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BBC World Service - Health Check

Health Check

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health Check

  • Tracking diseases like Covid-19 that leap from animals into humans
    In this discussion recorded in 2017 on a farm in Dong Thap in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City’s Factory Contemporary Arts Centre we hear how Vietnam’s agricultural economy makes it easy for diseases to spread to humans. Claudia Hammond and Ha Mi hear from the farmers affected by the 2004 outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Things have improved but only a third of those involved in slaughtering animals have any protective equipment – so many are at risk of breathing in virus particles and becoming infected. Scientists test animals looking out for any new diseases which could spread to humans in the way that Ebola, Zika and HIV have – a process called zoonosis. But rice-field rats eaten by 90% of the locals do not pose a serious threat to human health. At the gallery we hear about paintings of abattoirs, painted with cows’ blood – highlighting Vietnam’s changing relationship with food and death. We hear about the Wellcome Trust’s Major Overseas Programme at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit – including the story of a diseased duck that died, was buried and dug up by the farmer’s daughter, exposing her to H5N1 bird flu which killed her and her father. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Paula McGrath (Image: Ducks in a row in Vietnam. Photo credit: AntGutz/Getty Images.)

  • Coronavirus update
    As South Africa goes into lockdown what measures are they taking? Plus big data in Taiwan and a round-up of drug trials, antibody testing and low cost ventilators. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald (Image: Microscopic view of influenza virus cells. Photo credit: Panorama Images/Getty Images.)

  • What have we learnt from Sars?
    Claudia Hammond revisits a discussion she recorded in the summer of 2019 in Hong Kong, talking to some of the key players in the Sars epidemic in 2003. She hears how the novel virus was first spotted and how the medical and global health community rallied round in the fight to conquer it. The similarities with the situation today are startling, but have we learnt the key lessons from how SARS was handled? Claudia also speaks to Professor David Heymann at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to hear what the Hong Kong effort can teach us in the war against Covid-19. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Alexandra Feachem (Image: A security guard in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic in 2003. Photo credit: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images.)

  • Alcohol: How drinking less will help you live longer
    Claudia Hammond talks to Professor David Nutt about his new book on the science of alcohol and hears some top tips for cutting down. She hears why alcohol is the second biggest cause of death worldwide and why managing how much you drink could add months or even years to your life. Claudia talks to Dr Terence Leung of University College London who has developed an app that could prevent deaths in newborns by more easily detecting jaundice. Finally we hear from people who are finding personal digital assistants like Alexa may be good for their mental and physical health. Claudia is joined in the studio by Clare Wilson, Medical Reporter from the New Scientist. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Alexandra Feachem (Image: Man refusing to drink whiskey in a bar. Photo credit: Serezniy/Getty Images.)

  • Autism: the problems of fitting in
    Many people with autistic spectrum disorder learn techniques to overcome their difficulties interacting with others. The first study that has looked at the consequences of these compensatory strategies reveals some benefits but also significant downsides. The consequences can be stress, low self-esteem, mental illness and misdiagnosis. Claudia talks to lead researcher Professor Francesca Happé from King’s College London and Eloise Stark, a woman with autism. A new research programme at Imperial College London is investigating the link between obesity and infertility in men. Madeleine Finlay explores why weight gain and other factors of modern life might be influencing men’s sperm health. Tick-borne Lyme disease is on the rise in the northern hemisphere. Lyme disease can develop into a serious illness. It is hard to diagnosis early and delayed diagnosis means lengthy treatment and recovery. Dr Mollie Jewett at the University of Central Florida is working on a much faster means of diagnosis, and a more effective treatment. Deborah Cohen meets Dr Jewett and her ticks. Graham Easton is in the Health Check studio to talk about links between hearing loss and dementia, and the worrying spread of bacteria resistant to carbapenems, one of the most important kinds of antibiotic drugs. (Photo caption: A young woman standing in the middle of a crowded street – credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Dr Graham Easton. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker