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At a research facility in Gabon, one isolated building stands behind an electrified fence, under round-the-clock scrutiny by video cameras. The locked-down P4 lab is built to handle the world’s most dangerous viruses, including Ebola.
“Only four people, three researchers and a technician, are authorized to go inside the P4,” said virologist Illich Mombo, who is in charge of the lab, one of only two in all of Africa that is authorized to handle deadly Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever viruses. The other is in Johannesburg.
The P4 was put up 800 metres (half a mile) distant from older buildings of the Franceville International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF), in large grounds on the outskirts of Franceville, the chief city in the southeastern Haut-Ogooue province.
Filming the ultra-high-security lab or even taking photos is banned and the handful of people allowed inside have security badges. Backup power plants ensure an uninterruptable electricity supply. “Even the air that we breathe is filtered,” Mombo explains.
When he goes into the P4 lab to work on a sample of suspect virus such as Ebola — which has claimed 28 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during an outbreak in the past six weeks — Mombo wears a head-to-foot biohazard suit.
The special clothing is destroyed as soon as he has finished. Draconian measures are in force to prevent any risk of contamination, with potentially disastrous effects.
‘Teams on alert’
Once a suspect virus has been “inactivated” — a technique that stops the sample from being contagious — it is carefully taken from the P4 unit to other CIRMF laboratories in the compound, where it is analysed.
Specialized teams will scrutinize it, looking to confirm its strain of Ebola and hunting for clues such as the virus’s ancestry and evolution, which are vital for tracking the spread of the disease.
CIRMF director Jean-Sylvain Koumba, a colonel in the Gabonese army and a military doctor, said lab teams had been “placed on alert” to handle Ebola samples sent on by the National Institute of Biomedical Resarch in the DRC capital Kinshasa.
The nature of the sample can be determined with rare precision, for the facility has state-of-the-art equipment matched in few other places worldwide.
“On average, it takes 24 to 48 hours between the time when a sample arrives and when we get the results,” Mombo said.
Founded in 1979 by Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo Ondimba to study national fertility rates, the CIRMF moved on to AIDS, malaria, cancer, viral diseases and the neglected tropical maladies that affect a billion people around the world, according to the WHO.
The center is financed by the Gabonese state, whose main wealth is derived from oil exports, and gets help from France.
In all, 150 people work for the CIRMF and live on the huge premises. Its reputation draws scientists, students and apprentices from Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as Africa.
“[The] CIRMF is uniquely suited to study infectious diseases of the Congolese tropical rain forest, the second world’s largest rain forest,” two French scientists, Eric Leroy and Jean-Paul Gonzalez, wrote in the specialist journal Viruses in 2012.
“[It] is dedicated to conduct medical research of the highest standard … with unrivaled infrastructure, multiple sites and multidisciplinary teams.”
The facility also conducts investigations into how lethal tropical pathogens are able to leap the species barrier, said Gael Darren Maganga, who helps run the unit studying the emergence of viral diseases.
“A passive watch consists of taking a sample from a dead animal after a request, while the active watch is when we go out ourselves to do fieldwork and take samples,” he said.
A major center of interest is the bat, seen as a potential “reservoir” — a natural haven — for the Ebola virus, said Maganga. Staff regularly go out all over Gabon to take samples of saliva, fecal matter and blood.
The consumption of monkey flesh and other bush meat is common practice in central Africa.
“It’s still a hypothesis, but the transmission to human beings could be by direct contact, for instance by getting scratches [from a bat] in caves, or by handling apes which have been infected by bat saliva,” he said. (VOA)
The festive season is around the corner and with sugar-laden sweets, snacks and luncheons, festive eating tends to tip towards an indulgence. The pandemic, along with the holiday season, provides us with a double incentive to take care of our health, especially if you have a chronic health condition like diabetes.People with diabetes need to find ways to manage their health smartly and effectively to mitigate risks that come with the disease such as kidney problems, heart diseases, nerve issues, foot problems, and so on. Controlling glucose levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular medical consultations are key to managing this disease effectively.
Dr Jothydev Kesavadev, Diabetologist and MD of Jothydev's Diabetes Research Centres said, "It is imperative for one to always make sure diabetes is being well-managed, but, during the festive season, it is important than usual. Uncontrolled diabetes can heighten the risk of developing severe diseases or complications. Regularly monitoring glucose levels helps you catch spikes or trends that suggest your diabetes may be getting out of control. This also helps you to take timely measures," he explains.
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Here are a few tips for better diabetes management during the pandemic:
Scheduling is key: Diabetic patients need to continue medications without interruption. Apart from continuous monitoring of glucose levels, do plan regular consultations with the doctor. It is also imperative that patients do not ignore high blood glucose levels, HbA1C >10%, or positive urine ketone status.
No pain, no gain!: Diet & exercise play a major role in preventing and managing diabetes. Attention to nutrition and adequate protein intake along with exercise helps control weight and lower blood pressure. It also lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raises healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthens muscles and bones, reduces anxiety, and improves general well-being. Patients with diabetes are encouraged to take up 45 minutes of moderate activity every day.
Wearable devices for the win!: Technology advances have led wearable devices, to allow patients to keep a close tab on glucose levels. One such wearable is the Freestyle Libre that go a long way in helping people with diabetes (both type 1 and 2) manage the disease well. Continuous glucose monitoring, through these devices, offers the highest levels of accuracy and performance standards.
