Monthly Archives: July 2020

Autism and a narrowboat: life on a boat saves mental health

Colin has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Because of them, he had to give up his dream career in radio. The conditions leave him with acute anxiety, depression, stress and, rarely, into meltdown. Colin and his partner, Shaun, recently moved for the second time onto a canal narrowboat. The quieter environment and the friendly community on the English canal network massively improved their quality of life. In this video Colin tells his story beautifully during a walk in one of his favourite places.

Polio vaccination and the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a polio survivor myself, I have long been interested in the international campaign to eradicate the disease through vaccinations. Much of the world is now polio-free. But in Pakistan and Afghanistan, last strongholds of wild polio virus, cases increased from 33 in 2018 to 176 in 2019. So far this year, the two countries have confirmed 87 wild polio cases, compared with 64 at this time last year. The real number is likely higher. The vaccination program has been inhibited by Covid-19 precautions and the fears of local populations. Restoration of the Pakistan and Afghanistan vaccination programs will have to overcome the suspicions and refusals that blocked them last year.

Africa is free of the wild virus, but is battling against vaccine-derived virus. So far this year, Africa has reported 133 type 2 cases in 14 countries, up from 47 at this time last year. Hot spots include Ivory Coast and parts of Chad, Mali, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Oral polio vaccine contains an attenuated vaccine-virus, activating an immune response in the body. When a child is immunized, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies. During this time, the vaccine-virus is also excreted. In areas of inadequate sanitation, this excreted vaccine-virus can spread in the immediate community before eventually dying out. This can offer protection to other children through ‘passive’ immunization but may also generate infection with vaccine-derived polio. The risk is small compared with that of having no vaccinations at all, but remains troubling.

Source: Leslie Roberts, “Polio vaccinators are back after pandemic pause,” Science 369, no. 6502 (24 Jul 2020): 360, doi: 10.1126/science.369.6502.360.

MS Maasdam

HAL ships sold

Holland America Line has announced the sale of its ships Amsterdam, Maasdam, Rotterdam and Veendam to “undisclosed buyers” — about 30% of its fleet. This is a big chunk of parent-company Carnival’s downsizing plans, with many ships go by October 2020. Holland America is especially vulnerable to the Covid-19 slump as the demographic to which it appeals includes older people who may be reluctant to resume cruising. Our first cruise was on the Veendam in 2014 and we have also travelled on the Maasdam. We enjoy the somewhat smaller size of such ships compared to many recently-built behemoths.
Maasdam joined Holland America in 1993 as the second of four S-Class ships. Carrying 1,258 guests, it was the fourth Holland America Line ship named Maasdam name. Most recently, the 55,575-ton ship sailed longer South Pacific and Alaska voyages. The 57,092-ton Veendam, the final S-Class ship, was delivered in 1996. The fourth ship of that name, it carried 1,350 guests.
Loss of cruise ships is certainly a “first-world problem.” Nonetheless it is sad that an excellent company suffers the loss of fine ships for such an ignominious reason.