Category Archives: Acne

‘Lava haze’ and ‘vog’: toxic volcanic gases prompt health fears in Hawaii

Three dozen tourists were gathered at the Wailoa Sampan Basin Harbor in Hilo, Hawaii, hoping to get a glimpse of the lava that they’d seen on the news for weeks.

But because Hawaii Volcanoes national park – often a key stop in travelers’ itineraries – was closed after Kilauea erupted, their best hope on Monday afternoon was taking a boat to the point where the lava met the sea.

Some said they’d packed breathing masks, just in case the trade winds — which usually blow in clean sea air — changed direction and began blowing a lava haze, a noxious mix of gases and particles, their way.

Although many tourists to Hawaii island – the Big Island – choose to visit because of the active volcano, some have gotten more than they bargained for since the eruption. (Petra Wiesenbauer, who runs a popular Pahoa lodge near the park, had to hurry three guests out of the door while she and her neighbors fled the lava and toxic fumes.)

Up until lava crossed Highway 137 late Saturday night and entered the ocean, volcanic smog, called vog, which contains mostly sulfur dioxide and acid particles, along with ash, had been the biggest air quality concern.

But then the molten rock began pouring into the cool seawater and added clouds of lava haze or “laze”. Officials warned people to stay away since the plumes can travel up to 15 miles downwind, according to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

Toxic clouds rise up as lava from Kilauea volcano hits sea – video

The clouds form when hot lava boils seawater, creating tiny shards of volcanic glass and hydrochloric acid that then get carried in steam. The plumes can be deadly.

The USGS says on its website: “This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows.” Hawaii civil defense cautioned people on Monday to “stay away from the ocean plume since it can change direction without warning”. In the case of laze and vog, store-bought respirators filter particles but not hydrochloric acid or sulfur dioxide.

Vog and laze can cause eye irritation, skin irritation and respiratory issues, according to officials. Those with conditions like asthma or cardiovascular disease are most sensitive, as are the elderly, children and pregnant women, according to an interagency group of volcano experts. Even before the recent Kilauea eruption, Hawaii already suffered air quality issues from volcanic gases. The island of Hawaii has the highest sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the nation, according to EPA spokesman Dean Higuchi. And according to a 2016 report published in the scientific journal Environmental international, levels were “1,000 times greater” than the EPA’s definition of a major pollution source.

There has been a moderate increase in the number of people coming into Hilo medical center for treatment of vog-related symptoms since the eruption, according to Elena Kabatu, a hospital spokesperson. But she said that many more were likely experiencing the less serious effects of vog, such as dry eyes or a scratchy throat.

For those living in Pahoa, near the lava, conditions vary depending on whether the trade winds are blowing, residents said. Gilbert Aguinaldo, who has offered his vacant, central Pahoa lot to serve as a hub of locally organized community aid, said that volunteers were loaning out respirators and breathing masks to anyone who needs them.

Both vog and laze can cause eye irritation, skin irritation and respiratory issues.


Both vog and laze can cause eye irritation, skin irritation and respiratory issues. Photograph: Terray Sylvester/Reuters

“We are a little worried about the laze,” said Heather Lippert, 40, who was waiting to board the boat for the lava tour, “But I’m sure they’ll try to keep us safe.”

Vanessa Homyak, 36, said she and Lippert, who are from San Diego, had originally intended to stay at an Airbnb in Pahoa when they scheduled their vacation. But after the eruption began, the pair reconsidered. “We called the host and asked how things were,” she said. “They said, ‘If we were you, we would probably stay somewhere else.’”

They took the advice, staying instead on the other side of the island. But though they were out of the path of the lava, they discovered that they were directly in the path of the vog.

“We saw it when we flew into Kona, this big brown layer in the air,” Lippert said.

Erik Jacobs, who lives in Waikoloa, in the north-west part of the island and had just returned from a two-week vacation, said the vog was already irritating his eyes, making them feel dry and scratchy. He said his neighbors told him the vog was the “worst they’d ever seen” on the Big Island late last week.

