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Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Sunday, August 18, 2019

E-cig & vape devices targeting teens


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Some of the latest e-cig and vape devices are cheap, as small as your thumb and can even be worn as a watch. Tobacco control experts say awareness among parents and teachers are crucial in keeping this new addiction out of schools. 

LET’S be clear – e-cigs and vape (ECV) are electronic drug delivery devices that can be used with the likes of meth and marijuana, warns Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) chief coordinator and the varsity’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) coordinator, Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin.

The smoking cessation specialist says there’s a chance that students using ECV will be exposed to other drugs.

“And it’s likely they’ll face the same problems – like poor grades – as students who smoke.”

Dr Amer Siddiq was commenting on findings published in the July edition of the Journal of Criminal Justice.

‘It’s all the rage! Exploring the nuances in the link between vaping and adolescent delinquency’ suggests that there may be something “criminogenic about vaping among adolescents”. But the strength of the relationship between vaping and delinquency depends on what is being vaped, with marijuana vaping being most heavily correlated with delinquency.

Dr Nur Amani@Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin, the lead of the NARCC smoking prevention programme in schools, says when the use of ECV is related to crimes like theft, violence, fighting, bullying, and running away from home, more effort is needed to curb the habit.

“Parents must realise that ECV has negative health, mental, economic and academic impact on youths.”


Young at risk.

Four years ago, ECV use among students was less than 3% because the devices were too pricey for most teenagers, Assoc Prof Dr Anne Yee notes..

According to the Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma), a whopping 36.9% of students start on the devices between the ages of 14 and 15, and now, we’re seeing a spike in teenage use..

Easily passed-off as a smart watch, thumb drive or pen, the eye-catching devices look like the latest fashion accessories, says the addiction psychiatry expert and UMCAS member..

“Sellers are going all out to push the product to teens by making it cheaper and more accessible..

“Many even give it free to attract young customers. Drug pushers use the same tactic to get people hooked so that they keep coming back.”.

These days, huge, eye-catching banners adorn night markets with traders openly displaying their wares. Clearly, the colourful e-liquid bottles with fancy names were designed for kids, teenagers and women, she says. These are groups that may never smoke yet we’re turning them into ECV users..

“If sellers are targeting adult smokers who want to quit, they wouldn’t need gimmicks. Why make such fancy designs?”.

Dr Nur Amani says a recent study reported that 22% of children aged between 11 and 15 in England, use ECV compared to 18% who start smoking..

“This is because ECV ads are appealing. Here we have celebrities promoting ECV on social media to entice kids.”.

Dr Amer Siddiq says more needs to be done to prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts from emerging..

“ECV isn’t safe. The devices could burn and the e-liquids could be adulterated.”.

While studies have shown that children and adolescents see ECV as cool, pleasurable and fun to use, Dr Nur Amani says there’s a pattern of kids from lower socio-economic income groups being targeted by unscrupulous sellers..

Getting the girls.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan says teachers nationwide are noticing a rise in ECV use among girls..

“This is scary because with cigarettes, it was mostly just the boys. But these devices are popular among both boys and girls.”.

Dr Yee is worried because nicotine is being touted as a way to lose weight. It’s like what drug pushers tell women about meth..

As it is, more young girls are experimenting with e-cigs as compared to cigarettes..

Cute cartoon packaging and fruity flavours are aimed at female non-smokers.

Society still has a negative perception of women who smoke. But with ECV, the message is that even ‘‘good girls’’ use it because it’s fashionable and can help you lose weight, adds Dr Yee.

In December last year, The Star highlighted how ECV and e-liquids were promoted as weight management aids.

“Even e-liquids that claim to be nicotine-free contain the drug. And you’ll never know for sure how much nicotine is inside. It could be equal to 20 cigarettes.

“A nicotine high lasts for less than two hours before the craving starts. So getting youngsters hooked on ECV is a business tactic, ” explains Dr Yee.

If your kids are turning to cigarettes, ECV or drugs, it could be because they’re bored or have no one to turn to, she says, adding that children who feel a sense of belonging in the family don’t need these harmful distractions.

Easily addicted

Dr Yee says teenagers are much more susceptible to addiction compared to adults. Some even start to have nicotine cravings after just one try.

