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Nipah scare: No need to panic; adopt good hygiene practices

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NIPAH VIRUS

New Delhi, May 26: Simple good hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing and cooking food properly before consuming can help you avoid contracting the brain-damaging Nipah virus which has claimed 12 lives in Kerala till now and led to quarantining of at least 40 others, health experts suggest.

The Nipah virus is a zoonotic disease that is naturally transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans, while human-to-human transmission has also been documented.

First identified among pig farmers in Malaysia, the disease also surfaced in Siliguri, West Bengal, in 2001 and again in 2007.

Historically, the virus had largely remained in a cluster, meaning it was mostly confined to an area, and affected those that came in close contact to the patients, the experts said.

The latest outbreak in India has so far affected mainly four districts of Kerala — Kozhikode, and its neigbouring districts of Malappuram, Kannur and Wayanad. People in other states do not have much to worry, unless they need to travel to the affected areas, or come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.

“All the previous such epidemics were reported to be in clusters and historical evidence shows no simultaneous outbreaks,” Vidya Menon, Clinical Professor at the Department of Medicine, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, told IANS.

“So people who come in close contact of the patients are usually the ones who acquire the disease. If that contact group increases or travel to other places, the disease is likely to spread,” Menon said.

Nipah virus can be transmitted by infected pigs, or by fruit bats, through their secretions of saliva, urine or faeces.
The other mode of transmission is human to human, through body secretions and respiratory secretions.

Contracting Nipah causes an upper respiratory infection, leading to fever, body ache, breathlessness and cough.

“There is no need to panic, but if you have symptoms similar to this or if you have visited the state recently, visit a doctor at the earliest,” Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, told IANS.

Depending upon the exposure to the virus, it can also proceed to further complication like Encephalitis — inflammation of the brain. This can result in mental confusions and deteriorate to coma.

“The progression is very severe. While the incubation period is long for some, on an average in 90 per cent of cases, the disease manifests itself within two weeks of exposure to the virus,” Menon said.

“Those infected should be isolated for at least 10-15 days, till the virulence of the virus settles and our immune system also starts fighting,” Vikas Maurya, Head of Department – Pulmonolgy, Fortis Hospital – Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, told IANS.

There is no real treatment but supportive care is given to the affected patients, which means treating the symptoms differently.

“For example, people suffering from fever are treated for it, for those with breathlessness support is provided to them with artificial ventilators, and for those with seizures or convulsions anti-epileptic drugs are given as a support to the brain,” Menon said.

The Kerala government has now recommended using Ribavarin — an anti-viral — as a life-saving measure. It is not a proven treatment, but it is approved because of a few studies that have proved the anti-viral’s benefits.

“Beginning Thursday, the Kerala government has recommended using Ribavarin — an anti-viral — but only in proven cases,” Menon said.

Lauding the efforts by the government officials, Menon said, “The situation seems to be under control, the state public health department has done a remarkable job in containing the disease so far. There is no need to panic.”

Besides maintaining hygiene, the experts suggested to avoid eating fruits that has any paw marks on it or is contaminated. Food should be properly cooked before consuming.

Restricting mobility to and fro to the affected areas can curtail the virus up to some extent, Chatterjee suggested.

“If you are travelling to the infected area, use a general mask. While coughing close your mouth with a handkerchief or cough on your sleeve, wash hands properly, and maintain hygiene,” Menon said.

(Rachel V. Thomas can be contacted at [email protected] )

Health

Natural ways to boost immunity in children

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Kids eating, children snacks

New Delhi, Jan 21: It is natural for parents to protect their children from any harm, including the endless array of germs they are exposed to every day.

As children grow up, they are continuously exposed to various germs, especially in places such as daycare centres and preschool. Children with low immunity are highly susceptible to various types of infections. The high incidence of infections has led to an increased and inappropriate use of antibiotics, which has further resulted in antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance, a widespread problem, takes places when microbes build resistance against the medications intended to kill them due to overuse. It is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The best way to tackle this is to build a strong immunity, which naturally protects your child from infections. Dr. Rajesh Kumawat, Head – Medical Services & Clinical Development, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares a few tips that can help boost your child’s immunity.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet that comprises all fundamental components like proteins, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and unsaturated fats in optimum quantity, helps build the immunity required to fight against various infections or diseases in children. Citrus fruits, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beans, strawberry, yogurt, garlic, and ginger help build immunity with their immunity-boosting properties.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation suppresses the functionality of the immune system, which makes children susceptible to infections. Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity to rejuvenate the body. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours of sleep.

Hygiene

Maintaining hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playtime, handling pets, blowing the nose, using the restroom and arriving home from daycare helps prevent infections in children.

Herbal Solutions

Despite taking proper care, children’s immunity may be affected. Consumption of herbal dietary supplements like Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Guggulu (Balsamodendron mukul) can help children stay healthier as they help build immunity.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

A combination of herbs may be a safe and effective adjuvant to antimicrobials in the management of recurrent infections. When co-prescribed with antibiotics, herbs may
have a role in faster recovery, reduces the duration and cost of therapy, besides preventing reinfections.

IANS

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Health

Anti-inflammatory drugs may put you at heart attack risk

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heart failure heart attack

If you have been hit by the winter cold and are thinking about taking medicines that relieve your aches, pains and congestion, be careful. Those may also put your heart at risk, the American Heart Association has warned.

A study has showed that both decongestants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), found in many cold medicines, were listed as medications that could increase blood pressure.

People who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week compared with the same time period about a year earlier when participants were neither sick nor taking an NSAID.

“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants. And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a health care provider,” said Sondra DePalma, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Decongestants like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine constrict blood vessels. They allow less fluid into your sinuses, “which dries you up”, said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Univerity’s Ciccarone Center in Baltimore.

The biggest concerns are for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or have heart failure or uncontrolled high blood pressure, Michos said, in the paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Importantly, healthy people might also be at risk.

For the study, researchers looked at nearly 10,000 people with respiratory infections who were hospitalised for heart attacks.

Participants were 72 years old on average at the time of their heart attacks and many had cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

People who are sick should use both classes of medications — decongestants and NSAIDs — judiciously and understand the potential side effects.

In addition, decongestants should not be taken longer than seven days before consulting with a healthcare provider, DePalma said.

One should also rest and drink plenty of fluids if symptoms are mild or moderate, DePalma noted.

IANS

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Health

What is to be blamed for childhood cancer?

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Childhood cancer
Representative Image , Image Credit : J Pat Carter/AP

A team of researchers has thrown light on the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children, an area which remains understudied, finds a latest research.

“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.

For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.

Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.

This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.

However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.

“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.

Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.

There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.

IANS

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