Queues    at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in a shopping plaza in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: EPA/Narong Sangnak

Latest variant is likely to raise immunity, ushering in a sharp drop in transmission

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the 2021  Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph:  David Gray / AFP via Getty Images

Dr Muiris Houston: In Ireland, medical exemptions from vaccination are rare

The bird flu virus reaches the respiratory tract via droplets in the air, which come from the coughs and sneezes of other flu victims

Experts concerned an avian flu variant could ‘jump’ and cause outbreak in humans

A national adult immunisation rate in excess of 90 per cent is an incredible public health achievement for the Republic – one that few other states have been able to achieve

Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe disease and deaths from Covid-19

Justin Trudeau: the Canadian prime minister and Liberal Party leader has experienced unprecedented levels of abuse during the election campaign. Photograph: Dave Chan/AFP/Getty

Saskatchewan Letter: PM targeted by Covid protesters with big parties neck and neck

 It is unlikely a future variant will force us back into lockdown as long as current vaccines offer us some protection. Photograph: Damien Storan/PA

Could future variants lengthen the pandemic or make vaccines less effective?

The Royal Box stands and applauds University of Oxford professor Sarah Gilbert (seated in red, bottom right) one of the people behind the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Wimbledon in June. Photograph: Getty Images

Book review: Scientific discovery on this scale is rarely a Eureka moment for a lone genius

Alzheimer’s disease, which affects about 35 million people worldwide. Photograph: Getty Images

A decision by the US FDA to approve aducanumab has alarmed many experts

Portrait of psychiatrist and television personality Anthony Clare, July 1989. Photograph: Richard Farley/Radio Times/Getty

Late psychiatrist felt a deep sense of foreboding when interviewing sexual predator

Vaccine development, while always in the background, now has added urgency. Photograph: iStock

Dr Muiris Houston: Some countries will get priority access to coronavirus treatments

Face coverings on display in a Dublin shop. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

If there’s an outbreak in areas in Cork or Dublin, citywide lockdowns will follow

Temperature measurement is an ineffective screening tool for the viral infection but it could be used as a future algorithm alongside other screening measurements. Photograph:  Inti Ocon/ AFP

Getting the right testing criteria for coronavirus presents an ongoing medical challenge

The Irish Cancer Society says it is concerned that people are putting their lives at risk because of a reluctance to seek medical help if they notice cancer symptoms during the coronavirus crisis

Staying in pandemic mode for three months means each GP will not see one person with a life-altering condition

‘What if the much needed personal protective equipment doesn’t arrive ahead of a big surge in patients?’ Above, a nurse puts on PPE in Italy. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty

Worries about PPE and ventilators creep in, while loss of smell emerges as odd symptom

A couple wearing face masks walk in a park near a public housing area in Singapore on Tuesday.  Singapore is banning all short-term visitors to the densely populated city-state after a surge of imported cases of coronavirus. Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty

Research in Lancet Infectious Diseases journal investigates early-intervention measures

Tested for the virus will take place if you have had  recent fever and chills and/or symptoms of respiratory tract infection, including cough. File photograph: Getty

In a bid to disrupt the spread of this virus further advice is now available, so what is it?

As we move closer to a mitigation phase in this outbreak, we can expect the tone of public health messages to alter significantly.

Potential impact on vulnerable patients could be ‘extremely serious’, says HPSC

if it had a high mortality rate, we would not be seeing the easy spread of Covid-19. Photographer: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

Despite myriad online claims for this virus, there is no specific anti-viral treatment for it

Patients infected with the coronavirus in a temporary hospital converted from a sports centre in Wuhan in central China. Photograph: Xinhua News Agency

First solid indication emerges of how lethal outbreak might be

A  woman wears a protective mask and sunglasses in a supermarket  in Beijing. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A Doctor Writes . . . virus can spread between humans but unclear if it can do so during incubation period

Travellers wear face masks as they walk outside  Beijing Railway Station amid a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus. The outbreak coincides with China’s  busiest travel period, as millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP.

A Doctor Writes: Person to person transmission of virus raises fears about it spreading

The health service is  stretched by high numbers presenting at hospitals and the need to isolate those with flu. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

It can take 10 days to recover but see doctor if you have diabetes or cardiovascular issues

Samuel Shem updates the reasons for the global malaise affecting modern health systems in his follow-up novel.

