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Monkeypox case detected in South Africa

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Johannesburg, May 14 (IANS) The South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla has urged the people to be vigilant as the country has reported a laboratory-confirmed case of monkeypox disease, also known as Mpox.

The National Department of Health headed by Phaahla said on Monday that the case involves a 35-year-old male, who resides in the Gauteng province and tested positive on May 9, 2024.

The patient had no recent history of travelling, Xinhua news agency reported.

The case was first tested by Lancet Laboratory, one of the leading pathology laboratories in the country, and then confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which then alerted the department

“We urge the public to seek treatment as soon as they see symptoms of monkeypox,” Health Department Spokesperson Foster Mohale told Xinhua news agency.

According to the department, Mpox is a rare viral infectious disease in humans caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV).

Although the virus is not highly transmissible from person to person, it has increased in global public health significance and can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes, and fever.

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The department also noted that Mpox presents with an acute illness characterised by fever and general flu-like symptoms, followed by the eruption of a blister-like rash on the skin.

The disease is rarely fatal and cases typically resolve within two to four weeks and most cases do not require hospital treatment, it added.

The last time South Africa recorded a monkeypox case was in August 2022 when there were cases across the globe.

–IANS

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Health ministry shares tips for heat safety measures at workplace

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Amid rising heatwave, the Ministry of Health, on Sunday, advised employers to take essential heat safety measures at the workplace.

“From providing hydration stations to scheduling outdoor tasks during cooler hours, let’s ensure our workers stay cool, healthy, and productive,” the ministry said in a post on social media platform X.com.

In an animated post, the ministry called on employers to provide proper drinking water facilities at the workplace.

“Schedule strenuous and outdoor jobs in cooler times of the day, increase the frequency of rest breaks,” were some tips shared by the ministry.

It also advised employers to train workers to recognise symptoms of heat-related illness.

Exposure to extreme heat can affect health, ranging from rashes to serious and potentially fatal health problems such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Headache, feeling dizzy, dehydration, and breathing problems are the common symptoms of heat-related illness, said the ministry.

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Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Sunday issued a ‘red alert’ for many states in north India, including Delhi, over persistent heatwave and high temperatures.

In Delhi, the temperatures are likely to range between 43 and 47 degrees Celsius, the IMD said.

–IANS

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Maternal Covid infection may raise social and breathing troubles in babies

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Babies exposed to the Covid-19 virus while in the womb may be at higher risk of lacking social skills and having breathing problems, according to a study.

However, researchers from the University of Bristol, UK noted that the “long-term outcomes” remain unclear.

The team enrolled children (96) with and without (243) antenatal or neonatal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

They defined antenatal and neonatal SARS-CoV-2 exposure as infants born to mothers hospitalised with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection between 14 and 36 weeks gestation and infants admitted to the hospital with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection within the first 28 days after birth.

Babies exposed to Covid infection “were at greater risk of delayed social-emotional development, had a greater prevalence of respiratory symptoms and increased health care usage” compared to those who were not exposed, revealed the study published in the journal eClinical Medicine.

The researchers speculate that this may “create difficulties later in childhood”.

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“Children’s ability to develop positive peer relationships and academic success” may be impacted due to the social-emotional delay in infancy, said Dr Ela Chakkarapani, Associate Professor of Neonatal Neuroscience at the University of Bristol.

The researchers called for larger studies and longer-term follow-ups to confirm and understand this risk.

Meanwhile, Dr Ela advised concerned parents to check with the doctor on the “lung function” of their kids, if exposed to Covid.

–IANS

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Ayush Ministry to sensitise insurance companies for affordable healthcare

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The Ministry of Ayush on Sunday announced that it will launch a sensitisation programme for executive officials of insurance companies and owners of Ayush hospitals to promote accessible and affordable healthcare in the country.

The programme, which will take place on May 27 at the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) in the national capital also aims to facilitate the empanelment of public and private Ayush hospitals for insurance coverage in India, the ministry said.

The programme will also discuss the regulatory framework and policy support needed to mainstream Ayush treatments in health insurance schemes and facilitate a dialogue between key stakeholders to address both challenges and opportunities.

Recently, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) advised all insurers to provide AYUSH coverage in line with the increasing demand for AYUSH treatments.

Coverage in the Ayush sector, standard treatment guidelines (STG) and ICD codes for the insurance sector, and penetration of Ayush in the insurance sector are the other key issues of discussion.

