Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. For most people it is a very mild infection and isn’t harmful. However, it may be more serious for pregnant women, as there’s evidence it causes birth defects – in particular, abnormally small heads (microcephaly).

Zika does not naturally occur in the UK. Zika outbreaks have been reported in the Pacific region, and the virus has now spread to South and Central America and the Caribbean.

Symptoms of the Zika Virus:

Most people don’t have any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and last around two to seven days.

Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • rash
  • itching all over the body
  • fever
  • headache
  • joint pain (with possible swelling, mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet)
  • muscle pain

Treatment for the Zika Virus:

There is no specific treatment for Zika virus symptoms. Drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol may help relieve symptoms. If you feel unwell after returning from a country that has malaria as well as active transmission of Zika virus, you should seek urgent (same day) advice to help rule out a malaria diagnosis. If you remain unwell and malaria has been shown not to be the cause, seek medical advice.

What if I’m worried that my baby has been affected by Zika?

Speak to your midwife or doctor for advice. If you are still concerned after receiving assurances from your healthcare professional and feel anxious or stressed more than usual, you can ask your GP or midwife for referral to further counselling.

 


Yellow fever is a serious viral infection that is spread by certain types of mosquito. It’s mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and parts of the Caribbean. The condition can be prevented with a vaccination and is a very rare cause of illness in travellers. Six travellers from Europe and North America have died from yellow fever since 1996. None of them were vaccinated.

How it is spread:

The virus that causes yellow fever is passed to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that spread the infection are usually active and bite during daylight hours, from dusk until dawn, and are found in both urban and rural areas.

Yellow fever can’t be passed directly from person to person through close contact.

Yellow Fever Symptoms:

The symptoms of yellow fever occur in two stages. The initial symptoms develop three to six days after infection, and can include:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • a headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • muscle pain, including backache
  • loss of appetite

This stage will usually pass after three to four days and most people will make a full recovery. However, around 15% of people go on to develop more serious problems, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), kidney failure and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach (causing blood in your vomit and stools).

Up to half of those who experience these symptoms will die.

Treating Yellow Fever:

There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, but the symptoms can be treated while your body fights off the virus.

Headache, high temperature and muscle pain can be treated using painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. You should also drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

 


Warts are small lumps that often develop on the skin of the hands and feet. Warts vary in appearance and may develop singly or in clusters. Some are more likely to affect particular areas of the body. For example, verucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet. Warts are non-cancerous, but can resemble certain cancers. Most people will have warts at some point in their life. They tend to affect children and teenagers more than adults.

What causes warts?

Warts are caused by an infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus causes an excess amount of keratin, a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis). The extra keratin produces the rough, hard texture of a wart.

When should I see a doctor?

  • you have warts on your face or another sensitive part of your body (e.g. genitals, mouth, nostrils)
  • you notice bleeding or signs of infection, such as pus or scabbing, around a wart
  • the wart is painful
  • the colour of the wart changes
  • you have warts and diabetes or an immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS

Most warts are harmless and clear up without treatment.

The length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. It may take up to two years for the viral infection to leave your system and for the wart to disappear.

You might decide to treat your wart if it is painful, or in an area that is causing discomfort or embarrassment.
Common methods of treatment include:

  • salicylic acid
  • cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells)
  • duct tape
  • chemical treatments

 


In the UK, there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss. Of these, around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. Being told you have a visual impairment that can’t be treated can be difficult to come to terms with. Some people go through a process similar to bereavement, where they experience a range of emotions including shock, anger, and denial, before eventually coming to accept their condition.

If you’re blind or partially sighted, you may be referred to a specialist low-vision clinic, which is often located within a hospital. Staff at the clinic can help you understand your condition and come to terms with your diagnosis. They can also advise you about practical things, such as lighting and vision aids, and let you know about further sources of help and support.

Changes to your home:

Most visually impaired people can continue to live at home. However, you’ll probably need to make some changes to your home, particularly if you live on your own.

Below is a list of some important pieces of equipment you may find useful.

Big-button telephone – both landline and mobile models are available from the RNIB online shop.

Community alarm – this small, wearable device has an alarm button which, if pressed, sends an alarm signal to a response centre, which will alert a nominated friend or carer. Your local authority should be able to provide you with further information.