Samuel Shem returns to the world of medical care, one now ruined by software and billing

Recent events at the coalface suggest the extra €50 million for the health service is no more than a sticking plaster. Photograph: Getty Images

Muiris Houston: Adding €50m to the Budget will not solve the fundamental problem

Mary and Aoife Bennett, from Naas, Co Kildare, speaking to the media on leaving the Four Courts on Tuesday. Photograph: Collins

Pandemrix process was much speedier than normal assessment period for new vaccines

Where energy intake is impaired by the pattern of eating, the child may have such a lack of energy they cannot get through the day without a nap. File photograph: Getty

Arfid is a recent diagnostic category – more than just picky eating. Is your family at risk?

One in 50 women, of average weight, taking combination HRT for five years, will get breast cancer as a result of the treatment, the research indicates. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

A doctor writes: If you are already on HRT, stopping abruptly is not the answer

There is a difference between any real, direct effectiveness of surgery and our perception of the effectiveness of surgery. Photograph: iStock

We tend to overestimate the true effectiveness of medical procedures

False widow spider spinning a web. Photograph: iStock

Dr Muiris Houston takes a look at the health issues surrounding the insects

‘Concern with the latest CervicalCheck problem is what it says about open disclosure. Photograph: Getty

A doctor writes: Contact GP if you’re worried about a recent test, says Muris Houston

Maternity hospitals have protocols to follow when parents-to-be request testing for foetal abnormality. Photograph: iStock

Termination may be offered where there is a condition likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days o(...)

 Dr Muiris Houston: I  liked his “bookside “ consultation skills. There was no monologue of his interests, or dogged persistence with books I clearly had no interest in.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Bibliophile Muiris Houston’s present was a personal consultation in a bookshop

Superbugs: there is a  need for guidelines on antibiotic prescribing to be simplified so that they can be applied more easily in everyday practice. Photograph: iStock

The explosion of superbugs already claims 33,000 lives in the EU every year

  Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) virions (spherical in appearance) budding from  cultured human lymphocytes. Photograph: Reuters

There are good reasons to be circumspect about the anti-HIV technique reported this week

It’s a battlefield. This is a blunt message: cancer will “beat you” because you lack courage. This is absolutely unfair to most patients.

A recent poll shows most people with cancer are fed up with the language of battle

Vaping: invented in 2003 by Chinese scientist Hon Lik, the electronic cigarette delivers nicotine through an aerosol, rather than via the combustion products of dried tobacco leaves

Dr Muiris Houston: It’s good that many former heavy smokers who quit carry on vaping

“With nurses, doctors and ambulance personnel all involved in disputes, one thing is clear: a dysfunctional Department of Health is presiding over a public health system close to total collapse.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Investing in people is the first step in turning around a health system close to collapse

‘We should be able to choose with whom our information is shared’. Photograph: iStock

Medics are using more and more AI tools but how safe is your data?

Some drugs, especially vaccines, must be transported at a set temperature and arrive with evidence of an uninterrupted cold chain in order to be considered safe to use. They are vulnerable to backlogs at ferry ports. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Despite efforts of Government and health agencies, a no-deal scenario will affect supply

Billy Connolly: by talking so frankly about his disease, he helps to lift the veil shrouding  Parkinson’s. Photograph:  Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Big Yin’s forthright attitude about his condition in keeping with his attitude to life

By including A/Michigan/50/2015 (H1N1) pdm-like virus in the flu vaccine the experts were spot on. File photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire

A doctor writes: Influenza virus has arrived and it is not too late to protect yourself

“Plastic security trays, which we all have to handle, were found to have the highest concentration of viruses.” Photograph: iStock

From security trays to infected passengers on aircraft, flying puts us at risk of contracting a host of respiratory viruses

Are your tastebuds salivating at the thought of the first Roses or Quality Street passing your lips since this time last year? Photograph: iStock

Muiris Houston: Time for my annual search to see if I can come up with some health benefits of eating chocolate

We need to completely restructure the health service so that time spent alongside the patient becomes the most important metric.

Better physician communication is associated with significant gains in outcomes for patients

While screening for cervical cancer is well established, there is no screening test for endometrial cancer. It can only be diagnosed after a woman develops symptoms. Photograph: Getty Images

Dr Muiris Houston explains differences in the detection, investigation and treatment of the cancers

Vicky Phelan: calls on women to advocate for themselves: “by beginning to ask questions about their bodies, about their health, about their care”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

It’s time we saw critical thinking as an essential life-skill to be taught in schools

As we grapple with rising rates of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of infections that are effectively untreatable, the focus has naturally been on antibiotic stewardship. Photograph: iStock

While the discovery of a new antibiotic is rare and welcome, the focus must remain on tackling the rising rates of resistance to t(...)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his experience working in various hospitals helped form his views on the problems in our hospitals. Photograph:  Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Taoiseach said his experience working in various hospitals helped form his views

A vacated ward in St James’s Hospital. Davis and Mary Coakley outline the early beginnings of the hospital  in their new book, “The History and Heritage of St James’s Hospital, Dublin”

A new book chronicles the history of St James’s, which started out as a workhouse

Should women not have the choice of natural birth or Caesarean when they sit down to discuss delivery options with their obstetrician?

