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Koala-Tracking App to Protect One of Australia’s Most Famous Native Animals

The furry, tree-dwelling marsupials are in decline in eastern Australia, and authorities hope a multi-million dollar rescue plan will help

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This undated handout from the Australia Zoo received on August 22, 2017 shows a white koala joey on her mother Tia at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. VOA

A new koala-tracking app and a marsupial hospital are the latest moves to protect one of Australia’s most famous native animals.  The furry, tree-dwelling marsupials are in decline in eastern Australia, and authorities hope a multi-million dollar rescue plan will help to save them.

The app will help authorities map and track koala populations in New South Wales state, where the furry marsupials are in decline.  Members of the public as well as researchers are encouraged to report koala sightings using the technology.

The koala faces  various threats, including loss of habitat, disease, road traffic accidents and attacks by dogs.  There are also susceptible to the impact of drought and climate change.

In New South Wales and Queensland the famous, and distinctive, animals are listed as vulnerable under national environment laws.  In some areas it is estimated that numbers have fallen by a quarter in the last 20 years.

Koala, Tracking, App
A new koala-tracking app and a marsupial hospital are the latest moves to protect one of Australia’s most famous native animals. Pixabay

How it works 

New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean hopes the app will provide an accurate picture of where the koalas are.

“We are calling on the community to download the ‘I Spy Koala’ app on their phones,” said Kean. “That is about getting the community to go out in the wild, in our national parks, identify where koalas are, record it in their app so that we are better placed to protect them into the future.  This is all about ensuring that the koalas can continue to thrive so that future generations can enjoy them.  This is all part of the New South Wales government’s koala strategy, a AUD$44 (US$29.6m) investment in koalas.  (It is) the biggest single investment of any government ever to ensure that koalas are protected and grow into the future.”

Health threats 

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A new koala hospital is being built in Port Stephens, 180 kilometers north of Sydney, and will be part of a wildlife sanctuary that will open next year.

There will also be more research into chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that has infected many koalas.

Fences to channel marsupials and other animals away from busy roads and into specially-made wildlife tunnels will also be built.

In parts of southern Australia officials say there are too many koalas, and that ‘overabundant’ populations are damaging valuable types of trees.  In some areas there are programs that seek to reduce marsupial numbers.  But further north, conservationists warn that the decline of the koala is an environmental emergency. (VOA)

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Doctors Feel Blessed on New Heart Health Tools in Apple Watch in India

The medical fraternity on Friday welcomed the arrival of the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch for users in India

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"The results can be shared with the doctors so that any major complication can be averted." Pixabay

The medical fraternity on Friday welcomed the arrival of the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch for users in India, stressing that it will make people more aware about their heart health.

Although the Apple Watch will not provide a final conclusion into whether a person is actually suffering from Atrial fibrillation (AFib) — irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clot formation in the heart which then embolises to the brain causing stroke — the readings will make more Indians consult their physicians about their heart health, doctors feel.

Although accurate worldwide estimates are lacking, calculations suggest that over one per cent of the adult population is affected in the developed world, wrote Vijay Bohra, Gautam Sharma and Rajnish Juneja from Department of Cardiology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in their research.

“In our country, there is virtually no data on AF (AFib), most of the data that has been derived is from international studies with an Indian cohort,” the trio wrote, adding that there is “indeed a dearth of data on epidemiologic outcomes in patients of rheumatic AF in the country leading to inconsistent practice patterns as regards medical therapy, especially oral anticoagulation”.

According to Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardio Thoracic & Vascular Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, AFib is more prone in those patients who are predisposed to have AFib and stroke.

Apple, Apple Watch, Heart health, app, health app, doctors
Comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiography patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm has 71 per cent positive predictive value. Pixabay

“Generally, we do holter monitoring (a small, wearable device that keeps track of your heart rhythm) or extended holter monitoring which is a 24-hour ECG monitoring system, to detect AFib in the patients. However, it is not always necessary that these 2-3 episodes of AFib will occur during the time of the holter monitoring,” Goel told IANS.

Hence, in such cases, Apple Watch will be playing a vital role in detecting AFib in time, he added.

“Having said this, a person must wear the Watch both during day and night so that the occurrence of AFib is detected well in time,” Goel suggested.

New electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown on Apple Watch Series 4 or later, work together with the ECG app to enable customers to take an ECG similar to a single-lead reading.

To take an ECG recording at any time or following an irregular rhythm notification, hold their finger on the Digital Crown. As the user touches the Digital Crown, the circuit is completed and electrical signals across their heart are measured.

After 30 seconds, the heart rhythm is classified as either AFib, sinus rhythm or inconclusive.

Sanjiv Bhardwaj, Associate Director, Department of Interventional Cardiology at Jaypee Hospital Noida said that smartwatches and fitness bands are now playing a vital role in updating the users about their heart health and the possible risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases.

Apple, Apple Watch, Heart health, app, health app, doctors
Apple Watch will help identify AF and rhythm disorders and this will surely help in early identification of disease. Pixabay

“Advanced and modern features like an ECG app and irregular heart rhythm monitor will surely be a huge help to the users. They can easily get the notifications about their heart rhythm and its classification in less than a minute.

“The results can be shared with the doctors so that any major complication can be averted,” Bhardwaj told IANS.

With watchOS 6, the irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch Series 4 and the upcoming Series 5 on September 27 will use the optical heart sensor to occasionally check the user’s heart rhythm in the background for signals of an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be AFib.

If irregular heart rhythm such as AFib is identified on five rhythm checks over a minimum of 65 minutes, a notification will be generated to alert the user.

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“Technology is moving at lightning speed and Apple is surely abreast with it. Rhythm identification via the phone is no longer a dream,” said Aparna Jaswal, Associate Director, Cardiology & Electrophysiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi.

“Apple Watch will help identify AF and rhythm disorders and this will surely help in early identification of disease,” she said.

The irregular rhythm notification feature was recently studied in the Apple Heart Study. With over 400,000 participants, the Apple Heart Study was the largest screening study on atrial fibrillation ever conducted. (IANS)