Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

The heart of information literacy is contained within definitions used to describe it. Traditionally librarians have given ‘library induction’ or ‘library skills training’ in a limited role. Library users need to know where the catalogue is, what the services are, and most importantly where the enquiry desk is. This is not to reduce the value of traditional library induction, but libraries and information are also changing. The provision of information through a library in a traditional form has gone through radical alterations. Already in most library and information organisations staffs are adjusting their services with the provision of new media and access to information provision within these organisations. Thus librarians are talking about social inclusion, opportunity, life-long learning, information society and self development.

A plethora of definitions for information literacy abound in books, journal papers and the web. Some of these definitions centre on the activities of information literacy i.e. identifying the skills needed for successful literate functioning. Other definitions are based on the perspective of an information literate person i.e. trying to outline the concept of information literacy. Deriving therefore a single definition is a complex process of collecting together a set of ideas as to what might be, should be, or may be considered a part of information literacy. For example Weber and Johnson (2002) defined information literacy as the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society. The American Library Association (2003) defined information literacy as a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. While CLIP (2004) defined information literacy as knowing when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. Succinctly these definitions imply that information literacy requires not only knowledge but also skills in:

• recognising when information is needed;

• resources available

• locating information;

• evaluating information;

• using information;

• ethics and responsibility of use of information;

• how to communicate or share information;

• how to manage information

Given therefore the variety of definitions and implied explanation information literacy is a cluster of abilities that an individual can employ to cope with, and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surrounds us in our daily life and work.

STRUCTURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

Sierra Leone’s current educational system is composed of six years of formal primary education, three years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), three years Senior Secondary School (SSS) and four years of tertiary education-6-3-3-4. (The Professor Gbamanja Commission’s Report of 2010 recommended an additional year for SSS to become 6-3-4-4). The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years. All pupils at the end of class six are required to take and pass the National Primary School Examinations designed by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to enable them proceed to the secondary school divided into Junior Secondary School(JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each part has a final examination: the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for the JSS, and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) for SSS, both conducted by WAEC. Successful candidates of WASSCE are admitted to tertiary institutions based on a number of subjects passed (GoSL,1995)

The curriculum of primary schools emphasizes communication competence and the ability to understand and manipulate numbers. At the JSS level, the curriculum is general and comprehensive, encompassing the whole range of knowledge, attitudes and skills in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social studies are compulsory for all pupils. At the SSS level, the curriculum is determined by its nature (general or specialist), or its particular objectives. Pupils are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects with optional subjects based on their specialization. Teaching is guided by the teaching syllabuses and influenced by the external examinations that pupils are required to take at the 3/ 4-year course. English is the language of instruction (GoSL,1995).

The countries two universities, three polytechnics, and two teacher training colleges are responsible for the training of teachers in Sierra Leone. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for private universities so that these institutions too could help in the training of teachers. Programs range from the Teacher Certificate offered by the teacher training colleges to the Masters in Education offered by universities. Pre-service certification of teachers is the responsibility of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA). There is also an In-service Teacher Training program (Distance Education Program) conducted for teachers in part to reduce the number of untrained and unqualified teachers especially in the rural areas.

LITERACY IN SIERRA LEONE

In Sierra Leone as it is in most parts of the developing world literacy involves one’s ability to read, write and numeracy. It is the ability to function effectively in life contexts. A literate person is associated with the possession of skills and knowledge and how these could be applied within his local environment. For instance a literate person is believed to be able to apply chemical fertilizer to his crops, fill in a loans form, determine proper dosage of medicine, calculate cash cropping cost and profits, glean information from a newspaper, make out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions and basic human rights.

Literacy is at the heart of the country’s development goals and human rights (World Bank, 2007). Wherever practised literacy activities are part of national and international strategies for improved education, human development and well-being. According to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 34 %.Implicitly Sierra Leone is an oral society. And oral societies rely heavily on memory to transmit their values, laws, history, music, and culture whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities for transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what make the goal of literacy crucial in society.

In academic parlance literacy hinges on the printed word. Most pupils are formally introduced to print when they encounter schoolbook. School teachers in Sierra Leone continue to use textbooks in their teaching activities to convey content area information to pupils. It is no gainsaying that pupils neither maximise their learning potential nor read at levels necessary for understanding the type of materials teachers would like them to use. Thus the performance of pupils at internal and public examinations is disappointing. Further pupils’ continued queries in the library demonstrate that they do not only lack basic awareness of resources available in their different school libraries but also do not understand basic rudiments of how to source information and materials from these institutions. What is more worrisome is that pupils do not use appropriate reading skills and study strategies in learning. There is a dearth of reading culture in schools and this situation cuts across the fabric of society. In view of the current support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to establish literacy standards in school this situation has proved frustrating as teachers do not know how to better help pupils to achieve this goal. Thus they look up to the school librarians to play a more proactive role.

LITERACY DEMANDS ON SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPILS

In everyday situations school pupils are expected to be able to identify and seek information they need. Providing a variety of reading and writing experiences using varied materials in the school library can help develop pupils’ literacy ability (Roe, Stoodt-Hill and Burns, 2004). The mode of assessment in schools in Sierra Leone includes class exercises, tests, written and practical assignments, as well as written examinations to see pupils through to their next levels. These pupils, for example, need to read content books and supplementary materials in school for homework. Pupils have even more literacy needs in their activities outside school. They need to read signs found in their communities, job applications, road maps and signs, labels on food and medicine, newspapers, public notices, bank statements, bills and many other functional materials. Failure to read and understand these materials can result in their committing traffic violations, having unpleasant reactions to food or medicine, becoming lost, losing employment opportunities and missing desirable programs. Equally so pupils need to write to their relatives and loved ones, instructions to people who are doing things for them, notes to themselves about tasks to be completed, phone messages for colleagues and many other items. Mistakes in these activities can have negative effects on them. Good literacy skills are especially important to pupils who plan to pursue higher education studies. The job market in the country calls for pupils to be literate. For instance most jobs advertised these days require people who have completed their JSS. The fact is that workers need to be able to understand graphic aids, categorized information and skim and scan to locate information. Also the nature of reading in the workplace generally involves locating information for immediate use and inferring information for problem solving. The reading and writing of a variety of documents like memos, manuals, letters, reports and instructions are necessary literacy skills in the workplace.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

School libraries in Sierra Leone are perceived as integral aspect of the county’s educational system. These institutions bring together four major components of the school community: the materials, pupils, teacher and library staff. The main purpose for the establishment of these institutions in schools is to complement the teaching/learning process, if not to support the curriculum. This purpose is achieved in two ways: by providing pupils with the means of finding whatever information they need; and by developing in pupils the habit of using books both for information and for pleasure. Pupils need information to help them with the subjects they learn in school. The textbooks they use and the notes they take in class can be an excellent foundation. They may also be sufficient for revision purposes. But these could not be enough to enable pupils to write good essays of their own or to carry out group projects. School libraries then are expected to complement this effort and therefore are perceived as learning centres.

