Zika Viral Infection- What is it?

As I was scrolling down the Facebook page on my phone, I came across a news on Image Khabar, which shocked me. It said that the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned the Americans not to conceive children. I also saw something new- Zika virus. (I first thought Jika because the news is in Nepali!) I immediately googled to get some information on it.

History
The Zika virus was first discovered in the rhesus monkeys in the year 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda. The monkey in which the virus was discovered had suffered from mild fever. The first reported case in humans was in 1952 from Uganda and Tanzania. Since then, the disease was believed to be a mild one but the WHO now classifies it as an “emerging” disease. Recent outbreaks have occurred at French Polynesia (2013) and Brazil (2015).

Mode of Transmission
The disease transmits through the vector Aedes aegyptii, the mosquito also responsible for dengue. Recently, it has also been found to have transmitted sexually.

Symptoms
According to the WHO, the symptoms are similar to that of Dengue. Mild fever, rashes on the skin, conjunctivitis, headache lasting for 2-7 days are the major symptoms. In children, microcephaly occurs hampering the mental growth. The virus can be detected on blood culture.

Treatment
There is no vaccines or medicines developed for the treatment of the disease. Paracetamol can be used for the symptoms above.

Warnings
The WHO has warned that the disease might spread fast in the USA and in the peripheral nations. It has also warned of pregnancy during the outbreak of the disease.

Conclusion
Adaptation and evolution of the vector and the virus is spreading a “new” disease as an epidemic every year. Last year, it was Ebola, this year it is Zika. There might be another outbreak next year. The WHO and the media should be active to spread information about the recent outbreaks. Had the WHO not warned the USA, no one would have known about the disease. This situation should be changed. There should be an immediate breaking news once an outbreak is known. Preventive measures should be taken before the disease turns into an epidemic.

References
1. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/
2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zika_virus
3. mobile.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/health/two-cases-suggest-zika-virus-could-be-spread-through-sex.html

Tianjin Chemical Blast – The Cause and The Concerns

A chemical explosion on August 12, 2015 in China’s port-city, Tianjin, released a high amount of toxic wastes. What triggered the explosion has not been found out yet, though a series of chemical reactions that could have intensified the explosion have been worked out. This explosion has also created several concerns in China, and even in other nations, regarding the storage of chemicals near the residential areas. This is what has been discovered until 29th August, 2015.

The Explosion

On the night of August 12, a warehouse owned by Ruihai Logistics in one of the most populated parts of Tianjin caught fire and exploded. According to the news in the BBC, the first explosion was equivalent to that of three tonnes of TNT and the second explosion was much larger – the power equivalent to that of twenty-one tonnes of TNT explosion. It affected 15 million residents of Tianjin.

The first fire of Tianjin Explosion. Source: Wikipedia
The first fire of Tianjin Explosion. Source: Wikipedia

The Cause

The definite trigger of the explosion has not yet been understood. Since the warehouse stored hundreds of explosive chemicals, this would be even more difficult for the scientists to work out. According to whatever scientists have understood, it has been said that the water thrown over the already burning warehouse brought up a greater destruction. The reaction of calcium carbide with water forming acetylene is believed to have increased strength of the explosion.

The Effect

The blast was explosive enough to be seen from space and was recorded as seismic activity. At the blast site, a crater was created. According to the Tianjin Tanggu Environmental Monitoring Station, the chemicals stored by the company included sodium cyanide (NaCN), toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and calcium carbide (CaC2), all of which are dangerous to human health. NaCN particular is highly toxic – two teaspoonful of it can kill an adult within two minutes; and CaC2 and TDI react violently with water and produce extremely reactive chemicals, with increasing risk of explosion.

The chemical explosion turned a significant amount of goods stored at and around the port, in the Binhai New District to ashes and dust. According to the BBC, large shipping containers were tossed into the air like matchsticks and were crumpled by the blasts.

A logistics park containing several thousand cars was consumed by the fireball created due to the explosion. Renault says some 1,500 of its cars were lost, while Hyundai said it had around 4,000 cars on the site – although it has not yet assessed the level of damage.

