Local Health Update

Our Health Correspondent Alan Bellinger has the latest health news locally

Covid Update – If you remember last month I reported that the cases per 100,000 were bouncing around in St Albans District – a peak; a new trough etc. We have actually seen 3 new peaks since Christmas – each one higher than the previous; and three new troughs (each one again higher than the previous); and throughout this time, St Albans has always been the highest in Hertfordshire

But in the last month, it dropped like a stone – from 2,348 on APR 28th to 279 at the weekend – but guess what ……. It’s just started to go back up again! So maybe we’ll see a new peak! Tune in next month to find out!

Hospitalisation is down a bit on last month –from 85 to 54 people in Watford and from 73 to49 in the Lister; and if you’re eligible for a jab please go and get it!


The cases now are mainly BA2 -that accounts for 94% of cases locally; but spare a thought for the southern hemisphere – South African cases are on the rise again as they move from Autumn to winter – they now have BA4 and BA5 variants which are even more infectious than BA2 (which in turn was more infectious than BA1!). But the continuing concern about BA2 is that it seems there is a higher probability of people going on to experience Long Covid than with BA!

Care Homes – During the Pandemic one of the issues that affected many people was their inability to visit relations or friends in a Care Home. With vulnerable residents and problems with PPE in the early stages of the pandemic it was clear that visits were going to be extremely difficult.

Now we’re in the phase of “living with Covid”, what exactly does that mean for Care Home visiting.

We all know that visiting a loved one in a care home is extremely beneficial, both to the care home resident and to the visitors and depriving people of that benefit is extremely undesirable.

The new rule is that there should be no visiting restrictions unless at times of an outbreak of any sort, at which point, it is the care home’s responsibility to risk-assess the situation and decide their visiting policy.

In addition, the Government introduced the concept of a “Named Visitor” who should be able to visit a loved one in a care home at any point, including during outbreaks. However, there are questions around what this role actually means in practice, as well as concerns around flexibility with visiting.

If you have recent experience of visiting a Care Home can you please share your experience with Healthwatch Hertfordshire by

* Completing a short survey here;

* Calling Healthwatch on  01707 275978; or

* E-mail info@healthwatchhertfordshire.co.uk to express interest in talking to them one-on-one or attending a focus group


Monkey Pox – the latest report was that there were 20 cases in the UK – and it’s rising! So should we be concerned? I believe the simple answer is aware, but not at all paranoid!

There is evidence now that Monkey Pox (a close cousin of Smallpox) is spreading within the UK and is no longer limited to recent arrivals from West Africa. But it’s nowhere near as contagious as Covid and therefore the general hygiene practices that we have adopted to prevent getting Covid should ensure that you are not caught out.

There is significant evidence that it spreads from body contact with an infected person, although airborne droplets that are inhaled are also a cause of infection. So Hands, Face, Space is still very relevant, and should be a way of ensuring you don’t get it. I understand that there are no cases in St Albans but I couldn’t get that confirmed.

Although it’s called Monkey Pox, monkeys were carriers for the first signs of the disease in America; rodents in west Africa are the main source of the virus. It was first discovered in 1953 when two monkeys that were to be used for research were found to have the disease after they arrived in the US from Ghana. The first confirmed human case of Monkey Pox was in 1970 – it was in a child in the Congo.

Monkeypox produces smallpox-like skin lesions, but symptoms are usually milder than those of smallpox. Flu-like symptoms are common initially, ranging from fever and headache to shortness of breath. One to 10 days later, a rash can appear on the extremities, head or torso that eventually turns into blisters filled with pus. Overall, symptoms usually last for two to four weeks, while skin lesions usually scab over in 14 to 21 days.

People at Risk of Diabetes – I want to start with a plea – this piece is very specifically targeted at people who DO NOT have diabetes but are at risk (even if they don’t know it yet!) Next week is Diabetes week and this year it is specifically targeted at people who are at risk of Diabetes. Here is a link where you will find a test that will establish whether you are at risk or not

I encourage you to try at! And if the result is that you are at risk, you can self-refer on to the programme – you do not need to go to your Doctor and wait for a referral.

There are two types of Diabetes (called, unsurprisingly Type 1 and Type 2!). Type 1 is not reversible whilst Type 2 is! This program is really aimed at identifying people at risk of Type 2.

Type 2 occurs when the body builds up a resistance to insulin. While the pancreas may still produce the hormone, the body’s cells cannot use it effectively.

In Type 1 which usually occurs in children, the Pancreas reduces its ability to produce insulin or stops completely. The treatment is to take insulin injections each day.

In our area of Hertfordshire (effectively covering the areas around St Albans, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Potters Bar) there are around

  • 2,000 people with Type 1
  • 28,000 people with Type 2, and
  • 45,000 people who are at risk!

And most of those 45,000 people don’t know it yet! But they will if they follow that link to the simple test!

If you are at risk (whether your doctor has told you or you find out from that test) you are referred to the National Diabetes Prevention Programme

So what do you need to do to reduce your risk of diabetes? The simple answer is to have a good healthy diet and to lose weight! Here are 5 tips to employ – even if you aren’t at risk of diabetes:-

  • Weight is critical – lose 7% of your weight and you reduce your chances of Diabetes by 60%!
  • Be more physically active
  • Follow a healthy diet plan
  • Cut down on the alcohol

There is some excellent guidance here


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