Pupils need information on subjects not taught in school. School libraries are looked upon as places pupils find information to help them in their school studies and personal development. Through these institutions pupils’ habit of using libraries for life-long education is not only developed but also school libraries could be used to improve pupils’ reading skills. In the school community both pupils and teachers use school libraries for leisure and recreational purpose and for career advancement. The culture of society is also transmitted through use of school libraries. Because of the important role school libraries play in the country’s educational system they are organised in such way that pupils as well as teachers can rely upon them for support in the teaching/learning process. Most of these institutions are managed by either a full-time staff often supervised by a senior teacher. Staffs use varied methods to promote their use including user education.

JUSTIFYING THE LIBRARIAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN PROMOTING LITERACY IN SCHOOL

A pre-requisite for the development of autonomous pupils through flexible resource-based learning approaches is that pupils master a set of skills which gradually enable them to take control of their own learning. Current emphasis in teaching in schools in Sierra Leone has shifted from “teacher-centred” to “pupil-centred” approach thereby making pupils to “learn how to learn” for themselves so that the integration of process skills into the design of the school curriculum becomes crucial (GoSL,1995). It is in this area of “learning” or “information literacy” skills that one can most clearly see the inter-relationship between the school curriculum and the school library. For pupils to become independent users of information and for this to occur it is vital that they are given the skills to learn how to find information, how to select what is relevant, and how to use it in the best way possible for their own particular needs and take responsibility for their own learning. As information literate, pupils will be able to manage information skilfully and efficiently in a variety of contexts. They will be capable of weighing information carefully and wisely to determine its quality (Marcum2002). Pupils do recognise that having good information is central to meeting the opportunity and challenges of day-to-day living. They are also aware of the importance of how researching across a variety of sources and formats to locate the best information to meet particular needs.

Literacy activities in schools in Sierra Leone are the responsibility of content area teachers, reading consultants and school librarians. Of these the role of the school librarian is paramount. As specialist the school librarian is expected to provide assistance to pupils and teachers alike by locating materials in different subjects, and at different reading levels by making available materials that can be used for motivation and background reading. The school librarian is also expected to provide pupils with instructions in locating strategies related to the library such as doing online searches and skimming through printed reference materials. The librarian is expected to display printed materials within his purview, write specialised bibliographies and lists of addresses on specific subjects at the request of teachers. He should be able to provide pupils with direct assistance in finding and using appropriate materials; recreational reading can be fostered by the librarian’s book talks or attractive book displays on high-interest topics like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child rights, human rights and poverty alleviation. In view of this the fundamental qualities expected of the good school librarian include knowledge of his collection and how to access it; ability to understand the needs of his users more so those of pupils; ability to communicate with pupils and adult users; and knowledge of information skills and how to use information.

ROLE OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

Pupils’ success in school depends to a large extent upon their ability to access, evaluate and use information. Providing access to information and resources is a long-standing responsibility of the school librarian. The school librarian should provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the library becomes integral in the instructional program of the school. In school the librarian is the information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant. He is the interface responsible for guiding pupils and teachers through the complex information resources housed in his library (Lenox and Walker, 1993). He is looked up to assist and guide numerous users in seeking to use and understand the resources and services of the library. In this respect the school librarian should inculcate in these users such skills as manual and online searching of information; use of equipment; developing critical skills for the organization, evaluation and use of information and ideas as integral part of the curriculum (Lonsdale, 2003). The school librarian should be aware of the range of available information retrieval systems, identify that most suitable to the needs of pupils and provide expertise in helping them become knowledgeable, if not comfortable, in their use. Since no library is self-sufficient the school librarian can network with information agencies, lending/renting materials and/or using electronic devises to transmit information (Tilke, 1998; 2002).

As information specialist the school librarian should be able to share his expertise with those who may wish to know what information sources and/or learning materials are available to support a program of work. Such consultation should be offered to the whole school through the curriculum development committee or to individual subject teachers. The school librarian should take the lead in developing pupils’ information literacy skills by being involved with the school curriculum planning and providing a base of resources to meet its needs. He should be aware of key educational initiatives and their impact in teaching and learning; he should be familiar with teaching methods and learning styles in school; over all he should maintain an overview of information literacy programmes within the school (Herring, 1996; Kuhlthau, 2004).

Kuhlthau (2004) opined that information seeking is a primary activity of life and that pupils seek information to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them. When therefore, information in school libraries is placed in a larger context of learning, pupils’ perspective becomes an essential component in information provision. The school librarian should ensure that skills, knowledge and attitude concerning information access, use and communication, are integral part of the school curriculum. Information skills are crucial in the life-long learning process of pupils. As short term objective the school librarian should provide a means of achieving learning objectives within the curriculum; as long term information skills have a direct impact on individual pupils’ ability to deal effectively with a changing environment. Therefore the school librarian should work in concert with teachers and administrators to define the scope and sequence of the information relevant to the school curriculum and ensure its integration throughout the instructional programs (Tilke, 2002; Birks and Hunt, 2003). Pupils should be encouraged to realise their potential as informed citizens who critically think and solve problems. In view of the relationship between the curriculum and school library, the librarian should serve on the curriculum committee ensuring that information access skills are incorporated into subject areas. The school librarian’s involvement in the curriculum development will permit him to provide advice on the use of a variety of instructional strategies such as learning centres and problem-solving software, effective in communicating content to pupils (Herring, 1996; Birks and Hunt, 2003).

Literacy could be actively developed as pupils need access to specific resources, demonstrate understanding of their functionality and effective searching skills. In this regard pupils should be given basic instruction to the library, its facilities and services and subsequent use. Interactive teaching methods aimed at information literacy education should be conducted for the benefit of pupils. Teaching methods could include an outline of a variety of aides like quizzes and worksheets of differing complexity level to actively engage pupils in learning library skills and improving their information literacy. Classes should be divided into small groups so that pupils could have hands-on-experience using library resources. Where Internet services are available in the library online tutorials should be provided. Post session follow-up action will ensure that pupils receive hands-on-experience using library resources. Teaching methods should be constantly evaluated to identify flaws and improve on them.

