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Handy Way To Keep Infections At Bay

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KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – If there is one major takeaway from the unprecedented health crisis that swept the world some 19 months ago, it would have to be the importance of practising good hand hygiene.

With many nations, including Malaysia, heading towards the COVID-19 endemic phase, it has become more pertinent than ever for people to make handwashing a habit.

Regular washing of hands, particularly after using the toilet or before handling food, can greatly reduce the risk of diarrhoea or contracting contagious diseases such as hand, foot and mouth disease, in the case of children, and of course COVID-19.

UiTM Medical Centre family medicine consultant Dr Ilham Ameera Ismail said hands are among the parts of the body that are most exposed to the surrounding environment as they are used repeatedly every day for a thousand and one purposes such as writing, holding things, opening doors, eating, making payments and even washing the private parts after using the toilet.

“Handwashing may seem trivial but lack of hand hygiene can cause health problems. Handwashing is the easiest way to prevent infections,” she told Bernama, adding that unwashed hands are not only excellent breeding grounds for germs but also serve as the medium for germs to spread from one place to another.

Unwashed hands can also carry contaminants such as faecal matter and chemicals.

“Just imagine, one gram of human faecal matter alone contains one trillion germs,” she said, adding that some individuals, out of habit, like to touch their face with their hands.

“When a person does this, the germs on their contaminated hands can enter the body through their eyes, nose or mouth.”

COVID-19 AND ITS LINK TO HANDWASHING

In the context of the ongoing pandemic, Dr Ilham Ameera, who is also an occupational health doctor, said the virus that causes COVID-19 is easily transmitted via nasal or oral droplets from an infected person.

“If an infected person sneezes or coughs openly, the droplets will fall on exposed surfaces. If the nose or mouth is covered with the hands (whilst sneezing or coughing) and the hands are left unwashed, the virus can spread to any surface the contaminated hands come into contact with. Then, other people who touch the same surface can get infected by the virus too,” she explained.

She said when hands are washed using the proper technique, it can cut the risk of diarrhoea by between 23 and 40 percent.

“It can also reduce the risk of contracting (infectious) respiratory diseases by 16 to 20 percent,” she said, adding that one in three diarrhoea cases and one in five respiratory infections can be prevented by keeping one’s hands clean.

WASH FOR A MINIMUM OF 20 SECONDS

Handwashing has its own correct technique which people have to comply with to ensure their hands are cleansed thoroughly.

Dr Ilham Ameera said hands must be washed with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds or, better still, 40 to 60 seconds.

“The frequency of handwashing will depend on how much you use them and you need to wash your hands each time they are soiled. After washing your hands, dry them with a clean cloth or tissue or use the hand dryer. There’s no point in washing your hands and then drying them with a dirty cloth,” she said.

On the current trend of using a sanitiser for hand cleansing purposes, she said while sanitising liquids can kill germs, they cannot, however, completely remove faecal matter and obvious impurities.

“If using a sanitiser, rub the liquid on your hands for 20 to 30 seconds. If you use it repeatedly and your hands start to feel sticky, then it is time to wash them with soap and water,” she added.

AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

In order for people to incorporate hand hygiene into their daily lives, they should be made aware of the importance of cultivating the handwashing habit starting at an early age.

Based on this approach, Unilever Malaysia – which manufactures various homecare, beauty and personal care, and food and refreshment products – has been carrying out campaigns to promote personal hygiene since a decade ago.

Unilever Malaysia-Singapore marketing manager (Beauty and Personal Care) Lenny Chuah said 10 years ago the company launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), a set of goals for their global business designed to help make sustainable living commonplace around the world.

Under USLP, the company’s Lifebuoy soap brand set itself the ambitious target of improving the handwashing behaviours of more than one billion people worldwide.

“To achieve the target, Lifebuoy carried out the largest-ever behaviour changing programme involving schoolchildren,” she said, adding that in Malaysia, public awareness on handwashing has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation.

“Based on a 2020 evaluation on Knowledge and Hand Hygiene Practice Among Preschool Children in the Klang Valley, it was found that a majority of preschool children acquired knowledge of handwashing from their parents, with 63 percent of them demonstrating the correct technique of washing hands,” she added.

Chuah said since children under the age of 12 are not included in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, getting them to keep their hands clean all the time is the most effective way to avoid infection.

“Children are naturally curious and are inclined to touch anything they set their eyes on, which can expose them to all kinds of infections, including COVID-19.

“It must be noted that children with (underlying) health issues face a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19,” she said, adding that washing their hands with water alone is not enough to get rid of germs or viruses.

“Parents are advised to use hand cleansers that contain at least 60 to 80 percent alcohol to trigger quick and optimal antimicrobial action.”

