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IS THE IMMUNES SYSTEM SMARTER THAN CANCER?

It is observed that our immune system does have the capability to detect the presence of cancer and act on it. This capability is what is used in immunotherapy which is a treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer.

How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy works by stimulating or boosting the natural defences of your immune system so it works harder or smarter to find and attack the cancer cells. Immunotherapy also makes use of substances that is produced in a lab that mimics our immune system components and uses them to help restore the immune system.

Immunotherapy works only for some types of cancer. Sometimes the immunotherapy works by itself or it is used in combination with other therapies to treat disease.

What are the functions of the immune system?

The immune system is a collection of organs, specialty cells and certain substances in the body that helps protect the body from infections and other diseases. The immune cells and substances travel through the body to attack foreign substances and germs that cause infections. Likewise, they help protect the body against cancer too.

The immune system has an awareness of all the normal substances in the body and any new substance that the immune system does not recognize raises an alarm. This, in turn, prepares the immune system to attack the foreign substance.

We know that there are limits to the immune system’s ability to fight cancer on its own. This is because even people with healthy immune system are seen to develop cancer.

Why immune system fails?

The immune system sometimes does not recognize cancer cells as foreign because the cells are not that different from normal cells. Sometimes it does recognize the foreign substance but its capacity is so low that it cannot destroy cancer cells. Cancer cells also give off substances that prevent the immune system from functioning properly.

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WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PLAGUE ?

When you talk about the plague disease, you may think that it is something which existed only in the middle ages and in far away lands. You may think that the plague is not in this world anymore, but the truth is different. The plague is a disease that is very much present even today and it is as dangerous  as it was hundreds of years ago.

You should not be shocked and disheartened by knowing that the plague still infects our world. In those days our ancestors did not know what caused plague but today we know what causes it. We also have the treatment for the disease and the know-how to prevent it from spreading.

The Plague Explained

The plague is caused by a bacteria which is called Yersinia pestis and it spreads from fleas. The fleas pick up the bacteria when they bite animals like rats, mice or squirrels. Later when these fleas happen to bite a human they pass on the germs. Plague also spreads with direct contact with animals or people already infected.

Since there are good prevention techniques and treatment available, the plague has become a rare occurrence. The plague is still prevalent in countries like Africa, India and Peru.

What are the types?

Normally three types of the plague are identified. The Bubonic plague, the Septicaemia plague and the Pneumonic plague.

Bubonic Plague: This is the most common type which causes buboes or lymph nodes under the arms, in the neck or groin.

Septicaemia Plague: This type is more dangerous and infects the blood causing bleeding, blackened skin and belly pain.

Pneumonic Plague: It is a  rare form of the disease which affects the lungs and causes pneumonia. It is a very contagious form since it spreads through the air.

 

What are the plague symptoms?

When a person is infected with the plague the symptoms occur anywhere from 1-6 days time. The infected person will feel very sick and weak and have high fever, chills and headaches. The rest of the symptoms differ and will be according to the type of the plague you are infected with.

What is the treatment?

If you show any symptoms then it is better to see a doctor who will be able to assist you in identifying the plague. Doctors usually do a blood test along with test on samples of spit or fluid from the lymph nodes. If you have been with a person suspected of having plague the doctor will start treatment immediately even if there is no symptoms.

How to prevent the plague?

If  you travel to areas which are prone to cause the plague then stay away from incidents of plague and also away from sick or dead animals. If you happen to live in an area where there has been cases of the plague then fill holes and gaps in the house to stop mice, rats and rodents from entering the house.

Clean all the piles of leaves, wood or rocks where animals may hide. Preferably use a bug repellent to prevent the presence of fleas. Wear gloves while touching animals. Use flea sprays on pets and try not to let pets out-door.

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HOW TO USE A FACE MASK

Who and when should you wear a face mask? The health department recommends that everyone over the age of 2 years should wear cloth face masks in public places, especially in areas where it is difficult to maintain the mandatory 6 feet distance.

It is best to wear a face mask if you are sick and if there are other people around, at home also. Caregivers are supposed to use the facemask when cleaning and disinfecting a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom.

When visiting a doctor or a hospital, you should wear a face mask.

Wearing a facemask is in addition to other COVID-19 safety measures. You still have to limit contact with other people, wash your hands often with soap and keep surfaces clean.

Who should not wear a face mask?

Children under two years of age, someone who is having trouble breathing, someone who is unconscious or people who can’t move or take-off a mask by themselves need not wear a mask.

The right way to wear a face mask

Before you put on a face mask, wash your hand for 20 seconds with soap and water. Then, secure the mask either with ties behind the head or loops behind the ears as provided. Adjust to fit the mask properly around your nose and mouth and under your chin.

Take care, there is no space between your face and the mask. Pinch the top edge of the mask to fit it around the bridge of your nose. The mask should fit comfortably and be able to breathe easily through it.

Once you wear it and step out, do not go on touching your mask every now and then.

Cleaning and maintaining the face mask

It is best to wash cloth masks with hot water and detergent after every use. If the mask has a filter, take it out before washing. After taking out the mask from the washing machine, hang it up for drying. Wash your hands when you’re done.

After drying your mask check for any hole or frayed edges that can cause gaps around your face.

Before you use the mask again, check for holes. Be sure it’s not frayed and doesn’t gap around your face.

It is recommended to wash your face mask rather than just putting it out in the sun since there is no evidence that sunlight can deactivate the COVID – 19 virus.

Myths and facts about face masks

Gaps in masks make them useless

A mask that does not fit perfectly may not be totally useless if it has a high filter level. Even cloth masks that fit perfectly can’t stop all particles. But a mask that has a gap won’t work nearly as well as a perfectly fitting mask.

Should wear a mask at home too

It is not required to wear a mask at home unless you yourself are sick or you are caring for someone who is sick.

We should wear a mask when exercising outdoors

Though it is best to wear a mask when you go outdoor, wearing a mask and exercising has its own problems. Some people will feel breathless when they wear a mask and exercise. So, it’s fine not to wear a mask when exercising outdoor if you maintain 6 feet distance with other people.

Masks trap carbon dioxide and viruses

Continuously wearing an N95 mask for several hours can make CO2 linger behind the mask. The presence of excess carbon dioxide will cause headache, dizziness and fatigue. At the same time, cloth and surgical masks generally do not cause so much of a problem.

Yes, mask could trap particles of coronavirus and that is why it is recommended that face masks should not be touched often when wearing them and they should be properly washed once you use them outdoors.

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IMPORTANCE OF FACE MASK IN PREVENTING COVID 19

WHO and ICMR recommend that everyone, whether sick or healthy, should wear a face mask, especially where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. Wearing a face mask is all-important because

Coronavirus can spread from even asymptomatic people (those without symptoms) or those who had symptoms previously. A person is most contagious just before symptoms begin.

Here are a few pointers for buying a face-mask and using it.

How does a face-mask work?

If a person who is infected with COVID – 19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they send tiny droplets containing coronavirus into the air.

The face-mask helps cover your mouth and nose acting as a shield to block out the virus-filled droplets present in the air. This helps slow down the spread of COVID – 19.

Does the face-mask protect me?

A cloth face-mask will not block-out the coronavirus. The face-mask is, of course, an added layer of protection for you and the people around you when used along with regular hand washing and social distancing measures.

What are the types of face-masks available?

There are mainly two types of face-masks, one is for frontline health care workers and another one for non-healthcare workers or the common people.

Masks for healthcare workers

The N95 respirators and surgical masks are best suited and should be reserved exclusively for frontline health care workers and first responders. Since these masks are in short supply around the world, they should only go to doctors, nurses and other medical staff who need them most.

N95 respirator masks are those that fit tightly around the face. They can filter out 95% or more of the smallest particles in the air. Care should be taken to see that they fit just right for them to work properly.

Surgical masks are the usual blue and green coloured ones that fit loosely across your nose and mouth. These help shield against larger drops that come directly from the sick person’s cough or sneeze. They don’t filter out all germs and can’t block the tiniest of particles that carry coronavirus.

Masks for non-healthcare workers

Cloth masks are the best option for the general public and non-healthcare workers. Here are a few things to remember when buying handmade cloth masks.

You can always sew a piece of fabric into a face-masks or tie it around your face. It is best suggested to use at least two-layered cloth masks. You can even add a pocket in the front for putting in a filter. Copper wire or ribbon helps to fit the masks on the nose bridge.

You can also use dust masks available in hardware stores. Neoprene masks help stop the droplets and prevent infection. The other option is using a piece of cloth as a scarf wrapped around the face.

A comparison of face-masks

Earloops vs ties

Since you can adjust it, a mask that can be tied behind your head will usually fit well than the one that loops around your ears. But the ties can get tangled up in the wash or when you handle it whereas the loops remain free and easy to use. The looped ones are better in places like hair salons.

Filter vs Non-Filter

When there are a series of layers or folds, it prevents particles from escaping into the air and from entering the nose and mouthparts of a person. The negative aspect is that too many layers can make it difficult to breathe. Select and use a mask that is more comfortable and suited to you so that you keep using it. Check whether the filter material is safe.

Make a No-Sew Face=mask

First, choose a piece of cloth that is square in shape and measures 20 inches on each side. Fold it into half.

Fold the top third down and the bottom third up, so you have a long rectangle.

Slide the rectangle through two rubber bands or elastic hair ties until they’re about 6 inches apart. Tuck the ends together.

Hook elastic over your ears and adjust the fabric, so it fits snugly but it not too tight.

Face-mask materials & rankings

The extensive research has resulted in a proper ranking for the fabrics used:

  1. Tea towel in two layers
  2. Cotton mix fabric
  3. Cotton T-shirt material
  4. Antimicrobial pillowcase
  5. Scarfs
  6. Linen

A tea towel is thicker and so maybe too hard to breathe through in spite of its higher rank.

The best filter materials

Access is most important in times like this, so some household materials that can be used for the filter.

Paper products like coffee filters, paper towels and toilet papers. HEPA filters with multiple layers block small particles almost like N95 masks but have tiny fibres that can get into your nose and mouth. You can also cut up a polypropylene shopping bag, the one that has a fabric-like feel and use it between layers of the mask.

How to buy a face-mask?

When buying an ordinary cloth face mask, enquire whether it has been designed as per the sewing instructions of the health authorities of your region. Look whether the mask has more than one layer of fabric. Make sure you can freely breathe through the material.

Next look for the fit, whether it is comfortable and fits the face well, there should not be gaps around your nose, mouth and chin.

The mask should either have a tie or loops for wearing. It should be easily washable and consistent in its shape even after repeated washing.

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WHAT ARE THE DOs and DON’Ts TO SAFEGUARD FROM COVID-19

Coronavirus is a family of viruses that has gripped the world for long. It includes right from the common cold virus to viruses that cause more severe diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

What is Coronavirus?

Like most of the other viruses, Coronavirus or COVID-19 also brings on typical symptoms in humans, including fever, cough and breathing difficulties. The symptoms show a mild start and then progress to severe. It can result in inability to breathe, lack of oxygen and thereby collapse of various organs.

Up till now, no medicines have been found useful in treating Coronavirus disease and there are no vaccines available so far, though research is going on at full steam across the world. This means in severe cases; there is all probability of the disease leading to the death of the patient.

Spread of infection

COVID-19 spreads from person and person at a fast rate. The disease mainly spreads from an infected person through the droplets from the nose or mouth. When an infected person coughs or exhales. When the droplets come in contact with otherwise healthy people (EITHER DIRECT AEROSOL OR FOMITE TRANSMISSION) it comes in contact with their nose, eyes, or mouth and the infection spreads.

Where does COVID -19 survive?

The droplets can also fall and remain on various surfaces we contact in our daily life. It can survive from a few hours to as long as 2-3 days on these surfaces. It could be doorknobs, railings, seats in transport buses, seats and handrails in trains, clothing, packaging and the list is endless. The virus can survive on different materials like steel, plastic and cardboard with ease.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that the virus that causes COVID – 19 is transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets.

Dos & Don’ts to Prevent Covid -19

Here are a few relevant dos and don’ts to safeguard oneself and prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Dos:

• Wash your hands as often as you can. Take care to spend at least 20 seconds washing and thoroughly scrubbing your hands with soap and water.

• Wash hands after visiting the toilet, bathroom, before and after eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after returning from outside

• When you are out and about and you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with min. 60% alcohol)

• Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissue or handkerchief when you sneeze or cough

• Throw used tissues in a covered bin

• See a doctor if you feel unwell or have (high fever, difficulty in breathing and cough)

• While visiting a doctor or hospital wear a mask/cloth to cover your nose and mouth

Don’ts:

• People without symptoms need not wear the face masks which are vital supplies for healthcare staff to take care of those seriously ill.

• Avoid travel if feeling sick or having any of the symptoms of COVID-19

• Do not organise or attend social gatherings, parties, political meetings. weddings and other events where people gather in large numbers

• Avoid contact with people who show signs and symptoms of the illness

• Avoid raw/undercooked food.

• Don’t touch your face, nose, eyes or mouth before washing your hands

• Stop smoking and use of other tobacco products

• Don’t spit in public places

• Avoid handshakes and touching surface in public places like railings, door handles and park benches

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