Further the school librarian should demonstrate willingness to support and value pupils in their use of the library through: provision of readers’ guides; brochures; book marks; library handbooks/guides; computerization of collection; helpful guiding throughout the library; and regular holding of book exhibitions and book fairs. Since there are community radio stations in the country the school librarian could buy air time to report library activities, resources and services. He can also communicate to pupils through update newspapers. Pupils could be encouraged to contribute articles on library development, book reviews and information about opening times and services. The school librarian could help pupils to form book and reading clubs, organize book weeks and book talks using visiting speakers and renowned writers to address pupils. Classes could also be allowed to visit the library to facilitate use. More importantly the school librarian should provide assistance to pupils in the use of technology to access information outside the library. He should offer pupils opportunities related to new technology, use and production of varied media formats, and laws and polices regarding information. In order to build a relevant resource base for the school community the librarian should constantly carry out needs assessment, comparing changing demands to available resources.

The Internet is a vital source for promoting literacy in the school library. The school librarian should ensure that the library has a website that will serve as guide to relevant and authoritative sources and as a tool for learning whereby pupils and teachers are given opportunity to share ideas and solutions (Herring, 2003). Through the Internet pupils can browse the library website to learn how to search and develop information literacy skills. In order for pupils to tap up-to-date sources from the Net the school librarian should constantly update the home page, say on a daily basis, if necessary. Simultaneously the school librarian should avail to pupils and teachers sheets/guides to assist them in carrying out their own independent researches. He should give hands-on-experience training to users to share ideas with others through the formation of “lunch time” or “after school support groups”. Such activities could help pupils to develop ideas and searching information for a class topic and assignment.

Even the location of the library has an impact in promoting literacy in school. The library should be centrally located, close to the maximum number of teaching areas. It should be able to seat at least ten per cent of school pupils at any given time, having a wide range of resources vital for teaching and learning programs offered in school. The library should be characterised by good signage for the benefit of pupil and teacher users with up-to-date displays to enhance the literacy skills of pupils and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.

CONCLUSION

Indeed the promotion of literacy should be integral in the school curriculum and that the librarian should be able to play a leading role to ensure that the skills, knowledge and attitudes related to information access are inculcated in pupils and teachers alike as paramount users of the school library. But the attainment of this goal is dependent on a supportive school administration, always willing and ready to assist the library and its programs financially. To make the librarian more effective he should be given capacity building to meeting the challenges of changing times.

REFERENCES

American Library Association (2003). ‘Introduction to information literacy.’

Birks, J. & Hunt, F. (2003). Hands-on information literacy activities. London: Neal-Schumann.

CLIP (2004).’Information Literacy: definition.’

GoSL (2010). Report of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Performance of Pupils in the 2008 BECE and WASSCE Examinations (Unpublished).

___________(1995). New Education policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education.

Herring, James E. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.

__________________ (2003).The Internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and librarians. London: Facet Publishing.

Kahlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. London: Libraries Unlimited.

Lenox, M. F. & Walker, M. L.(1993). ‘Information Literacy in the education process.’ The Educational Forum, 52 (2): 312-324.

Lonsdale, Michael (2003). Impact of school libraries on student achievement: a review of research. Camberwell: Australian Council of Educational Research.

Marcum, J. W. (2002). ‘ Rethinking Information Literacy,’ Library Quarterly, 72:1-26.

Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill & Burns, Paul C. (2004).Secondary School Literacy instruction: the content areas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Tilke, A. (1998). On-the-job sourcebook for school librarians. London: Library Association.

_________ (2002). Managing your school library and information service: a practical handbook. London: Facet Publishing.

Weber, S. & Johnston, B. ( 2002). ‘Assessment in the Information Literate University.’ Conference: Workshop 1st International Conference on IT and Information Literacy, 20th- 22nd. March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland. Parallel Session 3, Thursday 21st March,2002.

World Bank (2007). Education in Sierra Leone; present challenges, future opportunities. Washington,DC: World Bank.

5 Daily Habits That May Shorten Your Life Span

The human body is considered as the greatest wonder. You are the person who is responsible for habits that may shorten your life span. No one else is to blame. The body of the humans is believed to be built for living more than a century, but the present situation shows that only the half of that can be taken as an average life span. The life span is shortened mainly due to the habits developed by the humans. Those habits can harm the whole system adversely. Any habit will take a fixed period of time to turn into a regular pattern. Avoiding the habits which are harmful is not such a Herculean task. So it is high time you reclaim the control of your life and live. There are mainly five habits that shorten your life span and that should be avoided.

Unbalanced Diet

You take in food to provide your body with the necessary nutrients which are inevitable for the proper working of the various systems of the human body. But think once more, do your diet has all the essential nutrients? If your body is not getting the vital nutrients it will not function properly. This is sure to shorten your life span considerably.

Drugs

Taking in drugs and toxic substances is another grave problem. Alcohol and such other intoxicating substances are silent killers of your body organs. Alcohol can cause damage to you heart, liver and such other vital organs. The effect of cardiac and liver problems is well known to every one. Thus the intake of intoxicating substances can shorten your life span dramatically. Not just that, these substances can make the living period itself as painful as hell.

Tobacco

Tobacco also comes under the category of toxic substances. It can destroy the cells in the lungs. Smoking is a major cause of cancer around the world. Chewing of tobacco and other like substances can cause mouth cancer. Once you are affected by these diseases, it will be a great distress not only for you but for the people closer to you also. Smoking is a huge factor that shortens your life span.

Stress

The busy life has a very bad level of stress. Stress has a lot to do with the health of a person. The life of a person can be worth living only if his mind and body work in perfect harmony. The mental breakdown is one of the main reasons which leads people to the habits of alcohol consumption, drugs and smoking. Avoiding stress can work wonders in one’s life. Stress is the sure by-product of this ultra modern era, but there are ways to avoid it. It should be avoided. Otherwise you will be the hunt of many diseases and your life span will also be affected.

