Ebola risk remains low in UK

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has not gone away. By mid-September the virus had killed over 2,600 people in Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Ebola Virus

It is the biggest outbreak in the past 40 years, and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that if current trends continue, the number of cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could exceed 550,000 by January.

So should you be worried?

Well, yes, if you have a family member or friend who is visiting from West Africa and they develop a headache or fever – both are symptoms of Ebola – soon after flying back. However, Public Health England, the government body that monitors infectious diseases, says the risk of an Ebola outbreak occurring in the UK remains ‘very low’.

People in denial over their weight

It seems that as bigger sizes become the new “normal”, people are less likely to recognise the health problems associated with their weight.

Carrying those extra pounds can have serious health implications.

A majority of obese people in Britain would not describe themselves as “obese”, and many would not even describe themselves as “very overweight”, according to a study from Cancer Research UK. Fewer than 10% of those who are clinically obese accept they have a serious weight problem.
In the survey of around 2000 adults, 11% of obese women accurately acknowledged they were “obese”, while the figure fell to only 7% for men.

Around 18,000 cases of cancer in the UK each year are linked to being overweight or obese. Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “Carrying those extra pounds can have serious health implications. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important ways of reducing the risk of cancer, for both men and women.”

An HPV jab for boys under consideration

The human papilloma virus (or HPV), is common and highly contagious. Since 2008, 12-13 year old girls in the UK have been offered a HPV vaccination and now the Department of Health is considering extending the programme to boys aged 12-13.

HPV jabs for boys

Most HPV infections pass quickly, but persistent infection with some strains of the virus can cause genital warts, which is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the UK, and may lead to cervical cancer in women.

As is often the case, the debate centres around money. If uptake of the vaccine is low in girls, there is a benefit in vaccinating boys. However, with high uptake in girls, vaccinating both sexes is less cost effective. Although the UK’s programme reaches more than 80% of girls, there is a much lower uptake in some areas: London is a particular black spot.

Restless legs?

When you try to relax in the evening or sleep at night, do you ever have unpleasant, restless feelings in your legs that can be relieved by walking or movement? If the answer is yes, you may have Willis-Ekbom disease, more often known as restless legs syndrome. It is a common nervous disorder where people have an uncontrollable urge to move certain parts of the body, particularly their legs. The cause is unknown.

Restless, Tired, Sleep

Apart from getting up and walking around, what can you do about it? Simple steps such as sleeping in a quiet, comfortable and cool environment, and going to bed and getting up at a regular hour may help. Avoid drinking coffee before you go to bed. During an attack you may benefit from walking and stretching, or bathing in hot and cold water.

If these simple measures are ineffective you could ask your pharmacist to recommend a mineral supplement (magnesium, potassium and calcium. If this does not work, the next stop is your GP.

Take care, not antibiotics

Imagine a world where old diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis are common, where pneumonia is a killer, and cuts and grazes that turn septic can be fatal. This is the threat posed by antibiotic resistance. It is one of the biggest threats facing health services today. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations and chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work.

What can you do to help with antibiotic resistance?

You can do your bit to help since it is the inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics that is causing the development of resistance. Antibiotics do not treat illnesses caused by viruses, like colds and flu, so don’t go to your GP and pester him for antibiotics. Ask your pharmacist for something to relieve your symptoms.

If you do have a serious infection and have been prescribed an antibiotic – check with the pharmacist when you pick the prescription up if you are not sure – then make sure you take it properly:

• Take it as prescribed
• Do not skip doses
• Do not take it at irregular intervals
• Do not ‘save some for later’ if you are feeling better. Complete the course.

Mental health first aid

People are generally pretty ignorant about mental health and what to do if someone is distressed or in a crisis situation.

This is despite the fact that in any one year, around 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem. So how about taking a course in mental health first aid (MHFA) instead of the more traditional physical option?

What would you do if someone is distressed or in a crisis situation?
What would you do if someone is distressed or in a crisis situation?

MHFA is taken seriously in the US, where this year the US government has put has $15 million towards the cost of such training for front line staff, including teachers and youth workers. Teachers are in the front line since a staggering three quarters of all adult mental health problems start before the age of 18, and they can spot the early signs and symptoms in children.

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Women unaware of their stroke risk

One in eight women in the UK believes that a stroke could never happen to them, according to a poll published by the Stroke Association. This is despite the fact that around 30,000 women die from a stroke every year and it is the third leading cause of death in women in the UK.

Are you aware of your stroke risk?
Are you aware of your stroke risk?

Simple lifestyle changes such as keeping blood pressure under control, exercising regularly and stopping smoking, can significantly lower your likelihood of having a stroke. Ask your pharmacist for further advice.

The research also found that women have different attitudes towards the consequences of stroke compared to men. Memory loss was one of the most feared consequences of a stroke for men, while a greater proportion of women feared losing their ability to talk!

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