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The programme will also discuss Ayush Hospital’s achievements, and success stories of AIIA, the onboarding of Ayush hospitals on the ROHINI platform, and the empanelment of Ayush Hospitals for insurance coverage, the ministry said.

–IANS

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Are keto-like low-carb and high-fat diets harmful to your heart health

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) While popular fad diets such as keto-like low carbohydrate and high fat (LCHF) diets may help you lose weight, these are not good for the heart, said health experts on Sunday.

A recent study led by University of British Columbia researchers found that following a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet was associated with increased LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol or the “bad” cholesterol and apolipoprotein B levels, and an increased risk of incident Major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE). Apolipoprotein B is a blood test to gauge the risk of heart disease.

In the study of 305 LCHF and 1,220 standard diet participants, 11.1 per cent of LCHF had severe hypercholesterolemia — high levels of cholesterol in the blood, compared to 6.2 per cent of standard diet individuals.

After 11.8 years, 9.8 per cent of LCHF participants experienced a MACE, compared to 4.3 per cent of those on a standard diet, revealed the study, published in JACC: Advances.

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“There is a popular belief these days that carbohydrates should be reduced in the diet. Some people are also advocating consuming a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet. It may lead to weight loss but is associated with increased bad cholesterol (LDL) and also increased cardiovascular MACE events which means that the risk of heart attack, stroke, and deaths from heart attacks increase,” Ashwani Mehta, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told IANS.

“The latest study also demonstrates the risk associated with eating a higher amount of fat with derangement of the lipid parameters which can be life-threatening,” he added.

A previous study by the same varsity presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session, in 2023, showed that a “keto-like” diet may raise “bad” cholesterol levels and a two-fold heightened risk of cardiovascular events such as chest pain (angina), blocked arteries requiring stenting, heart attacks and strokes.

Doctors recommended that one should not follow the fad diets, and instead go for healthier ways to reduce weight.

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“The low carbohydrate and high-fat diet is more harmful to the heart because it leads to more ketones generation and higher incidence of bad cholesterol which we call LDL and EPO protein which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and increases the progression of heart disease,” Udgeath Dhir, Senior Director, Cardiothoracic Vascular Surgery, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, told IANS.

Udgeath said that the best diet is a balanced diet which comprises more vegetables and fruits. And if you have to have animal proteins or animal fat, then it should be in moderation. There we follow the Mediterranean diet — comprising carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

“Fats should not be more than 10 to 15 per cent of your diet. Try to have more plant-based products,” Udgeath said

The doctor suggested, “have a mixture of all the colours of the rainbow in your platter — an ideal diet, and you would not require any supplements. That would be a healthy diet for your heart and your whole body”.

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–IANS

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Why Covid vaccinations and repeated infections help boost immunity

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The immune cells of people who received Covid 19 vaccines and also experienced “breakthrough” or repeated infections can build an “immunity wall” against future SARS-CoV-2 infections, according to scientists.

Analysing blood samples, the team at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) in California, US, found that people who experienced symptomatic breakthrough infections, from the Delta and Omicron variants, developed T-cells that are better at recognising and targeting SARS-CoV-2.

“The virus evolves, but, importantly, so does the immune system. T-cells do not sit idle. Instead, they learn to recognise the parts of the virus that mutate,” said Alessandro Sette, Professor at LJI.

The researchers noted that due to multiple infections, “the cells could recognise multiple features, or antigens, on SARS-CoV-2.” As a result, the volunteers’ T-cells could recognise and target SARS-CoV-2, “even if part of it was mutated.”

The study published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine showed that even asymptomatic breakthrough infections boost T-cell responses, however, the effect was not as significant.

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Further, breakthrough infections also led B-cells to produce cross-reactive antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Most of these antibodies targeted the new viral variants and the original vaccine antigens.

“New B-cell responses that are only specific to the infecting variant, but not the vaccine, are very rare,” said LJI Instructor Parham Ramezani-Rad.

Importantly, the researchers discovered that breakthrough infections add more layers of protection to an individual “on top of a vaccine.”

Covid vaccines are given in the upper arm, which means immune cells fighting the virus develop far away from the upper respiratory system.

But, SARS-CoV-2 first infects the upper respiratory tract, which means there can be a delay in getting the right immune cells to the scene of infection, which the breakthrough infections can guard, explained the researchers.

The researchers found no evidence of harmful “T-cell exhaustion,” where T-cells lose their ability to target a pathogen after repeated infection.

–IANS

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