Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shunning the Lepers

To people in Western societies leprosy is usually the punchline of a joke.  To us leprosy is now rare and fairly treatable, although interestingly around 200 people a year are still diagnosed in the USA.

However Leprosy still affects around 180, 000 people worldwide acutely, with up to a million suffering chronic complications most of them in Africa and Asia. It is a disease that has only been controlled in very recent history, mainly due to increased hygiene practices.  Prior to that it has been something that has stalked humanity for almost all of known history.

The earliest recorded account of a disease resembling leprosy appears in an Egyptian papyrus document in 1550 BC. Indian writings also mention a similar illness in 600 BC.  It appears that the army of Alexander the Great may have brought leprosy back from India with them - as accounts of it appeared in their writings around this time.  Similarly it began to be recorded by the Romans around 62 BC when Pompeii's soldiers came back from Asia minor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Outbreak

It's all over the news.  And it's scary.  The virus without a cure that makes you literally bleed to death.  With a 90% mortality rate.  That's raging out of control in Africa.

Ebola.

But what is it, exactly?  And where did it come from?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Eye for War.

This wasn't the post I was planning to write, I had one planned about leprosy, - but I can never resist a story about a good Australian doctor, so hopefully you can all wait a little longer for that tale.

Today we are going to talk about the wonderfully named Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan who was born on Killeen Station in Victoria on the 20th September 1853.  He studied at the University of Melbourne and then completed his study at the University of Edinburgh (Australian medical degrees were not wholly awarded in Australia until well into the 20th century - in fact up until very recently, most Australian doctors would complete at least some of their training in the United Kingdom).  He then undertook further postgraduate training as a surgeon in Italy and Austria. 

Sir Ryan at the time of his enlistment (public domain image sourced from the Australian War Memorial Collection)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

To the heart of things

Over the last few weeks I have been forced to watch a lot of soccer.

This is a problem because I don't like soccer.  I suspect I am not the only person currently suffering in this manner.  Fortunately it is now all over for another four years and from what I can understand, it's all about Germany.

Hopefully my saying that hasn't spoiled someone's day.

Anyway in honor of their win I thought today I would talk about a German surgeon who did some (mostly) pretty cool things - which, to me, is generally more interesting than kicking a ball around a field and faking serious injury.

Werner Forssman (public domain image sourced from Wikipedia)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Paralysed

The other day I recieved a terrifying notification via email, advising me to be alert for evidence of polio in returned travellers.  This is due to upheaval in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and a growing global antivaccination sentiment.  A crying shame as only a few short years ago we were incredibly close to declaring this planet polio free, an incredible legacy to pass onto our children.

In her day job your author does her best to see as many children as possible immunised against deadly diseases just like this one.  Now she will use this little hobby of hers to remind whatever audience she has exactly why vaccinations are so important.