Lack of Exercise

With the development of technology the human body is having very less workout. The adverse effects of having less or even zero exercise is very disturbing. If your body is not getting enough exercise, the calories taken in will get deposited in different parts of your body. These unwanted fat deposits will eventually cause health problems

Functions of Minerals

When reading of nutrition and health, minerals and trace elements are often mentioned. We respond by eating lots of fruits and veggies, and maybe a vitamin supplement. We never doubt the validity of needing these things with names from the periodic table, but have you ever stopped and wondered what exactly it is they do for us? Or for that matter what are they and where do they naturally occur? Well you can stop lying awake nights, wondering about this!! Processed food cannot provide the services in the following list:

CALCIUM: Critical for many biological functions, including nerve   transmission , fat and protein digestion, muscle contraction, healthy teeth and bones, blood clotting, nerve functions, and more.

SODIUM: Muscle contraction, fluid balance, cell life and potential, and numerous other functions.

POTASIUM: Bone formation, fluid balance, blood pressure, muscle contraction, and many more functions.

PHOSPHORUS: Bone formation, assistance in the breakdown of fats, protein and carbohydrates.

MAGNESIUM: Muscle contraction, nerve  transmission , calcium metabolism, enzyme cofactor–ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO ALL KNOWN FORMS OF LIFE.

BORON: Calcium metabolism–an inadequate level of boron is also suspected in negatively influencing the body’s uptake of magnesium and calcium, possibly resulting in bone density loss and elevated blood pressure.

CHLORINE: Digestion, blood pressure.

COBALT: Essential for formation of vitamin B12, metabolism of fatty acids, and synthesis of hemoglobin.

SULPHUR: Protien synthesis, collagen cross linking, and ligament structure.

COPPER: Immune system, artery strength, helps form hemoglobin from iron and assist in metabolizing vitamin C and the oxidation of fatty acids.

CHROMIUM: Insulin action, cardiovascular health, glucose tolerance factor.

IRON: Blood formation, immune function.

SELENIUM: Immune stimulant, certain brain functions, acts as antioxidant. NICKEL: Immune regulation, brain development, and DNA synthesis.

IODINE: Thyroid functions, aids in upkeep of immune system.

MOLYBDEMUM: Enzyme action.

SILICON: Enzyme action, connective tissue.

TIN: Enzyme action

MANGANESE: Bone development and growth, metabolism of fat and energy, reproductive systems.

ZINC: Enzymatic reactions, reproductive health, growth and development, immune functions.

Ham Radio – The Advantage of DStar and DMR Modes

Ham Radio is a fascinating hobby, but what is the advantage of D-star and DMR modes.

There are many different interests within the umbrella name of Ham Radio. People communicate with other like-minded people around the World using the Internal Short Wave bands. Ham Radio Operators equipment include H.F., (High Frequency), transceivers covering several of the Ham Band allocations, and many use Yagi aerials with three, four and sometimes six elements, to not only transmit their power out to the receiving station, but also to receive weak signals form lesser equipped ham radio Operators using simple aerial systems such as dipoles or vertical radiators. These aerial elements can be thirty three feet long when covering the twenty metre Ham Band, if the elements are widely spaced between each other at say point two of a wavelength, the distance between the elements is four point two metres, a very large aerial indeed.

Many Radio Hams who I have spoken to around the World have sixty feet high towers with multi element aerial as described above. You need a lot of space for such an aerial, and planning permission to go along with it.

D-Star and DMR are Ham Radio modes which are gaining in popularity, because the problems associated with having a large aerial do not exist, signals on D-star and DMR do not rely of the ionosphere to propagate signal around the World, they use laser light and data packets used to facilitate the International World wide web.

Many elderly radio Hams who have moved from their long term family homes, into small apartments, where outside aerials are not allowed, are finding that their interest in communication can still continue, using D-star or DMR modes of communication. The digital mode also has a great advantage over traditional propagation. You need propagation to be working in your favour when using High Frequency bands. If there is no propagation on a particular Ham Band, you simply do not hear any signals. D-star and DMR modes rely on the efficiency of the Internet, offering Radio Hams Worldwide communication without the need for natural reflection and refraction of the transmitted signal via the Earth’s Ionosphere.

Handheld transceivers capable of Digital transmission are now freely available from many of the Ham Radio retailers. Their transmissions are converted from standard analogue voice signals via voice encoders built into the hand set, these transmissions are picked up via local repeaters that are connected with each other to form a Worldwide network, if you do not live beside a D-star or DMR repeater you easily can turn your home based computer into a repeater with inexpensive add-on technology, they do the same job as a nearby repeater does.

Interesting Facts about Ringworm

In spite of its popular name, the actual cause of ringworm is infection with fungal organisms. These infectious fungal organisms are called dermatophytes and the medical term for ringworm is dermatophytosis. Sometimes ringworm is also known as tinea. The fungal infectious organisms responsible for causing ringworm are widespread in nature and they commonly populate the soil. The only effective means of preventing the occurrence of ringworm is to maintain a good hygiene. Ringworm is very contagious and it can easily be acquired through direct contact with contaminated people, animals or objects. Regularly wash your hands after entering in contact with stray animals, as many of them are carriers of the fungi responsible for causing ringworms in humans.

Arthrospores are the main cause of ringworm in humans. Although there are lots of animals contaminated with arthrospores, they usually don’t show any signs of the disease. For some reason, most animals appear to be immune to this form of fungal infection. Microsporum canis is a type of fungi that commonly infects cats. This type of fungus can be easily transmitted to other animals and to humans. It is strongly recommended to avoid physical contact with animals that show signs of disease in order to prevent contamination with infectious fungal elements. Also, if you own a dog or a cat, ensure that your pet is not contaminated with dermatophytes by paying regular visits to a veterinary.

Ringworm can affect virtually any region of the body. Hands and feet are very exposed to fungal infection and dermatophytes often infect these body parts. Although it commonly affects skin, ringworm can also affect nails and scalp. Ringworm involves inflammation, rash and swelling of the skin, scalp, soft tissue and nails. Rash is usually the first sign that indicates the presence of fungal infections. Skin lesions may also appear in later stages of the disease. If the infection spreads through the deeper layers of the skin it can cause pustules and painful nodules. A hardened crust often forms on the surface of the affected skin. Common symptoms of ringworm are persistent itching, soreness and irritation.

Ringworm of the scalp appears in the form of pustules or pus-filled reddish bumps. Foot ringworm usually affects the skin regions between the toes. Foot ringworm appears in the form of cracked, hardened skin. The affected skin also tends to exfoliate, causing itching and soreness. Ringworm of the nails is manifested by thickening and discoloration of the nails.