“The teenage brain has yet to mature. That’s why adolescents are more impulsive, emotional and susceptible to advertisements aimed at influencing their behaviour.”

Parents whose children are already smoking aren’t helping by getting them an ECV. While it’s better than a tobacco cigarette, ECV is harmful for non-smokers.

When inhaled, tiny chemical particles in the e-liquids can enter the bloodstream and cause long-term harm.

Those between the ages of 10 and 18, adds Dr Nur Amani, are especially vulnerable to addiction.

The medical doctor says e-liquids contain toxic materials like lead, arsenic, manganese and chromium. Exposure to even small amounts can worsen symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

ECV use among varsity students is also worrying, says Dr Amer Siddiq, who was among the researches behind The use of e-cigarettes among university students in Malaysia journal paper published in December.

The study, funded by the Education Ministry, involved 1, 302 students in six Malaysian varsities.

“Over 40% of students smoke and use ECV. This means that ECV has not helped them quit smoking, ” he says, adding that some users even experienced adverse effects like dizziness, coughs and headaches.

Anti-vape campaign

The Education Ministry recently announced that it would intensify awareness campaigns after claims of ECV being freely distributed among students, and photos of youths vaping, went viral.

Calling on parents and society to stop students from bringing the devices to schools, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin notes that ECV has become the norm these days – becoming more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from other electronic gadgets.

Welcoming the ministry’s move, Dr Nur Amani feels it’s important to get tobacco cessation experts onboard to work with teachers.

More awareness campaigns need to be conducted by health scientists, educationists, politicians and non-governmental organisations, to show that ECV use is not “normal behaviour”.

Group activities, instead of talks, work better to impart knowledge. And, it’s more sustainable.

“The children themselves can then act as ‘peer experts’. The impact is greater when the message is shared by those of the same age group.”

Campaigns can be effective if we target parents and teachers, says Dr Yee.

With children and adolescents, the more you say no, the more they will want to try it, she says, adding that parents shouldn’t over-react if they find their child smoking, using ECV or taking drugs.

“It’s not the end of the world. Be an ally to your children instead of acting like the police.”

She suggests talking to children about the dangers out there instead of sweeping things under the carpet.

“Make them realise that sellers only want to make money by getting youths hooked on an addictive habit whether it’s nicotine or drugs.”

The Health and Education Ministries are already working together on the Kotak (Kesihatan Oral Tanpa Asap Rokok) programme to highlight the harms of cigarettes and its related products, says Dr Amer Siddiq.

But with the introduction of newer ECV models, there’s a need to raise awareness among the adults

Citing some pod-and-USB-like devices as examples, he says these have very high nicotine content but most parents and teachers don’t know about them.

Recently, children were mimicking vaping because of what they see on social media, Dr Amer Siddiq says in reference to the crackdown on Ghost Smoke – a candy consumed by sucking on a straw to produce a vapour-like effect.

“The Kotak programme must be enhanced to cover ECV and its dangers especially the impact on young developing brains.”

NUTP’s Tan says most teachers are in a cocoon when it comes to ECV.

“We need to expose teachers to this new threat so that they know what to look out for.

“And teachers must be given more authority. Since we cannot cane and are vulnerable to lawsuits, we want legislation that compels parents of problematic students to come to school and be responsible for their kids’ behaviour.”

UM, says Dr Nur Amani, has been conducting educational and advocacy programmes in schools through its No-Cotine Club and Community and Sustainability Centre (UMCARES).

Trained students go to colleges and schools to carry out activities that de-normalise smoking and vaping, she says.

“Soon we’ll be approaching 80 partner schools to tell our children that EVC is not just ‘evaporated water’.

“The effects are harmful and it’s haram for Muslims. Hopefully when they go home, they’ll share the message with their parents.”

Smoking and IR 4.0

ECV will be among the hot topics at the upcoming KL Nicotine Addiction International Conference (KLNAC) 2020, says its organising chairman Dr Amer Siddiq.

As the country moves towards realising the National Strategic Plan to make Malaysia smoke-free by 2045, it’s crucial to look at all forms of technology that can prevent the uptake of cigarettes, he says.

“We’ve decided on the theme ‘Mission IR 4.0: Redesign Tobacco Control’ because of the emergence of various disruptive technologies that can either assist quitting, prevent youths from starting the habit, or attract people to smoking.

