HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: WHO speaks out on Bird Flu

UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Advance Notice: As Avian Flu continues to spread, the United Nations is leading a concerted effort, working with national governments and international agencies to ensure that World Health Organization Regulations are widely understood and followed.

As the lead UN Agency for tourism the UNWTO is taking a central role in helping the sector respond to the evolving conditions in a way which maximizes awareness and minimizes disruption for tourists and the industry.

Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli and his Special Advisor Geoffrey Lipman will hold a briefing for industry decision makers on the morning of 10th March at ITB Berlin.

Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Dr Lee Jong-Wook has now publicly stated that since the beginning of February 2006, the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus has spread to affect wild or domestic birds in 17 new countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The World Health Organization reconfirms that,when poultry products are safely handled and properly cooked, humans are not at risk of acquiring H5N1 infection through food.

Although the H5N1 virus is highly infectious among poultry, it is not easily transmissible to humans. Since December 2003, this virus is known to have infected 173 people, of whom 93 have died. Not one of these cases has been linked to the consumption of properly cooked poultry or poultry products.

The main health risk currently is to people who are in close contact with infected poultry, such as families with backyard flocks and poultry workers in wet markets or live animal markets.

Heightened surveillance among domestic and wild birds, rapid detection of the virus, and swift implementation of control measures are important in supporting and maintaining consumer confidence in the safety of poultry products.

Globally, the evidence demonstrates that there is no risk of infection when birds and eggs are well-cooked, as this kills the virus. Poultry products are important sources of protein throughout the world.

For further information, please refer to the WHO avian influenza website

The Doctor's Consultation: Middle ears do not grow on children’s foreheads

by Dr. Iain Corness

Children are amazing little people. They come up with all sorts of cute symptoms, which initially you would imagine point towards one bodily system, but in actual fact belong to something apparently quite unrelated.

This absolute “truism” was brought back to me when a seven year old came to stay. This sick child had been unable to eat for two days and intermittently vomited for the past 24 hours. He was flushed, and a hand on the forehead was enough to show he was running a fever.

His mother was worried that son and heir was going to end up having his appendix removed in this foreign land. A strange pagan country where they eat grasshoppers and beetles as an after dinner delicacy! (Personally I prefer chocolate frogs!)

She was even more worried when I approached him with an auriscope. That’s one of those instruments for looking in ears. Sure enough, there was the flaming red ear drum, the herald sign of Otitis Media, otherwise known as “Middle Ear Infection”.

Ear infections are actually very common in small children. Most ear infections involve the middle ear. This is called Otitis Media.

Babies and young children suffer more middle-ear infections than older children because the tubes connecting the middle ear to the throat (the Eustachian tubes) are shorter and when the Eustachian tube is blocked, fluid does not drain very well from the middle ear to the throat, and air does not get up into the middle ear space as well as it should.

Babies and toddlers may suffer intense ear pain and usually have a fever. There may also be vomiting, loss of appetite, decrease in energy and some loss of hearing. In some cases, pus will break through the eardrum. This results in a thick yellow discharge from the ear. The child feels better when the ear discharges as the painful pressure is gone. The burst eardrum usually heals on its own.

Going straight to the cause was not a case of brilliant diagnosis (though the plaudits of the crowd are always accepted) but purely the result of many years of experience. In any young child with those symptoms, one must always suspect and exclude the middle ear problems.

Why do they vomit with it? Probably for the same reason that people get sea sick – disruption of the normal fluid workings of the inner ear. Whatever, it is always worth asking your vomiting, febrile child if he or she “hurts” anywhere. If they point to or pull at the ear then you are most likely on the right track.

Remember that the middle ear infection does not necessarily produce an ear discharge as an initial symptom. For that to happen, it means the pus and goo trapped in the middle ear has ruptured through the ear drum. What we call a perforation, generally shortened to “perf”.

The treatment is a swiftly administered appropriate anti-biotic. If the ear is discharging, then a culture can be taken and the exactly appropriate antibiotic chosen. If not, then most doctors fly by the seat of their pants and prescribe a Penicillin derivative or one of the newer drugs. Some paracetamol to ease any pain and lower the temperature completes the package and expect junior to be better in a couple of days.

