Friday, October 10, 2014

Hudhud and the Holy Quran: A storm named after the Islamic bird hoopoe

By Syed Akbar

Hudhud and the Holy Quran

I am a bit surprised when many people and vernacular newspapers in India misspelled the term Hudhud (name of the latest cyclone in the Indian Ocean) though they know that the storm has been named after a bird. For them, Hudhud or hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. But what many have failed to understand is that long before Israel was created, Hudhud had been the darling bird of the Arabs and the Africans. Israel had recognised the importance of Hudhud only a few decades ago. According to Muslim traditions, Hudhud is the winged messenger of Prophet Solomon (Hazrat Sulaiman) who brought the news of the existence of a kingdom ruled by a woman (Queen of Sheba). The hudhud also carried a letter written by King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba.

Hudhud (pronounced Hud-Hud) is one of the three birds mentioned by name in the Holy Quran. The other two being crow and quail. Islam holds birds in high esteem and the Holy Quran refers to birds forming communities like we human beings do. In fact, the Holy Quran refers to the term bird five times, and birds as many as 13 times. The Holy Book has also referred to tiny birds called Ababil, which had rained stones on an army of elephants and soldiers when a tyrant king named Abraha came to destroy the Holy Kaaba in Mecca.

The Holy Quran refers to Hudhud in Surah Naml or Chapter Ant, which forms the 27th chapter of the Islamic scripture. The following verses of the Holy Quran with reference to Hudhud or hoopoe, the bird, clearly shows that man can understand the language of animals and birds provided he shows interest in the things around him. The study of behaviour of animals is known as ethology and the Holy Quran had made it clear 15 centuries before the term ethology was coined that birds and animals including insects like ants can communicate with man and vice versa. Prophet Sulaiman or Solomon had pioneered the language and behaviour of animals and birds.

Here is the Quranic reference:  (Quran 27: 20-29): 

"He (Solomon) inspected the birds, and said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe (hudhud)? Or is he among the absentees?

"I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason."

"But the hoopoe stayed not long, he (came up and) said: "I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' (Sheba) with true news.

"I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne.

"I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaitan (Satan) has made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and has barred them from (Allah's) Way, so they have no guidance,"

"Allah, (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne!

"(Solomon) said: "We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.

"Go you with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them, then draw back from them, and see what (answer) they return."

"She (Queen of Sheba) said: "O chiefs! Verily! Here is delivered to me a noble letter..."

And now something about the bird as explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica:
hoopoe, (Upupa epops), strikingly crested bird found from southern Europe and Africa to southeastern Asia, the sole member of the family Upupidae of the roller order, Coraciiformes.

About 28 centimetres (11 inches) long, it is pinkish brown on the head and shoulders, with a long, black-tipped, erectile crest and black-and-white barred wings and tail.

The hoopoe takes insects and other small invertebrates by probing the ground with its long, downcurved bill. Some systems of classification recognize one other species (U. africana), found from Ethiopia to South Africa.

The hudhud had meekly served the king and prophet Solomon. Let's hope and pray the cyclone Hudhud would not cause any damage to human, plant or animal life or property. Let the cyclone Hudhud turn into a meek storm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Meat and germs: Cook meat properly as bacteria in meat growing drug resistance

Bacteria in meat show growing drug resistance, FDA says

By Robert Roos
Feb 7, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – An annual report released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week shows that antibiotic resistance in bacteria found in retail meat and poultry samples is continuing to increase, though not uniformly.

For example, almost 45% of Salmonella isolates found on retail chicken samples were resistant to multiple classes of antimicrobial classes, up slightly from the 2010 level, says the 2011 Retail Meat Report of the National Antimicrobial Monitoring System (NARMS). Also, close to half of Campylobacter isolates in chicken were resistant to tetracyclines.

The report also shows that Campylobacter contamination in general (both susceptible and resistant isolates) increased in chicken and ground turkey samples in 2011, while Salmonella detections were down slightly for both items.

The NARMS retail meat surveillance program is a joint effort of the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and health departments in 11 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Its goals include providing information to promote steps for reducing resistance in foodborne bacteria.

In 2011, each health department bought about 40 retail samples each month—10 each of chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, and pork chops. All the state labs cultured meat and poultry samples for Salmonella, but only poultry samples were cultured for Campylobacter. Four of the states also cultured samples for Enterococcus and Escherichia coli.

The states sent their bacterial isolates to the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine for identification of serotypes, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and genetic analysis, the report says.

Resistant Salmonella
The testing revealed that 44.9% of Salmonella isolates in chicken were resistant to at least three antimicrobial classes in 2011, compared with 43.3% in 2010. In ground turkey, 50.3% of isolates showed this level of resistance, up from 33.7% the year before. In addition, 27% of chicken isolates showed resistance to at least five drug classes, which was down from 29% in 2010.

The report also says the percentage of Salmonella isolates with no detected resistance declined in 2011.

The researchers found continuing increases in Salmonella resistance to two specific drug classes. Between 2002 and 2011, resistance to third-generation cephalosporins in chicken isolates climbed from 10% to 33.5%, while such resistance in ground turkey rose from 8.1% to 22.4%. Both increases were significant (P <.05).

Significant increases over that same period were seen for Salmonella resistance to ampicillin: chicken isolates, 16.7% to 40.5%; ground turkey isolates, 16.2% to 58.4%.

On the other hand, all Salmonella isolates were susceptible to nalidixic acid, a member of the quinolone class, the report says.

Campylobacter resistance
More than 90% of Campylobacter isolates come from chicken samples each year, with the rest from ground turkey, the report notes. It says macrolide and fluoroquinolone drugs are used to treat Campylobacterinfections. Fluoroquinolone use in poultry production was banned in 2005.