“ECV was initially touted as a way to help smokers quit but we’ve seen how Juul has ended up enticing youths to take it up instead.”

UM, he says, is already using data and technology in its tobacco control efforts.

The varsity’s dental group is working on an app for school children to prevent initiation to smoking.

And, Dr Yee is collecting data to match smokers with cessation apps that are right for them.

“We’ve thousands of smoking cessation apps yet the success rate is only 25%. Each app caters to specific personalities so we’re trying to match smokers with apps that cater to their preferences. This will ensure a higher success rate.”

By CHRISTINA CHIN - Source link

Teens the target for vape products

Cause for concern: Subbarow showing the smart watch vape gadget at the CAP office in Jalan Masjid Negeri, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Vape products in all shapes and sizes have been flooding the market, including those targeting schoolchildren.

Besides vape pens and chocolates, the latest is the vape smart watch.

The gadget, which has a strap and detachable watch, is being sold openly in shops for RM132 each.

“These watches can cost less than RM130 and some students are using pooled money to buy and share them.

“They also pay RM50 for a 30ml bottle of liquid nicotine, ” said Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow.

He said recently, teachers in two schools in the state seized vape gadgets from students, showing a disturbing trend of students vaping.

“They look like regular smart watches and teachers may not easily identify them. The liquid is poured into the detachable watch face unit, and the vaping device is shared among the students.

“One can easily lay their hands on the China-made product as they seem to be used by schoolchildren. This could lead to serious health issues.

“The government may have banned cigarettes in schools or public places, but the law still allows e-cigarettes. Sadly, many unscrupulous traders are promoting these products as gifts, ” he said in an interview.

Subbarow also claimed that a preschool teacher confiscated a “cigarette pad” from a five-year-old recently.

“When you roll each page torn off from the small note pad, it looks like a cigarette. This seems to be a plaything among the children.

“There is like a pattern now where smoking is being promoted at an early age, which would have disastrous effects on a growing child. There are no laws stopping profiteering from these gadgets, ” he said.

Subbarow added that students often got away with vaping, compared to smoking cigarettes because they come in many flavours and are water-based, without emanating much smoke or smell.

“The fruity flavours of apple, orange or strawberry cause the vapers to have fresh breath, making it difficult for teachers and parents to know if their children are vaping, ” he said.

When met, two 16-year-olds from a school in Jelutong, who were vaping near the CAP office at Jalan Masjid Negeri, said they bought an e-cigarette for RM100 and liquid nicotine for RM50 and that they smoked outside the school.

One of them said he had borrowed money from another friend and it was nothing new as many peers in his school have e-cigarettes.He said they would also meet after school for vaping sessions.

Subbarow cautioned that thousands have died from lung infections and other diseases due to smoking, which is higher than those who were killed in accidents.

“Our checks in about eight schools showed that the situation is critical. Prompt action must be taken to address the issue, including amending the laws to ban vaping in public places.

“The anti-vape campaign started five years ago when vaping was a hot issue but it soon fizzled out as the Health Ministry did not follow through, ” he said.

“It’s time for drastic action or we’ll lose an entire generation, who will end up becoming vaping addicts.”

By R. SEKARAN - Source link


Read more


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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Deadly Rabies in Dogs Alert !



Quarantine declared in ‘rabies area’


The war against rabies is on with the Matang sub-district declaring it a “rabies infected area” effective yesterday, following the death of a rabid dog which bit two girls in Kuala Sepetang.

Calling it an immediate measure to curb the spread of rabies, Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir signed the declaration, which bars people from bringing dogs out of the zone.

If they want to do so, they will need written permission from the state Veterinary Services Depart­ment director.

Announcing the decision to the press yesterday, Dr Zambry said the area would be monitored by the Perak Veterinary Department.

A special task force headed by Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon was also formed.

“Those with pet dogs will have to watch them closely and keep them in enclosed areas.

“The Veterinary Department has hired qualified personnel to deal with rabid dogs. Dogs found having symptoms of rabies will be culled,” Dr Zambry said.

The authorities had begun vaccinating all pets within a 1km radius of Kuala Sepetang, about 70km from here, on Sunday.

Veterinary Services director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said the two-year-old rabid dog bit its owner’s 11-year-old daughter and 12-year-old niece at a house in Tepi Sungai at about 7pm on July 4.