Bright lighting – bright light bulbs and adjustable lights are essential for your home, particularly in the kitchen and the stairs (areas where you’re most likely to have an accident). Fluorescent bulbs are recommended because they produce the most light and tend to be cheaper in the long term than conventional bulbs.

Getting around:

There are several different methods you can use to get around independently if you have a problem with your vision.

Long cane  –   You may find a long cane useful when travelling. These type of canes are usually foldable and can help you get around by detecting objects in your path. The cane will also make drivers and other pedestrians aware that you have sight loss.

Guide dogs  –  The charity Guide Dogs has been providing guide dogs for people with vision loss for many years. Guide dogs can help you get around, and provide both a sense of independence and companionship. If you apply for a guide dog, Guide Dogs provide all the essential equipment free of charge and can also offer financial assistance if needed for things like food or vet costs.

 

 

 


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them. Anyone can get them, but they’re particularly common in women. Some women experience them regularly (called recurrent UTIs). UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable, but usually pass within a few days and can be easily treated with antibiotics.

To identify a UTI, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • A burning feeling when you urinate
  • A frequent or intense urge to urinate, even though little comes out when you do
  • Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
  • Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling urine
  • Feeling tired or shaky
  • Fever or chills (a sign the infection may have reached your kidneys)

The following may increase your risk of getting a UTI:

  • conditions that obstruct your urinary tract, such as kidney stones
  • difficulty emptying your bladder fully
  • using a contraceptive diaphragm or condoms coated in spermicide
  • diabetes
  • a weak immune system – from chemotherapy or HIV, for example
  • a urinary catheter (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine)
  • an enlarged prostate gland in men

Treating UTIs:

If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, head to the doctor. You’ll be asked to give a urine sample, which will be tested for the presence of UTI-causing bacteria. The treatment? Antibiotics to kill the intruders. As always, be sure to finish off the prescribed cycle of medicine completely, even after you start to feel better. And drink lots of water to help flush the bacteria from your system. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to soothe the pain, and a heating pad may also be helpful.


An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed. An underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid isn’t making. There’s no way of preventing an underactive thyroid. Most cases are caused either by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and damaging it, or by damage to the thyroid that occurs during some treatments for an overactive thyroid or thyroid cancer.

The thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through your bloodstream and affect nearly every part of your body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and skin.

Who’s Affected?

Both men and women can have an underactive thyroid, although it’s more common in women. In the UK, it affects 15 in every 1,000 women and 1 in 1,000 men. Children can also develop an underactive thyroid.

Around 1 in 3,500-4,000 babies are born with an underactive thyroid (congenital hypothyroidism). All babies born in the UK are screened for congenital hypothyroidism using a blood spot test when the baby is about five days old.

Treating an Underactive Thyroid:

Treatment for an underactive thyroid involves taking daily hormone replacement tablets, called levothyroxine, to raise your thyroxine levels. You’ll usually need treatment for the rest of your life. However, with proper treatment, you should be able to lead a normal, healthy life.

If an underactive thyroid isn’t treated, it can lead to complications, including heart disease, goitre, pregnancy problems and a life-threatening condition called myxoedema coma (although this is very rare).

 

 

 

 


Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It is a serious condition, but can be cured with proper treatment. TB mainly affects the lungs. However, it can affect any part of the body, including the glands, bones and nervous system.

The symptoms that occur when TB disease develops, often there are complaints of tiredness, listlessness, loss of weight and night sweating. When TB affects the lungs, a cough is usually present for weeks or even months. An important feature of TB is that after infection, the bacteria can remain latent in the body for a long time (even lifelong) causing no symptoms of disease. This means you are not infectious but it could leave the body more prone to diseases.

Who is affected?

Before antibiotics were introduced, TB was a major health problem in the UK. Nowadays, the condition is much less common.

However, in the last 20 years, TB cases have gradually increased, particularly among ethnic minority communities who are originally from countries where TB is more common. In 2014, more than 6,500 cases of TB were reported in England. Of these, around 4,700 affected people who were born outside of the UK.

How is TB treated?

With treatment, TB can usually be cured. Most people will need a course of antibiotics, usually for six months.
Several different antibiotics are used. This is because some forms of TB are resistant to certain antibiotics. If you are infected with a drug-resistant form of TB, treatment with six or more different medications may be needed.