If your child gets recurrent middle ear infections, then you really should get this investigated – including an audiogram (hearing test) to ensure there is no lasting damage.

So just remember, Mums of the world, vomiting may not necessarily mean an intra-abdominal problem. It could all be in the ears!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
One subject I haven’t seen addressed in your column is the social problems involved with aging. I am in my 78th year, and have experienced the usual physical and mental deterioration that one would expect in one’s later years. My hearing is shot (the only things I can hear clearly are karaokes and speaker trucks). My sight has dimmed, dementia set in, E.D. (at my age normal sex is like shooting pool with a rope), and so forth.
These problems have taken a toll on my normal lifestyle, but in most cases I have managed to cope. For example sexual gratification has been provided by the therapists at Pattaya’s numerous road houses. Now, however, I have been beset by the cruelest malfunction of all...involuntary flatulence. It’s well known that older people have a problem with gas, but up until recently I have been able to pull the trigger (so to speak) at my discretion. I no longer have this ability. My social life is in shambles. While it is an excellent excuse to avoid jury duty or church services, and is the source of much-needed exercise taking the stairs to avoid crowded elevators, I find that I’m alone a lot.
Don’t suggest adult diapers because I am in no way incontinent, and the emissions alluded to are pure gas (not the odorless variety). Tums don’t help much. I just sit in my room...widow open and fan on “high”, growing old and lonely. How can I cope, Hillary.

Le Petomane
Dear Tully,
What an admission, my malodorous Petal! I’m a-gassed and blown over by your rectal problem. But like your ED problems, help is at hand, to coin a phrase. Have you ever heard of “Le Petomane” a rather unique French gentleman? “Le Petomane” aka Joseph Pujol (1857-1945) was a French music hall artiste (or more correctly “fartiste”) who found he was able to play tunes and make special effects by passing wind. He practiced at home till he could control himself going through his motions, so to speak. He was quite a rage in the latter years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th and even performed for the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII and the King of Belgium. He was more popular than the famous Sarah Bernhardt, whom you would have heard of, being 78, such as you are. In a typical Le Petomane performance, he appeared on stage in red cape, black silk “poison” trousers (they had an arsenic), and white cravat, with a pair of white gloves held in the hands for a touch of elegance. Having explained that his emissions were odorless - Le Petomane took care to irrigate his colon daily - he would proceed with a program of fart impressions, as it were: the timid fart of the young girl, the hearty fart of the miller, the fart of the bride on her wedding night (almost inaudible), the fart of the bride a week later (a lusty raspberry), and a majestic 10 second fart which he likened to a couturier cutting six feet of calico cloth. However, it is rumored that one day whilst giving a gala performance at the Pompadour Theatre in Paris he followed through in his silk underwear on stage and in front of the audience. He was never the same after that and gave up about the time when WW1 broke out in Europe. Now, Tully, I am not suggesting that at 78 years of age you start a new stage career with your involuntary wind, but the point of the flatulent tale is the Le Petomane’s practicing to make his passing perfect, and the colonic washouts to stop the smell. There’s your answer!

My Dear Hillary,
You are such a treasure! A public thank you and a reprint of my card. My Chiang Mai friends are terribly jealous about the
attention I am receiving. I am so glad the champagne and chocolates brought some pleasure into your life. All the best for the New Year and keep up the good work in 2006. Hugs.
Grateful Peter

Dear Grateful Peter,
I am pleased to tell you that the pleasure from the champagne was not only mine, but also for the friend I shared it with, though I have to shyly admit that probably the thick end of the bottle was mine! After all, I am sure you would have been very disappointed if I didn’t have the major share. The chocolates were another story however. I played out my Miss Piggy role to perfection with those and scoffed them all! Thank you again for restoring my faith in human nature, though I did get a scolding from my dentist.

Camera Class:  Background information

by Harry Flashman

How many times when you are taking a photograph do you look at the background? If you are honest, then the vast majority of you will reply, “Never.” Unfortunately, the wrong background, fussy, cluttered or “jarring” is a sure-fire way to spoil what could have been a great picture.

In your haste and eagerness to make the subject the “hero” you forget to look at the background, being so engrossed in making the foreground subject look good. However, there are many photographic techniques that can be used
to get rid of backgrounds completely.