The dog is believed to have been bitten by another dog brought into the country on a boat by foreigners.

Dr Zambry said that although no other cases had been reported, the quarantine was put in place as a precaution.

“This restriction only involves animals. Humans can move freely in and out of the area,” he added.

At a separate press conference in Kuala Sepetang, assemblyman Chua Yee Ling said the focus would be on monitoring the movement of dogs, vaccinating pet dogs and taking samples from strays.

Meanwhile, the mother of one of the two girls bitten by the pet dog was unhappy that she was not told that the dead dog had tested positive for rabies.

The 40-year-old hawker, who only wanted to be known as Ooi, said she found out about it from friends who came to her house.

She said the two girls had recovered and returned to school.

“I hope the public will respect my privacy and let me focus on looking after the girls,” she said.

She said both girls would receive four more vaccine jabs at Taiping Hospital in the next two weeks.

Residents in the fishing village seemed calm, although many remained jumpy at the sight of stray dogs.

Veterinary Services Department officers were spotted going door to door to inform the villagers about rabies and enquire about pet dogs.

Sources: The Star  by T. Avineshwaran Amanda Yeap


Related Links:

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Dengue app bad for aedes, can get updates, report dengue concerns

The ‘Predict and Beat Dengue’ app is now available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Predict and Beat Dengue - Android Apps on Google Play

https://youtu.be/jYL-EBSrV_8

App for updates on dengue


PENANGITES can now download a mobile application (app) which allows its users to be part of an effort to combat dengue in the state.

Known as the ‘Predict and Beat Dengue’ app, it will alert users when they enter a dengue hotspot.

The users can also report dengue-related concerns in their areas and get the latest updates on dengue cases as among its other features.

State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the app is now available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

He said the app could help to predict a possible dengue outbreak in an area within the next 30 days.

“From there, we can carry out prevention by removing all possible Aedes breeding grounds.

“It quickens the process of detection and identifies places that require dengue preventative measures such as fogging, larvae-ciding and gotong-royong,” he said during a briefing session at Komtar yesterday.

Dr Afif said the state spent RM200,000 on a pilot study for the project which was carried out between May 1 and July 1 by the app creator, a US-based company known as Aime Inc.

“I’m proud that Penang is taking this proactive approach. We are working hand-in-hand with the Health Ministry and they are very supportive of this idea.

“We hope that it can also be carried out nationwide,” he said.

Aime president Rainier Mallol explained the workings of the app and its many features during the presentation.

Also present were Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey, Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan and Sungai Pinang assemblyman Lim Siew Khim.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

New ways to beat superbugs, a Malaysian doctorate student discovered?


A Malaysian doctorate student is causing a buzz in the medical research field.

 Lam Shu Jie (pic), 25, and her team of researchers may have found a solution to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly known as “superbugs”.

The team from Melbourne School of Engineering published a paper on Monday on a new treatment method.

Shu Lam A 25 year-old Melbourne Uni student has made a discovery that could be a game-changer for modern medicine and avert a serious health crisis.

The method uses star-shaped structures called structurally nano-engineered anti-microbial peptide polymers (SNAPPs).

SNAPPs are found to be highly effective in killing Gram-negative bacteria – a class of bacteria which is antibiotic resistant – without hurting healthy cells, according to the team’s article in Nature Microbiology.

Unlike antibiotics which attempt to kill the bugs chemically, the star-shaped protein molecules defeat them by “ripping apart their cell walls”.

She also found that it was important to have outside interest due to the research work's long hours and possibility of failure..

"I've just watched the Korean movie called 'Train to Busan'. I also like trying new cuisines and exploring cafes here because the food culture's very strong," she laughed..

She lamented that the initial experiments were daunting, which left her in fear..

"My experiments kept failing, but later I learned what went wrong. I like the investigating part of research. It's beyond being in the labs or reading books; it's also about speaking with other experts," she said..

The second child of three siblings still has strong ties with home..

"I try to come back for the Chinese New Year because I miss my family," she said while lamenting the loss of her father last year..

Despite her supervisor Prof. Greg Qiao reportedly saying that her research is still at its early stage, Lam has plans to continue her research in the field, while in the long-term, she expressed hope to establish a research group with experts upon returning home and also lecture..

She will complete her PhD in two months time..

