site.btaDr Atanas Peltekov: We Have Made Progress on Medicines Available at Bulgaria's Antarctic Base
"I put a lot of work into the availability of medicines in the Bulgarian Antarctic Base ahead of one of my departures. I divided medicines into groups according to different diseases - eye diseases, ENT, cardiology, allergology, gastroenterology. I sent the information to leading specialists in those fields, asking them for their opinion so that we could add to the list if necessary," Dr Atanas Peltekov, one of the physicians at Bulgaria's St Kliment Ohridski Antarctic Base, told BTA.
"I compiled a rather good list of medicines, from nose drops to intravenous antibiotics," he said. The base is supplied with a good range of medicines to be used on an as-needed basis.
Dr Peltekov said there is a medical minimum for the trip to Antarctica, which ensures an adequate response to an emergency. In addition, those travelling to the base follow a recommendation on how to stock up on medication. The physicians ought to be informed about any specific healthcare needs of the participants in the expedition. That is why comprehensive tests and exams are done before departure.
A detailed medical questionnaire is completed, which is very useful for the medical staff at the base, Dr Peltekov said.
"The physical exam is relatively detailed, we focus on the heart. The blood work gives us a picture about the functioning of the different systems and organs," he also said. Vaccination recommendations are made if necessary. There is a manual telling expedition members what clothes and medication to pack. Sunglasses and sun protection creams are a must.
Human health and emotions in Antarctica
Going to a different climate zone does not have much of an impact on the participants in the expedition. The main problem on Livingston Island is the wind, which never stops.
A science-based approach is being used to the health and conditions of travellers to the Ice Continent thanks to some of the members of expeditions. The collected database has suggested guidelines for work in the future.
Physicians at the Bulgarian base monitor both the physical and mental condition of the members of the expedition. Away from home, people feel nostalgia, fatigue from the journey, and sometimes have symptoms of depression. If any of the above problems arises, the physician has a one-on-one talk with that person. It is important to catch the symptoms early and provide psychological support.
The environment and waste
As a general practitioner, Dr Peltekov knows that a better environment is essential to human health: "Environmental protection is crucial to all of us. I have participated in nature conservation projects whenever possible."
Antarctica is not spared from the human impact on nature, but there is strict control. Dr Peltekov has seen scraps of plastic buoys and waste drums. Fortunately, there is not that much pollution in Antarctica for now.
There are inspectors in Antarctica who can assess the environmental impact at any time. Divers can even check the base's water area for possible waste dumping, Peltekov said.
The naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii has contributed much to waste reduction. "Last year we disposed of almost 70% of the accumulated waste," he said.
New emotions and expectations
Dr Peltekov said each expedition aims to do better than the previous one in terms of research, the completion of the systems at the Antarctic base and task allocation to the participants. Each journey is different and comes with new surprises and memories, said Dr Peltekov. He is a quick packer. Although he will be away from home for a long time, he is not taking many things with him.
"Friends and relatives give me mascots, some give me icons, but I don't have a pre-departure ritual. My ritual is packing in half an hour," the physician said.
During the 32nd Bulgarian expedition to Antarctica, which started on November 8, 2023, the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) is publishing interviews with Antarctic researchers. The Bulgaria-Antarctica BTA's Log again provides coverage of the voyage of the Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii to Antarctica and back and its stay there, as it did during the 31st expedition between December 27, 2022 and May 2, 2023. Back then, only BTA had a correspondent, Daily News Editor Konstantin Karagyozov, who covered the 127-day expedition with text, video and photos during the entire voyage (including across the Atlantic in both directions) and throughout the stay in Antarctica. In June 2023, BTA published in Bulgarian and in English an issue of its LIK magazine "To Antarctica and Back under the Bulgarian Flag" dedicated to the historic expedition.
Again, all of BTA's information on the Bulgarian scientific research in Antarctica and the support provided by the Bulgarian naval research vessel, as well as on the other activities at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base, will be available to all media outlets in Bulgarian and in English on BTA's website in the Bulgaria - Antarctica: BTA's Log section.
BTA has a National Press Club on board the ship and is planning to open a National Press Club at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island.