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As Maha detects 91 FLiRT Covid cases, expert rules out any immediate concern

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New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) Even as the 91 cases of new FLiRT Covid-19 variants, accounting for more than a third of cases in the US, have reportedly been detected in Maharashtra, there is nothing to worry immediately, a top expert said on Sunday.

The new set of variants dubbed FLiRT, majorly includes KP.1.1, and KP.2 strains. These are named based on the technical names for their mutations, one of which includes the letters “F” and “L”, and another of which includes the letters “R” and “T”.

Genome sequencing of March and April showed that Maharashtra has 91 cases of KP.2 — Pune (51), Thane (20), Amravati (7) Aurangabad (7), Solapur (2), Ahmednagar (1), Nashik (1), Latur (1), and Sangli (1).

“What we see now, is the result of genome sequencing of the last two months, that is March and April. So, there is no cause of concern immediately as out of the 91 cases, not a single death, hospitalisation, or severe disease has been reported,” infectious disease expert Dr Ishwar Gilada, told IANS.

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“Even the test positivity rate is around 1 per cent,” he added.

Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, Maharashtra’s genome sequencing coordinator, said that KP.2 has become the predominant Covid strain in the state.

However, there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in hospitalisations or severe cases, The Times of India reported.

FLiRT variants come from the lineage of the highly transmissible and immune system-evading Omicron.

First identified globally in January, KP.2 is a descendant of Omicron’s JN.1. According to the data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KP.2 accounted for about one in four or 25 per cent of new sequenced cases in the country in the last weeks of April.

Similar to previous variants, the symptoms typically include a sore throat, runny nose, congestion, tiredness, fever (with or without chills), headache, muscle pain, and sometimes loss of taste or smell.

“Covid has not gone away, but it is not creating any havoc. It is not creating any hospitalisation or deaths, and it is much milder than the flu. So, it should not be considered a separate disease. It should be considered like the flu and we can call it Covi-flu,” said Dr Gilada, Consultant in Infectious Diseases Unison Medicare and Research Centre, Mumbai.

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However, he called for proper whole genome sequencing.

“Though the variant will become prominent in numbers, it is not causing a surge in demand for oxygen, beds, ICUs, or ventilators, and there are also no deaths. “So, I think we should not be worried and concentrate on other emerging health problems,” he said.

–IANS

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Delhi L-G orders ACB probe into registration of nursing homes after hospital fire tragedy

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Delhi Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena on Tuesday ordered a comprehensive probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into the registration of nursing homes in the national capital after seven newborns were killed in a massive fire at a children’s hospital on Saturday night.

As per the police, the licence issued to the Baby Care New Born Child Hospital in Vivek Vihar by the Delhi Government Health Services (DGHS) expired on March 31. Also, the doctors at the hospital were not qualified/competent to treat the newborns in need of neonatal intensive care as they were just BAMS degree holders.

In his note to the Chief Secretary, L-G Saxena said, “I have taken a very stern view in the matter. Though this is a transferred subject, in a larger public interest, I am forced to step in on account of the lack of seriousness on the part of the authorities entrusted with these responsibilities.”

The ACB probe will assess how many nursing homes are functioning without valid registrations and whether those having valid registrations are complying with the prescribed norms as provided under the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1953, and the rules made thereunder.

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Pointing out that the incident put a serious question mark on ministerial responsibility in a matter directly related to the health and lives of the residents of Delhi, the L-G said, “Even after a tragedy of this magnitude, which should have stirred the conscience of the political leadership, I am disappointed that the Chief Minister and Ministers have paid only lip service and given sound bites, finding alibis and shirking responsibility. Administration cannot be run on social media, nor by brushing such serious matters under the carpet.”

“I am given to understand that there are 1,190 nursing homes, of which more than a quarter are operating without valid registrations. Also, there are many nursing homes in the city which never applied for registration but are still operating. Even those nursing homes which have valid registrations may not be meeting the safety and regulatory standards as prescribed in the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1953, and the rules made thereunder,” the L-G said.

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“The very existence of such nursing homes that serve the poor and not so well off sections of the society speaks volumes on the larger issue of severe lack of public health infrastructure in the national capital as well. This is a larger issue which has been left neglected, contrary to the claims in the public domain,” he added.

As per the L-G, the ACB is directed to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the registration of nursing homes in the city to assess how many of them are functioning without valid documents.

The L-G also directed the Chief Secretary to advise all the district magistrates to get a field verification done of their respective areas within two weeks to ascertain the actual number of functional nursing homes, which can then be compared to the list of the Health Department.

“It has also come to my notice that even in this day and age, the registration procedure for nursing homes in Delhi is conducted manually, which leaves a lot of room for discretion, ambiguity, and corruption. The Chief Secretary may accordingly ensure that an online portal is made operational with all data of compliances, registration, and validity, which is open for public scrutiny,” the L-G said.

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–IANS

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New WHO report calls for increasing investments in adolescent well-being

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Geneva, May 28 (IANS) In a rapidly evolving world, adolescents are facing significant challenges like high mortality rates, mental health, pregnancy, education and employment, and climate and environmental hazards, according to a new WHO report on Tuesday calling for greater investments in adolescent well-being.