It is very important to see a dermatologist if you have the symptoms of ringworm. Although it may resemble a simple rash or irritation, ringworm can cause serious complications if it is not appropriately treated. The treatment for ringworm can be prescribed in the form of oral tablets or creams and ointments for external use. The medications used in the treatment for ringworm contain antifungal material and they are usually very effective in overcoming the infection. With appropriate medical treatment, ringworm can be completely cured within a week.

Choosing the Right Dental Assistant School

Which School Should You Enroll Yourself?

The dental assistant school you choose to enroll in is one necessary factor in your success as an assistant. You must choose among these schools the one approved and accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (ADA). Certification for dental assistant is only granted by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) to those who graduated from accredited schools. Such certification is very important as some states require license of assistants in allowing them to work in the field. Most of the employers also have higher regards on those who graduated from accredited programs because they are assured that the assistants they hire would be competent enough and skillful.

Enrollment Prerequisites

Just like other degree programs or courses, a high school diploma or an equivalent is usually required in enrolling to school. Some schools aside from the high school diploma or its equivalent, also requires some subjects or courses in science (biology and chemistry in particular), health, computer and office or management.

Classes and Programs

There are programs available online. However, you must make it sure that its mother school is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the ADA. Aside from the accreditation you must also check if there is a balance between lecture classes and laboratory or hands-on trainings. Practical experiences must always be included in the program. Usually, the assistant programs consist classes on dental anatomy and basic anatomy, dental procedures and theory, nutrition and preventive dentistry, disease   transmission  and pathology, pharmacology and radiology, names of instruments and use of equipment, communication and patient interaction, medical office administration and record keeping.

Evaluating School for Assistants

The student aspiring to be an assistant must consider if the school provides the appropriate training for the different roles of an assistant. The program of the school must provide comprehensive trainings regarding the important roles of a dental assistant. Aside from the trainings the students must also give proper education and preparation for the students for the Dental Assisting National Board’s CDA examination. Reviews must be conducted by the school among their students. Also, the school’s location is very important to consider. The student must have initially planned which state he or she would like to work in so that the standards of the school meet the state’s standards for dental assistants allowed to work in the field. The student-teacher ratio must also be considered. Proper supervisions must be given to each student not just during laboratory or practical experiences but also during the classes on theories. Furthermore, check whether financial aids are available such as student loans, scholarships and grants. The tuition fees for dental courses in different schools are to be noted. Check also the success of the graduates of the school. Take note of how many were granted the certification of being an assistant and how many among those who went into internships got jobs compared to the number of graduates. The percentage has to be relatively high to be able to say that the said dental assistant school will provide you the proper training and lead you to excellence and success in the field.

Dirofilariasis – The Deadly Heartworm in Dogs

When a dog is suffering from heartworm, it means that they are infected with a roundworm commonly known as heart worm. The organism is actually Dirofilaria immitis, a parasite. This worm is transmitted by mosquitoes and will infect your dog’s blood, heart and lungs. Left untreated, the disease is fatal.

Causes

Heartworms are spread through mosquitos that carry the infective heartworm larvae. The larvae enter the dog’s body through the mosquito bite wound and travel through the dog’s body to the heart. This process will take approximately six months.

Once the heartworms are living inside your dog, the adults will release immature heartworms (microfilariae) into the bloodstream of the dog. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it will become a carrier of these microfilariae and infect the next dog it bites.

If a dog lives in a high risk area for heartworm, without preventative treatment it will almost certainly contract heartworm disease. Although heartworm is mainly endemic in tropical and subtropical areas, it is not limited to these areas. Heartworm has been identified in all 50 US states and is found worldwide.

Symptoms of Heartworm

Heartworm disease can be diagnosed by your veterinarian through a blood test. There are three classes of heartworm, and the symptoms vary from no visible symptoms to extreme ill health. It is difficult for a dog owner to identify heartworm in their pet.

The symptoms of heartworm include but are not limited to an occasional or more regular coughing, reduced canine activity or an intolerance to exercise, anaemia, fainting, chronic heart failure, labored breathing and high blood pressure.

The severity of heartworm disease will depend on the severity of the infestation, the duration of the disease and the response of the dog. All dogs are different in the way their bodies cope with the heartworm infestation.

Diagnosis

If your vet suspects your dog may have heartworm they can conduct a blood test, carry out an electrocardiograph (can reveal heart rhythm disturbances), a urine analysis or x-rays. They are looking for damage to or enlargement of the heart and associated arteries.

Treatment

Initially your dog will be hospitalized, and receive a dose of adulticide which will kill the adult heartworms. Depending on the severity of the infestation your dog may need to be hospitalized for a longer period. In some cases surgery may also be required to remove adult worms from the heart and jugular vein.

After the adult worms have been killed, treatment must be ongoing with a monthly dose of prophylaxis to kill eggs and larvae which have not been killed by adulticide.

You should be aware that the treatment for heartworm can be deadly. Even mild to moderate cases of heartworm will have a considerable impact on your dog. It is not an easy treatment for your dog, and should not be considered light heartedly.

Prevention

Heartworm disease is completely preventable through a regular dose of prophylaxis which is a preventative heartworm medication. Your veterinarian will be able to assist you with the appropriate medication and dosage to suit your dog.

If your dog does contract heartworm and has been successfully treated, you should take care to administer the monthly dose of prophylaxis as advised by your vet – reinfestation can easily occur especially in high risk areas.

What Is an Investment?

One of the reasons many people fail, even very woefully, in the game of investing is that they play it without understanding the rules that regulate it. It is an obvious truth that you cannot win a game if you violate its rules. However, you must know the rules before you will be able to avoid violating them. Another reason people fail in investing is that they play the game without understanding what it is all about. This is why it is important to unmask the meaning of the term, ‘investment’. What is an investment? An investment is an income-generating valuable. It is very important that you take note of every word in the definition because they are important in understanding the real meaning of investment.

From the definition above, there are two key features of an investment. Every possession, belonging or property (of yours) must satisfy both conditions before it can qualify to become (or be called) an investment. Otherwise, it will be something other than an investment. The first feature of an investment is that it is a valuable – something that is very useful or important. Hence, any possession, belonging or property (of yours) that has no value is not, and cannot be, an investment. By the standard of this definition, a worthless, useless or insignificant possession, belonging or property is not an investment. Every investment has value that can be quantified monetarily. In other words, every investment has a monetary worth.