About 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide was reported at the site, the BBC says. Sodium cyanide is soluble in water and, when dissolved or burned, it releases the highly poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide. The rain that came after the explosion was followed by people complaining of rashes and burns. Though meteorologists had assured the public that the rain would not add troubles, Environment Protection Board suggested that the rain could have mixed with cyanide present in the atmosphere and the soil, bringing about hazards.

Concerns for Public Safety

The blast not only destroyed the town, but also exposed negligence of the concerned company over the safety of people. The storage site has to be at least one kilometer away from the residential area – the law China says. The law was challenged by the corrupted officials and the company, who set up a chemical storage site within 200 metres of the major residential area. The most depressing thing in this, is that the people never knew what hazards could be brought about by the chemicals stored in that warehouse.

Was this ignorance among the public deliberate? We are not sure. If they were being hidden from the truth, we can imagine how negligent the concerned authorities had been. The scientific causes of the explosion may point out towards hazardous chemicals, the social causes, however are corruption and ignorance. Since this is not the first chemical blast in China, the Chinese government should work out the ways to reduce corruption. They should also be able to educate people regarding the hazardous effects of things that are being stored around their homes. The Chinese government should set an example to the world which will inspire other countries to prevent such terrible accidents in future.

References:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-33844084

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/tianjin-china-chemical-blast-cyanide/blog/53830/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/21/world/asia/tianjin-china-explosion-hazardous-chemical-sites.html?_r=1

The First Mass Extinction was a Result of Evolution

Evolution of organisms can bring about change in the ecosystem which can lead to difficulty in survival of organisms that had thrived well in the past. How were the first unicellular organisms replaced by new organisms that could produce oxygen? How oxygen became the first pollutant? More on the article.

Evidence that Earth’s first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe

Chinese cave ‘graffiti’ tells a 500-year story of climate change and impact on society

While we have been wondering what climate change can cause, a recent finding in China says a story of climate change that occurred 500 years ago. The inscription found on the caves is business-like and presents details on what the people had to undergo to fight the dry conditions. More on the link below.

Chinese cave ‘graffiti’ tells a 500-year story of climate change and impact on society.

 

पोखराको भू-बनोट र सिंक होल

केही समय देखि पोखरामा जमिन भासिएका खबरहरु आइरहेका छन् | पोखरामा रहेका चुनढुंगा र मसिना सिल्टका कारण उक्त समस्या देखिएको हो भनेर विज्ञहरु बताउनु हुन्छ | पोखराको  भू-बनोट र सिंक होल बारे थप जानकारी लिन तलको लिंक क्लिक गर्नुहोला |

http://nagariknews.com/opinion/story/43150.html

Nepal Earthquake: The Geologists’ Role

Saturday, (April 25, 2015) Baishakh 12, 2072 B.S.

A date that will be remember forever by the people of Nepal. On this darkest Saturday, at 11:56 a.m., an earthquake of 7.6 local magnitude struck Barpak of Gorkha. The shocks were felt as far as Kanya Kumari, India in the south, Bangladesh in the east and Pakistan in the west. The earthquake affected districts mostly in the Hilly Region. About 10,000 people died. The destruction of properties and cultural heritages was huge but compared to what was previously imagined, Kathmandu was not affected much. Within a month, the capital city regained its economic activities.

Geologists had been warning of such a disaster for long. Unfortunately, the government did not give utmost importance to the matter, nor did the people think much about it. The earthquake of 1990 in Udaypur had affected the eastern region and the people there remembered the loss of lives and properties it had brought. The earthquake of Taplejung four years ago had shaken Kathmandu Valley as well, but neither the government nor the people had been careful in designing and constructing earthquake-resistant structures. A few Geologists saying from the background that there could be much bigger loss of lives and properties were unheard of. It was also a weakness in their part. I would never have known this had I not been a Geology student myself and by the time I knew, it had already been late. The disaster had already struck.

One month since the major shock, the Seismologists, who have branched off from mainstream Geologists, gave information to the public on earthquake like never before. People immediately caught up words like ‘plates’, ‘tectonics’, ‘faults’ and many other geological terms. It made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy in the sense had basic geology had become household terms (plates, for example) and sad in the sense that it did not happen prior to the earthquake. But, as i discovered later, the people gave credit to the newspapers and magazines as the source of this information. The Geologists of Nepal had failed again. They had been too late.

