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Zika cases rise to 100 in Jaipur

NEW DELHI, Oct 17: As the number of people infected with Zika virus rose to 100 in Rajasthan Wednesday, the Centre rushed an Indian Council of Medical Research team to the state to intensify vector control measures.

Of the total affected people, 23 are pregnant women, said a health ministry official in Delhi, adding that the 20 new Zika cases confirmed Wednesday were from Jaipur and two neighbouring districts.

“A team of experts from ICMR has reached Jaipur to change the insecticides which are being used in the city to kill mosquitoes that spread Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses as a part of the integrated mosquito management programme,” the official said.

Zika virus has been found in some mosquitoes taken as samples from Sindhi Camp and densely populated Shastri Nagar.

Rajasthan additional chief secretary, medical and health, Veenu Gupta chaired a review meeting in Jaipur Wednesday and released updated figures of the infected cases.

“Almost all Zika virus infected patients are healthy after treatment. Three-fourth patients do not have symptoms of disease and have recovered,” a state health department official said.

Most of the Zika cases reported were from Shastri Nagar area, where fogging and other anti-larvae activities are being carried out.

The official said more than 1 lakh households have been surveyed in Shastri Nagar and neighbouring areas and 330 teams have been engaged to destroy mosquito larvae found during the survey.

The Zika virus, transmitted through the aedes aegypti mosquito, causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain. It is harmful to pregnant women, as it can lead to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected, in newborn children.

The state health department has advised pregnant women not to visit the affected areas.

In India, the first outbreak was reported in Ahmedabad in January 2017 and the second in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district in July that year. Both these outbreaks were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.

The disease is under surveillance of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under WHO notification since November 18, 2016. On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry directed the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to monitor the cases on a daily basis and urged people not to panic.

Health Minister J P Nadda chaired a high-level meeting to review the activities for prevention and control of Zika virus and stressed the need to undertake exhaustive control measures, including fogging, while strengthening surveillance to facilitate early detection of cases.

During the latest outbreak of the virus, the first case surfaced on September 22, when an 85-year-old woman with no recent travel history tested positive for the virus.

The disease continues to be under surveillance of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under WHO notification since November 18, 2016.

12 new Zika cases reported in Jaipur, total reaches to 72

JAIPUR, Oct 15: Twelve new cases of Zika virus disease have been reported in Jaipur on Monday, taking the total number of cases reported in the past 25 days to 72. According to the health department, the infected areas are Shastri Nagar, Station Road area around Rajput Hostel and Vidyadhar Nagar.

Health department additional chief secretary Veenu Gupta said out of 72 cases, 60 patients have recovered, while 12 are under observation. She said alert has been issued to other parts of the city.

“More than 280 teams of health department are conducting door-to-door survey and so far 96,000 houses have been surveyed. More than 2.44 lakh containers were checked and larvae were found in more than 55,000 containers, which were treated,” she said.

Screening steps to destroy the larvae are being carried out. In door-to-door survey, patients with fever, especially pregnant women in the first trimester, are being identified and samples collected.

Gupta said people have to come forward and cooperate in controlling vector-borne diseases such as Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria.

“We do not want to impose penalty for mosquito breeding, but are forced to as despite persuasion and creating awareness, people are still not taking it seriously and are storing water in the open,” Gupta said.

So far, 68 challans have been issued and Rs 44,000 has been collected in penalty.

She said there is no need to be scared of Zika virus infection, as it is not fatal. Special attention is given to pregnant women as there are chances of foetus being affected by during the first trimester.

These women are advised against travelling around the city as a preventive measure, Gupta said.

As the number of people infected with Zika virus rose to 72 in Rajasthan, the Union health ministry Monday asked states to check mosquito breeding and intensify vector control strategies to contain the spread of the disease.

Sanjeeva Kumar, additional secretary (health), ministry of health and family welfare held a meeting with various state representatives through video conferencing.

He asked them to implement the guidelines as prescribed under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme for effective control of Zika.

“States have been asked to intensify vector control strategies which include anti-larvae activities and fogging, and also follow the guidelines as prescribed under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme for effective control of Zika virus disease,” a health ministry official said.

States have also been asked to strengthen their surveillance systems.

Breastfeeding can boost brain development in premature babies

NEW DELHI, Sept 21: Breast feed sure has a lot of health benefits for babies. According to a new research, babies born before their due date show better brain development when fed breast milk rather than formula milk. Premature birth has been linked to an increased possibility of problems with learning and thinking skills in later life, which are thought to be linked to alterations in brain development. Experts say that helping mothers to provide breast milk in the weeks after giving birth could improve long-term outcomes for children born pre-term.

Studies have shown that pre-term birth is associated with changes in the part of the brain’s structure that helps brain cells to communicate with one another, known as white matter. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied MRI brain scans from 47 babies from a study group known as the Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort.

The babies had been born before 33 weeks gestation and scans took place when they reached a term-equivalent age, an average of 40 weeks from conception. The team also collected information about how the infants had been fed while in intensive care - either formula milk or breast milk from either the mother or a donor.

Babies who exclusively received breast milk for at least three-quarters of the days they spent in the hospital showed improved brain connectivity compared with others. The effects were greatest in babies who were fed breast milk for a greater proportion of their time spent in intensive care. “Our findings suggest that brain development in the weeks after preterm birth is improved in babies who receive greater amounts of breast milk,” said study author James Boardman.

“Mothers of pre-term babies should be supported to provide breast milk while their baby is in neonatal care — if they are able to and if their baby is well enough to receive milk because this may give their children the best chance of healthy brain development,” added Boardman.

The study appeared in the Journal of NeuroImage.

India bans hundreds of combination drugs

NEW DELHI, Sept 13: The Indian government has banned 328 combination drugs in a blow to both domestic and foreign pharmaceutical firms, but the ban has been cheered by health activists worried about growing antibiotic resistance due to the misuse of medicines.

The Indian government had in 2016 banned about 350 such drugs, referred to as fixed-dose combinations (FDCs), but the industry mounted various legal challenges that prompted the Supreme Court to call for a review by an advisory board.

The health ministry on Wednesday said the board had found there was "no therapeutic justification for the ingredients contained in 328 FDCs and that these FDCs may involve risk to human beings".

It said it was prohibiting the "manufacture for sale, sale or distribution for human use" of the 328 FDCs with immediate effect. It did not name the drugs or give any brands.

The president of the Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association, Deepnath Roychowdhury, said the order would have an impact on a market worth an estimated 16bn rupees ($222m) a year for such drugs, which are produced by both small and large pharmaceutical companies.

He said the verdict would be respected.

Combination drugs are used to improve patients' compliance, as it is easier to get patients to take one drug rather than several.

But inconsistent enforcement of drug laws in India has led to a proliferation of such medicines based on state approvals, rather than from the federal government.

Health authorities have warned that the increasing use of antibiotic combinations may be contributing to antibiotic resistance, with India of particular concern because of the large volume of combination drugs being taken.

Malini Aisola of the All India Drug Action Network welcomed the government ban, saying it was a step towards addressing a "grave situation".

"The people of India have been made the consumers of unsafe medicines for too long," she said.

Companies such as Indian unit of Abbott Laboratories had filed court appeals against the government's 2016 order.

Abbott did not respond to a request for comment and it was not immediately clear how the ban would impact it.

The ministry also said 15 FDCs had been kept out of the purview of the current ban.


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