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Contrary to what some people think that the bird flu virus, also known as Avian influenza, is spread to humans via consumption of cooked poultry products, health experts on Sunday stressed that it usually does not infect people as the virus is heat-labile (degraded and killed when subjected to heat).
Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cooking poultry (e.g. chicken, ducks, and geese) at or above 70 degrees Celsius so that absolutely no meat remains raw and red, is a safe measure to kill the virus in areas with outbreaks in poultry. Richa Sareen, consultant (pulmonology) at Fortis Vasant Kunj in New Delhi, said the virus is heat-labile and it gets killed with cooking temperatures.
“At this time, people should eat fully cooked chicken and eggs and not raw or partially cooked ones. One should avoid going to open markets that sell poultry as they are the focal point of the spread,” Sareen told IANS. “People who handle poultry should take special precautions. They should wear PPE, gloves, and masks while handling birds and should practice frequent hand washing,” she added.
Although the virus causing bird flu usually does not infect people, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported, especially in individuals working with infected domestic birds.
“The possible cause of infections in humans is when they come in contact with birds with the viruses and enough viruses get into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled through the excretions of birds,” said Kunal Kothari, Senior Physician, Internal Medicine, SMS Medical College in Jaipur.
“The spread of Bird Flu from one individual, who is sick to another has been very rare and data is limited, inefficient and not sustained but as a precaution, we should all be watchful of public health advisory,” Kothari added.
Bird Flu is a communicable virus among the avian population and human to human spread is not too prominent with the current strain. However, viruses are prone to mutation, so if this virus undergoes mutation in the future, it has the potential to spread from human to human and cause a pandemic. Bird flu mostly infects the respiratory system of humans. Common symptoms are fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, muscle aches, etc.
“If severe, it can cause ARDS, multi-organ involvement, and even death. The sporadic data on bird flu from the past shows very high mortality, to the tune of 60 percent. Thus, it becomes important to take precautions now,” Sareen mentioned. Nevertheless, maintaining distance from birds in the environment is important as the spread of the avian virus is through the saliva, fecal matter of an infected bird.
“The avian virus is airborne. Notify the community health department on seeing sick or dead birds and try not to come in direct contact with these birds without proper masks, gloves, and disinfectants,” Kothari noted. The Central government has issued a status report of avian influenza in the country, saying the disease has been confirmed in seven states. The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying (DAHD) has issued an advisory to the affected states so as to avoid further spread of disease. (IANS)
Making a compelling case for the expected long-term effects on the brain and nervous system by the Covid virus, new research that included scientists of Indian origin and reviewed a century of data showed that Covid-19 is likely to impact the brain in the long run.
The question is to what degree and under what form. Even mild Covid-19 infection may have negative effects on the brain in the long term, according to researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) in the US.
“Since the flu pandemic of 1917 and 1918, many of the flu-like diseases have been associated with brain disorders,” said study lead author Gabriel A de Erausquin. “Those respiratory viruses included H1N1 and SARS-CoV. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, is also known to impact the brain and nervous system,” said de Erausquin, a professor of neurology.
He said that it is becoming clear that the damage done by the pandemic will not be limited to acute effects, such as delirium in the hospital, but will have chronic consequences that impact many individuals’ quality of life and independence.
The coronavirus is known to enter cells via receptors called ACE2. The highest concentration of ACE2 receptors is in the olfactory bulb, the brain structure involved in the sense of smell.
“The basic idea of our study is that some of the respiratory viruses have an affinity for nervous system cells,” said senior author Sudha Seshadri, professor of neurology in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “Olfactory cells are very susceptible to viral invasion and are particularly targeted by SARS-CoV-2, and that’s why one of the prominent symptoms of Covid-19 is the loss of smell,” Seshadri added.
The olfactory bulb connects with the hippocampus, a brain structure primarily responsible for short-term memory, said the article published in ‘Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association’. “The trail of the virus, when it invades the brain, leads almost straight to the hippocampus,” de Erausquin said.