The time has come to increase the percentage of operative interventions for women who are treated in the public system

Photograph: iStock

Dr Muiris Houston: Symptoms include loss of muscle tone, facial droop, slurred speech

People with suspected but unverified penicillin allergy are likely to be treated with alternative antibacterials that are more likely to contribute to microbial resistance.

There’s an 80 per cent chance that they have been incorrectly labelled

 Sackville Street in Dublin during the rebuilding of 1918. Funeral corteges were a common sight in the city during the Spanish flu epidemic. Photograph:  R. Humphrey/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

On the centenary of the Spanish flu epidemic, a worldwide authority on infectious diseases issues a timely warning

Research, published during the summer in The Lancet, concluded there is no safe level of alcohol intake and the healthiest approach is to drink as little as possible

So what does the new information really mean for moderate drinkers?

Akira Horiuchi, winner of this year’s Ig Nobel for Medical Education, demonstrates his self-colonoscopy technique during the award ceremony at Harvard University. Photograph: AP

The ‘Ig Nobel’ awards honour achievements that make people laugh – then think

It has been argued that the continued use of Latin in healthcare encourages medical paternalism and challenges equality in the doctor-patient relationship. Photograph: iStock

Doctors are being asked to ditch Latin terms and use language patients understand

Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test result, and Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene Teap, to cervical cancer at the launch of the Scally Report into the CervicalCheck screening programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Communication and disclosure are key flaws among CervicalCheck’s systemic deficits

Compared to those with normal sleep duration (seven-eight hours), men who slept five or fewer hours per night had a two-fold higher risk of having a major cardiovascular event by age 71

Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle compensates for working too hard

With the number of CPE cases in Ireland almost doubling in 2016, it is the most serious superbug challenge we face. Photograph: Getty Images.

Dr Muiris Houston: CPE is the latest bug that is hard to kill with antibiotics

“I am concerned that we are witnessing a resurgence in measles infection, with potentially hundreds of children put at risk of brain damage, including by SSPE.” File photograph: Getty Images

In the cot was an eight-year-old boy: he could not swallow and was almost completely blind

The researchers collected information on all factors a doctor might consider in deciding to order tests, including a patient’s age, disease type and severity.

Study highlights the important role human intuition plays in medical decisions

After a hearty laugh, it has been estimated our muscles stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Photograph: iStock

A belly laugh is good for the heart, clears up rashes and lowers blood sugar in diabetics

E-cigarettes has been given an emphatic thumbs up by health experts after the first long-term study of its effects in ex-smokers. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Small study in ‘Thorax’ medical journal adds to growing body of research on e-cigarettes

Inside Ryanair flight FR7213 after the oxygen masks dropped. Some 33 passengers were treated in hospital afterwards, with some bleeding from their ears. Photograph: Conor Brennan

After a dramatic change in cabin pressure passengers can experience bleeding and intense pain

Would you trust this man to treat you? Photograph: iStock

There was a huge response to a column on presentation and professionalism

Researchers   have found a link between being cared for by the same doctor and reduced mortality. Photograph: iStock

Research shows if you see the same doctor you are likely to reduce your risk of death

A US study of 1,000 emergency care patients concluded that visible body art on doctors did not undermine perceived professionalism or patient satisfaction with care.

Research into doctors’ appearance finds body art doesn’t affect patient trust. But piercings ...

Anabolic steroids are now primarily known for their performance-enhancing use in sport.

Dr Muiris Houston: Risks associated with sex, dosage and duration of administration

It is regrettable that in an affluent society such as ours, some children are condemned to historic levels of poor oral health. Photograph: iStock

37% of HSE dentists see children with neglected dentition at least daily, study finds

A Doctor Writes: Health effects of hot weather linked to the body’s ability to adapt

Diarrhoea is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea and cramps and, sometimes, by fever

It’s common and it’s unpleasant but it’s usually transient and rarely life-threatening

‘Short (weekday) sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep’

 A child has  her hands washed as a preventive measure against ebola  in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph:  Reuters/Kenny Katombe

Dozens of cases of ebola reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent weeks

The abortion drug Mifepristone. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Method shown to be highly effective and safe when used up to 22 weeks of pregnancy

About one in 10 pregnant women have a chronic medical condition that requires medication. Photograph: iStock

