COVID-19: Don’t Panic, Just Spread That Peanut Butter please

As the shit is hitting the fan (hence the crazy stockpiling of toilet paper), our current pandemic world relies on YOU! Yes, you. Usually people wait for the government and scientists to solve the problem. Now, YOU are the key figure in containing COVID-19.

And I’ll coach you through it.

COVID-19 tip #1: Forget the numbers

The actual numbers don’t mean much in the middle of an epidemic. Tests for COVID-19 are sparse almost everywhere. Who knows how many people are actually infected? South Korea is said to be a dangerous place because they have a lot of infections. But actually; South Korea did a great job testing its population and are one of the few countries where the amount of new infections per day is going down. In other countries it’s still rising every day. (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/)
In countries where they barely test, like the USA, or where they don’t test family members of infected person, like the Netherlands, the numbers might indicate that they have fewer infections than factually would be the case.
Is it safer to go to countries with lower numbers? Or is it more dangerous because people are walking around unaware of their infection and that they are infecting other people?

Numbers are meaningless unless you know the proportion of people that has been tested.

9 infected on a total of 10 tested: bad.

9 infected on a total of 100.000 tested: still bad, but less bad.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/

COVID-19 tip #2: Think about the implications

Let’s talk about you. You might feel fine. Great. You might think you won’t get sick. Cool, I hope you are right. You might even think that when infected with COVID-19 you will be ok. Well, good for you! Maybe you’ll just have a sore throat. Aaaah. You think you can go to work with a small fever and a cough. Wow, aren’t you a tough one. Or why not bring your kid to the daycare, kids have runny noses all the time. And if you or your kids do get COVID-19, you might be really sick, but you won’t die. What are the chances?

You are ok, you’ll manage, the kids will be fine, so no worries … ERRRRRRRRRRRR (the sound of a game show buzzer indicating that something is wrong).

Who do you meet during the day? Do you bring your children to their grandparents for a day? Do you visit that birthday party? With or without (mild) symptoms you, yes YOU, are a small but very important ‘number’ who influences the implications: the spread of the outbreak.

Think about the implications of your actions and behavior. Think twice, and don’t do what you would normally do.

You want to know why this helps governments, scientists and especially hospitals?

COVID-19 tip# 3: Just Spread the Peanut Butter

You might have seen the picture of this post in newspapers or online. Don’t we all keep refreshing our news feeds in an unhealthy way? But it is important, so I am also going to explain it, my way:

Think of Peanut Butter, imagine that the Peanut Butter is the COVID-19 infected people.

Think of slices of bread, imagine that the slices of bread are the region where you live.

Think of a mouth, imagine that mouth is your regional hospital.

What happens when you feed all the Peanut Butter in the jar to a mouth in one go? The mouth can’t handle it. The mouth can’t swallow the load. Peanut Butter falls on the floor.

What if people with no or mild symptoms infect a huge vulnerable group at the same time? They go the regional hospital. Some end up in an intensive care unit. The hospital in your town will be full quickly, the other ones in the region as well. The hospitals needs to make choices, they save people that have the most chance of survival.
What happens to the Peanut Butter that fell on the floor? It’s gone.

What do people mean with the picture? What do people mean with “flattening the curve”?

Spread the Peanut Butter on the slices of bread. Feed the Peanut Butter bread bite by bite to the mouth.

You are part of this. Together with all your relatives, neighbors and colleagues you hold the knife. The knife represents your actions, the knife represents your behavior.

In an epidemic it’s unavoidable that people get seriously ill. Flattening the curve – or Spreading the Peanut Butter – means that instead of causing many people to be sick at the same time, the people will get sick divided over a longer stretch of time. It is the difference between overloading hospitals which then must choose who lives and dies, and helping the hospitals to manage the outbreak.

You can flatten the curve. Just Spread the Peanut Butter:

– Wash your hands

– Social distancing: Avoid social contacts and crowds unless needed (you need groceries, shopping for a new skirt can wait)

– if you have symptoms, ANY symptoms, even just “a runny nose”, stay home!

– If your child has symptoms, (just a runny nose): keep that child at home. Don’t let it go to school, don’t let it play with friends and definitely don’t send that child to grandparents or other people in the vulnerable group.

