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The Monkeypox Crisis:
A Patient's Guide to Understanding the Disease

by Liya Moges

We are all familiar with viruses such as Smallpox and chickenpox, and while Smallpox has been eradicated during the 1970s, and chickenpox cases have dwindled down to about 36 cases a year, it seems as though a viral relative has made headlines. As of June 2022, a surprising confirmation of 72 cases in the U.S of a new cousin-virus of smallpox, known as Monkeypox, has become prevalent, with the number of cases slowly rising.  

 

What is Monkeypox? 

According to the CDC, Monkeypox is a virus that originated in Central and South Africa. The virus is considered a zoonotic virus, meaning it spreads from animals to humans, although in cases outside of Africa, the virus is spread through close human contact. 

Since recent confirmations of Monkeypox cases have appeared in the U.S, it has been confirmed that it shares similar viral structures to Smallpox, as well as Chicken pox. All three viruses share similar symptoms of appearing as rashes around the body. Consequently, smallpox and chicken pox rash-like symptoms appear all over the body, however Monkeypox has been observed to appear as rashes mostly around the mouth, genitals, or anus. Other symptoms such as the appearance of lesions around the same areas, the appearance of flu like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches can be observed as well. 

How is the virus spreading? 

Currently, observed symptoms among individuals do not seem to be clinically serious, however since it is a virus that can be transmitted by close contact between individuals, it is important to maintain distance between yourself and other individuals. A few ways this virus can be transmitted is through: 

·         Contact with bodily fluids 

·         Contact with clothing or items that have touched bodily fluids 

·         Contact with known Monkeypox lesions  

·         Inhaling respiratory droplets 

 

What are the recent developments on the Monkeypox virus? 

As of June 15th, the number of confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the U.S is currently 72. With continuing updates from the World Health Organization, it has been stated that while the transmission of Monkeypox has not been announced as a pandemic, it is currently considered an endemic, which is an infection or disease that is limited to specific geographical locations. Thus far, Monkeypox has only been confirmed mostly in Europe, and North America, and a few scattered cases across Africa and Australia.  

 

How can I avoid this virus? 

There are a few things one can do in order to protect themselves from Monkeypox. The most obvious being, by keeping your distance from infected persons or animals. Other methods one can take to ensure their safety can consist of things such as:  

·  Continuing to wear masks in public places 

·  Separating yourself from infected persons  

·  Disposing of any items or clothing that have come into contact with the virus 

·    Getting vaccinated, specifically for Monkeypox 

Getting vaccinated may be the most precautionary method out of the listed methods mentioned above, although the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC have officially announced that the mass population does not need to receive the vaccine. They do, however, encourage scientists, laboratory workers, and healthcare professionals who work in close contact with the Monkeypox virus to get vaccinated as a precautionary measure.  

 

I think I’ve contracted the virus, what do I do? 

If you suspect that you, or a family member may have contracted Monkeypox, please self-isolate and allow for 2-4 weeks for the virus to run its course. While having Monkeypox, make sure to consult with your healthcare provider so that they may monitor your rashes and other symptoms and provide you with some over the counter medications to help reduce symptoms.  

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Liya Moges is a passionate and dedicated junior studying Biomedical Science, Business, and Law at Georgia State University. She works at Emory University Hospital supporting nurses and physicians on a Complex Medicine floor and uses this opportunity to shadow different physicians in different specialties. She has an interest in health equity which plays a role in Liya’s desire to spread awareness on diversity/inclusion and health equity within healthcare.  

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Why People Feel Happier in the Summertime

by Faalik Zahra

It’s no secret that people are happier during the spring and summer. But why is that the case, and what are the scientific explanations behind these positive emotions?

 

Many of these explanations are connected to the sun. Increased sun exposure has had vast impacts on an individual. Some of these can be negative, but many are positive.

 

According to the World Health Organization, “The sun's rays provide warmth and light that enhance your general feeling of well-being and stimulate blood circulation. UV radiation is important to the body as it stimulates the production of vitamin D.” Vitamin D can also be found in different foods such as fish, dairy, and many others.

 

But what does vitamin D do, and why is it so important?

Vitamin D has a vital role in the body. The National Institute of Health explains, “vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal bone mineralization. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including reduction of inflammation as well as modulation of such processes as cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.”

 

All of which makes vitamin D a critical element in the body that relates to many different functions. Collectively it can lead to individuals feeling better. Increased sun exposure also elevates serotonin production.

 

The Cleveland Clinic explains, “serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout your body. Serotonin plays a key role in such body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting, and sexual desire.” 

Thus the elevated serotonin during the spring and summer plays a role in improved moods. The secret is within the sun and the impact it can have on an individual’s biological processes, which then lead to emotional wellbeing as well.

 

The clear skies and blazing sun also motivate individuals to spend more time outside being active and participating in various activities. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “studies also show that being outside in nature is relaxing, reducing our stress, cortisol levels, muscle tension, and heart rates.”

 

Overall, the more time people spend outdoors, with proper precaution from over-exposure, the better an individual feels. Now you won’t need an excuse to go outside and enjoy the sunshine. It’s simple- it’s good for you.

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Faalik Zahra studies neuroscience and journalism at the University of Cincinnati and plans on becoming a physician. She has always had a strong inclination towards writing and sharing stories which have led her to pursue a journalism degree as well as founding an online media portal, Bearcat Voice. As a Senior Contributor, Faalik combines her passion for writing and her interest in medicine to explain medical issues to patients in a way they can clearly understand.

