Your Health Q&A
Issue 59 August 2009
Q. I have seen the news headlines talking about swine flu, but what exactly is it and what precautions can I take to protect myself?
Swine flu also known as Influenza A (H1N1) is caused by a flu virus commonly affecting pigs that leads to respiratory disease. Outbreaks of swine flu in pigs are common. Humans are not usually infected by swine flu although they can occur as a result of close contact with pigs. Current evidence suggests that swine flu is being transmitted from person to person. Since this is a new strain of virus occurring in humans we have not developed immunity to it. The cases of swine flu have now spread globally, so the outbreak is regarded as a pandemic.
The symptoms of swine flu are generally the same as those occurring in ordinary flu, but may be more severe and lead to more serious complications. The following two precautions can help you and your family:
• Wash hands regularly with soap
• Clean communal surfaces regularly
Q. I have been experiencing painful periods for the last few months. My neighbour says she experienced the same and was diagnosed with endometriosis. What is endometriosis and what symptoms do you experience?
Endometriosis affects approximately two million women in the UK, usually between the ages of 25 and 40 years. It occurs when cells that usually line the womb are found elsewhere in the body. Endometriosis can occur in several places in the body, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, intestines, vagina and rectum.
Every month before menstruation occurs, the lining of the womb known as the endometrium thickens to prepare to receive a fertilised egg. If pregnancy does not occur, the lining breaks down and menstruation occurs. The endometrial cells found elsewhere in the body act in a similar way, but unlike the cells in the womb are unable to leave the body. This results in pain, swelling and bleeding in the affected area. The symptoms experienced vary between individuals as some women may be asymptomatic. Common symptoms include:
• Painful periods
• Heavy periods
• Pelvic pain
• Pain during sexual intercourse
• Bleeding in between periods
• Subfertility (difficulty in becoming pregnant)
• Low backache
Q. My nephew has recently been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Neither parents suffer from cystic fibrosis, please can you explain how it is inherited?
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder which occurs due to a faulty gene that affects organs such as the lung and bowel. Thick mucus is produced which makes breathing and digesting food difficult. As an Autosomal Recessive condition, in order to suffer from cystic fibrosis a child must receive two affected genes one from each parent, so both parents must either have the disease or be a carrier of the disease.
A carrier is an individual who has received only one affected gene from their parents and are therefore asymptomatic. Approximately 1 in 25 people in the UK are carriers of the faulty gene which is responsible for Cystic Fibrosis.
When two people who carry the cystic fibrosis gene have a child, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the child will have cystic fibrosis (child inherits the faulty gene from both parents).
People with a family history of cystic fibrosis may wish to have genetic counselling to find out their risk of passing the condition on to their children.
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