Good luck everybody, stay safe!

 

Illustration: SAM WHITNEY; CDC

COVID-19; is it time to hit the PANIC button?

Say hello to the madness; we are in a pandemic. In my last column I mentioned that the spread outside of China was still rare. Eeeuh, that didn’t age well… Today, three different continents are confronted with outbreaks of the virus, probably others will follow soon. Thousands are infected and a percentage of them have died. Since the virus hit the West it almost seems the world is in panic mode. There is such an overflow of good/vague/bad information surrounding this outbreak that is hard to keep track of it all and put things in perspective.

Luckily, I am here to change that: your very own, Thailand based, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist.

CO-NA-NA, what’s my name?

The issue with a new disease is that it is hard to immediately give it the right name. Some parents might now this feeling, waiting days after a birth to name their kid. The current disease almost changed names more often than Sean Combs, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, Puffy, Fluffy, Duffy, H. Duffy, Hilary Duffy, Hilary Duff did.

Today we call what used to be the “Wuhan-virus”, the “Corona Virus”, the “nCoV” by its WHO approved official name: COVID-19. It stands for “COronaVIrus Disease”-2019 (let’s don’t do a 2020 or 2021 version), the virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

FACT 1 : COVID-19 (still) not as bad as previous outbreaks

Let’s update the table from the last blog:

COVID-19 MERS SARS H1N1
Year 2019 2012 2002 2009
Origin country China Saudi Arabia China Mexico
Source Bats Dromedary camels Bats Swines
Number of people infected to date 82.294 2.494 8.096 208.269
Case fatality Susp. 2% 37% 9.6%% 4.20%
Countries with reported infections 57 27 27 175
Countries outside origin with reported deaths 7 16 8 124

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/; MERS-CoV: Middle East Respiratory syndrome; SARS-CoV: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; H1N1: Swine flu

Although COVID-19 seems to be “better” than SARS, MERS and H1N1, it loses the battle in a who-is-a-good-disease competition to seasonal flu. In comparison with the seasonal flu COVID-19 has a higher case-fatality ratio. Seasonal flu has approximately 0.5% mortality rate, COVID-19 currently has a 2% rate (please read FACT 3).  COVID-19 also has a higher reproduction number; seasonal flu infects about 1 to 1.5 other person (tiny persons also count for 1, it is just statistics), COVID-19 appears to infect 1.5-2.5 other person. This means that COVID-19 could spread more widely. Lastly, for seasonal flu we have a vaccine!

FACT 2 : Younger than 50? No reason to panic

(Rest assured: this does not imply the following: Older than 50? Call your local undertaker at 555-…..)

Let me remind you that Coronaviruses have been among us humans for a long time already. Yes, this is a new variant and yes, it is more severe than the previously known ones, but if you look at the figures published by the Centers for Disease Control, China, you can see that if you’re younger than 50 years old, you will be fine.

And even if you do catch the virus, you would probably not even go to see a doctor. Symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath but range from mild (80% of the cases), severe (14% of the cases) and critically ill (5% of the cases).

Men are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than women (rate 3,25 to 1). And people with underlying illnesses like COPD (smoking history), diabetes or a bad working immune system due to medication or old age are also at higher risk [1]. These vulnerable groups are also the people that we usually give the vaccine for seasonal flu. You can see how they are at higher risk of dying from the COVID-19.

Also, <10 years old there have been (to date) no deaths and very few infections reported.

Characteristics Confirmed cases, Deaths, Case fatality
N (%) N (%) rate, %
Overall 44,672 1,023 2.3
Age, years
 0–9 416 (0.9)
 10–19 549 (1.2) 1 (0.1) 0.2
 20–29 3,619 (8.1) 7 (0.7) 0.2
 30–39 7,600 (17.0) 18 (1.8) 0.2
 40–49 8,571 (19.2) 38 (3.7) 0.4
 50–59 10,008 (22.4) 130 (12.7) 1.3
 60–69 8,583 (19.2) 309 (30.2) 3.6
 70–79 3,918 (8.8) 312 (30.5) 8.0
 ≥80 1,408 (3.2) 208 (20.3) 14.8

[2]

Just to clarify: these current mortality rates only apply on people of whom it is determined that they have COVID-19 (see again FACT 3). If you don’t have COVID-19: well, don’t text and drive!