The majority of these techniques do refer to the capabilities of an SLR camera. With compacts (digital or film), you do not have the luxury of being able to pre-set the aperture. However, this does not mean that compact users have no control over picture backgrounds.

One of the best techniques to master is the one that allows you to control the Depth of Field in any photograph. Depth of Field is merely the “sharp” area between the foreground and the background in any photograph. To isolate your subject in a snapshot you should try and get the sharpness region to begin just before your subject and end just behind the subject, your “hero”. Here’s how to do this.

For this technique, you do need a camera that allows you to select the Aperture, otherwise called the f stop. Look at the ring of numbers around your lens and you will see that they go from about 2.8 through to 22. You don’t even need to know what those numbers mean, but all you have to remember is that the smaller the number, the shorter the Depth of Field, and conversely, the bigger the number, the deeper the Depth of Field.

When you want to take a portrait, focus on the eyes and set a wide aperture – generally around f4 is satisfactory. Using a standard lens and shooting about 2 metres from the subject, you will get a Depth of Field, which will extend from around 200 mm in front to 400 mm behind. Anything further away will be gloriously out of focus, isolating your portrait subject from any distracting background, just like the photograph on the right.

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. These are the times you want to have a huge Depth of Field, as in taking landscape photography, for example. To maximize the Depth of Field, go for the biggest number on the Aperture scale (generally around f22, though some lenses will give you f32). As an example, if the background is 1000 metres away, then focus on a point about 300 metres away. With the one third forward and two thirds back rule, you will get a good DOF from the foreground, right the way through to 1000 metres in the distance. Simple, isn’t it, after you understand the basic principles of these optical laws.

If you have an “Aperture” mode in your camera it is even easier. Select the aperture mode first, then select the f stop to give you shallow Depth of Field or deep Depth of Field and the camera will adjust the shutter speed to suit.

But what do you do when you have a point and shoot camera? Well, it isn’t the end of the world. First try and arrange your photo shoot location in a shadowed area. The automatic iris on the camera will automatically select a small numbered Aperture which will shorten the Depth of Field for you.

Now there is another way to get a nothing black background, and this is with flash. This you can do, even with a compact. Position your subject as far away from the background as possible. Now by moving in close to the subject, the flash will illuminate the “hero” but runs out of brightness before it gets to the background. Look at the photo this week, as that is how that was done.

If all else fails, then just walk in close so that the subject fills the frame so well that there is no room for a background. Distracting backgrounds are now a thing of the past!

Dogs - Man’s best friend: Dogs: Control of external parasites – part 3

Nienke Parma

Following my last article on external pest control in Chiang Mai Mail’s Vol.V. No.9, I’d like to continue with the control and treatment of the other regularly occurring parasites on dogs, namely mange mites and the fungal ringworm.

All three kinds of parasites react strongly to the animal’s immunity. The stronger it is, the less susceptible the animal is to these pests. Therefore, once your animal has caught one of these diseases next to the treatment, the immunity of the animal should be boosted as well.

Sarcoptic (or Scabies) and Demodectic mange can be treated by injection once a week or by mouth every day. Be aware though, that for all collies and their mixed
varieties the medicine (Ivermectin) is often fatal, and therefore other medicines should be prescribed. I also have seen dogs reacting sensitive to this me dicine given by mouth, showing up as (severe) diarrhea.

As this medicine is a burden to the liver, the treatment is often accompanied by certain Vitamin B-complex pills. Antibiotics and anti-itch medicines (often corticosteroid tablets) are also regularly prescribed. Antibiotics, however, are only necessary in case of damaged skin with a potential danger to secondary bacterial infection. 

Long-term (1 to 2 months) corticosteroids is contraindicated because it depresses the animal’s immunity to the mites, and so worsening the condition. It has more (severe) side-effects than most pest control medicines, such as endocrine diseases or an increased chance on cancer, and it doesn’t solve the problem but only suppresses the itching.

Having said that, a Sarcoptic mange infestation can be so horribly itchy for the animal that a short course of these anti-itch medicines is recommended. Further, all the objects the scabetic animal has touched should be thoroughly cleaned, including a careful check on yourself and all others who has been in contact with the animal as scabies is contagious for humans.

As the Demodectic mite is not the primary cause of the disease, but a lowered function of the immune system, it is claimed the animal can often also successfully be treated with homeopathic medicines.