The scientific breakthrough was picked up by many news portals including Science Daily, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the South China Morning Post.

Lam told South China Morning Post that she spent the past three and a half years researching polymers and how they can be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The Batu Pahat lass, who is to submit her PhD thesis in two months, admitted that she hoped to continue to work in research, rather than opt for medical training like her father who is a paediatrician.

“I think my career will be mainly focused on research in the medical field,” said Lam.

Her supervisor Prof Greg Qiao, who is also one of the 10 co-authors of the scientific journal, said the research was still in its early stages.

He told South China Morning Post that more work was needed to verify the best formula and structure, as well as determine dosage and test for toxicity, before the substance could be deemed safe for human use.

“Even with all the money in the world, it would take at least five years to get to the first human-test stage because many resources and much work are needed before commercialisation,” he said.

Superbugs stem from misuse or overuse of antibiotics, according to the World Health Organisation.

It lists anti-microbial resistance as a global concern that threatens our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability and death. The Star/Asia News Network.

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“I think my career will be mainly focused on research in the medical field,” said Lam, who has already begun pursuing her passion in polymer research during her four-year undergraduate degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“As an undergraduate, she would come to our group for summer work when she had time,” Qiao recalled of Lam.


These days when Lam finds the rare downtime between researching polymers, she likes to watch TV and explore the city. “Being in Melbourne, I have developed an interest in food and really like exploring new cafes and brunch places, so I spend a lot of time trying new food and walking around when I’m not working,” Lam said.

Lam moved to Australia for her foundation studies after finishing primary and secondary school in Malaysia, and is likely stay on in Australia after graduating at the end of the year.

“My main preference would be to continue to stay in research, but I am also looking at career fields outside of polymer research,” she said. “This research is going in different directions,” said Qiao. “One is killing the bug, the other is treating cancer.”

Her group is also examining the use of polymers as a drug carrier for cancer patients as well as the treatment of other diseases.

A key project at the moment is the synthetic transplant of cornea in the eye, which involves the use of polymers grown from the patient’s own cells in the lab to replace the damaged cornea.

The operation has already been tested multiple times successfully on sheep, and Qiao hopes to begin the first human trials in Melbourne within two years, working with the Melbourne Eye and Ear Hospital.


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Friday, September 2, 2016

The Zika virus spreading to Malaysia and Singapore


Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys by researchers monitoring yellow fever. The virus got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first discovered. It is classified as a flavivirus, which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis viruses and dengue. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, Brazil saw 20 times more microcephaly cases in 2015 than usual, following the outbreak of Zika in the country that year.


https://youtu.be/H5IbCDebdBM

The Zika virus, explained 
 

https://youtu.be/OILBAbva6QA

First Zika patient getting better



Video: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/02/first-zika-patient-getting-better-doc-womans-last-blood-test-turned-out-negative-but-we-will-retest/

The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

By Loh foon fong, wani muthiah, joseph kaos, tho xin yi, shazni ong, christopher tan, neville spykerman, dina murad, victoria brown, mohd farhaan shah, norbaiti phaharoradzi, nabila ahmad, rebecca rajaendram, edward rajendra The Star/ANN

Take precautions when in Singapore 

 

 
Personal measure: Bus passenger Naizatul Takiah Ali, 21, spraying mosquito repellent on herself at the Larkin bus terminal in Johor Baru.

It is unrealistic to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, but people must take precautions against mosquito bites, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

There are about 200,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, with some travelling to and fro on a daily basis, so it would be difficult to block people from going to the republic, he said.

“We have to be realistic. The more practical way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“Apply an adequate amount of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being bitten.

“If you can avoid visiting Singapore, then avoid.

“But this is only voluntary and not an instruction from Malaysia. Malaysians visiting the republic should take preventive measures against mosquito bites,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said Malaysians who have visited Singapore and have symptoms of the virus such as fever and rashes should seek immediate attention.

Dr Subramaniam also said vehicles coming into Malaysia from Singapore, especially buses, would be sprayed with insecticide as an additional measure.

“We know this does not prevent the spread of the virus 100%, but is an additional precautionary measure on top of other methods that we have carried out throughout the country,” he added.

The minister also said pregnant women or those planning to have a child should seek advice from their doctors, as there has been a reported link between the Zika virus with microcephaly, which causes deformity in babies.