The Guardian view on Gove’s clean air plan: just hot air | Editorial

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, made his name during the Brexit campaign for quipping that “the people have had enough of experts” and likening economists who warned against leaving the European Union to Nazi propagandists against Einstein. Mr Gove knows how to attract an audience. Nor has he discarded his insight that the public, if presented with facts that contradict a deeply held belief, will ditch the facts. This week Mr Gove was at it again: making headlines without making policy. The cabinet minister produced a clean air strategy which purported to tackle a public health crisis by getting families to open their windows more often because “air pollution inside the home can often be higher than outside”. This is true, but it smacks of the kind simplistic commonsense answer that Mr Gove favours because it avoids the knotty trade-offs called for in any policy, be it Brexit or the environment.

The main contributor to the air quality crisis, one that sees thousands of lives ended prematurely, is road transport – a subject about which Mr Gove has strangely little to say. Instead, his plan envisages local authorities finding the cash, presumably by defunding libraries or other essential public goods, to pay for an army of local inspectors to check the dryness of the wood being sold on petrol station forecourts that is used as fuel for stoves. Given his policy’s impotence, it would be absurd to say Mr Gove is taking the issue seriously. As lives are at stake, it is actually offensive.

It is also audacious to argue, as the environment secretary did, that “Brexit will allow us to clean up Britain’s air” when his government’s air pollution plan has been rejected by the courts three times because it failed to meet legal limits set by the EU eight years ago. It becomes outrageous when one knows that Mr Gove’s strategy is a response to an EU air quality law that set legally binding emission reduction targets for five pollutants.

The question is whether such a committed Brexiter would develop such a strategy if we were not in the EU? Mr Gove’s record of pushing for deregulation and repressing teaching on climate change in schools bodes ill. He was found to be acting illegally under EU laws, which can be disappeared from March 2019. Who will hold the government to account following Brexit? Will it be Mr Gove’s environmental watchdog, one so toothless it can only scare ministers into meeting standards by issuing advisory notices? If that is the enforcement agency, then every climate sceptic and fossil fuel fan ought to be celebrating in the streets.

If ministers are serious about dealing with a public health emergency that is “cutting lives short, damaging children’s health and poisoning our natural environment”, then they will have to change the car culture in this country and support that kind of change in behaviour by going with the grain of what people want to do, which is to be sustainably mobile. The government needs to encourage a virtuous circle of declining car use coupled with increasing use of greener modes of public transport. This needs cash, and crucially must allow local government to charge motorists to use road space. Ministers will have to face down the motor lobby and embrace electric cars, as they have done in Norway. Charging car batteries from central power stations is more efficient than burning fuel in separate engines. If Mr Gove wants to be remembered for more than just PR stunts that divert attention from a trick being pulled, he should adopt a policy that hastens the demise of the internal combustion engine.

London hospitals to replace doctors and nurses with AI for some tasks

One of the country’s biggest hospitals has unveiled sweeping plans to use artificial intelligence to carry out tasks traditionally performed by doctors and nurses, from diagnosing cancer on CT scans to deciding which A&E patients are seen first.

The three-year partnership between University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Alan Turing Institute aims to bring the benefits of the machine learning revolution to the NHS on an unprecedented scale.

Prof Bryan Williams, director of research at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that the move could have a major impact on patient outcomes, drawing parallels with the transformation of the consumer experience by companies such as Amazon and Google.

“It’s going to be a game-changer,” he said. “You can go on your phone and book an airline ticket, decide what movies you’re going to watch or order a pizza … it’s all about AI,” he said. “On the NHS, we’re nowhere near sophisticated enough. We’re still sending letters out, which is extraordinary.”