FACT 3 You can have the virus and be fine

The symptoms of COVID-19, like I stated above, can be very mild with just some cough and runny nose. Recently, Yan Bai et al. published an interesting article of how even asymptomatic carriers can transmit the virus [3]. This means that you can be infected with COVID-19 and not have any symptoms.
That sheds an interesting light on the 2% mortality rate in FACT 1. If we would test the whole world, we would probably get a higher number of infected persons. Infected persons without even knowing it. This affects the mortality rate: which is deaths from the virus divided by persons infected by the virus. If currently more persons are unknowingly infected the mortality rate could be much lower (as the nominator increases). The absolute number of deaths of course doesn’t change, which is sad, but it might put the severity of the COVID-19 in a different perspective.

Conclusion: during an outbreak it is super difficult to make sense of any of the numbers and to have a complete picture of the outbreak.

FACT 4 Closing an office for 48 hours is pointless

Some companies close their office for two days when an employee is found to have COVID-19. The reason? Intensive cleaning of the office. This does not solve anything!

Yes, the virus can survive long on surfaces, so a good cleaning is very smart. But if after the big cleaning you will re-open the office again you might as well not have bothered. Persons have the disease in them for at least two weeks … spreading it to others … who probably come back to the office on day 3 … you understand where I am heading?

Recently I was in a hotel and at check in they took my temperature and every morning before breakfast they checked me before I could enter the breakfast room. That is a much smarter way to contain the outbreak. That gives us FACT 5.

FACT 5 Do’s and don’ts

Do Don’t
Wash hands regular Go to the current outbreak hotspots
Use desinfecting handgel Go to a place where you are packed with other people with potential bad hygiene
Sneeze and cough in elbow Panic
Read scientific facts Trust Facebook
Think twice before traveling anywhere Panic!!

Do the do’s and stay home when you have any symptoms and you are helping to stop this outbreak.

Well done, stay smart, until a next update!

 

References:

  1. Sun P, Lu X, Xu C, Sun W, Pan B. Understanding of COVID-19 based on current evidence. J Med Virol 2020.
  2. The Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Emergency Response Epidemiology Team. The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) — China, 2020[J]. China CDC Weekly, 2020, 2(8): 113-122.
  3. Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed Asymptomatic Carrier Transmission of COVID-19. JAMA.Published online February 21, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2565

 

 

The Who’s and What’s of the Wuhan/nCoV virus

The world is in shock, twitter is in meltdown and China looks like the zombie movie World War Z (without Brad Pitt unfortunately). “Facts” and panic are disturbingly intertwined. To provide some guidance, here for all non-medical people (and maybe even some medical) a brief summary of what is going on and how worried you should be.

An old friend presented in a novel way

Coronaviruses have been around us for a long time. The name Corona comes from Greek meaning Crown because of how it looks under the microscope. There are different forms of coronavirus and we’ve known a few already:

– CoV: common cold, super common and mild symptoms

– SARS-CoV: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

– MERS-CoV: Middle East Respiratory syndrome

And now with the new outbreak:

– nCoV: the not so creatively named “novel Coronavirus”

In your life you have been infected with many coronaviruses only not with the dreaded novel, SARS or MERS variant, … just the common cold.

Don’t push the Panic button (… yet)

A little perspective, yes, the world is on high alert but at this moment there is no need to panic yet. I say “yet” because we’re still in the outbreak and who knows what will happen next.

At this moment the majority of the misery is in China. They have the highest number infected and deaths. There was only one country outside China with one death (Hong Kong not counting as separate country…), no other countries have yet reported. If you look at this table you can see how nCoV relates to the other Coronavirus pandemics as well as the H1N1 pandemic.

nCoV MERS SARS H1N1
Year 2019 2012 2002 2009
Origin country China Saudi Arabia China Mexico
Source Bats Dromedary camels Bats Swines
Number of people infected to date 28.276 2.494 8.096 208.269
Case fatality susp 2% 37% 9.6%% 4.20%
Countries with reported infections 25 27 27 175
Countries outside origin with reported deaths 1 16 8 124

You can see that although the infection is spreading fast in China, the spread outside is still rare as well as the number of deaths outside of China. This is all very reassuring for the rest of the world although it doesn’t helpt China much.

