Coronavirus – Spread and control

March 31st, 2020

Spreading quickly across the globe, many countries (around 200) are now experiencing rapidly growing cases of the coronavirus (covid-19). With little human natural resistance to stand in its way, the virus is infecting susceptible populations, producing an alarmingly high rate of fatalities – an average of about 5%, yet some countries, such as Italy, are experiencing death rates as high as 10%.
The staggered wave of infection of coronavirus around the world is allowing newly affected countries to learn important lessons from those already affected.
With such a virulent organism on the loose, it is important to understand its biology and mode of operation as soon as possible.
Early on in the outbreak, the genetic code of Covid-19 was determined and made available to the worlds scientists to study and work on finding a cure and treatment.
Covid-19 was found fairly quickly to have a relatively simple mode of transfer from person to person – similar to how the Influenza virus gets around – through coughs, sneezes, and from picking it up from contaminated surfaces.
This led to the realisation that the spread of the coronavirus could be slowed by simply keeping people apart, encouraging folks to washing their hands regularly, and, if you’re needing to cough or sneeze, then try and do it into a tissue.
But with many people infected and now heading for A&E departments, it is the staff of the NHS that have become the front line in the battle against this virus. Unfortunately, this has taken its toll with some frontline staff becoming infected themselves with the virus, leading to an urgent upscaling in the amount of testing, and delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) being delivered to hospitals and medical centres nationwide, now often involving military personnel and redeployment of the emergency services to different roles to best support the NHS. We’ve also seen a number of large venues across the country being transformed into dedicated coronavirus treatment hospitals to help deal with the expected influx of patients over the next few months. However, these numbers can be lowered if we all follow the governments advice for us to avoid each other like the plague.
As always folks, please stay safe, protect yourselves and the NHS.

© Willow Science 2020

Coronavirus – Social Distancing

March 26th, 2020

Social distancing - we’re hearing a ton about this recently. The best way to think of it is that your ‘personal space’ just got a tad bit bigger and is now 2m. But this is great as not only will it help to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, it will also stop you bumping into folks whilst you’re doing your allowed essential shopping, travel to work, or one exercise session a day.
Taken with regular handwashing, the chain of spread of the Coronavirus from person to person can be broken, and the disease slowed.
As always, stay safe folks.

© Willow Science 2020

Coronavirus – A Worldwide Problem

March 23rd, 2020

By far, the biggest health issue facing the world at the moment is the emergence of the Coronavirus. From cancelled sporting events and music festivals to the closure of cinemas and restaurants, nothing, it seems, has failed to become affected.
For humans, viruses are nothing new, we’ve always got tons of the little critters hanging around that like to ‘have a go at us’ – Influenza, Ebola, Varicella, which are bad and can cause severe illness and even death, however, with most common viruses, we do have vaccines and well adopted treatments that we can use in order to prevent infection in the first place, or give infected people a decent chance of a complete recovery.
The thing what’s going on with the Coronavirus is that it’s a new type of virus that we’ve never come across before, this means that we don’t have any pre-tried treatments or vaccines that we can use to halt it. The real problem is amount of Coronavirus-infected people that are actually dying is really quite high, especially for elderly, immunocompromised, and those with certain underlying health conditions.
Because the Coronavirus affects the respiratory system, it can be spread in a similar way (via the air and contaminated surfaces) to the Influenza virus – and we know how much havoc that causes. This is why we are all being urged to remain a distance of 2m from each other, and to self-isolate if you think you may be infected with Coronavirus.
Signs that you are infected by the Coronavirus may include:

(1) A newly occurring dry persistent cough – the type that will defo bug you.
(2) A fever – basically you’re gonna feel really hot and sizzlely.
(3) A headache.

To further protect yourself and others from all this nonsense the advice is to:

(1) Wash your hands regularly for about 20s.
(2) Refrain from touching your face.
(3) Cough and sneeze into a tissue… or into your elbow if you haven’t got a tissue to hand.
(4) Don’t be touching anyone else’s hands… you don’t know where they’ve been.
(5) Try not to congregate in large numbers either inside or out.
(6) Self-isolate immediately if you really do feel like poop!

Hopefully, all this will pass fairly quickly if we all follow the official guidelines. But who can say as we’re dealing with a new virus here, the government and health specialists continue to revise the best measures for us all to take as the pandemic evolves and as we collect more and more data about the current Coronavirus outbreak, so it’s best to keep up with the daily-updated government information as it’s made available to the public.
Stay safe.

© Willow Science 2020

Cancer Awareness - ‘Nutcare’

April 15th, 2015

nuts.bmp

OK nuts - don’t neglect um, they’re there for a reason - mainly for reproduction… and something to do with hormones - great, especially since most of the time, they cause no problems, but occasionally… yes, cancer can happen. However, um being hidden away and stuff means that they often get forgotten about - but regular ‘nutcare’ is important - gentle inspection is a must - try and get used to how they feel - and yeah, go for it - make notes, draw diagrams, take photos… and even, jot down a few measurements just for future comparison. Get to know your way around them, understand their dynamics… their connection with the universe… what makes them tick, then, if owt goes wrong - you’ll be ‘on it’ straight away.
As for the question of ‘when and where’ to carry out a ‘nut inspection’ - well, this is always best done in a quiet place, a spot where you can give them your full attention - the bath, couch, or bed for instance - it doesn’t take long, and hopefully, they’ll be OK each time, but, should a problem arise, then treatment is available… the main thing being to, get in there early as this will often help you with your chances of making a full, and, speedy recovery. :)

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky xx

Cancer Awareness - Watch out!!!