EDUCATE VIA VIDEOS         

Meanwhile, private-sector employee Noor Hasliza Nusi, 38, said she has been imparting hand hygiene knowledge to her children through social media videos where they also learned the correct handwashing techniques.

“In the beginning, I used to explain the whole procedure to them but they didn’t seem to understand, so I showed them the relevant videos so that they can learn how to wash their hands properly. The videos also instilled into them the importance of handwashing, especially in this new normal era,” she said.

Sarina Aziz, 35, who is a teaching assistant at the preschool at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Medan in Petaling Jaya, said the pre-schoolers are constantly reminded to practice the seven handwashing steps, namely wetting their hands and applying enough soap to create a good lather, rubbing their palms together, cleaning each finger and thumb, rubbing the fingernails on the palm, rubbing the back of their hands, washing their hands with sufficient clean water and using a clean cloth to dry their hands.

“It’s important for us to keep reminding them to make sure their hands are clean before they touch their food,” she added.

Sources: BERNAMA

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(Video) Booster Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine, This Is What We Know So Far

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Recently, the particular topic of booster dose for COVID-19 vaccine has taken the world by storm. According to the news, a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine is actually an additional dose of a vaccine given to people after the protection provided by the original shots has begun to decrease over time. Typically, you would get a booster after the immunity from the initial doses naturally starts to wane. The booster is designed to help people maintain their level of immunity longer. That means people all over the world would have longer immunization against COVID-19.

Although COVID-19 vaccination for adults aged 65 years and older remains effective in preventing severe disease, vaccination is less effective at preventing infection or milder illness with symptoms. Emerging evidence also shows that among healthcare and other frontline workers, vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections is decreasing over time. This lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes.

According to the recent Facebook post of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, they will start to administer the booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Malaysia for senior citizens aged 60-years-old and above. The booster dose would also be given to frontline workers who have received a complete dose of the vaccine at least 6 months ago. Eligible individuals for the booster dose will be notified through the MySejahtera app. For those who do not have the app, notification will be given using text message or even call from the Vaccination Center.

A third dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines is actually identical to the first two doses. It can help protect people with weakened immune systems who did not have a strong enough response to the first two doses of one of the mRNA vaccines. Such people can get a third dose as soon as 28 days after a second dose. The FDA has authorized, and the CDC recommends, that those with certain medical conditions that suppress the immune system get a third dose of the same brand of COVID-19 vaccine that they initially received.

Who Can Get Booster Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine?

1) Older Adults And 50 To 64-Year-Old People With Medical Conditions

People aged 65 years and older and adults 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should get a booster dose of vaccine. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, and can also increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions.

2) Long-Term Care Setting Residents Aged 18 Years And Older

Residents aged 18 years and older of long-term care settings should get a booster dose of vaccine. Because residents in long-term care settings external icons live closely together in group settings and are often older adults with underlying medical conditions, they are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.

3) People With Medical Conditions Aged 18-49 Years

People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may get a booster dose of vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults aged 18–49 years who have underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. However, that risk is likely not as high as it would be for adults aged 50 years and older who have underlying medical conditions.

4) Employees And Residents At Increased Risk For COVID-19 Exposure And Transmission

People aged 18–64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster dose of vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults, who aged 18–64 years who work or reside in certain settings may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside.

Sources: YouTube World Health Organization, Ministry of Health Malaysia.

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‘Alice In Wonderland Syndrome’, A Rare Neurological Disorder You Should Know

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Consider yourself alone at home and when you turn to look outside, you notice a huge cat in the garden with a pink face and orange ears. Your head hurts, and you lose control of your limbs, collapsing to the ground. What exactly is going on?

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is named after Lewis Carroll’s famous 19th-century classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. If you haven’t read it or watched one of the many films based on it, the protagonist, Alice, goes through a lot of strange experiences. One of these abilities is the ability to see objects as larger or smaller than they are.

Picture: Neurology Live

You may wonder if there is such thing called Alice in Wonderland syndrome but that’s okay. It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS). This neurological disorder is so uncommon that some neurologists — even those who specialize in the diseases it frequently occurs with, such as migraine and epilepsy — can see patients for decades and never come across it.

These occurrences aren’t caused by vision impairment or a delusion. Changes in how your brain sees the surroundings and how your body appears to cause them. Children and young people are the most vulnerable to AIWS. Although most people grow out of their skewed perceptions as they become older, it is still possible to have this experience as an adult.

If you’re wondering how it feels like having the AIWS, here’s 5 interesting facts about it.

1. Things appear bigger or smaller than they actually are

Picture: Science ABC

In some circumstances, it’s not simply an external object that appears to alter size; patients with Alice in Wonderland syndrome may have erroneous perceptions of their own body parts, making them appear considerably larger or smaller.