This is de guidance of WHO pandemic criteria and you can see we’re currently in phase 4. The big questions is, will we get to phase 5 or 6? In other words: will there be an outbreak of the nCoV in a different country than China? Time will tell…

source: https://www.peakprosperity.com/coronavirus/

No hahahatjooo, Do hahahahandhygiene

You never know what happens next so just be cautious. The most important way of prevention of most infectious diseases is hand hygiene. Not just a quick splash of water on your hands but a real soapy two-minute wash and dry your hands after. Do this after visit to the toilet, before eating and after coughing/sneezing and you will be alright. Also please cover your mouth while coughing and sneezing to protect your surroundings. And if you’re sick don’t go to work or a different place where you can infect many others (see also “8 things you though you knew about the flu“).

Facemasks: if it won’t help Spiderman and Batman, it won’t help you

Wearing an ordinary medical facemask, although you look super cool with it, doesn’t help against viruses. Sorry. You would need a special very tight mask that prevents you from even smelling perfume if it was sprayed on your face.

If you do wear a facemask, please put the outside on the outside. It seems a complete “duh” remark but trust me I’ve seen public health professionals getting it wrong. And finally dispose the mask yourself and don’t put others at risk.

Stay safe and keep informed!

For more information: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

5 Amazing facts about your skin

Skin comes in the most beautiful spectrum of colors, shininess and textures. We know the beauty of skin in all its forms. We also know how to judge someone by their skin. By color, by scars, by hormones and acne. People get celebrated for their skin. Imagine not having a skin. Weird, isn’t it? Are you still you without your skin? Probably not, you would be a walking musclebag with a serious leakage problem. So why do most people know so little about their skin? There is so much to know.

  1. What is the biggest organ of your body?

Men: reproductive organ is wrong. Women: “feelings” are not an organ. The answer, you’ve guessed it: your skin. Skin is made of multiple layers of hair, nails, nerves and blood vessels. And because of this, it is considered an organ. Not the most spectacular fact, I know, but useful for your next trivia date.

  1. Anti Deadly Diseases Superhero

Your skin is the primary barrier for so many infectious diseases, you have no idea! Many different bacteria on your skin just hang around, not doing any harm. During your day you obtain more and more bacteria, especially on your hands, and still you don’t fall down under that tremendous bacterial load. Only when the barrier is broken – you have a wound, scratched open a mosquito bite or you bit off one of those annoying skin tags next to your nails (never done any of those myself of course) – the bacteria seize the opportunity to slither under your perfect barrier and start to infect. You get a red spot, maybe some pus, but sometimes it can be much more severe. Cellulitis (not the normal dents in the upper legs, but a real skin infection) and erysipelas are severe skin diseases. If you are very unlucky you can develop a heart infection as a result of the lovely necrotizing fasciitis, aka flesh eating bacteria, aka bye bye arms, legs, noses and sex appeal. Protecting your skin from getting these breaks in barrier is very important. If you do have a breach and develop a red spot, clean it thoroughly. If it doesn’t go away or you get fever, you die, no just kidding, but please see a doctor!

  1. Leather face

Due to the melanin (produced by melanocytes) in your skin, your skin can change color. Melanin is a pigment that protects your skin against the sun (see next point) so if exposed to sunlight, your skin will produce more melanin which darkens that part of the skin. If your skin needs to keep producing melanin it will lose its elasticity and give you a leathery look. This ages the skin prematurely.

  1. Skin Cancer: at least you die with a tan

In some parts of the world –  mainly Europe and the USA – being tanned is still considered a beauty ideal. It reminds others that you don’t have to work whole days and that you have money to go to a beach. I hope I am telling you old news, but the sun is dangerous. I still see people on the beach that cover themselves in oil before lying in the sun the entire day in a mini thong. The thong can be dangerous on so many levels, but let me focus on the sun and the dangers of the oily behavior; Skin Cancer. Boom. How does that feel in your leathery face?
There are 3 types of skin cancer:

– Basal cell carcinoma: annoying and can grow, but doesn’t metastasize so not too bad.

