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Experts express concern over bird flu spread in house mice, domestic cats in US

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Experts express concern over bird flu spread in house mice, domestic cats in US

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) The H5N1 virus, or bird flu virus, has raised fresh concerns for humans with reports of spillover to mammals like domestic cats and mice, infectious disease experts said on Wednesday.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), on Wednesday, reported 36 more H5N1 avian flu detections in house mice and four more virus detections in domestic cats — from New Mexico county.

“This is indeed concerning, although there is no immediate threat. The longer-term problem is that the more a virus spreads, the more it gets chances to mutate or recombine,” Dr Anurag Agarwal, Dean, BioSciences and Health Research, Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University, told IANS.

“This alone is modestly concerning in terms of future human risks. However, when the spread is occurring in animals that are present in human houses, as seen here, the concern level is higher,” he added.

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Biologist Vinod Scaria, in a post on X.com, said it “is concerning as the virus is moving to domestic animals with human contact”.

The bird flu virus H5N1 is seen a significant increase in spillover to mammals in recent years. The virus killed a record number of birds in 2023.

It spread to otters, sea lions, minks, foxes, dolphins, and seals, among others.

The virus also killed 29 cats in Poland and 38 of 40 shelter cats in South Korea. Meanwhile, in separate incidents, the bird flu virus also affected several humans in China, Chile, the US, and India.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday confirmed a human infection with bird flu caused by the H9N2 virus in a four-year-old child in West Bengal.

It is the second human infection of H9N2 bird flu from India, with the first in 2019, the agency said.

The virus in the child was detected by health authorities in Australia’s Victoria.

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In late March, H5N1 infected dairy cows in the US, and subsequently, at least three humans in Texas and Michigan have reportedly contracted the virus from sick cattle. More recently, a 59-year-old man in Mexico died after being infected with H5N2 bird flu, a strain not previously seen in humans.

“Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral illness that mainly infects birds. However, there’s a chance it can jump to humans and other mammals who come into close contact with infected birds,” Dr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant – Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru, told IANS.

“The strains H5N1, H7N9, and H5N6 have raised the most concern recently due to their potential for human transmission. These infections in humans typically occur through direct contact with sick animals or contaminated environments, such as poultry farms,” she added.

Avian influenza in humans can range in severity from mild, resembling a common head cold, to life-threatening. Beyond respiratory problems, symptoms of bird flu can include eye inflammation (conjunctivitis), stomach and intestinal issues (gastrointestinal symptoms), and even brain inflammation (encephalitis) and brain dysfunction (encephalopathy).

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In some special cases, some people exposed to bird flu, particularly the H5N1 strain, show no symptoms at all.

“Influenza pandemics are regarded as the most important threats to human health. H5N1 influenza, spilling over from birds to humans, could be a possible origin of the next major pandemic,” Gautam Menon, Dean of Research and Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University, told IANS.

He called for OneHealth approaches that focus on human, animal, and environmental health together, to tackle the rising threat.

–IANS

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Woman with rare autoimmune disorder successfully treated during pregnancy

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Woman with rare autoimmune disorder successfully treated during pregnancy

Woman with rare autoimmune disorder successfully treated during pregnancy

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Bengaluru doctors successfully treated a 32-year-old woman with a rare autoimmune disease amid her pregnancy.

Autoimmune disorders like Factor 13 acquired deficiency can complicate pregnancies, as antibodies generated by the mother may affect foetal development, particularly the heart.

Factor 13 deficiency is exceedingly rare, occurring in approximately 1 in 2-3 million individuals, and requires specialised care.

The patient, Shradha (name changed), faced multiple fertility challenges due to the autoimmune disorders, including ANA (antinuclear antibody), APL (antiphospholipid antibody), and NK cell deficiency.

Despite undergoing multiple treatments like IUI and IVF, she experienced three consecutive miscarriages.

It was during her second miscarriage, that Shradha was diagnosed with the rare condition, which necessitated the use of blood thinners throughout pregnancy.

Shradha’s pregnancy journey was fraught with complications, including frequent bleeding episodes. She conceived naturally on her fourth attempt but continued to face challenges, including spontaneous bleeding.

“The rare condition of inhibitors to Factor 13 leads to deficiency. This is not inherited but can develop due to pre-existing autoimmune conditions. Managing pregnancy with Factor 13 deficiency is exceptionally rare, especially when complicated by acquired inhibitors,” said Dr. Poornima M Gowda, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Cloudnine Hospital, Benagaluru.

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The treatment involved regular blood transfusions to maintain stable Factor 13 levels. Despite the challenges, Shradha delivered a baby girl prematurely at 34 weeks.

The baby, now over six months old, is doing well, said Dr. Poornima.

The chances of the baby developing the same problem are minimal, as the condition is not genetic but will be monitored, she added.

