The Zika Virus in less than 500 words.

What is it?

A virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.

Why is it in the news?

It is currently spreading rapidly through Central and South America. It is likely that it will continue to do so throughout areas with this particular mosquito (Africa, South and South East Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific).

Although most people have few if any symptoms, researchers think it may cause microcephaly, a fetal defect where the head is abnormally small.The WHO have declared it a “public health emergency of international concern”

So should everyone avoid the affected areas if they can?

Certainly pregnant women and those intending to become pregnant. Those suffering from severe, chronic medical condition, or with weakened immune systems.Affected areas are updated on

Supposing travel is unavoidable? And how can inhabitants protect themselves?

They should:

– wear clothing that covers as much of their body as possible.

– use a good mosquito repellent day and night, particularly during mid-morning and late afternoon/dusk. Repellents that contain DEET, picardin and IR3535 are all safe in pregnant women.

-apply repellent after any sunscreen.

-sleep in a screened or air conditioned room, or under a mosquito net.

The Brazilian Health ministry has suggested women in affected areas avoid pregnancy at the moment.

What’s the chance of catching the virus in the UK?

The Aedes mosquito does not currently survive the UK climate. However Zika cases have occurred in people travelling from affected areas.

I’ve heard it can be sexually transmitted.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can, although there is no conclusive proof. The risk is considered very low, but men returning from an affected area are advised to use a condom for 28 days. Men who have been affected or have had an unexplained rash or fever should use a condom for 6 months.

And kissing?

Although ZIKA virus can be founds in saliva, it is in such small amounts that the risk of catching it through kissing is considered extremely low.

What are the symptoms?

They are usually mild: fever, rash, itching, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, eye pain, conjunctvitis.

Is there a test?

Yes, if the women are currently experiencing symptoms. This involves blood and urine samples being sent to the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

With or without symptoms, women who’ve been at risk, should have a fetal ultrasound to measure the head. This can be repeated monthly. If testing for the virus is positive or equivocal, or there is evidence of microcephaly, the woman should be referred to a specialist fetal medicine unit.

References and further reading:




Somewhere to start

Somewhere to start

Re-wiring is going well. Apparently we have 1.8km of new cable in our house. Having agreed with the electricians I’d stay out today, I worked in the library. My husband’s office is over the road and he promised me lunch.

Who developed the concept of libraries as quiet, free places to work? I hope they were properly recognised in their lifetime. It was so good to have somewhere away from wire, out-of-place furniture and lego to think. And I learned something about my process- nothing revolutionary or special- my big stumbling block to inspiration is starting.

Exhausted, and having had little time without children or house issues over the last two weeks, I’d begun to worry about coming up with new ideas. But I had one workable pitch I’d not yet sent off. It gave me somewhere to start. I could then think of an internet search strategy to generate ideas. I finished the session with ten. Some of them may well seem a little silly tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter. I have somewhere to go.






I’ve never been celebrated for my ability to prioritise. I am known for my conversational tangents. And I frequently get lost in a writing project, only to realise, by school pick-up, I’ve neglected everything else I meant to do.

If anything this predisposition has helped my creative writing. My mental detours are not necessarily efficient, but I often find a fresh idea or perspective along the way. They definitely help in the search for pitch ideas. But when I’ve an article or blog post to write, I need to focus on one central point.

I’m pretty sure the first draft of my current article was better than the current one. Because I’ve had too much time to think.


State of Chaos part 2

State of Chaos part 2

It’s been a week since I posted, but I have some good excuses, if it being the last week before half term wasn’t enough. There have been meetings, electricians, calls to the bank and diagnoses. Good news: we now know formally my son has dyslexia after years of everyone trying to work out what was wrong. It turns out, the bad news  wasn’t that we couldn’t get through to IKEA to organise our kitchen. It’s that we need our whole house re-wired to see what we’re doing when we cook! We had to send our builder away for a time, and he’s the one who kept things tidy. So things don’t look as good as this any more.20160128_132943

Interestingly, having cried down the phone to IKEA over a couple of weeks’ delay, I coped beautifully with the idea we could be operating in half a kitchen for some time. I’d forgotten I love a crisis. Besides, it’ll be a great excuse to stay with my friend next week.

But it has meant I’ve had very little time for writing.

There you are. I told you this one would be full of excuses.


In which I try to be calm and professional

In which I try to be calm and professional

My first feature article has been published in the March issue of Writing Magazine. They’ve transformed the eight-page word document I sent them, into a glossy two page spread with pictures, links and a better title. (Pages 12 and 13- “Pace Yourself!”)

It was a lovely surprise for a cold Wednesday morning. I’d not expected the issue to come out for another week. I found out looking at my emails during toddler group. Friends, Gary and Anita had taken photos of the front cover, my article and my author biography and tagged me on Facebook. It was particularly lovely of them to get excited as Gary has seen his words in every issue for the last 16 years.

When I got home, my copy had arrived too. The relief, reading it for the first time in months and realising it was better than I remembered.

I didn’t win X factor, or find a cure for a terrible disease, but people have been so pleased for me. In a very good way, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

Anita's WM photo




A type A personality has a wedding anniversary

A type A personality has a wedding anniversary

A surprising number of my friends were married in their early or mid twenties. Until now, I’ve felt a little remedial in comparison. Most of them are coming up to two decades, whereas we’ve only just hit thirteen years.  It’s only just occurred to me that my wedding anniversary today is a celebration of the last year of marriage and not a milestone of achievement.

I don’t want to wish the years away. That’d be wishing our children away from home, and less life ahead of us.

Nick has his faults (just ask a man’s in-laws for a complete compendium) but I don’t need a day to remind me I’ve got it good. It’s a miraculous match. I would make anyone else quite miserable, and I like to think I am a saint putting up with his puns. The thing I value most- after essential stuff like similar beliefs and not beating me up? He’s always making fun of himself.