The second feature of an investment is that, in addition to being a valuable, it must be income-generating. This means that it must be able to make money for the owner, or at least, help the owner in the money-making process. Every investment has wealth-creating capacity, obligation, responsibility and function. This is an inalienable feature of an investment. Any possession, belonging or property that cannot generate income for the owner, or at least help the owner in generating income, is not, and cannot be, an investment, irrespective of how valuable or precious it may be. In addition, any belonging that cannot play any of these financial roles is not an investment, irrespective of how expensive or costly it may be.

There is another feature of an investment that is very closely related to the second feature described above which you should be very mindful of. This will also help you realise if a valuable is an investment or not. An investment that does not generate money in the strict sense, or help in generating income, saves money. Such an investment saves the owner from some expenses he would have been making in its absence, though it may lack the capacity to attract some money to the pocket of the investor. By so doing, the investment generates money for the owner, though not in the strict sense. In other words, the investment still performs a wealth-creating function for the owner/investor.

As a rule, every valuable, in addition to being something that is very useful and important, must have the capacity to generate income for the owner, or save money for him, before it can qualify to be called an investment. It is very important to emphasize the second feature of an investment (i.e. an investment as being income-generating). The reason for this claim is that most people consider only the first feature in their judgments on what constitutes an investment. They understand an investment simply as a valuable, even if the valuable is income-devouring. Such a misconception usually has serious long-term financial consequences. Such people often make costly financial mistakes that cost them fortunes in life.

Perhaps, one of the causes of this misconception is that it is acceptable in the academic world. In financial studies in conventional educational institutions and academic publications, investments – otherwise called assets – refer to valuables or properties. This is why business organisations regard all their valuables and properties as their assets, even if they do not generate any income for them. This notion of investment is unacceptable among financially literate people because it is not only incorrect, but also misleading and deceptive. This is why some organisations ignorantly consider their liabilities as their assets. This is also why some people also consider their liabilities as their assets/investments.

It is a pity that many people, especially financially ignorant people, consider valuables that consume their incomes, but do not generate any income for them, as investments. Such people record their income-consuming valuables on the list of their investments. People who do so are financial illiterates. This is why they have no future in their finances. What financially literate people describe as income-consuming valuables are considered as investments by financial illiterates. This shows a difference in perception, reasoning and mindset between financially literate people and financially illiterate and ignorant people. This is why financially literate people have future in their finances while financial illiterates do not.

From the definition above, the first thing you should consider in investing is, “How valuable is what you want to acquire with your money as an investment?” The higher the value, all things being equal, the better the investment (though the higher the cost of the acquisition will likely be). The second factor is, “How much can it generate for you?” If it is a valuable but non income-generating, then it is not (and cannot be) an investment, needless to say that it cannot be income-generating if it is not a valuable. Hence, if you cannot answer both questions in the affirmative, then what you are doing cannot be investing and what you are acquiring cannot be an investment. At best, you may be acquiring a liability.

Flu Virus Research

The critical part in the research is to understand how influenza virus spread and mutate and is the key to preventing pandemics by discovering preventive, diagnostic and treatment methods.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), influenza viruses that occur in animals can infect humans, and later develop to pandemic strains. Several research areas have been outlined by the WHO relating to the animal/human influenza interface that could have a profound impact on protecting human being.

The Working Group of WHO on Influenza Research at the Animal/Human Interface was setup in 2005 to encourage basic studies into animal influenza viruses, with the aim to find out the cause the viruses can infect people.

ON-GOING STUDIES

Studies are on-going on avian influenza viruses, particularly H5N1. Researchers aim to discover the prevalence of avian influenza viruses in domestic animals and birds, understand the molecular basis of   transmission  of viruses from animals to people, assess the role of migratory birds in the  transmission  of the viruses, and evaluate the human immune response to infection with avian influenza viruses.

Studies are also being done on H1N1, a novel strain which is the causative factor of the current influenza A pandemic and researchers succeeded developed a vaccine which approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

PUTTING VACCINES TO THE TEST

The scientists from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) play an important role and work in collaboration with medical research institutions worldwide to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat seasonal and pandemic influenzas, including influenza A (H1N1).

The trial is being conducted through the NIAID-funded national network of Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs). Safety data will be collected and assessed continuously throughout the trial by an independent safety monitoring committee and investigators.

STUDYING THE NATURE OF THE FLU VIRUS

Other than vaccine research, NIAID scientists are also investigating the basic biology of influenza. The data collected will assist in designing diagnostics that are more accurate and faster, cost-effective and portable. NIAID is also investigating host immune responses to the virus in animal models and people, and studying influenza epidemiology.

For treatment, NIAID supports research being conducted to develop new and effective drug combinations and examine the mechanisms behind emerging drug resistance. This effort is supported by innovative new technologies to design drugs that target specific cellular processes and viral proteins.

Heartburn Can Be Easily Cured

Do you suffer from heartburn, reflux or burping? Perhaps you rely on a medicine to help settle your tummy. I have written on digestive disorders on several occasions previously, but this time I would like to write specifically on a little bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection is recognised as the most prevalent bacteria to infect the human population in the entire world. You may well identify the following problem, and if you do, don’t despair. It actually is possible to free from heartburn, reflux or a low grade queasiness, which affects so many people.

Helicobacter is a clever little bug

In 1982, when Australian Dr. Barry Marshall identified a new bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (HP) as an infectious agent responsible for peptic ulcer disease, it completely transformed medicine’s understanding of the microbiology and disease of the human stomach. Your stomach is protected from its own gastric juice by a thick layer of mucous that covers the stomach lining. HP takes advantage of this protection by actually living in the mucous lining. Once this clever little bug is safe in this mucous, it is able to fight the stomach acid that does reach it with an enzyme it possesses called urease. Urease converts urea, of which there is an abundant supply in the stomach (from saliva and gastric juices), into bicarbonate and ammonia, which are strong (alkaline) bases. This creates a cloud of acid-neutralizing chemicals around the H. pylori, protecting it from the acid in the stomach. This cloud is also part of the reflux and burping process that occurs, which many HP people complain of.