–IANS

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Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

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Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

Ladies, do breast self-exam once a month to catch cancer early

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Self-breast examination just once a month can help women detect the deadly cancer early, and boost treatment outcomes, said health experts on Thursday, amid rising breast cancer cases in the country.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women worldwide, as well as in India.

Data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) showed that breast cancer accounted for 28.2 per cent of all female cancers, with an estimated 216,108 cases by 2022.

“You don’t have to go outside for common indications or symptoms; all you need is three fingers and three to four minutes of your time, once a month. Once you become accustomed to it, it usually only takes three minutes. No one else is required; just a mirror and your hand. If you know how your breasts normally feel, you can easily notice any changes or abnormalities early,” Dr Garima Daga, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre said.

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“Any difference in how your breasts feel during the breast health examination could indicate thickening of the skin, ulceration, nipple discharge, or most commonly, a lump in the breast, underarms, or under the nipple,” she added.

The most common symptoms are usually a lump or any discharge from the nipple. Any bloody discharge, greenish discharge, any lump, this should be taken care of, said the expert.

In the past, many famous Indian celebrities like Tahira Kashyap, and Mahima Chaudhry have been diagnosed and survived breast cancers. More recently, television actress Hina Khan announced her diagnosis with stage three breast cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment.

Worryingly, the cancer, which was once known to affect the elderly, has in the last three decades, surged enormously in people aged 40 or 50.

According to experts, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors are driving breast cancer even among women who seem healthy. Thus, besides making necessary lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy body weight, eating healthy and balanced food, and doing regular exercise, they said early detection is key.

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Self-breast examinations monthly would go a long way in early detection. The aim should be to detect it at a very early stage because there is no pain in breast cancer in the initial stages.

“It is merely a technique for women to be aware and mindful of the normal status of their breasts so that any deviation from the normal may be picked up at the earliest and shown to the appropriate doctor,” Dr Manjula Rao, Consultant, Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, Chennai, told IANS.

“It helps to detect cancerous lumps at a much smaller size, hence allowing earlier detection, less severe treatments, and less aggressive surgery like breast conservation, oncoplasty, and sentinel lymph node biopsy,” the doctor said. She advised that it is best done once a month, typically 5-7 days after periods when the breast is at its most supple.

Daga said there is almost 90 to 95 per cent cure in the early stages of cancer. So, if it is detected early, it helps in the prevention of cancer. Unlike earlier, the cure rate has also gone up with early detection.

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–IANS

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Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

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Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

Fertility treatments gain acceptance, thanks to advancements: Experts

Hyderabad, July 25 (IANS) In a positive shift in societal attitudes, there is growing acceptance of fertility treatments among men and women, thanks to advancements and awareness, say fertility specialists on the occasion of World In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) Day (July 25).

With advanced technologies improving IVF success rates, and offering new hope to couples, the acceptance of fertility treatment is growing.

According to specialists, egg freezing allows individuals to balance careers and future parenthood. More men are participating in fertility health, recognising infertility as a shared concern.

Voicing concern over declining fertility rates, they highlighted the need for continued education and access to services. Breaking down stigma and fostering open discussions are essential for supporting those facing infertility.

Fertility Specialists at Nova IVF Fertility note a rising trend in infertility due to lifestyle factors, late marriages, and delayed parenthood. Urban areas are seeing more women aged 35 and above seeking fertility treatments, while in rural regions, the average age of patients is 22-23 years.

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Telangana, in particular, has seen a decrease in fertility rates, with the current rate at 1.8 children per woman, significantly below the recommended replacement rate of 2.1.

“Ten years ago, we saw reduced sperm count in a few patients but now this has become severe, where men have extremely poor sperm quality and quantity below the needed levels. In women, while a fall in egg quality is observed, there are cases of adenomyosis – a disorder producing heavy bleeding during periods on the rise,” said Lakshmi Chirumamilla, Fertility Specialist, at Nova IVF Fertility, Hyderabad.

“A decade ago, persuading people to pursue fertility treatment was difficult due to the stigma. Today, 30 per cent of our patients have more acceptance towards taking up fertility treatment, a significant shift from 10 years ago. In the last 10 years, technology has evolved tremendously. Couples can now screen for genetic issues using tests such as Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGTA). Innovations such as DNA fragmentation and artificial intelligence in embryo selection can lead to increase in IVF success rates. Additionally, advancements in cryopreservation allow for the effective storage of eggs, sperm, and embryos, providing flexibility for those wishing to postpone parenthood,” she said.

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According to Hima Deepthi, Fertility Specialist at Nova IVF Fertility, couples and women are much more aware of the biological clock and its impact on fertility health.

“Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of women enquiring about egg freezing. We are receiving 50-100 queries for egg freezing, which was almost nil a few years ago. If couples would like to plan for children later, they should think about freezing their eggs, sperm, or embryos so that there is an option to preserve their fertility,” she said.