– Squamous cell carcinoma: more dangerous and can metastasize, but if caught in time you’ll be fine.

– melanoma: super dangerous and deadly. If caught in time you’re ok,  but if it already spread to lymphnodes or other parts your survival rate drops dramatically to <25%. For the non-mathematicians: if you lie on the beach, comparing thongs with three others, only one person will be able to wear that the thong after 5 years.

Each one of these cancers has growing numbers each year. Mostly due to the sun and, don’t forget, tanning beds!

Getting a sunburn is the worst thing you can ever do to your skin and even though people might respond with “it will be tanned tomorrow” or “it doesn’t hurt”, any form of red coloration of your skin is a sunburn.
Tanning is also never healthy. It can be less harmful when using sunscreen with a high protection factor. Don’t think that when you put this on you will tan slower, that is really really not true. You will only die slower, you will get to live longer. Thank me later. Sunscreen protects against harmful UV radiation which means you can stay in the sun for a longer period of time when putting on a higher SPF (Squishy Peach Fudge).

  1. Beauty and the lying beast of beauty industry

Seriously, so many lies. Let’s tackle some of them.

– you can’t cure wrinkles with crème (but you could try peanut butter), you can’t prevent them with crème there is no such thing as a “facelift in a bottle” or any of that. Don’t fall for it

– you won’t get dry skin if you don’t use soap to wash it. Your skin has a little layer of fat that protects it. Just like your belly, I hear you think, well no. If you use soap you break this fat protection down leaving your skin unprotected. Pretty smart if you think about how cosmetics make you use soap first and then treat the “dry skin” they created by this with expensive cremes.

– putting diamonds in a crème doesn’t make it better. Since this is so small it actually does more harm than good.

– skin serum is exactly the same as crème, you could just as easy put two layers of crème on your face or peanut butter and chocolate paste.

– a more expensive cream is not necessarily better

Please don’t believe everything they tell you. “They” being the cosmetic department of any store. Just put a good SPF on every day and you’ll be fine. Love your skin, check your skin and maybe you will live to see your next of skin.

Outbreak of the measles, SURPRISE? Not really

If you don’t vaccinate your children, they are bound to get infected. And yet, the whole world is amazed by the outbreaks of the measles. News feeds from USA, Europe, Philippines and developing countries have been breaking stories all around. Pictures of sweet little children covered in red spots are collecting likes and dislikes everywhere. But seriously, why the surprise? This is exactly what was to be expected.

It’s real simple action-reaction. We let ignorant parents decide against lifesaving vaccinations (action), the immunization coverage drops in a region, et voilà, an outbreak emerges (reaction). Let me give an example that even the most reluctant anti-vax parent should understand.
If you promise your birthday girl a Frozen themed party, but last-minute you cancel it and you burn the Princess Elsa dress in front of her eyes (action); your kid will cry (reaction).
If you promise her that she will have a healthy life, but you are not vaccinating her; your kid may become deaf, blind, get brain swelling or pneumonia, and these are only the long-term effects of measles. What would she say to her parents when after a life of struggles she gets to celebrate her 18th birthday; ‘thank you and let it go’ in sign language?

One mother asked on Twitter how she could protect her unvaccinated daughter against the measles outbreak in her town. It was a serious question. The mother’s post went viral and luckily for the right reason, she was ridiculed. Something along these lines: ‘don’t worry, just bathe her on the seventh night of full moon in a cocktail of 75% tomato juice, 20% biological bleach, 4% morning pee of a virgin mother, 1% stardust with a hint of basil, while singing Heal the World in B-minor and she’ll be fine …’.

How are people still not understanding how things work? Maybe we should ask Disney to make a movie about it, where no princess is vaccinated, a bad prince causes an epidemic and all the princesses die so there will be no kingdoms and fairytales anymore, only republics, presidents and prime ministers. Wow, certain hit in the cinema’s, expected December 2019 in all Imax theaters in 3D: ‘Beauties and the Measles’.