When ringworm shows itself as bald circular spots, an easy-to-apply method is to clip the hair away around the spot and treat it with vinegar or a sulfur paste three times daily. But, once the fungal has spread all over the body a regular broad-spectrum anti-fungal medicine is recommended. Ringworm spores in the animal’s living quarters, on the grooming material and in the animal’s bedding can easily be killed with bleach.

For more information on pets health, dog and cat boarding, dog training
and behavior, please visit or contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146.

Life in the Laugh Lane: Nine Days of Pleasure and Pain: Part Three

by Scott Jones

On Day Seven I awake at 5 a.m. to Mr. Pain hammering my jaw with a rubber mallet. On top of my neck sits a massive, throbbing tooth with a quarter of it missing so six million nerves are exposed to the air. The new battery I purchased the day before is dead so we start the bike down a hill and ride to the morning market where you can buy fresh donuts, screws, lottery tickets, any previously living creature dried on a stick, medicine made from desiccated mosquito wing, ant’s testicles and eye of newt, plus all the individual parts of a pig, some assembly required. I hope to find a pig’s head to replace mine.

These little piggies finally made it to the market.

The plan was to continue to Chiang Khong on the Mekong River but with a dead battery and a dying tooth, I decide to split from Jon the Dentist and Karaoke Todd, hoping to meet them later with a bike that starts and a jaw that’s stopped hurting. Armed with Wonder Woman, her purse full of pain-killers and an extra battery, I set off for Chiang Rai for the second day in a row. The bike performs perfectly, starting every time, as though it’s just toying with my sanity, recreating the age-old saga of every vehicle that constantly makes a horrible noise until you drive it into a garage where mechanics hear nothing and think you’re an idiot. After a semi-liquid lunch of porridge I can suck through the spaces in my teeth, we stand up to hit the bike shop and the dentist office as the lens pops out of my glasses onto the table, surprisingly not into the street to be crushed by a passing tuk-tuk. I consider moving into a temple and spending my life in robes in the dark.

The bike shop owner seems confident the problem is the regulator so I rent a scooter to go to the dentist’s office where they make a big deal over me wanting to wear my motorcycle helmet while in the chair. Diagnosis: old tooth, big cavity, nerve exposed, root canal. Choices: 1) suffer; 2) live in Chiang Rai for a few days of drilling; or 3) remove decay, add medicine, pack with cement, get out of town. The moment I choose Door Number Three, the needle is jabbed into my outer gum, spun around and then jabbed into my inner gum. I can hear it clicking on the roots. Wide-eyed and mouth watering, I mumble, “You know, in America, they put strawberry-flavored, numbing gel on the gums before the shot.” Miss Youngest Dentist in Thailand Still Wearing The School Uniform From Her High School says, “Oh yes, we do that here with children.”

Glasses, bike and tooth intact, I get up early on Day Eight in Chiang Rai to write my Life in the Laugh Lane newspaper column before heading off to meet my friends. The column finished, I plug in my external hard drive to copy the file. Instantly the laptop goes blank, dead, black, no power, nada, game over, man. At least it doesn’t involve Mr. Pain or child mechanics or overzealous dentists or strand me any longer in Chiang Rai. I calmly put my expensive door stop into its case and send the newspaper a text message by my mobile phone, which strangely enough, still works: “Wrote column and immediately computer died. Everything I touch turns to crap. Don’t let me near anything of yours that’s valuable.” The sensitive, caring reply, “Great. Good luck. Stay away from us.”

We meet my friends in Phayao for a stroll through the night market to take in the stunning, smiling scenery, avoiding the most beautiful creatures with low voices, large hands and cowboy hats. Nothing is damaged on the way back to Chiang Mai except my pride. My friends head home, leaving me with an array of equipment for the next ride, all of which will be broken and unusable when they return. My laptop has been sent to Bangkok and will return several years after I’m dead. My column is finally delivered, hand-written on banana leaves by monkeys. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Machines has confiscated everything I own that has an engine or uses electricity. I only eat food that fits through a straw.

If you dare, please help us help some orphans and
join our Give-Live-Ride Charity Motorcycle Tour next year…just don’t let me touch your bike, your computer,
your glasses or your teeth. ( for more info.)