A problem I see with scientific researches worldwide is that they are complex and totally illogical to the common people. Scientific terms come up here and there, which off course cannot be ignored, but can be made simple through adequate explanations. Journals have always been vague and common people just ignore them. I think they should be able to understand them, interpret and use in their daily lives. Why not publish scientific works that include public interests in two bases- one for the academicians and the other for public? If such a system had existed, I believe that science could be much useful to people. I think the Geologists of Nepal would have got the credit they deserved.

As explorers of a mountainous country, Nepalese Geologists have a lot many works to do on floods, landslides, avalanches, glaciers and so on. And there are people who still ask, “What’s the scope?” I have nothing to say to them, literally!

Smart Devices, Clumsy People

Until the mid seventeenth century, there was no mechanical calculating device. The Chinese Abacus was the only notable device, which actually does not do calculations but makes the user calculate at faster speed. This might be the reason why it is widely used in China, Japan and some other developed nations to teach mathematics to children! The invention of Pascaline in 1642 by Blaise Pascal was a sort of revolution. There might have been some other calculating device before but the popularity of Pascaline must due to its accuracy and cosiness.

Pascal’s Calculator(1642 A.D.)

Exactly 200 years later, Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace devised binary number system to use in Charles Babbage‘s Analytical Engine. That was the first time a computer was run using two digits 0 and 1. Then after a hundred years, in 1942, the first electronic computer ABC(Atanasoff Berry Computer) was invented. About 45 years later, the development of Disk Operating System by Microsoft Inc. changed the course of computing. Computers, now were accessible to a lot of people.

Along with computers, cellular phones evolved. The first commercial mobile phone was made available in 1983. By 2000, the first smartphone featuring SMS, GPS, multimedia camera was released. Only seven years later, Apple Inc. developed finger touch smartphones. The market of smartphones has been expanding since then and even more with the introduction of Android platform.

Not only phones and computers, every devices are now being developed into smart. Such devices, also known as gadgets, are now controlling the urban life around the globe. These gadgets have evolved due to human potential of creativity. Their indiscriminate use may harm that human creativity.

This picture shows how we and technology are evolving together.

The excessive use of smart devices are certainly going to affect human brain development and the way they use their brain. Some of the issues have already come up. The use of mobile phones to store personal records and phone numbers has been creating a tendency of forgetting the numbers often which would not have occurred if recorded in a phone book. I myself have faced this problem. At times, I forget my own number and even  numbers of friends I had confidently stored in my brain.

The dullness of the world I feel after the use of smart devices might have the case for each and every individual. Some people have used the devices to promote their creativity, which tells us that the medium of expression has been changing. Human communication is now being dominated by texts. There might be a time in future when humans will stop talking to each other and use whether sign languages or texts for communication(this sounds like from a science fiction story!).

Different types of smartphones

I am not against use of smartphones and smart devices though. Using a smart device, one can never get lost. By the use of GPS locations and wide range of wireless communication, one can go to any place. The devices have also been a good means of communication. But there are people who use smartphones only for multimedia and for show off. They carry smartphones but are not smart enough to use them for navigational purposes. Some people are so much involved in gadgets that they do not even think clearly where they are going and what they are doing.

The use of smart devices is going to be inevitable until the end of this decade. Caution is necessary. As the devices turn smart, we should try to be smarter than them. If that does not happen, we will certainly be dominated by Artificial Intelligence, which is in course of development. Then we might be living like humans shown in the movie Wall-E. Who knows what will happen if function of degrading brain is replaced by upgrading Artificial Intelligence?

Life, Death and Medication

Birth and death are the two mystical events that can never be under human control. No one can tell the time of his birth himself not can he predict his future and death. If there is anything he has, it is his present- his life. Life, too is magical. It hangs itself on thin strand of the weakest of breaths and heart-beats, unknown of when it is going to fall forever.

