoes are often the first species we think of when it comes to human health

Invasive species are becoming a popular topic in newspapers: when articles appear, they mainly report the damages invasive species can cause to our ecosystems (e.g. reduction or disappearance of native species as well as habitat modification) or to our economic activities: fishing or boating can be halted by mats of the South American water hyacinth, several insects can affect our agricultural production or new diseases can be transmitted to reared species. However, these species can also heavily affect human health and wellbeing.

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Invasive species: the threat to human health

The damage that invasive species can cause to the environment and the economy are well known, but impacts on human health have been much less analysed. However, invasive species can cause impacts ranging from psychological effects, phobias, discomfort and nuisance to allergies, poisoning, bites, disease and even death. Invasives experts Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico of the University of Florence, Italy say that in addition to these direct effects, some work in more indirect ways. Humans are menaced by alien invasive species affecting the services provided by ecosystems. “These services are vital to our well-being: changes may decrease the availability of drinking water and of products from fisheries, agriculture and forestry, alter pollination and impoverish culture and recreation,” say Mazza and Tricarico.

Miluz
The invasive red swamp crayfish, linked to disease in fishermen (photo by Miluz).

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Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere…what about cancer?

  World Health Day 2018

I’ve written about universal health coverage (UHC) before in the context of what’s covered under UHC in one country is not the same as another [Universal health coverage gains momentum in 2016] although there are agreed basics, the essential health services to deliver “health for all”.  The World Health Organization is focusing its efforts on supporting countries moving to UHC, and keeping the pressure on by running high profile events throughout 2018 on UHC beginning with  World Health Day, April 7th.

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Emerging contaminants – a growing concern?

Polluted_water

[Image credit: minthu]

Over the last 200 years, the global population has been growing at an exponential rate and according to the UN, is predicted to reach 8.5 billion by 2030. The population increase to date, has been supported by the development of agricultural, industrial and health care resources, which has led to the rise in the production and use of a variety of different chemicals.  In recent years, many of the substances, either used in or created by these industries have been named as “emerging contaminants” (EC’s).  Until very recently, the main focus of the impacts that chemicals cause in the environment was mainly attributed to heavy metals, active ingredients traditionally used in pesticides and persistent organic pollutants.  However, concern has been growing over the environmental and health risks of EC’s. Many EC’s are considered to be water pollutants, yet they remain largely unregulated by current water-quality standards.  So what are these chemicals and why are they a problem?

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