Patients with diabetes need to practice utmost caution to healthy food
Also read; People with diabeties likely to observe
Say no to stress: Stress can be a major barrier to effective glucose control. This has become worse during the pandemic, as health anxieties and long lockdowns have given rise to emotional responses like anxiety, frustration and disappointment. One can opt for healthier life choices such as exercise, yoga and meditation to avoid stress.
Stay safe: The pandemic is still with us. Patients with diabetes need to practice utmost caution to reduce the risk of catching an infection. Along with vaccinations, patients with diabetes need to ensure safe choices such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and frequent hand washing.
This festive season, even those with diabetes can enjoy life to the fullest, provided these simple measures are followed to keep the glucose levels under check. (IANS/PR)
Keywords: Diabeties, continuous monitoring, weight, lower blood pressure, no stress, stay safe
As the country slowly steps towards some form of normalcy amidst the pandemic, this Diwali, non-governmental organization HelpAge India working for disadvantaged elders, celebrates the festival of lights with a message of hope and togetherness through its campaign and film, 'Andhero Se Roshini Tak.
In a marathon celebration, HelpAge marks the festival across 100 old age homes across the country, bringing happiness, hope and joy to senior citizens, many of who were suffering from isolation, loneliness and a sense of abandonment during the pandemic. The campaign aims to bring them back into the fold and give them a ray of hope and support them.
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The campaign highlights the impact of the pandemic on India's elders vis a vis their health, livelihood and the pervading sense of loneliness and feeling of being forgotten by their own, as social distancing, led to social isolation for many of our elders who were left to fend for themselves.
According to a survey done by HelpAge earlier this year, 36 percent elders at home in India 'were just waiting for the phone to ring'. During the first lockdown, 65 percent of elders lost their only source of livelihood, leaving them with no resources for medicines and no one to reach out to.
The core campaign message urges the younger generation and society at large, to bring hope, light and 'Roshini' back into the lives of elders. It encourages bringing elders back into the family fold and pushes for elder inclusion. A time to give back and spread the love, and reach out to those elders who have no one to call their own and support them.
campaign #AndheroSeRoshiniTak Unsplash
Also read: This charity helps homeless
"Diwali is a time synonymous with hope, positivity and togetherness. The pandemic took a heavy toll on the lives of our elderly, particularly on the disadvantaged. Identified as the most vulnerable, many faced challenges at multiple levels, from loss of livelihood to having no money, no support and were left with a deep sense of isolation and constant anxiety. For those living alone, it was even worse. We hope through this campaign #AndheroSeRoshiniTak we can sensitize people to urgently come forward and celebrate this festival in its truest sense, by sharing the light and love with those who need it most. It is our responsibility to bring light into their lives, it's time to give back." said Rohit Prasad, Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge India. (IANS/PR)
Keywords: Oldage home, homeless people, HelpAge India, Covid-19, lockdown, pandemic, Diwali
By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
The spiritual element of wellness can be the most personal piece of the puzzle when trying to place all dimensions of wellness together. Generally, people like to live a life with meaning and purpose. When these goals are met, It brings harmony into one's own life as well as the lives of people around them.
So, what can you do to connect with your spiritual self? It's best to figure out what techniques work for you. Since connecting with the spiritual self involves one's values, beliefs, and purpose, it can be achieved in several ways-both physically and mentally.
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Surbhi Bansal Co-founder Nirmalaya shares 5 tips to connect with your spiritual self:
Set your intention: Your intention can be as simple as saying to yourself, "I want to learn more about spirituality in general," or it could be as formal as sharing your intention with friends in order to celebrate your start on this lifelong journey. Consciously acknowledging your yearning and curiosity, even if only to yourself, is like opening a door and setting out on the path of the seeker.
Be still every day: Our connection to spirit, the universe, or whatever you prefer to call it, is primarily a felt experience. Therefore, a great way to establish a strong spiritual practice is to set aside time to intentionally quiet your thinking mind using meditation, chanting, or mindfulness. All it takes is 15 minutes a day.
Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably and undisturbed, set your timer, and observe your mind. If that seems daunting, start with a guided meditation. There are tons of free apps and recordings available online. Find one you like, and commit to following it once a day.
Don't neglect your body: The mind, body, and spirit are all connected, so don't forget to employ your physical body in your pursuit of the mystical. Dancing, drumming, practising yoga, singing, even playing sports are all deeply intuitive ways to express our spiritual selves using our bodies. See if you can get out of your head and simply allow your body to tell you what it wants.
Think positively: Once you start viewing things in your life in a positive manner, you will find yourself thinking differently and refocusing your mind on a happy, healthy place. When you eliminate negativity and re-frame how you think of certain things and situations, you'll notice yourself being more relaxed.
Travel allows you to weed out stressorsUnsplash
Also read: The signs which revel that you are disconnected
Travel. It's true! Taking time for yourself to travel to a comforting place or somewhere new can do wonders for your mind. When you are at a place where your mind can keep out distractions and help you reflect and rest, you will have a better connection with yourself. This allows you to weed out stressors and set your mind on the right path for overall wellness. Some activities to take part in when on a trip can be exercising, speaking with a counsellor or advisor, meditation, or taking a temporary vow of silence. (IANS/PR)
Keywords: Self connection, Spirituality, Travel, spirit, meditation