Those who are infected should abstain from having sex, or use protection, as the virus can be spread through sexual activities.

“The virus can stay in an infected man’s body for six months and for two months inside a woman’s body,” he said.

Singapore battling outbreak of Zika virus



https://youtu.be/WR4Fh3GanhI

Foreigners account for half of Singapore cases


SINGAPORE: Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, and six of them are Malaysians.

According to a report in TODAYonline.com which quoted the Singapore Ministry of Health, the news portal said that out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners.

The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh.

Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

“All had mild illnesses. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, it was reported that a Malaysian woman is believed to be the first patient infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus in Singapore.

As the 47-year-old had not travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, she was likely to have been infected in the republic. She resides at Block 102, Aljunied Crescent and works in Singapore. — Bernama

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Supersized and overweight civil servants

The public waiting their turn for services at a government department. - Filepic

When those two words describe a nation's public sector, it means it's truly a burden on taxpayers.

POOR civil servants! If you watched Disney’s animated film Zootopia, you would have caught the hilarious scene where the heroes, a rabbit and a fox, rushed to the Department of Motor Vehicles to check out a licence plate, only to get very, very slow service from the sloths manning the counter.

It would appear this stereotyping of civil servants’ work ethic is universal, which is why the parody tickled audiences everywhere.

Now Malaysians have another reason to make fun of their civil servants: they’re too fat. At least the ones in Putrajaya are, according to the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) which showed it has the highest rate of overweight and obese citizens.

It’s an established fact that Putrajaya is populated overwhelmingly by government employees, which means those living and serving in the very heart of the nation’s administrative capital are rather unhealthy.

That’s a bummer because, design-wise, Putrajaya got it right. It was a winner in the 75,001­ to 150,000-population category for the Whole City Award under the International Awards for Liveable Communities 2012.

In the paper submitted for the awards, Putrajaya boasted of having “lush greeneries surrounding buildings, infrastructure, (12) parks and gardens.” What’s more, the same paper took into account the need to keep Putra­jaya folks fit and healthy.

It noted that 28% of the residents had a normal BMI (Body Mass Index), 36.3% were overweight, 27.4% obese and 8.3% were even underweight. That was in 2011.

Just four years later, 37% of Putrajayans are said to be overweight and their obesity rate is 43%, according to the NHMS findings.

These are alarming jumps and more so when there were efforts like the Healthy Parks, Healthy People programme to get the residents to exercise to stave off lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Among the activities was the Putrajaya Inter-Park Ride monthly cycling event.

So what gives? Why are Putrajayans and Malaysians on the whole so fat? We hold the title of Fatties of South-East Asia; some reports say the whole of Asia.

Some people may, in a perverse way, hail having an overly well-fed population as a sign of a nation’s prosperity. After all, the fattest people in the world are the Americans.

A How’s Life? 2015 Report by the Organisation for Economic Coopera­tion and Development ranked the United States as the nation with the most obese population. It also had the fattest children and the unhealthiest teenagers by a wide margin.

The findings are said to be a blow to the Obama administration and First Lady Michelle Obama because they have been championing this cause for years, including reducing sugar and salt from school lunches.

So if both the US and Malaysian Governments couldn’t stem the fat tide in their respective countries, who can? I would say it’s still the government and we the people.

What we have is a terribly bloated public sector. The Star, quoting Prime Minister’s Office statistics, pointed out that at 1.4 million employees, it’s the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Supersized and overweight. That’s a double whammy and the kind of Malaysian Book of Records we don’t need. So for a start, how about really downsizing the civil service? After all, why do we need so many civil servants to serve a population that’s way smaller than those in neighbouring countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand?

Next, I support calls to make it mandatory for civil servants to lose the fat and stay healthy. This is especially so for those who have yet to develop serious illnesses like diabetes. If need be, withhold promotions and salary increases if they don’t meet this KPI.

The reason why I am pushing for this is because civil servants get free medical services in government hospitals and clinics, even after retirement.

That’s a longstanding benefit which I don’t object to, since my retired police officer father is a beneficiary. But with a large, unhealthy government workforce, you can imagine the humongous medical bill we taxpayers are burdened with.

