The Zika Virus

As I’m sure all of us have heard, there is a new outbreak of the Zika Virus on the horizon. As a hopeful paediatric doctor this took my interest from the start; and I hope to enlighten those who have not heard of the Zika Virus or have but want to know more!

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika Virus was first found in April 1974 when fever developed in a rhesus monkey that was being researched on. The first human report was only 17 years later, when a scientist reported his own disease. Since then the outbreak had been isolated to only African countries eg Egypt, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. They were also reported out in Asia eg Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam. More recently, an outbreak in the America’s has occurred in may Caribbean islands which first started in late 2015, but continued into 2016 spreading further into more countries.

The Zika Virus itself is very much like Yellow fever and West Nile Virus; spread by a species of mosquito, or more recently reported sexual contact and blood tranfusion. The disease has typical symptoms like fever, headache, conjunctivitis and a rash. The condition is mild, only 1 in 5 people who contract Zika actually become ill and rarely people die of it; the real damage is done to unborn children and pregnant mothers.

The spread of Zika

What’s the risk to pregnant Women?

As there is no cure to the Zika Virus, may pregnant women are being warned to postpone their travels to areas where Zika has been reported. The infected blood, once bitten, stays in the system for approximately a week; but the governing body doesn’t know as of yet, if contracting the virus before you are pregnant can leave lasting damage.  The do know, from reports in Brazil that some unborn children with mothers who have contracted the Virus, are born with Micocephaly.

What is Microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. . Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth, which results in a smaller head size. This could be due to the mother contracting Zika during her pregnancy. Not only does the child have a smaller head size but they also experience other defects including;

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delay, such as problems with speech, sitting or walking
  • Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
  • Problems with movement and balance
  • Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

Microcephaly is a life long condition with no known cure, and many people with the condition have lead happy ad fulfilling lives, but it can be prevented.

Prevention

As Zika is mostly spread during the day the CDC (Centres for Disease Control) has issued guidelines helping those in countries where Zika reports are at there highest;

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net if you  are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
  • Cover cribs, and prams with mosquito netting to protect a child/baby from bites.

Such simple things could protect so many people from a disease which causes damage to the most vulnerable people in our society.

What can we do?

Obviously not all of us can go over and give help to those most vulnerable but we can find a little spare cash to provide mosquito nets or just spreading the word to our friends, neighbours, peers. The more who know the more informed we are as a world community.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little slice about the Zika Virus, and what you can do about it!

My Medlink Experience

As Promised here is my experience when I went to Nottingham University for Medlink 2015!

Being away from home has always been a hard thing for me compared to others, I mean when you’ve lived with the same people in the same house for 16 years you get used to normality. Going away to Medlink was a big thing for me but I at least had one of my best friends with me!
Now before I start my actual journey I will just say that it was amazing; the freedom, the lectures, hands on experience, the people – all of it was so beneficial and I’m so glad I took a big step and went for it.

So to begin with I will mention the rain, rain, rain and yet more rain. Out of the five days I was there (used for a DofE residential) it rained at least four of them. I’m not the biggest fan of rain but when you have to trundle your suitcase up and down hills, exploring what seemed to be the wilderness – bringing back awful memories of DofE – just to find your room in the absolute pouring rain, even the rain lovers hated it! Aside that once you were in, warm and cosy, the rooms weren’t too bad. A double bed, wardrobe, desk and en-suite, have to say I was pleased with myself. Although I did have one problem – my best friend was a boy so we weren’t in the same house, meaning that I would have to try and find friends, people to socialise with. This was Ok, doctors are meant to be outgoing, confident people who can interact with everyone…aren’t they? Well this is what I told myself. I’m happy to say I did make friends, one good friend especially, who was only a few rooms own from me. So the rain was a bit of an annoyance, but the rooms were definitely a thumbs up 🙂

Moving on to the lectures and actual experience – this could be talked about for hours, So I’ll shorted it down and choose my top 3 things about Medlink and the experience as a whole;

1. The speakers – if I could thank them for their time I would do a thousand times over particularly James Ridgeway, who has changed my life forever! His speeches, the passion, the energy he created, the laughs he got. He is a man as a whole who inspired all of us there. Doing silly activities to get us up and talking to others who were also inspired (how I met most my friends!). Of course the other speakers were truly amazing too and I thank them here for all their time and knowledge that they passed onto to us. I have been inspired by a few careers and informed about some I’d never even heard of.
2. The lectures – so informative, funny, interactive and a good variety. With medicine, it is such a huge vast subject that it is hard to narrow down lots of different careers to just a few lectures, making sure that they covered a range, but Medlink did it. One day it was General Practice, the next Pre hospital care (with some horrific stories), another pathology. Every day was something new, informative and inspiring.
3. The freedom – Medlink really did make you feel like you were a university student. making your way to and from lectures (yet another DofE reminder!), getting yourself up, dressed, get food and be out and at a lecture by 9am, they were long tiring days, but you could do what you liked with your free time. Socialise, eat, sit in your room and read over notes, sleep (what I wanted to do with my free time!!), make friends, there were no restrictions. You had all the freedom you wanted, but you had to manage your time and have organisation. The freedom allowed you to experience what university as a medical student is like and what its going to be like, and that was one of the most useful things I took from Medlink.

I went to Medlink unsure if becoming a doctor would be the right thing for me, unsure if I was smart enough to get there, unsure if I had the right qualities. I will admit that in the first lecture – How to get an A* in Chemistry I was terrified, everyone seemed to understand what was being said, I felt so out of place. Soon though, I realised they weren’t trying to scare us they were helping us, giving us a tool kit to succeed. They made us think about WHY we want to be a doctor, how to get there, how to beat the rest , they gave us a tool kit for which I will be forever grateful. I would definitely recommend to anyone who wants to be a doctor, this will change your perception on doctors and either scare you away or make you more determined to reach your goal.

Before I went it was doctor or something (if it all went wrong) but as I left it was I realised it was Doctor or nothing, I want to be a doctor and now I what I can do to succeed!