The sense that your body or the items around you are shrinking is known as micropsia. The sense that your body or the items around you are growing larger is known as macropsia. Both of these things happen frequently during an episode of AIWS.

2. Lewis Caroll himself experienced AIWS

Picture: Britannica

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll, and it’s probable that his own migraine experience impacted his writing. Alice finds a bottle labeled “Drink me” in the book, and when she drinks it, she shrinks to less than a foot tall. She eats a cake almost quickly afterward, which causes her to grow extremely tall till her head meets the ceiling. It’s been suggested that he may have had his own version of Alice in Wonderland syndrome, which could explain some of the strange elements in those stories.

3. Experts aren’t sure about the causes of AIWS

Picture: Medical News Today

It’s unclear what causes AIWS, but doctors are working to figure it out. They are aware that AIWS is not an eye problem, a delusion, or a mental or neurological disorder. Researchers believe that irregular blood flow to the areas of the brain that analyze your environment and experience visual perception is caused by aberrant electrical activity in the brain. Stress, cough medicine, hallucinogenic substances, brain tumors, and epilepsy are all plausible causes, however, further research is needed.

4. Rare but can be diagnosed

Picture: Medical News Today

Because Alice in Wonderland syndrome is so uncommon, many professionals may never see it in their lives. However, while specialists agree that it is uncommon, the overall prevalence is unknown. There are some ways to diagnose AIWS such as MRI scans, blood tests, and electroencephalography (EEG). The lack of diagnosis could also be due to some people’s aversion to discussing their symptoms for fear of being misdiagnosed as hallucinating or suffering from a mental condition.

5. Treatment

Picture: Venner Shipley

There is no cure for AIWS. If you or your child is experiencing symptoms, the best thing you can do is rest and wait for them to go away. It’s also crucial to persuade yourself or a loved one that the symptoms aren’t life-threatening.

However, treating the underlying cause of AIWS episodes, as determined by you and your doctor, may help you avoid an episode. For instance, if AIWS symptoms is a migraine, then treating the migraines will prevent further episodes or if its a seizure, then treating that seizure will be helpful.

The symptoms aren’t hazardous, but they can be disconcerting. They’re also not a symptom of something more serious. AIWS episodes can occur multiple times a day for several days in a row, and then you may go weeks or months without experiencing symptoms. Over time, you’ll probably notice fewer symptoms. When you reach early adulthood, the syndrome may go away completely.

Sources: Healthline, Everyday Health

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Early Intervention Can Prevent Visual Impairment, Say Experts

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KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — The COVID-19 pandemic saw schools nationwide shifting to home-based online lessons while working adults have been asked to work from home.

During this period, there has been an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies as people and organisations have had to adjust to new ways of work and life.

Electronics have become part of our daily lives;  distancing ourselves from our gadgets for just a day has become unthinkable. But too much screen time has its side effects on the eyesight.

We often hear of children developing short-sightedness or myopia due to prolonged exposure to gadgets or adults having eye strain after spending long hours in front of computer screens.

However, besides gadgets, several other factors have also contributed to eye health issues among people of all ages, whether consciously or unconsciously.

GENETIC FACTORS

 According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), unoperated cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the leading causes of vision impairment. Other causes include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy as well as trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye.

A General and Paediatric Ophthalmologist at MSU Medical Centre Shah Alam, Dr Azlindarita @ Aisyah Mohd Abdullah said generic and non-generic factors also contributed to visual impairment affecting babies and children.

” “Most genetically-related cases can be detected since birth or below six month-olds.  Other than that, an absent red reflex whereby one pupil is white in colour is a sign of cataract in infants. For babies with glaucoma, the cornea should be transparent instead of cloudy,” she told Bernama recently.

Dr Azlindarita who is also social media adviser to the Malaysian Advocacy for Myopia Prevention (MAMP) said for non-genetic factors, premature babies of less than 32 weeks or weighing less than 1.5 kg, have high risks of developing myopia if they have retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

ROP is an eye disease that occurs in a small percentage of premature babies where abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina.

“Babies especially who have been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth will be screened before being taken home by their parents.

“If they are found to be free from the disorder (ROP) after the screening, they will still be required to go through another yearly examination to ensure they do not have problems with their eyesight,” he said, adding that normally, the routine checks will be carried out for this group up to six or seven years old.

A 2005 study shows that the rate of visual impairment among seven-year old children is 9.8 per cent while for 15-year olds, the rate is 34.4 per cent.

MONITORING VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

Dr Azlindarita said, normal visual acuity of newborn babies is at 800/+8.0 and will reduce to 0 when they reach seven years of age. At one year old,  it will be reduced to +2.5 and when the child grows to three years old, it will further drop to +1.0. At seven years old, the visual acuity should be 0, but those with short -sightedness will have a visual acuity of -1.0 or -2.0.

