Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Spotty Uptake?

Measles was once a disappearing disease, largely controlled by widespread childhood treatment with the triple MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. More recently, however, after a number of vaccination scare stories (for example, linking it to autism) the uptake of MMR has declined to a level where it no longer offers 'herd immunity' to unvaccinated folk. The result is a rocketing incidence of measles with around 41,000 cases (with almost 40 deaths) across the EU in the 6 months until June, 2018 (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/20/low-mmr-uptake-blamed-for-surge-in-measles-cases-across-europe). The highest incidence was in the Ukraine with 23,000 cases. Worryingly, two countries also with high measles incidences (France and Italy) have political parties that advocate 'parental choice' for vaccination programmes (this sounds good but who pays for any resulting medical consequences?). England is not quite in the top 7 for measles incidence but, reportedly, the majority of 'our' cases were teenagers and young adults who missed out on MMR treatment when they were young. A chief MMR antagonist is now said to be US-based.

Snug as a.....?

The recent hot weather in the UK has apparently further stimulated the spread of the bed bug Cimex lectularius (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/19/bedbugs-heatwave-sparks-plage-pest-infestation). High temperatures apparently speed up the life cycle of this opportunistic ectoparasite that feasts on our blood whilst we snooze. The little suckers can reportedly be found in all grades of accommodation from fancy hotels to doss houses. London is said to have a particular problem, as a number of tube lines appear to be 'well infested'. The Circle line and the routes from The Elephant and Castle towards both Lewisham and Croydon are reportedly hot-spots. Rather obviously, the carriages need some basic repeat fumigation to prevent people bringing little 'pets' home with them. I suspect that this is resisted as it means delays to services.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

For the Birds?

The RSPB have warned that three planed bills due in the next 12 months (on agriculture, fisheries and the environment) are essential, if we are to attempt to start to undue the environmental damage that has led to very substantial losses of these organisms in the UK (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/18/endangered-birds-farming-uk-brexit). Somewhat remarkably, even interested parties appear to currently have very little idea what will be in the bills (except for a little 'mood music') and the control of agricultural practices (a major factor in bird loss) will depend on them, especially if Brexit goes ahead (resulting in our being outside any current EU protections).

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Up in a Puff of Smoke?

There has been a suggestion, from a select committee, that the current UK laws on vaping (in England) should be relaxed (to include places like railway stations and areas within hospital grounds) on the bases that a) vaping is much less toxic than cigarette smoking; b) vaping can help some people stop smoking carcinogenic tobacco products and c) Smoking is particularly common in people with mental health issues (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/17/relaxing-e-cigarette-laws-would-cut-smoking-deaths-say-mps). Having said that, there is little doubt that tobacco companies see this as a way of maintaining their profits at a time with declining cigarette sales. There are remaining problems as a) vaping may not be without negative health effects (a recent study suggests an impairment of the immune system); b) passive breathing of vaping fumes may influence the health and enjoyment of people in the immediate vicinity (including children) and c) making vaping possible in public areas may encourage its use (and even lead to eventual cigarette smoking). I am note that it has recently proved very difficult to get a relaxation of cannabis-derived medications in the UK to treat serious medical conditions (such as some types of epilepsy). If nicotine was a recently utilised drug, rather than one that has been around for centuries, I suspect that it would be hard to get vaping concoctions licensed for use anywhere.

Seeing the Changes 1360



A little action at my front door with what appear to be a Neglected rustic (Xestia castanea) and Willow beauty (Peribatoides rhomboidaria) moths, accompanied by a large harvestman spider.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Carbo-Unloading. Is it a Good Idea?

There has been great enthusiasm, in some quarters, for low carbohydrate diets as a method of staying slim and fit. A recent American questionnaire-based study has, however, suggested that people adopting such diets (especially when they replace carbohydrates by fatty meat and dairy products) show (even when corrected for other risk factors, such as smoking) a reduction in their life span (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45195474). Diets with too much carbohydrate, however, also reduced longevity. This really underlines the point that what you really need is a balanced diet with about half your calories coming from healthy carbohydrates (although nuts appear to be good options).

Brum Brum

At last, it appears, someone in the UK is getting serious about air quality. It has been reported (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-44524898) that Birmingham is to introduce charges for people entering specified clean air  zones with high polluting vehicles (particularly certain cars, trucks and buses) on the calculation that the polluter should pay. Although this is a reasonable step (air quality causes premature deaths, expensive-to-manage illnesses and lost economic activity) it might well be seen by the relatively wealthy as simply a local 'tax' (and people in some shops have already complained that it might hit trade). Certainly, there needs to be a rapid improvement in non-polluting public transport in the area. The Scandinavians, as is often the case,  established this type of arrangement years ago!

Spotty Uptake?

Measles was once a disappearing disease, largely controlled by widespread childhood treatment with the triple MMR (measles, mumps and rub...