In the news this month:
– Major push for winter flu jabs
– Scientists believe that the virus is likely to become seasonal over time
– Could video gaming be good for you?
– Waistline size definitively linked to ill health
– Heat and humidity are the safest ways to decontaminate medical face masks
– Have you seen our school hygiene protection packs?
The annual flu jab has never been more important
The NHS has launched its annual flu jab campaign with the message that in 2020 it is more important than ever to protect the vulnerable, as well as frontline health and social care workers from the flu.
The flu vaccination programme has been expanded so that around 30 million people nationwide are now eligible.
Care and healthcare staff are particularly susceptible to viruses as they come into contact with so many different people in medical settings. This year’s provision includes all frontline and social care workers and if required, pharmacists can deliver the vaccinations at care homes or other establishments.
People taking time off work with the flu adds pressure to the system and it has been estimated that every 10% increase in take-up of the jab, reduces sickness absence by 10%.
The Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, has written a heartfelt letter to staff outlining why it is so important for everyone to have their jab.
In a year where huge efforts are being made to halt the spread of COVID-19, staff protecting themselves from flu is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help.
Scientists have predicted that COVID-19 will become seasonal over time
We are not yet sure how the COVID-19 virus will spread throughout the UK this winter. The current rise in cases seems very real and immediate.
Whilst we deal with the urgent challenges of the pandemic, researchers have started to look at the likely development of the virus over the longer term.
A recent study published in Frontiers in Public Health has concluded that the COVID-19 virus is most likely to develop into a seasonal disease like other existing forms of coronavirus and the common cold.
In the UK this would mean a pattern of increased transmission in the winter months. However, scientists also believe that we will need to have both an effective vaccine as well as greater ‘herd immunity’ before that pattern emerges.
To carry out the research, scientists compared COVID 19 to other diseases which affect the respiratory tract.
They concluded that there were a number of reasons to expect this seasonable adjustment over time for COVID-19:
- As an enveloped virus, this version of the coronavirus is likely to be more stable in cold weather allowing it to survive longer before being passed from host to host.
- Cold weather allows the virus to travel through the air more easily and the reduction in sunshine during the winter months means less ultraviolet which would naturally destroy some of the virus. Less sunshine also means a reduction in vitamin D which can have a negative effect on the human immune system.
- People are more likely to stay indoors in the winter meaning increased person to person contact
Researchers did stress, however, that the proven ability of the virus to thrive in hot and humid countries means that emergency measures will still be required in the short term at the very least.
One of the study’s co authors, Hassan Zaraket (Assistant Professor of Virology at the American University of Beirut) indicated that the disease is here to stay until greater herd immunity is reached.
COVID-19 is a ‘novel’ virus so there remains some uncertainty over its future development, so social distancing and strict hygiene measures will remain the norm for some time to come.
Could playing video games be good for you?
Many parents worry that their children spend too much time playing video games and fear that excessive gaming could be detrimental to their health
The journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has recently published a study carried out at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Barcelona, which looked at how video game playing can affect our brains.
The study combined video game playing with Transcranical Magnetic Stimulation. This is a non invasive brain stimulating technique which is used to treat mood disorders and has also been proven to have a positive impact on cognitive function.
27 volunteers in their late twenties learned how to Play Super Mario 64 over ten training sessions.
After each session TMS was used on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area which manages functions like memory and reasoning. Scientists then tested a range of brain activities such as problem solving, memory and visual/spatial skills.
The results showed that the working memory of participants improved and those who had also played as children showed improvements in mental processing during the task.
The conclusion of the study was that video games that encourage players to adapt as they become more challenging help to boost cognitive ability, without individuals having to make a specific effort to do this.
More research is needed with a wider range of participants but the potential is for video games to be used to treat brain injuries and diseases (like dementia) in the future.
Waistline measurements directly linked to ill health
We have often looked at food and nutrition stories in our blog and you don’t need to be an expert to know that maintaining a healthy weight is very important.
A recent study carried out in Canada and reported on the Daily Mail online has confirmed that the size of our waistlines is one of the key indicators of likely future ill health.
Data from 2.5 million people was analysed and the result was that every extra 4 inches of waist size correlated with an 11% chance of dying earlier. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.
Scientists believe that waist fat is a better indication of health than BMI as it measures ‘visceral fat’ or the fat around organs which is most harmful to health and is associated with higher cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
A general guideline is that men should aim to lose weight if their waist measures above 37 inches and 31.5 inches for women. Healthy eating combined with sensible exercise should help to reduce fat around the waist.
Further research on decontaminating face masks
We have looked at the efficacy of medical face masks in our blog before and this is an issue which is particularly pertinent during the current pandemic.
It is vitally important that frontline medical staff have the right PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to protect them when they are taking care of patients and face masks are an important element of this.
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University and the University of Texas Medical Branch have carried out further investigation into the best ways to ensure that N95 face masks offer effective protection to medical staff. Their findings were published in ACS Nano.
Faced by worldwide shortages of PPE, many medical facilities have investigated ways to disinfect masks so that they can be reused. As we have reported before, some methods worked but were found to damage mask materials.
The team carried out their research at the World Reference Centre for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses, which has advanced bio safety measures in place. They replicated the way that the virus could be transmitted on to masks and then experimented with a combination of both heat and humidity to destroy it.
They found that higher humidity and heat together were the ideal combination to reduce the measurable virus on the surface of the masks. 85 degrees Celsius with 100 percent relatively humidity was the ideal combination. Greater heat had the potential to damage mask materials.
It is anticipated that masks could be treated up to twenty times like this without damage, with the process being managed in hospitals. Although scientists already knew that this combination was likely to be effective, the current pandemic has prompted them to really test the theory and define the best heat/humidity combination.
After the pandemic there will be ongoing environmental and economical benefits if masks can be safely reused a number of times.
Protection at school or university with our hygiene protection packs
Did you see our recent blog about our hygiene protection packs?
There are three different packs available and each one contains a selection of effective products and face masks to help manage hygiene at school or college.
Shop online today
Our selection of packs are easy to order and can be bought online from the medical consumables section of our shop where you will also find our full range including hand sanitisers, hand wipes, disinfectants and related products.
Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about our product or stock.