The report released at the 77th World Health Assembly was commissioned by PMNCH (The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health), and other global agencies like WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA.

Failure to substantially increase investment aimed at improving adolescent well-being would result in a staggering economic cost, with potential global losses amounting to an estimated $110 trillion (benefits foregone) from 2024 to 2050, which equates to $4.1 trillion per year, the report said.

On the other hand, a broad package of health services for adolescents is likely to give an estimated return of $9.6 for every dollar invested.

Investing in education and training for adolescents is also likely to give a return of $28.6 for every dollar invested.

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“With just about five years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, progress lagging, and the adolescent population increasing, the urgency of investing in adolescents’ well-being cannot be overstated,” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and PMNCH Board Chair.

The experts called for increasing investment programmes to improve adolescent well-being on three key platforms or systems: universal health coverage, including primary care; enhanced schools that focus on learning, health, nutrition, and student well-being; and support systems, strengthening local community initiatives for adolescent health and well-being.

The five domains crucial for adolescent well-being include health and nutrition; connectedness, positive values and contribution to society; safety and a supportive environment; learning competence, education, skills, and employability; and agency and resilience.

–IANS

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All biodegradable tea bags may not degrade, can harm environment: Study

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Not all biodegradable tea bags made using corn starch or sugar cane, and touted as the best alternatives against plastic, degrade in soil, a new study showed on Tuesday, noting their potential to harm terrestrial species and the environment.

Researchers from the universities of Plymouth and Bath in the UK looked at commonly available teabags made using three different compositions of polylactic acid (PLA), which were buried in soil for seven months.

The teabags made solely from PLA were completely intact.

However, the two types of tea bags made from a combination of cellulose and PLA broke down into smaller pieces, losing between 60 and 80 per cent of their overall mass with the PLA component remaining.

Winnie Courtene-Jones, the lead author from the University of Plymouth, noted that biodegradable plastics such as PLA are being used in an increasing range of products in response to the plastic waste crisis.

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However, “this study highlights the need for more evidence on the degradation and possible effects of such materials before their use becomes even more widespread, and to prevent the generation of alternative problems if they are not properly disposed of,” Winnie, a postdoctoral research fellow at the varsity, added.

The team also examined the impacts of the discs cut from the teabags on a species of earthworm, Eisenia fetida, which has a critical role in soil nutrient turnover as it consumes organic matter.

The results published in the journal Science of the Total Environment showed that being exposed to three different concentrations of teabag discs — equivalent to the mass of half, one, and two teabags — resulted in up to 15 per cent greater mortality, while some concentrations of PLA had a detrimental effect on earthworm reproduction.

–IANS

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MP govt shuts down 66 'unsuitable' nursing colleges

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Bhopal, May 28 (IANS) The Madhya Pradesh government has ordered the closure of 66 nursing colleges across the state, three months after the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order over ‘irregularities’ in affiliation.

The state’s medical education department has issued a circular to district administration asking them to comply with the order. The action follows the directives of Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, to take strict action.

The state government said that the Madhya Pradesh High Court has declared these colleges ‘unsuitable’, and subsequently, action for shutting them has been taken.

The government, however, has also made it clear that students enrolled with these 66 colleges would not be affected. “Students of these colleges would not be affected. Their exams would be conducted,” a statement from the medical education department, read.

The development came even as the nursing college scam case is being heard in the high court. The case is about large-scale irregularities and corruption in nursing colleges. The CBI has been carrying out the investigation.

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The CBI had submitted its reports (charge sheet) on 308 nursing colleges, while the probe in another 300 nursing colleges was underway.

Meanwhile, two officials of Madhya Pradesh Police — inspectors Sushil Kumar Majoka and Rishikant Asathe, who were earlier attached to the CBI — were arrested two weeks ago. Their arrest on an alleged bribery charge has raised multiple questions about the authenticity of the probe.

The nursing college scam was exposed in 2021 and it reached the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2023.

–IANS

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Wipro, IISC's Centre for Brain Research tie up to boost AI-based health innovations

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Bengaluru, May 28 (IANS) IT services major Wipro on Tuesday announced a partnership with the Centre for Brain Research (CBR), a non-profit research organisation, hosted at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to develop personalised AI-based health innovations.

The partnership will harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and big data analytics and develop new technologies to prevent and manage long-term health disorders.

Wipro’s research and development (R&D) team will design and develop an AI-based personal care engine that will focus on an individual’s health history, desired health state, and other behavioural responses.

This will help promote healthy ageing, positive lifestyle changes, and psycho-social well-being, as well as focus on reducing and managing the risk of cardiovascular disease and correlated neurodegenerative disorders, by using AI.

The engine will be tested via a digital app-based trial in collaboration with CBR at IISc.

Dr Ajay Chander, Head of Research and Development, Wipro Limited, said that the collaboration “will pioneer personalised care support for some of the most chronic health challenges globally.”

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He noted that cardiovascular conditions that are of global concern “are a particular focus for us because of their strong association with long-term cognitive issues and the potential for broad health and wellbeing benefits at lower costs.”

According to Professor K.V.S. Hari, Director of the Centre for Brain Research, the collaboration will “accelerate the path from research to real-world solutions in cognitive and overall health.”

–IANS

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