Contributing to the protection of HP is the fact that the body’s natural defenses cannot reach these bugs in this mucous lining of the stomach. The immune system will respond to an HP infection by sending “killer T-cells”, (white blood cells), and other infection-fighting agents. However, these potential H. pylori eradicators cannot reach the infection, because they cannot easily get through stomach lining. They do not go away – the immune response just grows and grows over time. White cells die and spill their destructive compounds onto cells lining the stomach lining. More nutrients are sent to reinforce the white cells, and the H. pylori can feed on this. Within a few days, gastritis and perhaps eventually a peptic ulcer results in the lining of your tummy. And of course, the person who suffers is often blissfully unaware, takes an antacid or an acid-blocking drug long-term, and continues to eat and drink foods which only aggravate the healing process long term. So they go back to the doctor, only to be told to stay on the medicine. After a few years, the person resigns themselves to the fact that they will always require this “medicine” to cure their condition. Yeah right, and Alice lived happily after in Wonderland.

To confirm that HP caused the gastritis and peptic ulceration, Marshall swallowed cultures of the bacteria and contracted gastritis (inflammation of the mucus membrane of the stomach). He then underwent endoscopy (internal examination of the stomach), and provided biopsies from which the suspected bug was re-isolated.

Changing medical belief and practice takes time. For nearly 100 years, scientists and doctors thought that ulcers were caused by lots of stress, spicy foods, and copious alcohol. Treatment involved bed rest and a bland and boring diet. Later, researchers added stomach acid to the list of causes and began treating ulcers with antacids when they became fashionable.Unfortunate for poor Barry, nobody believed him. In fact, he was actually treated with ridicule and disdain when he first proposed the idea that a bacteria actually lived the hostile environment of the stomach. Before 1982, the accepted medical paradigm was “no acid, no ulcer”, and that stomach ulcers only occurred when excess acid damaged the stomach wall and that all treatment should be aimed at reducing or neutralising all that bad acid. Surely you remember the advertisements on TV with the man drawing on his tummy with a felt tipped pen, telling you that the acid has to “stay down there”. These commercials generally came on after dinner, the time when your tummy is most likely to play up, I can’t help but thinking how many of those sufferers possibly have an undetected H.pylori infection. There is still a lot of drug promotion regarding this acid reflux problem. Unfortunately, many such patients today are still seen as having “too much stomach acid”, and treated with antacids or stomach-acid blockers as front-line therapy, when in my clinical experience actually the opposite applies, they don’t have enough or have an infection which needs sorting. Gastric juice is composed of digestive enzymes and concentrated hydrochloric acid, which can readily digest food or kill microorganisms. Low levels of stomach acid increase the chance an organism’s survival. It used to be thought that the stomach contained no bacteria and was actually sterile, and it took an Aussie GP to prove all the world’s experts wrong.

It seems pretty silly to treat the acid problem perpetually, without enquiring into actually why this burping, reflux and upper abdominal discomfort is occurring in the first place. Albert Szent Györgyi, (1937 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine) said that: “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Today it is an established fact that most cases of peptic ulcers and gastritis, diseases that affect millions of humans worldwide, result from this HP infection, and not “too much acid” in the stomach at all.

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Albert Szent Györgyi

HP infection and prevalence

H. pylori is believed to be transmitted orally. Did you wash your hands? Many researchers believe that HP is transmitted orally by means of fecal matter through the ingestion of tainted food or water. In addition, it is possible that H. pylori could be transmitted from the stomach to the mouth through gastro-esophageal reflux or belching, all common symptoms of gastritis. The bacterium could then be transmitted through oral contact.

HP infection remains a huge problem, is extremely common and infecting more than a billion people worldwide. It is estimated that half of the American population older than age 60 has been infected with H. pylori at some stage and the economic effect of ulcer disease in the US (as measured back in a study of 1989 data) showed that the illness cost then nearly $6 billion annually. ($2.66 billion for hospitalisation, not including doctor ‘s fees), outpatient care ($1.62 billion), and loss in work productivity ($1.37 billion).

One in five Aussies and Kiwis have HP, according to Dr. Barry Marshal, infection usually persists for many years, leading to ulcer disease in 10 % to 15% of those infected. H. pylori is found in more than 80% of patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers. You can imagine what this common complaint in NZ and Australia is costing, in terms of medication, doctor’s visits and lost productivity at work. Early research on HP characterised much of the work to come, the data that emerged from the study of all these samples was quite unexpected. It showed that HP is actually a common bacterial agent and that an amazing 30-50% of the world’s population are colonised with it.

How do you know if you have the HP bug?

The infection manifests differently in different individuals. In some people, it produces more acid in the stomach, and ulcers may result. In others, stomach acid suppression or complete lack (which we call achlorhydria) may result, and these people may be at a greater risk of gastric cancer. It is unclear why some people respond one way or the other.

Typical manifestations of a Helicobacter pylori infection:

· Nausea, or a low-grade feeling of being queasy. Could be vomiting.

· Avoidance of chilli, garlic or a specific food which “does not agree” with your tummy.

· Bloating worse after meals. Feeling worse after meals or certain foods.

· Recurring abdominal pain, intestinal cramps.

· Peptic or duodenal ulcers (over 90% of all cases have HP)

· Burping, this can be pretty bad. The person may have developed a reputation!

· Heartburn, and perhaps reliant on Quick-Eze or Gavascon, Losec, etc.

· Diarrhea or constipation after several years of infection.

· Disturbed sleep, perhaps waking up with a hollow feeling or heartburn. I have known some patients to prop up the head of the bed with a few bricks even.

· Symptoms worse at night, or worse lying down.

· Vitamin B12 deficiency. Have your practitioner test for this, you may well be deficient.

· Altered appetite, some times you may feel like eating, other times you don’t.

· After being infected for several years, you may have develop mineral deficiencies which can lead to a myriad of health problems.

· Helicobacter pylori is implicated in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

· Migraine headaches (40% of migraine sufferers are positive, and eradication subsides the headaches).

· Acne rosacea. Helicobacter pylori is suspected of causing rosacea (eradication of HP often results in a significant reduction in rosacea symptoms).

Is it any wonder how an ailing stomach is supposed to do its job, i.e., digesting and absorbing foods efficiently when a bacterial infection is causing such dysfunction? Your doctor may have initially prescribed a medicine such as Losec, Gavascon or Mylanta for your stomach, serving to block acid or dilute it. How is your tummy supposed to work at all now? Then you go back and complain that the symptoms are unchanged. What then? You can see what I mean, after many years of this infection you can feel quite unwell. I see one person or more each week like this, and have done so for many years. When I wrote an article to our local newspaper several years ago regarding HP, I received nearly ten calls. And almost al these patients had a HP infection, all were on either Losec, Quick-Eze, Gavascon or Mylanta.

