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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scarlet Fever

This has been in the news recently so... what is it anyway?

Scarlet fever is an illness caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, or Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci.  This is the same organism that causes 'strep throat', a bacterial type of pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx or throat).

In fact, the illness usually starts with similar symptoms including:
- fever of 38.3 Celsius (101 Fahrenheit) and above
- sore throat, with swollen tonsils covered by white or yellow spots of pus
- difficulty or pain on swallowing
- enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck
- chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain

The difference is: scarlet fever is accompanied by a rash caused by a toxin the organism produces.  This characteristic rash is what gives scarlet fever its name.

The rash begins over the neck and upper body, and quickly spreads up to the arms and legs, usually within 24 hours.  It is made up of tiny bumps giving it the texture of gooseflesh or coarse sandpaper.  It is red, but blanches or turns pale on pressure.  The redness is more intense in the deep creases or folds of the skin in the neck, armpits, elbows, groin, and knees, forming red lines or streaks.  The face (forehead and cheeks) is also red and flushed, but the area around the mouth remains pale (circumoral pallor).

The tongue also has a characteristic appearance.  At first, it is covered with a white coat (and so is called white strawberry tongue), which is shed after several days leaving a red, bumpy-looking tongue (called red strawberry tongue or raspberry tongue).

Afterwards, the rash fades and the skin begins to peel, and this peeling may take from days to weeks.

Scarlet fever is most common in children of ages 5 to 15 years.  It is usually spread by droplets expelled from an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes.  So it is good advice to cover the mouth and nose whenever coughing or sneezing, as well as avoiding sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses, and food.
From the time of exposure, it can take up to seven days to the appearance of symptoms.

To diagnose, the doctor will take a swab from the back of the throat and submit it to the laboratory for culture, to see if the bacteria will grow from it.  When this is confirmed, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics.  Note that it is important to complete the course of antibiotics because if not, the bacteria may not be completely removed and develop into drug-resistant strains, and also increase the risk of complications.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nine Planets?

My very eager mother just served us nine pizzas.

Or was it pies?  No matter.
This was the mnemonic taught to us so that we can remember the names of the nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

However, sometime in 2006, in light of new discoveries, the International Astronomical Union redefined the word 'planet' as: a celestial body that
a) is in orbit around the Sun,
b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. - This last bit means it has a clear path around the Sun.

With this definition, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet because of its size and its location within the area called Kuiper Belt.

For comparison, the definition of a 'dwarf planet' is: a celestial body that
a) & b) - same as in the definition of planet above,
c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, - meaning it orbits in a zone that has many other objects in it, and
d) is not a satellite.

Currently, there are five dwarf planets namely: Ceres - which is the largest body in the asteroid belt, in the area between Mars and Jupiter; Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris - which are all in the Kuiper Belt, in the area beyond Neptune.

And if anyone asks, there are eight planets, not nine.  And to remember them, think:

My very educated mother just served us nachos.

Hmm... I think I prefer nuggets, though...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Miranda Warning or Miranda Rights

You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you can not afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

Anyone who has watched any cop/crime show has heard this.  This is what is referred to as the Miranda warning or Miranda rights.

It is a warning given to suspects in police custody before interrogation to inform them of their rights against self-incrimination.  If they have understood this right and choose to waive them, and speak to the police regarding the incident, any self-incriminating statements they make may be admissible as evidence in court.

The Miranda warning is required in the United States, but there are equivalent rights in other countries as well.

In the Philippines, the Miranda Doctrine is also followed as shown in Article III (Bill of Rights), section 12 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution (see excerpt below).  The Miranda warning is given to persons placed under arrest, whether with a warrant, or without (warantless arrest), in a language or dialect the person knows and understands.

If the person under arrest chooses to waive this right and give his statement, the arresting officer must ensure that the waiver is made in writing and signed by the arrested person in the presence of a counsel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Growing Minds

"The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live."
- Mortimer Adler

Learning is a lifelong process.  Everyday presents something for us to learn, whether it's something totally new, or something old seen in a new way.  We only have to keep our minds open and our senses alert, and pick up things from our own experiences, from other people's, from anything and everything around us.