That is believed to be one of the sources of the cognitive impairment observed in Covid-19 patients. “We suspect it may also be part of the reason why there will be an accelerated cognitive decline over time in susceptible individuals,” de Erausquin said. The Alzheimer’s Association is funding the initial work of a consortium of experts from more than 30 countries to understand how Covid-19 increases the risk, severity, pace, and progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and psychiatric diseases including depression.
Consortium members will enroll study participants selected from a pool of millions of confirmed Covid-19 cases documented in hospitals worldwide. Participants will be evaluated on a host of measures at their initial appointment and again at six, nine, and 18 months. “The under-recognized medical history of these viruses over the last century suggests a strong link to brain diseases that affect memory and behavior,” said Maria C. Carrillo, Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer and a co-author of the paper.
“In this difficult time, we can create a ‘silver lining’ by capitalizing on the Alzheimer’s Association’s global reach and reputation to bring the research community together to illuminate Covid-19’s long-term impact on the brain,” Carrillo added. (IANS)
Temperature data collected by wearable devices worn on the finger such as a ring can be reliably used to detect the onset of fevers, a leading symptom of both Covid-19 and the flu, say researchers. In a study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, more than 65,000 people wearing a ring manufactured by Finnish startup Oura, recorded temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and levels of activity.
The goal of the study is to develop an algorithm that can predict the onset of symptoms such as fever, cough, and fatigue, which are characteristic of Covid-19.
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“With wearable devices that can measure temperature, we can begin to envision a public Covid early alert system,” said study author Benjamin Smarr from the University of California, San Diego in the US.
Wearables such as the Oura ring can collect temperature data continuously throughout the day and night, allowing researchers to measure people’s true temperature baselines and identify fever peaks more accurately.
“Temperature varies not only from person to person but also for the same person at different times of the day,” Smarr said. The study highlights the importance of collecting data continuously over long periods of time. Incidentally, the lack of continuous data is also why temperature spot checks are not effective for detecting Covid-19.
These spot checks are the equivalent of catching a syllable per minute in a conversation, rather than whole sentences, Smarr said. In the study, the research team noticed that fever onset often happened before subjects were reporting symptoms, and even to those who never reported other symptoms.
It supports the hypothesis that some fever-like events may go unreported or unnoticed without being truly asymptomatic,” the researchers wrote. Wearables therefore may contribute to identifying rates of asymptomatic illness as opposed to unreported illness, which is of special importance in the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need to make sure that our algorithms work for everyone,” Smarr said. In the future, researchers plan to expand their early detection methods to other infectious diseases, such as the flu. (IANS)
Survivors from a wide range of cancers are more likely than people in the general population to be hospitalized or die from seasonal influenza-even several years after their cancer diagnosis, warn researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
The study, published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, suggests that cancer survivors are also likely to be at higher risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes.
The research team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), analyzed medical records from 1990 to 2014 of more than 630,000 people in the UK, including over 100,000 survivors of a range of cancers.
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Comparing the rates of influenza hospitalization and death between cancer survivors and the cancer-free population, they found that the risk of these outcomes was more than nine times higher in survivors from lymphomas, leukemia, and multiple myeloma, compared to those with no prior cancer.
Crucially, this raised risk persisted for at least 10 years after a cancer diagnosis.
Despite the risks being raised compared to the general population, the absolute risks of developing severe flu were still relatively low, with about 1 in 1000 survivors of these types of cancer hospitalized with flu each year.
Survivors from other types of cancer also had more than double the risk of severe influenza outcomes for up to five years from diagnosis.
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These findings persisted even after accounting for other suspected risk factors such as old age, smoking, socioeconomic status, body mass index, and other illnesses.
The researchers also found that cancer survivors were more likely to have other diseases that are associated with increased risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and kidney disease.
“These findings have an immediate relevance as we enter the winter period: we have a flu vaccine available, and the likelihood of a Covid-19 vaccine in the near future,” said study author Krishnan Bhaskaran from LSHTM.
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“Understanding how vaccination should be prioritized to protect the most vulnerable will be crucial over the next few months,” Bhaskaran noted. (IANS)