At the heart of the partnership, in which UCLH is investing a “substantial” but unnamed sum, is the belief that machine learning algorithms can provide new ways of diagnosing disease, identifying people at risk of illness and directing resources. In theory, doctors and nurses could be responsively deployed on wards, like Uber drivers gravitating to locations with the highest demand at certain times of day. But the move will also trigger concerns about privacy, cyber security and the shifting role of health professionals.

The first project will focus on improving the hospital’s accident and emergency department, which like many hospitals is failing to meet government waiting time targets.

“Our performance this year has fallen short of the four-hour wait, which is no reflection on the dedication and commitment of our staff,” said Prof Marcel Levi, UCLH chief executive. “[It’s] an indicator of some of the other things in the entire chain concerning the flow of acute patients in and out the hospital that are wrong.”

In March, just 76.4% of patients needing urgent care were treated within four hours at hospital A&E units in England in March – the lowest proportion since records began in 2010.

Using data taken from thousands of presentations, a machine learning algorithm might indicate, for instance, whether a patient with abdomen pain was likely to be suffering from a severe problem, like intestinal perforation or a systemic infection, and fast-track those patients preventing their condition from becoming critical.

“Machines will never replace doctors, but the use of data, expertise and technology can radically change how we manage our services – for the better,” said Levi.

Another project, already underway, aims to identify patients who are are likely to fail to attend appointments. A consultant neurologist at the hospital, Parashkev Nachev, has used data including factors such as age, address and weather conditions to predict with 85% accuracy whether a patient will turn up for outpatient clinics and MRI scans.

In the next phase, the department will trial interventions, such as sending reminder texts and allocating appointments to maximise chances of attendance.

“We’re going to test how well it goes,” said Williams. “Companies use this stuff to predict human behaviour all the time.”

Other projects include applying machine learning to the analysis of the CT scans of 25,000 former smokers who are being recruited as part of a research project and looking at whether the assessment of cervical smear tests can be automated. “There are people who have to look at those all day to see if it looks normal or abnormal,” said Williams.

Might staff resent ceding certain duties to computers – or even taking instructions from them? Prof Chris Holmes, director for health at the Alan Turing Institute, said the hope is that doctors and nurses will be freed up to spend more time with patients. “We want to take out the more mundane stuff which is purely information driven and allow time for things the human expert is best at,” he said.

When implementing new decision-making tools, the hospital will need to guard against “learned helplessness”, where people become so reliant on automated instructions that they abandon common sense. While an algorithm might be correct 99.9% of the time, according to Holmes, “once in a blue moon it makes a howler”. “You want to quantify the risk of that,” he added.

UCLH is aiming to circumvent privacy concerns that have overshadowed previous collaborations, including that of the Royal Free Hospital in London and Google’s DeepMind, in which the hospital inadvertently shared the health records of 1.6 million identifiable patients. Under the new partnership, algorithms will be trained on the hospital’s own servers to avoid any such breaches and private companies will not be involved, according to Holmes.

“We’re critically aware of patient sensitivity of data governance,” he said. “Any algorithms we develop will be purely in-house.”

Questions also remain about the day-to-day reality of integrating sophisticated AI software with hospital IT systems, which are already criticised for being clunky and outdated. And there will be concerns about whether the move to transfer decision-making powers to algorithms would make hospitals even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hospital IT systems were brought to a standstill last year after becoming victim to a global ransomware attack that resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances being diverted and patient records being unavailable.

Williams acknowledged that adapting NHS IT systems would be a challenge, but added “if this works and we demonstrate we can dramatically change efficiency, the NHS will have to adapt.”

Ed Sheeran denounces use of song in anti-abortion campaign in Ireland

Ed Sheeran has denounced anti-abortion campaigners after reports they used one of his songs less than a week before Ireland’s referendum on abortion.

The British pop star’s song Small Bump was reportedly being played by anti-abortion activists campaigning in Dublin’s city centre. Sheeran distanced himself from those using his song, saying in a post on Instagram that “it does not reflect what the song is about”.