April 14th, 2015

Lumps and bumps are a fact of life - don’t be sitting there acting like you haven’t got any - go on… check it out. I’ll give you a sec.
OK then, so what have you got… bony bits… gristly bits… the odd squidgy bit? It’s always good to know exactly, what you’ve got ‘hanging around’ - yes, make notes, draw diagrams… take photos (especially, if your memory is as rubbish as mine) - cos, if owt changes in the future, then you need to ‘get on it’ - quick - and have some sort of a reference for comparison.
Oh, throughout life, your body alters no doubt… stuff comes and goes - most of this is not too bad, but it’s the stuff that comes, stays and grows that you need to be aware of… or, things that you’ve already got, that, and for no apparent reason, suddenly looks and feels quite different… and not just women - anyone can succumb to cancer - it’s just not that fussy about whose life it invades.
So, you’ve gotta be alert, and get at this thing early… it’s no good leaving it, as, once it’s come… it’s unlikely to go all by itself - it needs a good shove - and the sooner you do this… the better. :)

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky xx

Welcome to Willow Science - BBQ safety

April 13th, 2015

Hello, I think I’m really going to enjoy this opportunity as a science writer as helping people learn all about germs and the diseases they cause is what really excites me, and, to be honest, was the main reason I chose to study microbiology in the first place. As a subject, it gives you everything - slime, fungus, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at being able to study and understand something that you can’t even see with the naked eye.
However, in my quest to bring diseases to you, I’ve already had to overcome much adversity; in this, my very first post, I was really pushed to the limit. You see I, like most people, love a good barbecue… and staring at pictures of perfectly cooked burgers, chicken wings, and sausages, fresh from the grill, all in the name of research… OMG - back in a mo!
Hmm, that’s better, now, where was I?
Yes, barbecues are a staple part of the long British summer - a chance to get together with family, friends, their pets, whilst also, becoming reacquainted with the ‘natural world’ after your recent winter hibernation.
However, in the ensuing chaos of dodging wasps, scraping ants from your legs, and keeping the kids out of the pond, one should never forget the importance of food safety at these occasions - remember, focus, because if you don’t, you could end up with Salmonella, or some other nasty little bug that could well cause food poisoning - which is a big deal, as its symptoms can be pretty gruesome and could end up lasting for days - with most of the ‘action’ revolving around diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pains which come about, usually, as a result of toxins produced by the offending microbe.
So, you want to try and avoid all of this nonsense - and where better to go for advice than to the Food Standards Agency (a bunch of folks who know all about food… and safety), where basically, what they’re saying about handling meat at a barbecue is to:

(1) Try to pre-cook all your meat in the oven - then whack it on the barbecue to give it that smoky taste you’re after. Yum!

(2) OK, so it may look charred and frazzled on the outside, but this doesn’t always mean your meat is cooked thoroughly on the inside, therefore, to make sure, simply cut into it and check that there are no pink bits, it’s piping hot, and that the juices are running clear. Remember - be a hero - if in doubt - cook it a little longer!

(3) Beware of portable barbecues - oh, not cos they’ll have your eye out or anything else dodgy like that (well, not under normal circumstances they won’t), it’s just that they take a little longer to cook your food. Be vigilant… and patient… get a good book to work through whilst you’re waiting (War and Peace should just about do it).

(4) Cross-contamination at these events can be a real problem - keep raw and cooked foods well separated, use different utensils and equipment for each, wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat, and especially, when you’ve been to the toilet, handled any pets, blown your nose, or, been foraging around in the bin!

(5) This one may catch you by surprise - but try and refrain from giving your raw meat a wash as it’s well known that the splashing action of water in this way can actually propel dangerous microbes all over the place from the food. But worry not; the heat of cooking will kill off any microbes present on your meat.

(6) Serve your glorious creations with utensils, and, on to plates, using cutlery that have not been in contact with any raw meat - a beautiful ‘marinated flamingo breast’ is no good if it’s served with an E. coli garnish!

And there you have it folks. OK, so I’m not saying that if you follow all these guidelines to the exact letter, then I’m sure things will go perfectly and you’ll have a day to remember for all the right reasons. It’s more like, that if you follow these guidelines you’ll reduce your chances of something going wrong as you can never completely rule out the unexpected from happening.
Yes - a random seagull flying overhead and dropping a Campylobacter-laden poop right in the middle of your meatball, pasta salad can never be entirely foreseen!

References:

Food Standards Agency (FSA). food.gov.uk (July 2014) Six tips for a top barbecue.

Murray, P.R., Rosenthal, K.S., Kobayashi, G.S., Pfaller, M.A. Ed. (2002) Medical Microbiology 4th ed. Mosby.

Prescott, L.M., Harley, J.P., Klein, D.A. Ed. (1996) Microbiology 3rd ed. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky :) xx