Hindu concept of Birth, Growth and Death. The sparkle represents the soul

Everything that has birth in this die will have to die someday. This is the best of philosophies we have been taught since our births. Yet we live, because we have faith on our souls, our spirits and our bodies. Had I lost the faith that my body could carry me everyday just to see and learn from the world around me, I would have died as soon as I was born. There is a great scientist, Stephen Hawking, who with his determination to lead the world to path of knowledge has been fighting against his own body. He thinks he should deliver his best for the world because he can die any moment. Same is the case with all of us. No one knows what can happen in the next second of their lives. At every second of our own precious life, we fight death. According to spiritual science and traditional Ayurveda, the ability of human soul to combat death is the reason we can live. This is the reason why some people live longer than others.

The modern method of medication such as Homeopathy also believes that the vital force necessary for well-being of human life is affected when one is diseased. So, Homeopathy deals with increasing the determination to resist certain disease with the help of certain medicine along with restoration of faith on oneself. This faith is the sign of positivity, thereby helping the body generate enough antibodies. Today, Homeopathy is just as popular as Allopathy. Allopathy insists on use of number of medicines and surgeries, however the faith on medicine can also bring miracles.

Modern Allopathic medicines aim at increasing the life expectancy of humans

I have read an interesting story on how faith can help someone combat death. In a village of Dolpa, Nepal, a boy of about fourteen was bitten by a snake. The snake was a Rattle snake- one of the most poisonous in the region. The snake had been caught by his father to show to the researchers who had promised awards for the particular snake. After the snake bit the boy, his father who claimed of being able to treat snake bites by recitation of mantras tried to use his tricks. But his son had known the truth and the faith on his father’s techniques had demised. Later, the researchers were called. They gave some injections and the boy became well within hours. The injection actually contained distilled water instead of a proper antidote. Yet the boy survived. Such is the power of faith!

Medicines have been discovered by people for a long time for longevity of life. From herbs mentioned in the Ayurveda to the antibiotics developed by modern chemists, all have aimed to make our lives free of troubles caused by several infections. These medicines have worked until our immune system is able to fight the infections. One of the major causes of success in medication is the upliftment of will to live. If one has no determination to live, the expensive of the medicines can also prove useless. So, along with medicines, a medical personnel should be able to deliver self-confidence. If there is something that separates life from death, it is the determination. Medicines have helped achieve it to some extent. The increasing life expectancy is one of the proofs!
  

Parasitic Evolution and Public Health


Parasites are not new to us, neither is evolution. Parasitic evolution, too, is not new to us but its extent might be a new field of study.

The WHO, in a report[1]states that, “we are heading for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can again kill.” This indicates that the available antibiotics are being ineffective against the infections like TB, Malaria, Typhoid and even common cold.

Cases showing effects of drug-resisting parasites have been revealed all over the world, the most common being the MDR-TB. It is extreme case of TB in which the Mycobacterium resists the effects of the strongest of the drugs in use- Isoniazid and Rifampicin. Similarly, cases of multiple drug resisting Plasmodium falciparum have also been reported. Its resistance to Artemisinin-based combination therapies(ACTs) has created a sort of havoc among the medical practitioners. Also, Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic against typhoid has become completely ineffective.

Immune system fights against all the foreign agents. Antibiotics are their foreign supplements. Therefore, the use of antibiotics is to be minimized. Photo courtesy: younglivingoillady.com

The root cause of the evolution of these of these parasites underlie in our medication behaviors. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics, rampant prescriptions and incomplete prescribed course are the main factors influencing mutations of the parasites. As a result, drug resistant strains directly attack new hosts thereby increasing the cost of treatment. This has added woes to the poverty-stricken people.

The other problem is- we lack new types of antibiotics. The WHO says that since Penicillin in 1920s, only three major types of antibiotics have been developed and since 1990s, no major antibiotics have been developed. The post-antibiotic era is thus arriving at a faster pace, increasing the risk of lives of thousands of people. So, this has been an area of study among  scientists including parasitologists, pathologists, microbiologists, chemists and health workers all around the globe.[2]



[1]Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on surveillance 2014.

[2] Summarized from “Tougher bacteria add to patients’ woes, expenses”, The Kathmandu Post, May 11, 2014.