Instagram story by Ed Sheeran @teddysphotos


Sheeran’s Instagram post. Photograph: Ed Sheeran

Small Bump, released in 2011, is from Sheeran’s debut album +, and his objection comes as Ireland prepares to vote on Friday 25 May in a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to its constitution, which bans abortion in almost all circumstances.

The song’s lyrics include: “You’re just a small bump unknown, you’ll grow into your skin/With a smile like hers and a dimple beneath your chin/Finger nails the size of a half grain of rice, and eyelids closed to be soon opened wide/ A small bump, in four months you’ll open your eyes.”

In his Instagram post, Sheeran, who is currently playing a series of concerts in Ireland, said: “I’ve been informed that my song Small Bump is being used to promote the pro-life campaign, and I feel it’s important to let you know I have not given approval for this use, and it does not reflect what the song is about.”

Ireland’s referendum has attracted interest from groups from around the world seeking to influence the vote. A significant proportion of Facebook posts aimed at influencing voters were shown to have come from pages managed partly or entirely outside Ireland. Even some groups registered with Ireland’s ethics watchdog, the Standards In Public Office Commission, had Facebook pages managed from abroad.

Facebook said it was blocking all foreign spending on advertising around Ireland’s referendum on abortion in an effort to adhere to the “principles” of the country’s election spending laws.

I wanted to find out how my baby died. Instead I got dishonesty and hostility | James Titcombe

In November 2008 my nine-day-old son, Joshua, died in truly terrible circumstances, as a consequence of failures in his care at Furness general hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust. Joshua’s death instantly turned my life upside down. But as I began to seek answers as to what exactly happened and why, nothing could have prepared me for the years of dishonesty, obfuscation and, at times, outright hostility that followed.

Critical records of Joshua’s care went missing, statements from staff were dishonest, investigations were superficial, the organisations that should have been taking action to ensure the maternity services at Morecambe Bay were safe instead acted to reassure each other that everything was OK.

In March 2015 an independent investigation, chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup, was published. The report found that there was a “lethal mix” of failures at the maternity unit where Joshua was born. The first opportunity the trust had to identify that things were starting to go badly wrong was the tragic death of a baby girl in 2004, yet this was effectively covered up. The family weren’t told the truth, and unsafe care at the unit continued. Between 2004 and 2013, 11 babies and one mother died avoidably.

Throughout this period, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the regulator responsible for protecting the public by ensuring nurses and midwifes practise safely, appeared to take little action. In relation to Joshua’s care, the last hearings only took place in 2017, some eight years after Joshua’s death. Yesterday, a long awaited report from the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) finally provided some answers as to why. The report makes difficult and sad reading for me [full report here].

The PSA describes concerns about the evidence it was able to obtain from the NMC to assist its review. We are told that the standard of record-keeping was “very poor”, and that information relevant to the review wasn’t included in the NMC’s case files. The report recounts in heartbreaking detail the experience of many Morecambe Bay families who contacted the NMC. A clear pattern emerges of an organisation placing little onus on what these families were saying, and in some cases simply dismissing people’s concerns with little or no consideration.

In April 2012, Cumbria police met the NMC to given them a detailed list of cases at Furness general hospital about which they had significant worries. But the NMC took no action “for almost two years”. While this was ongoing, midwives under investigation continued to practise, and in some cases were involved in subsequent serious incidents involving avoidable harm and death.

It would be unrealistic to expect any large and complex organisation to get everything right all of the time, but any organisation with such an important public protection role must be open and transparent when things go wrong, so that the organisation can learn and improve and maintain public confidence and trust.

But the report highlights the continued failure of the NMC to be open, honest and transparent about its own actions, pointing to its misleading responses to families and the secretary of state, its failure to disclose external reports looking at learning from cases, and its failure to be open and transparent with information requests.

These are damning conclusions, and highlight an urgent need for change in the leadership and culture of the organisation.