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Mental Health Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community: A Mom’s Story and Hope for the Future 

by Elizabeth Linden

The attitudes and laws regarding LGBTQ+ have varied across cultures and time periods. For example, in ancient Israel, the practice was prohibited in the Bible. In ancient Greece, however, people were freer to have same-sex partners. When English settlers came to the United States, they brought with them Puritanical beliefs and considered homosexuality a sex crime with a punishment of banishment or execution. As time progressed, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ waxed and waned. For example, in the roaring twenties, gay bars were flourishing in urban areas. However, when the Great Depression came, many blamed the cultural experimentation for the economic collapse. To keep up appearances many gay people married opposite-sex partners to wade off suspicion in fear of harsh punishments. As many LGBTQ+ people have contributed enormously to society, the case of Alan Turing is well-documented. Alan Turing who is known as the “father of theoretical computer and science and artificial intelligence” created a machine called The Bombe which broke the Nazi Enigma code. His invention was one of the key factors that led to the end of WWII and the defeat of the Axis powers. After it was found out that he was homosexual, he was forced to either go to jail or take very harmful hormonal treatments to render him asexual. While it is clear that LGBTQ+ people experienced intolerance throughout history, perhaps the most harmful discrimination in recent decades came after mental health professionals labeled these people as deviant and abnormal. In the 1950’s the American Psychological Association made intolerance more acceptable by officially classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Although homosexuality has been removed from the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. This is not because being LGBTQ+ is any type of mental disorder. The correlation exists because these people are still mistreated and stigmatized in some pockets of our society. Fortunately, we have seen a positive shift in the media with television and movie programming which has included more LGBTQ+ characters. One Canadian sitcom, called Schitt’s Creek, has become widely popular.

In the Netflix comedy series Schitt’s Creek, some of the actors portray pansexual, or gay characters, and co-creator, Daniel Levy (who plays David Rose on the show) is openly gay in real life. The show (and its actors) has received an impressive number of awards, including Best Comedy Series in 2020. It was clear before the show even wrapped up that it was going to be big and influence many people. Before the finale, Daniel Levy’s mother (Debora Devine) tweeted the following: 

“Today I regret every single second of worry back in the uninformed 80’s-wondering how the world was going to treat my brilliant little boy who loved to twirl. Little did I know that he was going to kick that old world’s ass to the curb and create a brand new one.@danjlevy ❤️❤️— deb d (@tingtime) April 7, 2020 

While the show and people like Dan are influencing so many, I’m not as optimist as Ms. Devine. Like Ms. Devine, I was a mom who worried a great deal about my gay son. He grew up in the 90s. Unlike Ms. Devine, though, I still worry.

My son was born in 1990 and he didn’t “come out” to the family. It was more like a game of telephone. My niece actually heard it from a girl at school who she barely knew. She couldn’t believe it because the girls were not close friends of my son. When she came home from school that day, she told me how she found out and I felt I had to hear the truth for myself. I got up the nerve to ask my son directly. I remember that he was sitting on a large blue bean bag chair. I just asked him, “Are you gay?” There was a long pause. He melted a bit into the bean bag chair and with a large sigh, he said, “Yes.”  My heart sank into my stomach like it was devastating news. I thought I had done something wrong. I was worried that people within my own family would reject him. I was worried about discrimination and bullying. I was worried that I had somehow caused my son to be gay. I was worried about my son’s future happiness. Although I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to describe it, I was worried about his mental health. 

In hindsight, I would have reacted differently in some ways. Perhaps I would have given him more space and not have asked him to “come out” as this is not an expectation anyone has of their other children. But I forgive myself for not knowing better at the time. It was also my son’s decision to not tell his grandparents of his preferences because they would never have approved. He also forgives them for not having the time left on this planet to learn differently. It was both curious and perhaps obvious why he chose to come out to girls who were practically strangers rather than his family. He probably feared rejection and embarrassment form certain family members. Keeping such a secret from those around you (and especially those you love dearly) has costs, however. My son is certainly not alone in keeping his sexual preferences private as many have done the same. Many have hidden that part of their lives due to the attitudes and/or laws regarding what is acceptable sexual practice and this has been documented throughout history.

As my son grew older, he found a group of friends who accepted him but had remained guarded regarding his sexual preferences to with others. There was a Gay-Straight Alliance club at his high school, but he never chose to attend. I didn’t know it at the time, but the mere presence of such a club at his school must have been a comfort to my son, regardless of his own attendance. Now known as Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSAs), are student-run organizations that unite LGBTQ+ and other allied youth to build a supportive community. GSAs have now progressed beyond acting as safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in schools and have become vehicles for social change. Research confirms that GSAs have a positive and lasting effect on student health, wellness, and academic performance in schools. They can also protect students from harassment and improve school climates for all students.

Although my son was more secretive about his sexual preferences in his youth, he is openly gay and engaged to be married to a very nice man. He has found support in his family and friends. However, he still knows when to when to be on guard. Disparaging remarks about LGBTQ+ people have been more commonplace when he has worked in male-dominated settings. He has told me he feels much more open and relaxed working with groups of predominantly females. 

While my son has found comfort with family and friends, I still worry about the millions of younger people and parents who are still struggling to help their children who face discrimination and bullying. Fortunately, there are free advocacy programs out there such as the Trevor Project which offers a wealth of information as well as free 24-hour text, call, and chat support for youth in crisis. They also offer several opportunities to get involved as so many are in need of crisis support.

 

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help/

 

Text ‘START’ to 678-678

Call us at 1-866-488-7386

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Elizabeth Linden is a retired special education teacher with 25 years of experience. She has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Health Psychology. Liz has been an advocate for the educational needs of special education students throughout her career as well as an advocate for her own medical needs as a person with a rare headache disorder.  Liz is also a Senior Anchor with The Power of the Patient Project, and her interviews are featured throughout our digital library.

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