If nothing is done, it will become a bigger burden because, as doctors have warned, 20 years from now, those overweight and obese citizens will be suffering from all sorts of illnesses from stroke, heart disease and kidney failure to diabetes.

All that “will increase the health budget to an unsustainable level,” Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip told The Star.

Thanks to my role as the primary caregiver to my elderly parents who suffer from various illnesses, I know how scarily expensive medical care can be for those without access to free treatments.

As a private sector employee, I am grateful to be working for a company that gives me good medical coverage. But I have also bought my own health insurance to prepare for the day when I retire and lose my safety net. In the meantime, I work at staying healthy and medication-free.

As I said, I do not begrudge the medical benefit for government servants. What I do begrudge are those who take it for granted, instead of taking responsibility for their own well-being.

If the Government can work on getting its workforce in shape, non-public sector citizens too can do their part by eating less and more healthily and getting off our butts.

Admittedly, it’s hard now to go out for a run or even a stroll because of the current heat wave and haze. But we can try taking the stairs instead of the lift, drink more water than teh tarik and yes, eat less of our beloved nasi lemak.

Proud as we are that Time magazine ranked it as the ninth healthiest breakfast in the world, we know better. A dish that tastes that good cannot be healthy!

I leave this thought with you: The OEDC report, which measures the personal and economic health of nations, found that the United States indeed topped the chart in personal wealth and even the number of rooms in American homes.

So yes, they have the wealth but where’s the health?


By June H.L. Wong
So Aunty, So What?

Aunty likes this quote by humourist Jarod Kintz: Obesity isn’t as cool as it used to be, back in the earlier centuries. Before it was a reflection on your gross income. Now it’s just gross. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Putrajaya the obese-city! Address obesity urgently

Two men cycling in front of the Palace of justice in Putrajaya

Malaysia has the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia and the bulk of them are in Putrajaya. A survey has found that two out of five Malaysian civil servants are obese. The news is not good for the country’s health.

KUALA LUMPUR: It has been long known that Malaysia is the fattest country in South-East Asia. Now, it has been proven that the administrative capital of Putrajaya has the highest rate of overweight and obese people in the country.

Findings from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) placed Putrajaya as the city with the highest percentage of overweight, obese and abdominally obese people in the country.

The study also suggests that the administrative capital’s population has a 37% chance of being overweight, while the obesity rate stood at 43%.

Even more startling, the NHMS said government and semi-government employees took the cake as those struggling most with obesity, with a 40.3% rate.

This could mean two out of every five of Malaysia’s civil servants may be obese.

Malaysia’s civil service has 1.4 million employees, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, and is the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Other obesity demographics pointed out in the survey were Indians (43.5%), married adults (33.8%) and those who only studied up to secondary school (32.1%).


The findings put the Government in a rather red-faced situation, as it works on reversing the climbing number of obese and overweight Malaysians.

“As the number of people with obesity increases, the nation now is facing an upward surge of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” the survey concluded, describing the Malaysian obesity epidemic as alarming.

Although a review of public health policy was not necessary now, it opined, the Government was asked to provide more supportive environments for Malaysians to lead healthier lifestyles.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zachariah Phillip agreed, saying that the life of a typical government servant did not afford them much time or money to stay healthy.

“If you look at the strata, it’s usually the lower grade workers who are overweight because it takes money to keep fit. Government workers go to work at 7am, come back at 7pm and have no time between work and family to even think of exercising,” he said.

It doesn’t help either that basic essentials like white rice, sugar and oil are staple Malaysian diets and are unhealthy, he said.

“For us doctors, this could be a real headache 20 years down the road. We are going to have a growing population with stroke and heart disease, and kidney failures that will increase the health budget at an unsustainable level,” he added.

The Government needs to look into setting up more gyms in agencies and dish out incentives for employees to fight the bulge.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the figures were worrying.

“I don’t think the people are in the best state of health,” he said.

He said general sedentary work has a correlation to obesity, a trend which government agencies, namely the police, were trying to counter.

“The police recognised this recently and have taken some effort to make sure they have lean policemen. They will try to take action to meet this target,” Dr Subramaniam said yesterday.

Malacca and Perlis are the states with second and third highest obesity rates. Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan were the slimmest states.