Conventional HP Therapy

Please note that it is extremely important to obtain an accurate diagnosis before trying to find a cure of your heartburn or reflux. Many stomach or digestive diseases and conditions share common symptoms: if you treat yourself for the wrong illness or a specific symptom of a complex disease, you may delay legitimate treatment of a serious underlying problem, yes even stomach cancer. In other words, the greatest danger in self-treatment may actually be self-diagnosis. Always work with your health-care professional, preferably one who is experienced in gastrointestinal disorders. If you do not know what you really have, you simply can not treat it!

I have always had a great concern regarding the extensive use of antibiotic drugs required to treat HP infected individuals. The conventional medical clearing of HP from the stomach requires therapy from 10 to 14 days with multiple drugs. My concern is that prolonged or recurrent antibiotic treatment alters the normal microbial population of the entire gastrointestinal tract, eliminating many beneficial bacteria as well as HP, allowing the sufferer to develop a gut environment which may contain bugs like Candida albicans, proteus, or a whole host of other undesirables. You get rid of one problem, only to create yet another.

Triple Therapy

The use of only one medication to treatH. pylori was never recommended by Dr. Marshall. At this time, the most conventional treatment is a 2-week course of treatment called “triple therapy”. It involves taking two antibiotics to kill the bacteria and either an acid suppressor or stomach-lining shielding drug. Two-week triple therapy reduces ulcer symptoms, kills the bacteria, and prevents ulcer recurrence in many patients – but the recurrence can be as high as 75%. Complete eradication is difficult, I have had many patients who have come to me after having had triple therapy many years ago with average to poor results, and were placed on an acid blocker for many years after.I do recommend this for some resistant cases, and have been know to send some patients to a GP for triple therapy, then follow-up with natural treatment for 6 weeks. I have found that some patients may find triple therapy complicated because it involves taking 3 kinds of drugs, and as many as 20 pills a day. Also, the antibiotics and bismuth drugs used in triple therapy may cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark stools, metallic taste in the mouth, dizziness, headache, and yeast infections, particularly in women.

HP Testing

The diagnosis of H. pylori infection has traditionally involved endoscopy with biopsies of the stomach’s mucosa. There are three ways to test for HP currently in NZ. To be honest, I only occasionally authorise a HP test these days, and generally have a “gut feeling” a person has this bug once they come into my room and complain of the above mentioned symptoms. Common sense – the patient will soon tell you if they are or are not improving, and it only takes about three to four weeks to really know what is going on. Just because the test results come back negative, you could still have this bug. You know me by now, please don’t get paralysis from analysis! If you feel significantly better after a HP treatment whether it be pharmaceutical or natural – you probably have HP regardless of what the test results say. Remember – up to one in five New Zealanders have this infection, so the odds are reasonably high you have it.

· The Urea Breath Test method of diagnosis relies on the Urea reaction being present, as mentioned earlier. This is a sound test – 90 – 95% successful in picking up the HP bug.

· Blood tests measuring HP antibody levels have been developed. However, these tests have suboptimal sensitivity and specificity (85% and 79%).

· Stool tests for antibodies – again, many factors can affect the outcome of this test, stay with breath testing. Many experts say that the fecal antigen test is bullet proof, but in my experience I have seen many “false negatives” with testing. That is, the results come back all ok, but the patient responds dramatically after HP treatment.

Natural HP Eradication

No clear indications exist for specific treatment of each and every individual case of HP associated gastritis. I have found the following treatments to be effective, and employed many different therapies over the years. Here are some treatments which I have found to work in various HP cases. Remember, recurrence rates are quite high, so you may want to persist with treatment until you feel much better, then hang in there for a few more months (lower grade treatment) to be absolutely sure. I recommend treatment in blocks of 6 weeks, then wait 2 -3 weeks, then another 6 week period of treatment. A good clinical tip for you: always treat this infection by taking something with meals, and also something in-between, or away from foods. This is designed to really drive the “kill” treatment home, and lets the treatment have access to the HP bugs in the gut with as well as away to some extent from foods and gastric juice involvement. I have a saying in my clinic: persistence breaks resistance. Remember Winston Churchill? – never give in, never give in, never give in.

· Manuka honey, which has high levels of hydrogen peroxide and has been shown in studies to be active against H. pylori. Go for the Comvita high UMF factor Manuka honey.

· Propolis works really well for some, but is dismal for others.

· Vitamin B12 – get this checked in your blood! You may well be deficient here.

· After antibiotic treatment is finished, (triple therapy) it makes sense to rebuild the gut flora with lactobacillus species. They won’t cure the condition, however. (A 2002 trial demonstrated that a mixed acidophilus preparation failed to eradicate the H. pylori infection in the patients upon whom it was tried).

· DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) – you can get this in capsules or liquid.

· Aloe Vera helps to heal the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

· Berberine is found in the herb Goldenseal, and it may be used as a natural herbal antibiotic.

· Eat grapefruit seeds, for some this is very effective long term. The extract is even better.

· Digestive enzymes may also be useful – especially with achlorhydria (low stomach acid)

· Gum mastic is a natural substance from the sap of the Mediterranean evergreen tree, Pistacia lemniscuses. Mastic gum has been shown to be effective in protecting the digestive system, healing peptic and duodenal ulcers, and eradicating H. pylori from the gut. I use this a lot, and give two capsules twice daily in between meals.

· Bismuth. It displays anti-inflammatory action (due to salicylic acid) and also acts as an antacid and mild antibiotic. Don’t freak out – It can also cause a black tongue and black stools in some people who take it, when it combines with trace amounts of sulfur in their saliva and gastrointestinal tract. This discoloration is temporary and absolutely harmless.

My favourite HP treatment regime? I would have to say gum mastica between meals, and with meals a preparation of Bismuth,deglycyrrhizinated licorice, grapefruit seed extract and goldenseal. I often recommend aloe vera and activated charcoal as well.

Do you get that annoying heartburn, and want to try and find a cause and ultimately a cure? Consult your naturopath or nutritional-friendly doctor who can check you out carefully and thoroughly and who will actually treat the cause, not the symptom. They should generally recommend a course of treatment and a specific diet designed for the individual, with promising results for many patients. And what a relief, to be free of heartburn, bloating and that “awful feeling in the tummy” again!