But the response from the NMC this week can only be described as woefully inadequate. On Monday, Jackie Smith, the chief executive, announced her resignation but in doing so made no mention of the problems highlighted by the report, and instead spoke of her pride in all that the NMC had achieved. On Wednesday, the NMC did not put forward a single person to respond to media interview requests. There were, however, dozens of retweeted positive messages about the former chief executive on her own Twitter feed.

In addition, along with other families, I have received an impersonal and hollow letter from the NMC, along with some emails that the NMC should have disclosed to me following a personal data request from me (which they spent £240,000 responding to), but didn’t. One of the emails was between two NMC staff discussing visiting me in Cumbria in 2016 to take a statement about Joshua’s death. Upon seeing my surname the first person writes: “Is it wrong that my default position was to snigger at that name?”; “It’s not wrong it’s totally appropriate,” came the response.

These comments are puerile and silly, but also indicative of an organisational culture that has lost sight of its purpose, and the patients, mothers and babies it exists to protect.

The culture of an organisation stems from the action and behaviour of the people at the top. The response from the NMC so far, highlights an urgent and pressing need for change so it can properly do its job of protecting patients.

James Titcombe works for Patient Safety Learning

Suffer hay fever? Don’t blow your nose | Brief letters

It’s not just trees (We can’t chop down all these trees and not harm ourselves, 15 May). The railway ecosystem includes many other types of plant. On my trips from Winchester to Waterloo in the 1960s, I saw everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) in full flower, cascading down the banks. There are still pockets of plant diversity on the route between Cambridge and King’s Cross, thanks to Margaret Fuller, wife of the crossing keeper at Shepreth, as recorded in The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners (ed Deborah Kellaway; 1995).
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

David Cox offers some good advice (Seven ways to deal with hay fever, G2, 14 May) but misses out the real game-changer. Hay fever sufferers must not blow their noses. Everyone seems to know not to rub an irritated eye, but not that blowing has much the same effect on the nasal passages – congestion, irritation, and more discharge.
Dr Stuart Handysides
(Retired GP), Ware, Hertfordshire

Woody Guthrie’s words of long ago apply: Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen (Carillion fall blamed on hubris and greed, 16 May). Why no prosecutions?
Huw Kyffin
Canterbury

Is it my imagination or is the royal romance, and lead-up to the wedding, beginning to sound a little like the plot of Notting Hill Part II (Markle’s father ‘may miss her wedding after surgery’, 16 May)?
Tony Hart
Formby, Merseyside

Who is giving Prince Harry away?
Marion McNaughton
Warburton, Cheshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Suffer hay fever? Don’t blow your nose | Brief letters

It’s not just trees (We can’t chop down all these trees and not harm ourselves, 15 May). The railway ecosystem includes many other types of plant. On my trips from Winchester to Waterloo in the 1960s, I saw everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) in full flower, cascading down the banks. There are still pockets of plant diversity on the route between Cambridge and King’s Cross, thanks to Margaret Fuller, wife of the crossing keeper at Shepreth, as recorded in The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners (ed Deborah Kellaway; 1995).
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

David Cox offers some good advice (Seven ways to deal with hay fever, G2, 14 May) but misses out the real game-changer. Hay fever sufferers must not blow their noses. Everyone seems to know not to rub an irritated eye, but not that blowing has much the same effect on the nasal passages – congestion, irritation, and more discharge.
Dr Stuart Handysides
(Retired GP), Ware, Hertfordshire

Woody Guthrie’s words of long ago apply: Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen (Carillion fall blamed on hubris and greed, 16 May). Why no prosecutions?
Huw Kyffin
Canterbury

Is it my imagination or is the royal romance, and lead-up to the wedding, beginning to sound a little like the plot of Notting Hill Part II (Markle’s father ‘may miss her wedding after surgery’, 16 May)?
Tony Hart
Formby, Merseyside