By Micholas Cheng The Star

Address obesity urgently




AMID the current heat wave, not only are we blue over the greens (The Star, April 4) with highland vegetables wilting and Ipoh’s famous pomelos shrinking in size, schoolchildren are also getting more obese with the sound advice from the authorities to stay indoors.

Presumably, many children will go in droves to air-conditioned malls and fast food restaurants for meals, which naturally will add to the problem of obesity.

Doctors say obesity is defined as the condition of being very overweight and having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. The BMI is a measure of the weight relative to the height.

Evidently, obesity is manifested in the abdominal fat around the waist of children and adults as well.

But we should not get unduly worried with the adults because they are mature and knowledgeable enough to take responsibility for their health.

However, the innocent children’s health is undeniably our responsibility. Like it or not, we are accountable and answerable for the obesity problem in their adult life.

Today we can see the startling increase in the number of obese children across the country. Yet many parents unfortunately are seemingly too busy to check their children’s diet, let alone their daily exercise like the recommended walk of up to 10,000 steps a day.

Perhaps schools should voluntarily take up the task of creating awareness about the high risks and health hazards of obesity.

One practical way is to do routine short workouts: get students to burn calories by doing some exercises in the school assembly or in class every day – even some stretching exercises will suffice.

Certainly, this will increase their metabolic rate, thus strengthening their mental ability to learn; reducing levels of stress and depression; and suppressing the appetite.

When the heat wave is over, I would say it is the ethical and moral responsibility of the school authorities to bring back the Physical Standard Tests for all students like the good old days and mobilise all the staff to run selected athletic events such as the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump and shot putt. Set certain standards for the events.

It would be much better if the Education Ministry’s Sports Department sets the national standards for all these events, which was done in the 60s till the 80s by using the co-curriculum 001 and 002 cards.

Next, it is also incumbent upon the Education Ministry to make it mandatory for school canteens to display the calorie counts for all the food so that the children will learn how to make healthy food choices and to calculate the total calorie intake they require for a day (about 1,600 and 2,500 calories per day depending on their age, gender and activity level).Eventually, they will “graduate” to become smart healthy consumers.

Let’s take these critical measures seriously to save our children from potential health risks like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and also some cancers.

This will invariably reduce the national health bill as well.

It was reported in “Putrajaya tops obese list” (see above) that we already have the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia, and two out of five civil servants are obese.

Hence, invariably, the Government has to increase the health budget to cater for our increasingly ailing population if the obesity problem is not urgently addressed.

THOMAS KOK Ipoh

Related story: Healthy when young, healthy when old



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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Penang City Council barking up wrong tree ?

Save the trees: Mohamed Idris hugging a tree as other CAP members and protesters stage a peaceful demonstration in Jalan Masjid Negeri.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang Island City councillor has joined hands with the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and other non-governmental organisations in protesting the council’s decision to transplant 18 trees for its road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri here.

Councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui said the island’s road widening projects to ease traffic jams were a futile effort as they were not for the long term.

“We have enough evidence to show that road widening is not a permanent solution for heavy traffic.

“Instead, it will only increase the number of vehicles on the road,” he said when met during a peaceful demonstration by CAP in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

Dr Mah said besides transplanting trees, the council and state government should think of other ways such as carpooling to ease traffic.

“The public has to deal with heavy traffic during peak hours and public holidays.”

Earlier, CAP members held a demonstration to show their objection to the 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris hugged a tree to show his disapproval.

“People and trees are being relocated and environment is being destroyed in the name of development.

“I am extremely upset that consideration is given to vehicles at the expense of trees,” he told the reporters.

Mohamed Idris said this was unacceptable and he described the decision as pure madness.

“The fast pace development in the state is destroying Penang’s natural charm.

“With the greenery being replaced by concrete, Penang will soon become an unliveable place,” he said.

He added that the people should come together to oppose this action as there was a dire need to preserve the island’s tree-lined roads.

It was reported on Feb 6 that 18 trees would be affected along the Jalan Scotland-bound stretch, starting from Lorong Batu Lanchang-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction to the Jalan Air Itam-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction in its 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

There are 33 trees lining the left side of the road where the current two-lane roadway will be increased to three lanes to cope with the heavy traffic flow, but the council managed to reduce the amount of trees affected to 18.

The project is scheduled for completion in May next year.

-  Logeiswary Thevadassa and Reena Hod The Star/Asia News Network


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