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The wrong kind of government to deal with a pandemic | Letter

There is an abyss between plans and their implementation, and the UK lacks a joined-up system with a nested hierarchy of compatible plans, from local to national, says Prof David E Alexander

To ask “did the UK Government prepare for the wrong kind of pandemic?” (21 May) is a little too reminiscent of British Rail’s “wrong kind of snow”. Granted, stockpiling influenza antivirals could be seen as a waste of money if no pandemic materialises before they expire. However, at least 90% of the preparedness measures for Sars are the same as those for an influenza pandemic. We are dealing with a medical, epidemiological, social, economic and psychological problem, and exactly what type of virus is involved is not so important.

In the successive versions of the UK’s National Risk Register (2008-17), influenza is consistently the No 1 risk. That Sars is not an influenza virus is immaterial, as “influenza” is a surrogate for any virus with high reproducibility in humans and a significant case-fatality rate. In the government’s response to the current crisis, the deficiencies have not been in scientific advice, but in the marginalisation of emergency planning and management – in the context, of course, of declining health, social care and welfare services.

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The delights of Sosmix and £20 breakfasts | Brief letters

Sosmix | Health workers | Albino pheasants | Playing with tights | Eating out

Almost 40 years ago my parents, after staying with us for almost a week and, as I thought, enjoying eating our vegetarian food, started talking about the delicious meat pies my mother made. The next day I made a sausage-and-egg pie using Sosmix (Adrian Chiles, 20 May). My parents took home the packet of Sosmix, and continued to use it whenever they fancied some sausage meat. But it did not convert them to vegetarianism, as they usually had it with bacon and black pudding.
Gillian Patton

• Health workers do not “give their lives” as suggested in a headline in Saturday’s paper (Those who gave their lives are remembered, 23 May). They are not crusaders or soldiers. They go to work in absurdly dangerous conditions. Some get sick and tragically die. Please stop making it sound as if they choose to die.
Colleen Darby

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Why does medicine treat women like men?

Women’s bodies are different from men’s from cellular level upwards, yet the same treatments are usually prescribed for both sexes – to the detriment of women. Dr Alyson McGregor raises the alarm

Towards the end of her training in emergency medicine at Brown University, Rhode Island, Dr Alyson McGregor was asked what her “specialism” would be.

“You are expected to have a niche so my answer was, ‘Well, I like women’s health,’” says McGregor. “From that, people thought, ‘Oh, she’s into obstetrics/gynaecology.’” So on busy shifts in the emergency department of Rhode Island Hospital, the state’s major trauma centre, the newly qualified McGregor became everyone’s go-to doctor for pelvic examinations because this was believed to be her special interest. “I laugh about it now, but it’s when I started to realise that there’s this assumption that women’s health is wrapped up in their reproduction. Women were men with ‘boobs and tubes’.”

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My family’s history reveals the terrible toll that a pandemic takes on mental health | Ros Coward

Spanish flu killed an ancestor and polio terrified my parents, but the effects upon survivors ripple through the generations to this day

Many experts are warning that this pandemic will leave a legacy of mental health issues. But these warnings sometimes seem vague. If you want to know exactly what this might mean, your own family history could be the place to start.

Mine is probably typical in showing how the psychological legacy of an epidemic can last for many generations. But my history also suggests that living with quarantine and lockdown has been much more a part of social experience than we perhaps realise.

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The US doctors taking Trump’s lead on hydroxychloroquine – despite mixed results

The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, a fringe group, offers advice that isn’t ‘consistent with evidence-based medicine’, experts say

There is an alternate universe of Covid-19 misinformation masquerading as science, which with the encouragement of Donald Trump, is proliferating among his supporters.

Among the most ardent proponents of these claims is the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a fringe group of less than 5,000 doctors. The group was recently cited by Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, to explain the president’s stunning announcement that he is taking the drug hydroxychloroquine in an attempt to protect himself against Covid-19 despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness.

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