Who is giving Prince Harry away?
Marion McNaughton
Warburton, Cheshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Suffer hay fever? Don’t blow your nose | Brief letters

It’s not just trees (We can’t chop down all these trees and not harm ourselves, 15 May). The railway ecosystem includes many other types of plant. On my trips from Winchester to Waterloo in the 1960s, I saw everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) in full flower, cascading down the banks. There are still pockets of plant diversity on the route between Cambridge and King’s Cross, thanks to Margaret Fuller, wife of the crossing keeper at Shepreth, as recorded in The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners (ed Deborah Kellaway; 1995).
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

David Cox offers some good advice (Seven ways to deal with hay fever, G2, 14 May) but misses out the real game-changer. Hay fever sufferers must not blow their noses. Everyone seems to know not to rub an irritated eye, but not that blowing has much the same effect on the nasal passages – congestion, irritation, and more discharge.
Dr Stuart Handysides
(Retired GP), Ware, Hertfordshire

Woody Guthrie’s words of long ago apply: Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen (Carillion fall blamed on hubris and greed, 16 May). Why no prosecutions?
Huw Kyffin
Canterbury

Is it my imagination or is the royal romance, and lead-up to the wedding, beginning to sound a little like the plot of Notting Hill Part II (Markle’s father ‘may miss her wedding after surgery’, 16 May)?
Tony Hart
Formby, Merseyside

Who is giving Prince Harry away?
Marion McNaughton
Warburton, Cheshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Like Tessa Jowell, I have a brain tumour. I hope her death inspires new research | Jessica Morris

Many people are grieving the untimely death of Tessa Jowell. She was an exceptional person. Tony Blair confirmed the impression she gave to those of us who only knew her from afar: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known.”

For me, her death is personal for another reason. We found ourselves in the same elite club.

Like Tessa Jowell, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2016. I was walking in the hills in upstate New York (we live in the city) when a strange sensation made me stop. I opened my mouth to explain to my friends and found I couldn’t form any words. I slumped into unconsciousness, having a full-blown seizure.

Two days later I had brain surgery, and the terrible diagnosis came two weeks after that. Now, more than two years later, I am determined to do what I can to improve the outcomes for everyone like me living with this brutal disease. Jowell’s death gives me added impetus in the struggle to turn this monstrous disease around.

After I was diagnosed, I asked my neuro-oncologist why glioblastoma is so deadly; why the terrifying statistics suggested that I had a mere 5% chance of surviving five years. He explained to me that the dreaded figure five also relates to another key statistic: the percentage of successful applications for research funding into GBM. This disease is so complex, so aggressive and so rare, that it is hard to attract substantial research funding.

It is especially gratifying that Jowell’s powerful legacy has already begun to be felt in the form of increased government funding. But she would be the first to agree this is not enough. There is another currency to tap: a goldmine of patient-generated data that is massively under-collected and undervalued. At the heart of every GBM drama, as with any life-threatening disease, is a human being enduring symptoms – some good, many bad – resulting from the cancer and the treatments we take. Yet our relationship as patients with our disease is not consistently recorded or analysed. It can feel as if, from the perspective of the medical system, our experience is not worth understanding.

Tessa Jowell dies aged 70 – video obituary

As an example, I’ve been fortunate enough to be treated in New York with ground-breaking treatments that can be hard to come by in the UK, including electrotherapy and immunotherapy. These cost more than $ 30,000 a month, covered by insurance and the drug company’s compassionate use programme. But how the interaction between these therapies is actually affecting me is not recorded. This reflects a long-standing approach in medicine. The “objective” measures of disease progression, as evidenced by things like the size of my tumour, the results of my MRIs, are prized. The “subjective” measures of my experience – how I feel each day, my personal responses in terms of X or Y – are largely ignored.