One more time:

  1. Vaccinations prevent horrible disease outbreaks to emerge (also read: polio, tetanus, rabies)
  2. Vaccinations prevent death in both children and adults
  3. Vaccinations are only useful BEFORE the child/person gets sick
  4. Vaccinations do NOT cause autism (f*cking Wakefield!)
  5. Vaccinations are safe for your children
  6. Not vaccinating your child means that you put the lives of your and other children at risk.

If you disagree with any of these statements than please read my previous blog about the facts about vaccinations. And let me warn you, if we continue down this selfdestructive path, more outbreaks will follow.

Who knows, maybe that’s a good thing. We might get to see ‘Diphtheria and the Seven Dwarfs’ or ‘LEGO Movie 3: It’s a smallpox after all’.

Polio: take my breath a-a-ah-hah-ah-way

Breathing. Think about it for a second. You breathe in, you breathe out. No effort. Magical.

You breathe in: to get oxygen in your body and to your brain and muscle tissues, you breathe out; to remove the carbondioxide out of your body. You breathe in, … Breathing is actually for so much more, for speaking, laughing, singing. Without breathing this would all be impossible. Quite extraordinary that you go through life without realizing how amazing this actually is. The only time when you realize it is when it’s not easy. When you get a cold and your nose is blocked. And of course, there are more devastating diseases that turn off the effortlessness of breathing and will challenge you to find new ways of surviving. Let’s go deeper into one of them.  But before I forget: you breathe out.

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, they can sing right? Donald Sutherland, what a President in the Hunger Games huh? And maybe a real one, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (I say maybe because we’re actually not so sure we agree with the medics from that time). Yes, they all had polio. Challenging them, and their breathing, in ways you can’t imagine.

Poop in your mouth

Polio is a viral infection caused by the poliovirus and can be spread from person to person and fecal-orally. Or in plain English: poop in your mouth. Sounds disgusting? It doesn’t mean you have to literally eat poop. If you don’t wash your hands after you did your number two and subsequently eat a cookie, well done, you completed the fecal-oral route. The cookie is just an example, although we all like those chocolate ones with bigger chunks in them or the one with the pink glazing, instead of cookie you should read: contaminated food or water.

Odin: Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy shall posses the power of thor(ax)

About 1% of polio infections result in severe muscle weakness and the inability to move. This weakness can be quite sudden, occurring over just a matter of hours to days. The muscle weakness usually starts with the legs and could move up to unable the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a big muscle that separates your thorax from your abdomen. If you breathe in you can either expand your thorax or expand your abdomen (try both of them for a while, I know you want to). Your diaphragm is part of that choice. Without your diaphragm, breathing will be challenging. You will have a high risk of dying. It may even explain the last look of Donald Sutherland in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, staring with mouth and eyes fully open.

But it all fairness, it’s ‘only’ the 1%. Most people don’t get the muscle weakness and actually recover fully. Nothing wrong with a bit of drama, ain’t it. I know you want to read about tragedies, deaths and deformities. You are disgu… great, just keep breathing, here we go.

Iron (lung) Man

The most common thing people think about when talking about polio is the iron lung. This is a machine designed to create differences in pressure and thus expanding your thorax, allowing you to breathe. Before mechanical ventilation, this was a great way to keep patients alive if they suffered from any cause of muscle weakness. If you want to see the impact of polio muscle weakness and the iron lung, I can definitely recommend the movie “The sessions”. It’s about sex so that might trigger you to actually go watch it. Oh, and it was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe.

“Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got / Till it’s gone”

We live in a great world – wars, strange presidents and climate change aside. We live in a world where we can actually prevent diseases like polio. Even the small chance of paralyzes from this devastating disease is flushed away with simple, yet effective, vaccination!

Be grateful that you – yeah you – carelessly decide not to wash your hands – you know who you are – after doing your number two – you must love to eat …, never mind. That we can choose to take a risk for abdominal discomfort by eating on the streets in a developing country (always the best place to eat, honestly). Trust me, without vaccinations, you would think twice. Cause you just might have risked your ability to breathe!

It’s still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan and with the ongoing war in Syria, their immunization practices have changed. Luckily in all these countries, the need for vaccination is on everyone’s agenda and still the number of cases is declining. Maybe eventually we can live in a world where Polio is, just like smallpox, a thing of the past.

