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Bird flu virus found in human in China: should we be concerned?



The world woke up to a new flu virus which was predominantly found only in birds till now, infecting a human being. A 41-year-old man in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu has been confirmed as the first human case of infection with a rare strain of bird flu known as H10N3, according to the Beijing’s National Health Commission. Many different strains of bird flu are present in China and some sporadically infect people, usually those working with poultry. Before now, human infections with H10N8 subtype avian influenza virus were reported in Jiangxi province, China, in 2013–2014.

Beijing’s National Health Commission however indicated that H10N3 cannot spread easily in humans. This H10N3 is a low pathogenic, or relatively less severe, strain of the virus in poultry and the risk of it spreading on a large scale was very low, the Beijing’s National Health Commission stated.

Regional laboratory coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Filip Claes confirmed it is not a very common virus.  Over the last 4 decades, around 160 isolates of the virus have been reported and most of these were in wild birds or waterfowl in Asia and some limited parts of North America. Dr. Claes further added that analysis of the genetic data of the virus will be necessary to determine whether it resembles older viruses or if it is a novel mix of different viruses.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more important to understand the transmission mode because transmission of this subtype from avian species to humans increases the risk of adaptive point mutations or reassortment events with H7N9, H9N2 subtype AIV, or human seasonal viruses, which could be the source of a highly pandemic virus.

While several different strains of avian influenza are present in China and some sporadically infect people, usually those working with poultry, till date, there have been no significant numbers of human infections with bird flu since the H7N9 strain killed around 300 people during 2016-2017.

Studies also confirm that multiple H10 genotype viruses (e.g. H10N8, H10N3, and H10N7) are circulating in China, but their potential to infect mammals still remains largely unknown. A study carried out to address this question, analyzed three H10N8, H10N7, and H10N3 subtype influenza viruses circulating in domestic ducks. The study concluded that the complex reassortments and pathobiology patterns of these viruses in chickens, ducks, and mice does indicate a potential threat to humans.

 UIN: 294HP41IP

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International travelers can get their Covishield shot preponed



In a mid-May report we had covered the news update that the gap between two doses of Covishield, had been revised to 12-16 weeks.

In a meeting on May 13th, 2021, based on the recommendation of COVID Working Group, the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine was extended from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks. According to a report by the Press Information Bureau of India, the COVID Working Group chaired by Dr N K Arora recommended extension of the gap between the first and second doses of Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks (after 84 days).

However, according to the recent update published on the MOHFW website, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has received several representations for allowing administration of second dose of Covishield for such persons who have only taken first dose of Covishield and are seeking to undertake international travel for educational purposes or employment opportunities or for part of India’s contingent for Tokyo Olympic games, but whose planned travel dates fall prior to completion of the currently mandated minimum interval of 84 days from the date of first dose.

For this category of citizens, the Government of India has released recommendations released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), stating administration of second dose of Covishield vaccine can be revised to ‘after 28 days but before 84 days’ to persons intending to undertake international travel for education purpose, for joining employment in foreign countries and for India’s contingent to the Tokyo Olympics.

The communication further mentioned that this special dispensation will be available to the following category of travelers:

  1. Students traveling for education/admissions to foreign universities.
  2. International employment.
  3. Athletes, Sportspersons and accompanying staff of Indian contingent attending International Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo.

People who wish to avail this facility need to get in touch with their District Headquarters, wherein they can apply for the same after submitting required documents. Genuineness of the travel requirement and 28 days post the first dose of Covishield are the mandated requirements.

Currently, this facility shall be available to those who need to undertake international travel for these specified purposes in the period up to 31st August, 2021.

UIN: 303HP161R 

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Vandalur Zoo lioness dies of COVID-19



This news is true. Vandalur zoo is a zoo near the Tamil Nadu capital – Chennai. According to news reports, a 9-year-old lioness has died, and nine others tested positive for COVID-19 at the zoo, according to forest officials. Do animals get COVID-19? Is it transmissible to humans then? Yes and no! According to the Centre for Disease Control USA, recent experimental research shows that many mammals, including cats, dogs, bank voles, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, pigs, rabbits, racoon dogs, tree shrews, and white-tailed deer can be infected with the virus.

Cats, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, racoon, dogs, and white-tailed deer can also spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings. Several studies have also investigated non-human primates as models for human infection wherein the rhesus macaques, cynomolgus macaques, baboons, grivets, and common marmosets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and become sick in a laboratory setting.

Whether it spreads to humans from animals – the incidents are rare. Some coronaviruses that infect animals, can spread to people and then spread between people, but this is rare according to the reports published.

SARS-CoV-2 spreads easily from person to person. People who are physically near (within 6 feet) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person are at greatest risk of infection.   Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people. Based on the available information to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2 has been reported in mink on farms in multiple countries including the United States. CDC is aware of reports of a strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus in mink in Denmark that was also present in the local human population. This strain, called “Cluster 5,” had not been seen before and was made up of five mutations. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that as of November 2020, the Cluster 5 variant was no longer circulating in Denmark.

UIN: 296HP160R

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Fact Check

Egg yolks are bad for health



An advertisement by the National Egg Coordination Committee of India said “Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande”. While this was a catchy phrase, a lot of stories and healthcare articles mentioned eggs being bad for health, especially the yolk part because it can lead to high cholesterol levels – a condition that can lead to various heart related ailments such as atherosclerosis, dyslipidemia, coronary artery disease etc. Now, is this claim true? Let us find out.