Patients are active, wanting to share and swap notes. Desperate to know whether a change in diet, or a cocktail of supplements, or exercise, or mindset, can help them stay alive, they are busy on social media. Amid all this noise, doctors have little advice to give – “Should I adopt the ketogenic diet? Take medical marijuana? Fast twice a week?” – because none of these approaches have been, or could be, subject to the kind of clinical trial a new drug treatment undergoes.

But imagine if we could ask people to log how they’re feeling, and what steps they’re taking to manage their disease, every day. Imagine if we could then aggregate all that data and mine it for insights. Couldn’t we find some clues from patients’ unfiltered perspective that would supplement the clinical trials information?

Dr Ethan Basch, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, undertook some fascinating research last year. He found that if you ask someone with cancer to log their symptoms, the act of doing so, coupled with your clinician’s ability to adjust therapies in real time, can lead to an actual improvement in disease outcome. People lived longer.

I’ve channelled my own frustration with my diagnosis into creating OurBrainBank, a non-profit organisation designed to move glioblastoma from terminal to treatable, powered by patients. We recently launched our pilot app in the US. People with GBM can log their symptoms daily and their aggregated data will be available to any qualified GBM researcher worldwide, for free, subject to strict screening. People using the app report feeling more on top of their disease through daily monitoring; better able to make use of their meetings with their clinicians; and more hopeful that by sharing their personal data they can play an active role in making progress.

Tessa Jowell died during May, which happens to be brain tumour awareness month. Our colour is grey. It’s strangely apt. Because what we need to crack GBM is to use our grey cells to think creatively and empathetically – patient and doctor alike.

That’s the kind of approach she espoused. She put it the best: “I hope always my politics are the politics of aspiration, ambition, possibility and the future.”

Jessica Morris is a strategic communications consultant and the founder and chair of OurBrainBank

The fight against polio continues – archive, 16 May 1957

Vaccination against poliomyelitis will this year continue through the summer months. Last year, when it was thought there might be a risk of vaccination increasing an epidemic, the programme was stopped through the summer months but, as the Minister of Health announced to the Commons yesterday, he has taken advice from a joint committee set up by the Central and Scottish Health Services Council that vaccination need not be suspended from risk of provoking paralysis.

In his long and detailed statement the Minister also gave encouraging news of increased production of the vaccine and announced that registration for vaccination will be extended. Last year parents of children born between 1947 and 1954 inclusive were given the chance of registering their children for vaccination.

Of the total number of children 31 per cent or 1,910,000 were so registered and of these about 750.000 have so far been vaccinated. The Minister is hoping that if no further production or testing difficulties are encountered those remaining on the list will have been vaccinated by the end of the summer. He has therefore decided that registration will now be extended first to children born in 1955 and 1956 and then to children born between 1947 and 1954 whose parents did not register them last year.

Second chance

The Minister has thought it wise to give this second chance to parents knowing that when registration was opened last year there were still doubts in many people’s minds. Rather than extend vaccination to other age groups he has thought it best to concentrate on the age group below 10 years-old, which is the most vulnerable to the disease.

Another decision which the Minister announced yesterday was that he will not authorise the importation of the American polio vaccine. The reason is that the British vaccine has a different composition and on every count the Minister considers it safer than the American vaccine while being just as effective.

On the assumption that production and vaccination will continue at the present rate the Minister hopes the children already registered will all have been vaccinated by the end at the summer. In the next batch for registration, the 1955-1956 age group, there are some 1,506,000 children and it is expected that a greater proportion than a third will this time register.


Four months’ figures

The decision not to suspend vaccination was not influenced by the large number of cases reported in the first four months of the year, which is more than in any previous year. The Minister is anxious that there should be no undue alarm at the figures. The figures for the first part of the year are not necessarily a reliable indication of the virulence of any epidemic later in the summer. At present this year the unusually large figures are limited to selected areas in the country.

Though the younger age groups, as the most vulnerable, are to be covered first the Minister will not shut his eyes later on to the need for extending the programme to older children and even to adults.