“For children aged 5, if the visual acuity is -1.0, the child is not normal (eyesight) and requires frequent monitoring and needs glasses (on the specialist’s advice,” she said.

She explained that visual impairment can be divided into three; short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness and blurred vision while visual impairment caused by genetic factors have high risks of developing the problem at an early age.

Among the features detected among infants or babies with visual impairment are that they tend to squint their eyes when looking at far objects and they would bring objects such as books or toys closer to them as well as watching television at a close distance.

For those with serious cases of visual impairment,  they would usually miss their steps given that they are unable to see  objects around them.

“There are also infants and children who have abnormal head posture (when the head is deviated out of the normal primary straight head position). When watching television, they will turn the head to place an eye with better vision closer to the target.

“It may be easier for four-year olds and above to share their problem with their parents. Parents and teachers can gauge their behaviour and performance in school at this age,” she said.

GADGETS THE MAIN CAUSE

President of the Association of Malaysian Optometrists (AMO) Ahmad Fadhullah Ahmad Fuzai said, gadgets  among infants and children could affect their emotional and mental state, in addition to exposing them to visual impairment risks.

Several local studies found that exposure to the screen of gadgets including telephone and television before two years of  age have negative effects on infants.

According to the American Optometric Association, excessive exposure to blue light can damage the retina.

“Exposure to blue light from computer screens and digital devices can decrease contrast leading to digital eyestrain, weight gain, onset or progression of macular degeneration and affects concentration.

“For children aged between two to three years old, passive and prolonged exposure to television and without parents’ interaction are not encouraged as from birth to early childhood, children use their five senses to explore their world, which is crucial to brain development. The eye is a real window into what is happening in the body,” he said.

“For three year olds, screen exposure helps them differentiate between reality and the virtual world and during this period, children learn most things through observation and imitation,” he added.

DIET, MEDICINES

Visual impairments are also prevalent among those who have poor dietary habits or picky eaters. Individuals who are deficient in nutrients include those with chronic alcohol abuse, incorrectly applied vegetarian diet, patients who undergo gastrointestinal surgery or those who suffer from anorexia nervosa.

Ahmad Fadhullah said, imbalanced diet for example, can cause individuals to be deficient in B12 and D vitamins, selenium, high zinc level, reduction in bone density and  optic neuropathy or damage to the optic nerve characterised by loss of vision.

“An individual not only faces problems with their eyesight through their food intake but also failure to get the right nutrition for their body could also affect their eyesight. The situation is called nutritional optic neuropathy, a dysfunction of the optic nerve resulting from improper dietary content of certain nutrients essential for normal functional of the nerve fibres.

He also noted that consuming medicines that are easily available online but are not approved by the Ministry of Health, can have side effects on the individual’s eyesight.

” This is because unregistered medicines normally contain high steroid content for the purpose of giving temporary relief.

“When these medicines are taken without doctors’  prescription, it can result in acute glaucoma and  permanent blindness.

“Lubricant eye drops used widely as relief for eye problems are also feared to be harmful to the consumer. Hence, the authorities should control the sale of medicines that are not approved by MOH,” he said.

OTHER SIDE EFFECTS

Meanwhile, President of the Malaysian  Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH), Dr Shawaludin Husin said, fatigue or eye strain faced by working groups can affect body posture or ergonomics as their eyes are too focused on the screen for a long period of time.

“Although the source is their eyesight, but it could have other health problems when the body appears to have been “locked” as they have to focus on carrying out a certain task to the extent that they neglect the importance of having a good posture.

“Among others back and waist pain, headaches, etc, as more time is spent staring at the screen. Some people suffer from sleep disorder due to the blue light from the screen that affects the hormonal balance of the body. Too much exposure to the blue light at night can result in decreased levels of melatonin.

“A human body should be sleepy or tired during dark and is awakened by bright lights but man-made lights affect the hormonal balance,” he said.

Ahmad Fadhullah also said that a balanced diet with adequate nutrients and vitamins  can help prevent visual impairment.

At the same time, eye protectors such as dark sunglasses or those with UV protection can avoid the risk of cataract at an early stage.

“Excessive use of gadgets can cause eyestrain. Try to practise the 20-20-20 technique; the simple rule is that for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a digital device or computer screen, you should look at something else that is 20 feet away for a period of 20 seconds.

“Go for an eye check up at least once a year to ensure that your eyesight is at the optimum level. This also serves as an early intervention in order to prevent more serious problems from occuring.  What is important is, eye exams at every age and life stage can help keep your vision strong,” he added.

Sources: BERNAMA

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