Kamineni Fertility Centre expert V. Hemalatha Reddy emphasises the shift in attitudes toward male infertility, saying, “The change in perception regarding male infertility is encouraging. Ten years ago, men were often resistant to undergoing semen analysis and reluctant to acknowledge that infertility issues might stem from male factors. Today, there is a growing openness among men to undergo semen analysis, reflecting increased awareness and acceptance of male fertility health. This shift is crucial for a holistic approach to fertility treatments. By understanding that infertility is a shared concern, couples are more likely to seek comprehensive treatment options, leading to better outcomes.”

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–IANS

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Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

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Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

Rising infertility rate may impact demographic future of India: Experts

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) India is seeing a significant spike in infertility rate that may impact the demographic future of India, said experts on World IVF Day on Thursday.

World IVF Day is observed every year on July 25 to commemorate the remarkable advancements in infertility treatment and reproductive endocrinology, as well as to fight the stigma that often surrounds couples facing infertility.

“India is currently facing a significant challenge with rising infertility rates that could impact its demographic future,” Kshitiz Murdia – CEO and Co-Founder of Indira IVF, told IANS.

“In India around 15-20 million couples are infertile and male infertility contributes around 40 per cent to this. We have observed a steady rise in male infertility in this country for over a decade now,” added Ashwini S, Infertility specialist, Cloudnine Hospital, Bangalore

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in six people worldwide experience infertility in their lifetime.

Murdia said the reasons for infertility in India include high rates of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), affecting up to 22.5 per cent of women, growing substance abuse, shifts in lifestyle, and an increase in sexually transmitted infections.

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“Environmental factors like high levels of air pollution and exposure to toxins can alter DNA contained within the sperm,” Ashwini told IANS.

In addition, more and more urban couples are also opting for late marriage owing to career commitments, this leads to delayed parenthood because as men age, sperm count and mobility go down, which makes conceiving harder.

Murdia said that even though “around 27.5 million married couples are struggling to conceive, only a small fraction, approximately 2,75,000, undergo IVF treatments each year”.

“While the country enjoys a demographic advantage with a predominantly young population, this is threatened by increasing infertility and an ageing populace, potentially leading to demographic issues similar to those seen in other Asian countries with ageing populations,” he added.

Male infertility is also particularly on the rise in urban areas owing to a sedentary lifestyle and stress, which impacts hormonal balance causing issues in sperm count and quality.

It is becoming increasingly prominent as the rate of declining sperm counts has accelerated to 2.6 per cent per year since 2000.

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“IVF clinics are witnessing a growing influx of patients struggling with low sperm counts and azoospermia — a condition where no sperm is present in the semen,” Murdia said.

More worrisome is the fact that it is “now significantly impacting younger males”.

“If not addressed, these issues could significantly alter India’s population structure, leading to a demographic crisis characterised by an ageing population, a situation for which the nation may not be fully prepared,” Murdia said.

–IANS

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India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to $50 bn by 2030: DCGI

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India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to  bn by 2030: DCGI

India's medical devices industry to grow five-fold to $50 bn by 2030: DCGI

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) With proper regulation, India’s medical devices industry is estimated to grow five-fold to $50 billion by 2030, said Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi on Thursday.

He was speaking at a conference on the classification of health products organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the national capital.

The DCGI underlined the benefits of regulation, including quality monitoring and international acceptance, which collectively boost industry growth.

“Regulating an industry provides many advantages, the foremost being quality monitoring and standardisation, which is critical in healthcare as it deals with people’s lives. A regulated industry builds international confidence in the products manufactured, boosting growth. Projections indicate that by 2030, the industry could grow to about $50 billion, which is five times its current size,” said Raghuvanshi.

He also warned against compromising quality for profitability and highlighted unethical practices, emphasising the need for industry-wide commitment to high ethical and quality standards, given the healthcare sector’s critical impact on human lives.

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India currently imports 80 per cent of its medical devices, with only 20 per cent domestically manufactured. The government has introduced numerous incentives, schemes, and policy interventions to shift this balance.

Raghuvanshi noted the licensing of over 3,200 manufacturing units and 10,000 import licences within one and a half years, showcasing significant progress.

He stressed the need to reverse the import-manufacture ratio and achieve a net positive trade in medical devices.

“For in vitro devices, we currently have about 280 manufacturing licences and around 900 import licences. Despite manufacturing many in vitro devices domestically, almost 100 per cent of the reagents used are imported. This area holds significant business potential and opportunities,” he stated.

Madhur Gupta, Technical Officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO), echoed the need for India to develop in-house reagents for diagnostic kits within the next three to five years.

“This shift would not only reduce costs but also improve access,” Gupta said, while calling for a unified approach to strengthen diagnostic schemes in collaboration with states.

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The conference attended by more than 100 industry delegates from the healthcare sector also featured a dedicated session on the definition and categorisation of health products, emphasising their roles in preventing disease, promoting health, managing health problems, and providing rehabilitative, assistive, or palliative care.

–IANS

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