2005-11-22

Tale of the Two Rods

Have you noticed the symbols used in relation to medicine?





Which of these is it?
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Actually the medical professionals also have been confused in the use of these two symbols.The staff entwining a single serpent –believed to be a rat snake species- is known as Rod of Asclepius.



Asclepius was the god of medicine & healing in the Greek mythology. He was the son of Coronis -a mortal- & Apollo -a Greek god-, brought up by Chiron -a centaur-, who thought him all his skills in Medicine. Zeus killed him with a thunder bolt. Many reasons are speculated for this killing, one reason being acceptance of money in return for resurrection. These have to be discussed separately.
Then realizing his importance Zeus made him immortal & placed in the sky as the Ophiuchus among the stars.


The other one is Caduceus of Hermes or Kerykeion of Mercury. It depicts a staff with wings with two snakes wrapped around it. Hermes is the Greek god of boundaries, of travelers, shepherds and cowherds, of orators, literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures and invention, of commerce in general, of the cunning of thieves, and the messenger from the gods to humans. Mercury is the Latin god of trade, profit and commerce.

Thus Rod of Asclepius is more relevant to be used as a symbol of Medicine rather the Caduceus or Kerykeion which is more connected with commerce. But Hermes also is connected with alchemy in the form of hermetic spells, which is a precursor of medicine



< Logo of British medical association



Logo of World Health Organisation >

2005-11-17

Presidential Election of Sri Lanka - 2005

Presidential Election voting was wrapped-up at 4pm. Now it is time to watch for results. Unlike earlier occations, we have another new method to get updated results for Sri Lankan Presidential Polls. They are updated web pages.
The official goverment news page for Presidential Election of Sri Lanka is -click here-

There are other sites promising to give updated results of the 5th Presidential Election of Sri Lanka,
http://www.president2005.com/live/
http://www1.srilankanelections.com/index.php
http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/election_2005.jsp

The results of past Presidential Election of Sri Lanka can be found at -click here-

2005-11-12

Wash your hands....

While we were attending to inducing anesthesia for the next patient, our Consultant Surgeon - Dr R D Yapa- popped a question to us as usual.
"Who discovered Antisepsis?". Chandan√° was quick to answer "Joseph Lister...". We nodded in agreement. "No.. It's Semmelweis" & we've never heard of a 'Semmelweis' until now.

That's how I found about an ugly chapter in "The Art of Medicine".

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (July 1, 1818 - August 13, 1865), was a Hungarian doctor who practiced under Klein, Professor of Obstetrics at Lying-in Hospial, Vienna.

He noticed that,

  • the neonatal death rate due to Puerperal fever (childbirth fever) was 13% in his unit compared to 2% in the other unit in the same hospital
  • his unit was managed by doctors & medical students & the other unit was managed by midwives
  • his colleague Jakob Kolletschka died of similar symptoms after he cut his finger accidentally during a post mortem.
  • women admitted with "street-births" (who had delivered in the streets) had lower fever rates compared to his unit's
  • student doctors attended to autopsies & then to women in delivery

With these observations in 1847, he introduced a new rule that everybody must wash their hands with chlorinated lime before examining patients & later on added the instruments also to be washed. Death rate felt immediately to 2% which was comparable to the other ward.
The ugly chapter starts here. Semmelweis was not keen to report his findings to his superiors & was eventually dismeissed from his post by Prof. Klien. He returned to Hungary in 1850 & worked in St. Rochus Hospital in Pest.
He published his work in a book in 1861, "The aetiology, understanding and prevention of childbed fever" (Die √Ątiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers). It was accepted by Hungarian government, even though it was widely criticised by German speaking doctors in Vienna. Even Viennese Medical Journal editorial reminded its readers "It was time to stop the nonsense about the chlorine hand wash".
He suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a insane assylum & died 2 weeks later.
Cause of his death is speculated to be due to infection he received from a wound during autopsy. But the real cause was found to be something else. He had become violent while in the assylum & was beaten by assylum personnel. He died due to injuries received, in a fortnight.
Only in 1867 Joseph Lister introduced Carbolic Acid spray for asepsis. The scientific growth in asepsis had been halted for 20 years.


I remembered, during a class in Microbiology when I was a medical student, the lecturer told, "Wash your hands, that's the single most important action to prevent infections"


Further readings: