Current Affairs - Health & Disease

Respiratory Illness Outbreak Sparks Concerns of "White Lung Syndrome"

An uptick in respiratory illness cases, coined as the "White Lung Syndrome," in China and Ohio has triggered online speculations of a potential new pandemic, prompting clarifications from health authorities.

Key Points

  • Origins and Attribution: Chinese authorities attribute the respiratory disease to various pathogens, viruses, and bacteria like mycoplasma pneumoniae. In Ohio, rising pneumonia cases among children are linked to familiar pathogens, dismissing connections to pneumonia clusters in China and Europe.
  • Understanding the Term: The term "White Lung Syndrome" lacks scientific grounding and is a colloquial name. X-ray or CT scans showing white patches in the lungs, indicating inflammation or fluid collection, are common in the presence of bacterial or viral infections.
  • The outbreak in China, particularly mycoplasma pneumoniae, may have contributed to its colloquial adoption.
  • Ohio's Report of Paediatric Pneumonia: In Ohio, officials reported 145 paediatric pneumonia cases in children aged three to 14, termed as the "White Lung Syndrome."
  • Symptoms include cough, fever, runny nose, phlegm buildup, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Treatment involves nebulization and medication.
  • Post-COVID Impact and Children's Susceptibility: Post-COVID, outbreaks trigger concerns, but health experts emphasize no need for alarm.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia is not novel, and antibiotics are available.
  • The impact of prolonged COVID lockdowns and altered social patterns may make children more susceptible to seasonal infections as normalcy resumes.

AB-HWC Renamed as "Ayushman Arogya Mandir"

The Union Health Ministry has recently issued a directive to rename Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) as "Ayushman Arogya Mandir," urging states and Union Territories to implement the rebranding.

Key Points

  • Photograph Upload: States are instructed to upload photographs of the rebranded primary health facilities on the AB-HWC portal.
  • New Tagline: The rebranded AB-HWCs will feature a new tagline, "Arogyam Parmam Dhanam."
  • Creation of HWCs: In 2018, the Centre announced the creation of 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres by transforming existing sub-health centres and primary health centres, providing comprehensive primary health care.
  • Funding Mechanism: The Centre pledged 60% funding, with states following its design manual for the creation of AB-HWCs.
  • Exceeding Targets: Officials report that 1.61 lakh AB-HWCs have been made functional, surpassing the initial target.
  • Services Provided: AB-HWCs offer maternal and child healthcare, first-level care for emergencies and trauma, free drugs, and diagnostic services.
  • National Impact: The decision to rebrand AB-HWCs aims to enhance their identity and impact at the national level.

Health Ministry Directive to Monitor Respiratory Illness Trends

Recently, the Union Health Ministry has directed State Governments to closely monitor trends in influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), especially in children and adolescents.

Key Points

  • Recent Surge in China: The directive follows reports of a surge in respiratory illness among children in northern China, prompting proactive measures.
  • Sample Testing: States are instructed to send nasal and throat swab samples of ILI/SARI patients, especially children, to Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories for testing.
  • Preparedness Measures: States are advised to review public health and hospital preparedness, ensuring availability of resources, drugs, vaccines, and oxygen.
  • Operational Guidelines: Implementation of ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19’ is mandated for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens.
  • Proactive Review: The Health Ministry is proactively reviewing preparedness measures due to the influenza and winter season, assuring citizens that there's no need for alarm.
  • Centralized Reporting: ILI/SARI data from states must be uploaded on a Central portal, enhancing monitoring capabilities.
  • Global Context: WHO's information on respiratory illness surge in China is attributed to usual causes, with no current cause for alarm.
  • Preventive Measures: The cumulative effect of these measures is expected to counter potential situations and ensure citizens' safety, according to the Ministry.

Project Collaboration Agreement to Promote Traditional and Complementary Medicine

On 17th November, 2023, the Ministry of Ayush and the World Health Organization (WHO) have entered a groundbreaking 'Project Collaboration Agreement' in Geneva, aiming to integrate Traditional and Complementary Medicine into India's National Health System and advance global health objectives.

Key Points

  • Milestone for Global Traditional Medicine: The Ayush Secretary anticipates the first phase of the agreement (2023-28) to be a significant milestone in the global development of Traditional and Complementary Medical Systems.
  • Objectives of the Agreement: The agreement focuses on standardizing Traditional and Complementary Medical Systems, integrating quality and safety aspects into the National Health System, and disseminating them internationally.
  • Preparation of Traditional Medicine Global Strategy: WHO and the Ministry of Ayush will collaboratively develop the Traditional Medicine Global Strategy 2025-34, aligning efforts to connect Traditional and Complementary Medical Systems with India's National Health System.
  • Strengthening Training and Practice: The agreement aims to bolster the training and practice of the Complementary Medicine System 'Siddha' and formulate guidelines for listing Traditional and Complementary Medicines.
  • International Herbal Pharmacopoeia Development: Collaboration between the Ministry and WHO will lead to the creation of an International Herbal Pharmacopoeia for herbs in South-East Asia.
  • Integration of Evidence-Based Medicines: Efforts will be made to integrate evidence-based Traditional and Complementary Medicines into the National Health System, emphasizing the conservation and management of biodiversity and medicinal plants.
  • Previous Collaborations: This marks the third 'Project Collaboration Agreement,' with previous contracts in 2016 and 2017 focusing on globalizing Traditional Medical systems and strengthening Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha medical systems.

FDA Approves Valneva's Single-Shot Vaccine for Chikungunya Virus

Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval to Valneva's single-shot vaccine, Ixchiq, for individuals aged 18 and above, particularly those at an increased risk of exposure to the chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne disease.

Key Points

  • First US Approval: Valneva's Ixchiq becomes the inaugural preventive shot sanctioned in the United States for combatting the chikungunya virus, transmitted through mosquito bites.
  • Chikungunya Symptoms: The virus typically causes symptoms such as fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash in infected individuals.
  • Late-Stage Trial Success: FDA's approval is founded on late-stage trials, revealing that the vaccine successfully generated antibody levels capable of neutralizing the chikungunya virus in 98.9% of participants within 28 days post-vaccination.
  • Post-Marketing Study: Despite approval, the FDA has requested Valneva to conduct a post-marketing study to evaluate the potential risk of severe chikungunya-like adverse reactions following the administration of Ixchiq.

Quitting Smoking Significantly Lowers Type-2 Diabetes Risk

A joint effort by the WHO, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and the University of Newcastle has unveiled a brief indicating that ceasing smoking can reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 30-40%.

  • The evidence-backed findings suggest that smoking adversely impacts the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, contributing to the onset of type-2 diabetes.

Key Points

  • Prevalence and Preventability of Type-2 Diabetes: Type-2 diabetes is a prevalent chronic disease, constituting over 95% of all diabetes cases globally.
  • The UN agency highlights its preventability, citing factors such as being overweight, insufficient exercise, and genetics as contributors.
  • Global Diabetes Statistics: The IDF estimates that 537 million people have diabetes, making it the ninth leading cause of death globally. The number continues to rise, underscoring the urgency of preventive measures.
  • Smoking-Related Complications: Smoking not only increases the risk of type-2 diabetes but also elevates the likelihood of diabetes-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, delayed wound healing, and an increased risk of lower limb amputations.
  • IDF's Encouragement to Quit Smoking: The IDF strongly encourages individuals to quit smoking to mitigate the risk of diabetes and avoid associated complications. Governments are urged to implement policies discouraging smoking and ensure smoke-free environments.
  • Role of Health Professionals: Health professionals are deemed crucial in motivating and guiding individuals with type-2 diabetes to quit tobacco.
  • Simultaneously, governments are called upon to enforce smoke-free regulations in indoor public spaces, workplaces, and public transport.
  • Importance of Smoking Cessation in Diabetes Management: Quitting smoking not only reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes but also plays a vital role in managing diabetes and reducing associated complications.
  • The WHO underscores the significance of comprehensive interventions for safeguarding public health.

Vampire Viruses Discovered in US

Recently, several ‘Vampire Viruses’ have been discovered on US soil for the first time.

Key Points

  • They are pathogens that latch onto other viruses in order to replicate themselves.
  • They emerge when a bacteriophage attaches to a soil-based virus, utilising its "life" for independent survival.
  • This viral relationship between two pathogens is called a satellite and a helper. The satellite is the infectious strand that relies on the helper for support through its life cycle.
  • Satellites depend on both their host organism and helper virus to complete its life cycle.
  • The satellite virus depends on the helper virus to build the protective shell that covers its genetic material, called a capsid or to help it replicate its DNA.
  • Most satellite viruses contain a gene that allows them to integrate into the host cell’s genetic material after they enter the cell.
  • This enables the satellite to reproduce whenever a helper enters the cell from then on.
  • The host cell also copies the satellite’s DNA and its own when it divides.

Global TB Recovery in 2022 after COVID-Related Disruptions

The number of people diagnosed with TB and treated globally in 2022 showed significant recovery following COVID-related disruptions in the previous years, as reported in the recent WHO Global TB Report.

  • However, TB remains the second leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, and global TB targets remain unmet.

Key Points

  • Global TB Diagnoses and Treatment Improve in 2022:` The global number of people newly diagnosed with TB in 2022 reached 7.5 million, the highest since the WHO began monitoring in 1995.
  • This figure surpassed the pre-COVID baseline of 7.1 million in 2019, indicating a significant increase from 2020 and 2021. The 2022 numbers likely include individuals with delayed diagnoses due to COVID-related disruptions in health services.
  • Recovery in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines: India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, responsible for a substantial reduction in TB cases in 2020 and 2021, saw a recovery in 2022, surpassing 2019 levels.
  • TB caused an estimated 1.30 million deaths in 2022, nearly returning to the 2019 level. COVID-related disruptions led to nearly half a million excess TB-related deaths from 2020 to 2022.
  • Improved Treatment Success Rates: The report highlights improved treatment success rates, with an 88% success rate for drug-susceptible TB and 63% for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR/RR-TB) cases.
  • To end the global TB epidemic, the report emphasizes the need to translate commitments from the 2023 UN high-level meeting on TB into actionable measures.

Mizoram Reports Highest Cancer Incidence Rate in India despite Low Population

According to a recent study, Mizoram, the second least populated state in India, has witnessed the country's highest incidence rate of cancer.

Key Points

  • Alarming Cancer Rates: Mizoram, with its low population, records the highest cancer incidence rate in India.
  • An 18-year trend study highlights a consistent increase in cancer incidence and mortality in the state.
  • Stomach Cancer Leading Among Men: Stomach cancer has emerged as the primary cause of cancer-related deaths among men in Mizoram.
  • Lung cancer is a significant contributor to cancer-related deaths among women in the state.
  • Youth Affected: The study reveals that cancer incidence and mortality are also increasing among the younger generation in Mizoram.
  • The rising cancer rates in youth may be linked to sedentary lifestyles, dietary patterns, and a genetic predisposition in the endogamous tribal population.
  • Challenges in Diagnosis and Treatment: The escalation in mortality rates could be due to a lack of specialized diagnostic facilities and skilled human resources.
  • Treatment strategies guided by genomic research and transportation challenges also impact cancer outcomes.
  • Cancer Trends in Mizoram: Among men, stomach cancer is the most prevalent, followed by head and neck, lung, colorectal, and other types.
  • Among women, lung cancer exhibits the highest incidence, followed by cervical, breast, and other types.

Parents of Niemann-Pick Disease Afflicted Children Seek Government Support

Recently, parents of children grappling with Niemann-Pick disease, a rare genetic disorder impacting the body's ability to metabolize cholesterol and fats, appealed to the Union government for inclusion in the National Policy for Rare Diseases.

  • Their plea aims to secure government financial assistance and access to the costly enzyme replacement therapy, Xenpozyme (olipudase alfa powder).

Key Points

  • A Lifeline for the Afflicted: Niemann Pick India Charitable Organisation has identified 16 children, including two from Delhi, eligible for Xenpozyme treatment.
  • Awareness on the Horizon: Niemann-Pick Disease Awareness Day will be observed for the first time in India, shedding light on the struggles faced by affected families.
  • A Ray of Hope from Abroad: The Drug Controller General of India's subject expert committee recently authorized a pharmaceutical company to import and market Xenpozyme in India, following approval by the US FDA.
  • International Recognition: Xenpozyme has been granted 'orphan drug' status in the US, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, and Malaysia.
  • The Challenge of Rare Diseases: While India recognizes around 500 rare diseases, approved DCGI treatments are currently accessible for only a select few, including Gaucher disease, Pompe disease, MPS I, and Fabry disease.
  • Unraveling Niemann-Pick Disease: Experts elucidate that Niemann-Pick disease encompasses various types, caused by mutations in specific genes responsible for metabolizing body fats.
  • Each type varies in severity and onset age, with Type A being the most acute and often presenting in infancy or early childhood.
  • Type 2 is less severe and manifests in childhood or adolescence, while Type 3 is a rare form typically appearing in adolescence or adulthood.
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