The exclusion of pregnant women from drug trials means there is little drug-safety information for them to rely on

Dr Muiris Houston: Emotional resilience, the ability to deal with difficulty, can be learned

Vicky Phelan: While we rely on courageous women like Vicky Phelan to stand up to confidentiality clauses in order to reveal the truth in the most tragic circumstances, thousands of Irish people silently suffer HSE ineptitude on a daily basis.  Photograph: Collins Courts

The HSE keeps getting the basics wrong. It’s time for organisational change, writes Muiris Houston

Photograph: iStock

CervicalCheck tragedy shows risks in communication failures not widely appreciated

Dr Tony Holohan during a press conference in Dubolin to address public concerns surrounding the  national cervical screening programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Public trust in Ireland’s health service continues to be eroded, writes Dr Muiris Houston

‘Physicians and patients tend to have exaggerated confidence in the benefits of drugs’

Dr Muiris Houston on the big decision faced by many terminally ill cancer patients

Vicky and Jim Phelan: Ms Phelan settled a High Court action for €2.5 million against a US laboratory over a 2011 smear test, which wrongly gave a negative result for cancer. Photograph:    CourtPix

Can women have confidence in the national cervical screening programme?

Vicky and Jim Phelan from Co Limerick: Ms Phelan wasn’t told of the false negative in her 2011 smear test until September 2017. Photograph: Collins Courts

Analysis: CervicalCheck review should extend to all screening programmes

Cancer screening: cervical smear specimens are stained and then examined under a microscope. Photograph: Mauro Fermariello/Science Photo Library/Getty

Do its labs follow best practice, and why wasn’t a flag raised for three years?

Some medical language is insensitive and it can be dangerously confusing. And yet it retains a magical hold over us practitioners.

Medical argot, beloved by the profession, can stray into unacceptable territory when carelessly applied to patients

A demonstration in 1918 at a  Red Cross emergency ambulance station in Washington DC, US, during the flu pandemic.  Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Flu pandemic of 1918 killed only slightly fewer Irish people than four years of the Great War

In some rural areas, the practice of watching over the recently deceased from the time of death to burial is still followed. Photograph: iStock

Thanks to the kindness of fantastic friends and neighbours, we gave ‘Nan’ a great send-off

Yulia Skripal, along with her father Sergei, was found slumped over a park bench in Salisbury, southwest England, on March 4th, after being poisoned. Photograph: Yulia Skripal/Facebook via AP

Sergei and Yulia Skripal’s poisoner delivered neurotoxin via air conditioning in victim’s car

The research findings suggest  vaccines have a role in preventing heart attack and stroke, as well as preventing infection in the first place

Respiratory infections cause inflammation, while the flu virus and pneumonia can damage heart muscle

So is there any truth in popular medical axioms?

Sometimes the recommendation contained in the aphorism is worse than the disease

Meningitis bacteria: The classical rash of meningitis is actually caused by the infection spreading to the bloodstream.

There are three subgroups of meningococci: A, B and C. Vaccines are available against B and C

In 2007 the World Health Organisation classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen due to circadian disruption

Dr Muiris Houston: A body of evidence links shift work with diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Feeding a severely depressed body neurotransmitters seems to work

Dr Muiris Houston: Major new research contains valuable information on antidepressant medicines

Initially, shingles has the appearance of fluid filled vesicles before becoming a red crusty rash

Shingles risk risk rises sharply when you hit 50. The pain has been likened to childbirth

Disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield who was found guilty of research fraud and struck off the British medical register. But the false news about MMR safety caused immunisation rates to plummet; they have yet to fully recover. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

New approach needed to combat false information about vaccines

We must future proof the next generation by upping their education in risk and critical thinking

About one-fifth of patients experienced post-traumatic stress disorder several months after diagnosis.

Cancer survivors can face post-traumatic stress and a higher risk of heart failure

The new 3 Before GP campaign, which has been advocated by a working group made up of GPs and patients, urges people to ask themselves three questions before booking a GP appointment. Photograph: Getty Images

Questions to ask yourself, and tips to remember, before visiting your GP

 Investigations such as CT scans should take place immediately at the first hospital. For injuries requiring specialist care, the patient should be moved to a major trauma centre. Photograph: BSIP/UIG via Getty

Muiris Houston: Degree of patient’s trauma must be identified as early as possible

 Evidence-based practice suggests that primary care is where  medication-induced abortions should be provided

A number of medical issues will arise if there is a policy of termination of pregnancy on request

British researchers have shown that  diabetes remission could be sustained for up to 10 years through weight loss

The incidence of Type 2 has more than doubled between 1998 and 2015, so eradicating the disease has enormous appeal

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