In general, the egg white and yolk together in a whole egg provide the right balance of protein, fat, and calories. This combination allows most people to feel fuller and more satisfied after eating eggs in meals. Some studies however do show that the yolk in eggs has more nutrients and proteins, which are known to have the following benefits:

  1. Reduce BP: Egg yolk contains several compounds called peptides that reduce blood pressure significantly in rats. This in turn reduces the risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Low gastrointestinal distress: This benefit may be due to egg yolk proteins, such as phosvitin, which may reduce the number of compounds in the body that cause inflammation.
  3. Better immunity: Certain compounds called sulfated glycopeptides are present in the membrane of the egg yolk, that stimulate the production of cells in the immune system that protect the body against disease and infection.
  4. Less vision related problems: The American Heart Association state that yolks are a significant source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids may protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, two common eye problems that often develop after the age of 55 years.

In addition to these experimental studies, researchers are also exploring the potential of various immunostimulants called immunoglobulins, which are present in egg yolks. For e.g., a 2017 study found that female mice were less likely to become infected with Helicobacter pylori, which is bacteria that commonly cause intestinal infection after consuming anti-VacA IgY, an immunoglobulin in egg yolk.

Research suggests that consuming whole eggs has more significant benefits than eating egg whites alone. For example, a 2017 study found that young men who ate whole eggs immediately after performing resistance exercises had higher rates of muscle metabolism than those who consumed only egg whites.

Thus, in conclusion, eggs are good for health. The yolk has been verified to have several health benefits via various studies – however, it is important to keep any dietary intake in absolute moderation.

UIN: 295HP77F

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Vaccine cocktails: Safe to mix and match COVID-19 Vaccines



India has vaccinated close to 24 crores of its citizens as on 04th June 2021 according to data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. However, with the shortage of supplies during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming fear of the third wave, India needs quicker solutions to vaccinate maximum Indians in the shortest time possible. One such solution that has been adopted by several countries is mixing different COVID vaccines either to increase efficacy or to tackle the problem of vaccine shortage.

However, the Indian government said it won’t change its vaccine protocols till mixed vaccinations are backed by science. As of June 2021, Indians have the choice of 3 vaccines – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V. While the gaps between two doses differ for different vaccines, individuals who have taken both doses of the vaccine they got, are considered fully vaccinated. However, according to recent report, scientists speculate that mixing and matching COVID vaccines might not only increase the efficacy of the vaccines, but also curb the shortage we are currently facing. This would mean that an individual vaccinated with Covishield in first dose, will have the option to choose either Covishield itself or Covaxin for the second dose. This is currently not applicable to Sputnik V, because according to reports and manufacturers of the Sputnik V vaccine, the two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine are different, and they work together to provide the immunity.

Across the globe, several countries have already started testing out ‘vaccine cocktails’ as these have come to be known as. They believe that if one vaccine is less effective against a variant, then one can get a booster shot that could have a higher efficacy against a variant.

In many European countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, authorities are now advising younger people, who were previously given the AstraZeneca vaccine as a first dose, to take an alternative vaccine as their second vaccine jab.  Health officials in Canada are now advising Canadians to combine either the AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots interchangeably in certain situations. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its latest guidance and recommended that a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine can be followed by either Moderna or Pfizer.

If this works out, it will be a boon for a country like India because currently, the vaccine manufacturers in our country are struggling to live up to the demands of the vaccines. If vaccine cocktails work, the burden of meeting the demands will be divided amongst different vaccine manufacturers globally. Hence ensuring greater supply.

However, until further studies give evidence, it is currently not clear about the efficacy of vaccine cocktails. Not every vaccine can work when mixed, but researchers believe it can be done with those that share the same target – in the case of Coronaviruses, the spike protein.

India, at present, does not recommend mixing or matching of vaccines.

UIN: 297HP42IP

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Fact Check

Cracking knuckles can lead to arthritis



It is a common habit to crack your knuckles, sometimes when you’re bored, sometimes when you are tired and sometimes just out of stress or nervousness. Some people find this habit to be annoying. Probably this may be a reason why people say that cracking knuckles increases your risk of arthritis. But that is not the case. Harvard Health reports that several studies that compared rates of hand arthritis among habitual knuckle-crackers and people who didn’t crack their knuckles reported no difference in the two.

However, even if cracking knuckles does not cause arthritis or raises the risk of arthritis, there is good reason to let go of this habit because chronic knuckle cracking can lead to reduced grip strength, according to Harvard Health. A study aimed at finding out the reason for the pop had researchers watching knuckles while they were cracked, using an MRI. They found that a cavity formed due to the negative pressure created when the joint was pulled apart quickly. They determined that the sound was made by formation of the cavity.

Similarly, a 2018 study suggested that the sound was caused by the partial collapse of the cavity. A review of studies published in the journal Nature, noted that it takes 20 minutes for the cavity to fully collapse so a new cavity could be formed. This may be why after you’ve cracked your knuckles, you’re not able to do it again right away.

While cracking knuckles does not cause harm and should not be painful, if cracking causes swelling, or change the shape of the joint, it is advisable to visit a doctor. For e.g., if you notice your joints are painful or swollen while cracking your knuckles, it is likely due to an underlying condition such as arthritis or gout and should be evaluated by your doctor.

Thus, cracking knuckles is not harmful and does not cause arthritis or make your knuckles larger, but it can be distracting or loud to people around you. However, there are at least two published reports of injuries suffered while people were trying to crack their knuckles.

Breaking this habit can be hard but is doable. Being aware of when you are doing it and finding other ways to relieve stress are two things you can do to help you kick the habit.

UIN: 292HP75F 

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