See, I told you how much you should appreciate your ability to breathe. Now for all those children, mothers, fathers, babies, brothers and sisters that can’t breathe as easily as you can, let’s just focus for one minute. You breathe in, you breathe out. You breathe in, you breathe out. You breathe in, …… There, I got you meditating, I gave you knowledge and you are appreciating what your body can do. You breathe out.

 

 

 

8 Things you thought you knew about the flu

Flu season is upon us. Many will stay at home with their runny noses, sore throats and sad little coughs. Others will push through the misery, but will subsequently infect all their co-workers. And for sure many will have some grandmothers’ wisdom, or some google results telling them how to prevent or cure the flu. Well, look no further. Time to dive into 8 things you thought you knew about flu, but guess what: you are probably wrong…

1. You can cure the flu with antibiotics

Really? We’re not getting back in to this right? Read the previous blogs! Nope, not doing it again. … Ok, just this time, the summary: the flu is a virus (influenzavirus), antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. There. Done. Can we drop this now please?

2. You can’t get immune for the flu

Hmm, difficult fact. Because basically you can. For your immune system to recognize a virus, picture that they need to recognize a 100 digit code (think of ten back-to-back phone numbers). If all 100 digits are recognized, you don’t get sick. If your immune system has seen the virus before, it will remember all those digits easily and rapidly. But there is a difficulty with the flu, the virus changes a lot every season. As if you are still wearing soft denims and velvet dresses. Hello? Soooo 2016. When only one digit is different, the puzzle is solved rather quickly, you get a runny nose for one day and that’s it. But what if ten digits (one phone number) are different? Then it takes time. You can get immune for the flu that you had, but you might encounter a different one this year.

3. The flu shot works/the flu shot doesn’t work

Both facts are true, so both fact are false. I know, it’s a mindf@#k, crazy world we live in. Again, the flu changes every season. The flu shot is a calculated guess on what viruses will be targeting us this year, giving you about five different flu virus digit combinations for your immune system to remember. Seeing that it’s a guess, you can still get the flu. However, with the flu shot, your immune system will have a lot more digits right at the first try. This means that if you had the flu shot and still get the flu, you’re less sick then you would have been without the shot. It is like coming to a party in a black dress, but everyone is wearing colored padded dresses. At least you wore a dress.

4. The flu shot gives you the flu

The whole idea of a vaccine is that you get immune without getting the disease. So no, this is not true. The viruses in the flu shot are dead or better, inactivated. They just serve as a practice for your immune system. They can’t do anything else. You know someone who got the flu after a shot? Well that’s obviously possible, since you’re surrounded by viruses.

5. H1N1 was a hoax organized by the pharmaceutical industry

The whole H1N1 hysteria resulted from the fact that this particular virus had a lot of different digits. People would get very sick, very fast and could (and did) die. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies benefitted in the end, but the threat was real. No hoax.

For the real nerds (like me): the H and N stand for the proteins “Hemagglutinin” and “Neuramidase”, they live on the surface of the virus and differ all the time (the 100 digits). 

6. Everyone has had the real flu at least once in their life

My husband would ask: what is real? But he is in that philosophical stage in life that all close-to-forty-year-old men are in. So, let’s stick with my answer: everyone has had the real flu? No. N. O. Definitely no. The real flu makes you so sick! Just ask the people that suffered the Spanish Flu in 1918. Oh, wait you can’t, they died.

7. You can catch the flu by going outside in the cold with a short skirt

That’s at least what my mother tried to convince me off in order to get me to wear trousers. Although a short skirt can get you in all sorts of trouble (no, not deserved), it won’t give you a higher risk of getting the flu. You can get the flu if you, with your mini skirt on, go to a bar with a lot of people that cough in your face or, better yet, put their face on your face.

8. Chicken soup cures the flu

Well, maybe partly true. Just the fact that someone takes care of you might make you feel better. And the warm liquid in your throat helps as well. And a foot-massage. And a Friends marathon. And chocolate. But not really.

So let’s stop whining and accept things as they are. Stay at home not because you’re so sick (“man flu” doesn’t count) but because you don’t want to infect others. Cough in your hand, not somebody’s face. Get the flu shot and be happy you can get it. Put on your mini skirt (yes, also the guys can if they want) and dance until this season is over.