Tinnitus is the term for hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source. It’s often described as “ringing in the ears”, although several sounds can be heard, including:

  • Buzzing
  • Humming
  • Grinding
  • Hissing
  • Whistling

Some people may hear sounds similar to music or singing, and others hear noises that beat in time with their pulse (pulsatile tinnitus).

Tinnitus is rarely a sign of a serious underlying condition. For some people it may come and go and only be a minor irritation. However, it can sometimes be continuous and have a significant impact on everyday life. Severe cases can be very distressing, affect concentration, and cause problems such as difficulty sleeping

Does Tinnitus make you deaf?

Tinnitus does not make you deaf, although it may start at the same time as a hearing loss. Often as your ability to hear outside sounds decreases because of a hearing loss, your brain focuses more on your internal noises and you may then start to become aware of tinnitus.

Therefore, for those with a hearing loss, to help the brain hear the more meaningful outside sounds better again and reduce the awareness of your internal sounds, hearing aids are often recommended.

Who is affected?

Most people have experienced short periods of tinnitus after being exposed to loud noises, such as after a music concert.  In the UK, more persistent tinnitus is estimated to affect around six million people (10% of the population) to some degree, with about 600,000 (1%) experiencing it to a severity that affects their quality of life.

Treating Tinnitus:

There’s currently no single treatment for tinnitus that works for everyone. However, research to find an effective treatment is continuing. If an underlying cause of your tinnitus can be found, effectively treating it may help improve your tinnitus – for example, removing a build-up of earwax might help. If a specific cause can’t be found, treatment will focus on helping you manage the condition on a daily basis.


Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak that happens when you’re waking up or, less commonly, falling asleep. Although you’re awake, your body is briefly paralysed, after which you can move and speak as normal. The paralysis can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

Sleep paralysis doesn’t cause you any harm, but being unable to move can be very frightening. Over many centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence: unseen night demons. People often describe the feeling of somebody/something watching over them (and sometimes walking towards them) as they cannot move.

What causes sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis can sometimes be a symptom of narcolepsy. This is a relatively rare sleep disorder, which causes severe disruption to the sleep-wake cycle. An inability to stay awake for more than three or four hours is usually the main symptom.

Other things that increase your risk of getting sleep paralysis include:

  • sleep deprivation
  • irregular sleeping patterns
  • age – it’s more common in teenagers and young adults

How to treat sleep paralysis:

The symptoms of sleep paralysis can often be improved by altering your sleep habits and sleeping environment. Sleep paralysis often affects people who are sleep deprived, so ensuring you get enough sleep may reduce the number of episodes you have. Most adults need six to eight hours of good quality sleep each night. Going to bed at roughly the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning may also help.

If sleep paralysis is an ongoing struggle then it may be time to go and talk to your local GP, they will be able to offer you counselling sessions and even refer you to a neurologist who may have the answers to your sleep paralysis nightmares.


Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

The main symptom of scabies is intense itching that’s worse at night. It also causes a skin rash on areas where the mites have burrowed. Scabies like warm places, such as skin folds, between the fingers, under fingernails, or around the buttock or breast creases. They can also hide under watch straps, bracelets or rings.

Scabies is usually spread through prolonged periods of skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, or through sexual contact. It’s also possible – but rare – for scabies to be passed on by sharing clothing, towels and bedding with someone who’s infected. It can take up to eight weeks for the symptoms of scabies to appear after the initial infection. This is known as the incubation period.

How common is scabies?

Scabies is common. In the UK, about 1 in 1,000 people develop scabies each month. Scabies is more common in town (urban) areas, in women and children, in the winter, and in the North of the country.

How to treat scabies:

Visit your GP if you think you have scabies. It’s not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated. Scabies is curable. The usual scabies treatment is with permethrin cream. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills the mites. This is known to be the treatment that works the best. If permethrin cannot be used, an alternative is to use a lotion called malathion liquid.

Complications of scabies:

Scabies can sometimes lead to a secondary skin infection if your skin becomes irritated and inflamed through excessive itching. Crusted scabies is a rare but more severe form of scabies, where a large number of mites are in the skin. This can develop in older people and those with a lowered immunity.