Macrolide resistance in chicken samples remained low in 2011, at 4.3% for Campylobacter coli and 0.5% for Campylobacter jejuni, the testing showed.

C coli resistance to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone, peaked at 29.1% in 2005 and has dropped since then, reaching 18.1% in 2011, the report says. However, C jejuni resistance to the drug has continued an upward trend, from 15.2% in 2002 to 22.4% in 2011.

In addition, tetracycline resistance in both Campylobacter species jumped from 2010 to 2011, from 36.3% to 48.4% for C jejuni and from 39.2% to 29.1% for C coli.

Further, gentamicin resistance in C coli reached 18.1% in 2011, a big increase from the 0.7% level seen in 2007 when it was first detected.

On the brighter side, the report says multidrug resistance is rare in Campylobacter: Only 9 of 634 isolates from poultry were resistant to three or more drug classes in 2011.

The report also profiles resistance in Enterococcus species and Escherichia coli found in meat and poultry samples. Among other things, it notes that no Enterococcus isolates were resistant to vancomycin or linezolid, two drug classes that "are critically important in human medicine but are not used in food animal production."

General prevalence
As for the overall prevalence of contamination (susceptible and resistant strains), the project showed that 45.7% of chicken samples in 2011 contained Campylobacter, up from 38.3% in 2010. For ground turkey, the 2011 figure was 2.3%, up from 1.0% in 2010.

For Salmonella, the general prevalence in chicken was 12.0%, down from 13.0% the year before, while the ground turkey figure was 12.3%, down from 15.3% a year earlier. Salmonella was found in less than 1% of ground beef samples both years. For pork chops, the 2011 number was 2.1%, up from 1.5% in 2010.

For E coli (most strains of which are nonpathogenic), prevalence numbers were lower in 2011 than 2010 but remained fairly high: chicken, 71.0%; ground turkey, 76.7%; ground beef, 44.8%; and pork chops, 30.4%.

Congress member reacts
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a food safety advocate, called the FDA's findings on resistance in meat samples "alarming." In a statement, she cited the high level of ampicillin resistance found in bacteria in ground turkey and the tetracycline resistance seen in Campylobacter from poultry samples.

"The threat of antibiotic-resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children," Slaughter said. "We can help stop this threat by drastically reducing the overuse of antibiotics in our food supply, and Congress should act swiftly to do so today."

New guidelines for management of thyroid dysfunction in pregnancy launched by the Indian Thyroid Society


Bangalore, Feb 18: The Indian Thyroid Society (ITS) today launched three guidelines for the Management of Thyroid Dysfunction in Pregnancy, Dyslipidemia and Depression at the 10th Annual Conference ‘ITSCON – 2013’. These guidelines are for managing thyroid dysfunction in Pregnancy to safeguard mother and child health, and for patients of Depression and Dyslipidemia to reduce the co-morbidities associated with thyroid disorders. Thyroid disorders in India are characterized by a high prevalence (approx. 11% of adult population), minimal diagnosis, low awareness and low involvement of doctors in treatment.

The guidelines were developed by Elsevier, a global provider of scientific, technical and medical information, and endorsed by the Indian Thyroid Society, Endocrine Society of India [ESI], Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India [FOGSI] and The Association of Physicians of India [API]. Abbott provided financial assistance for the development of these guidelines.

On the launch of the ITS Guidelines, Dr. R. V. Jayakumar, President, Indian Thyroid Society [ITS], Professor of Endocrinology, AIMS, Cochin said, “Conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disorders, high cholesterol, obesity, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriages are linked to thyroid disorders and these are on the rise in India.. The three independent guidelines for the screening and management of Thyroid Dysfunction will support the medical fraternity in diagnosis and treatment. Timely diagnosis of thyroid disorders in pregnant women is important for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child. In addition, the guidelines for dyslipidemia and depression offer recommendations to minimize the risk of arising complications.”
Dr. Rakesh Sahay Professor of Endocrinology, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad said “Thyroid disorders are one of the most under-diagnosed medical conditions and often referred to as the hidden disease. The new guidelines for thyroid disorders associated with pregnancy, dyslipidemia and depression will aid doctors like us to educate the masses about the importance of undergoing a TSH test for the correct diagnosis. Timely treatment of thyroid disorders is the key to preventing health problems.”
The Thyroid Dysfunction and Pregnancy Guidelines recommend screening for hypothyroidism in pregnant women at the 1st antenatal visit by measuring TSH levels. In case overt hypothyroidism is diagnosed then expectant mothers should be treated with a full replacement dose of thyroxine to normalize thyroid function as rapidly as possible. It is also important to understand that; thyroid dysfunction by itself is not an indication for termination of pregnancy.

As per the Thyroid Dysfunction and Dyslipidemia Guidelines, overt hypothyroidism is associated with the risk of cardio vascular disease as it causes increased levels of LDL cholesterol and hypertension. It is therefore advised that doctors screen patients with dyslipidemia for abnormal thyroid levels and accordingly prescribe treatment.

According to theThyroid Dysfunction and Depression Guidelines one of the co-morbidities associated with thyroid disorders is depression. It is important for doctors who are treating patients for depression to refer them to undergo a TSH test to detect hypothyroidism. This will help in correct diagnosis and treatment to prevent further damage.
Thyroid disorder is a medical condition that impairs the normal functioning of the thyroid gland causing abnormal production of hormones leading to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Multiple factors such as hereditary, environment and diet can trigger thyroid dysfunction. Thyroid disorders are commonly diagnosed between 20 – 40 years and research has shown that women are more commonly detected with thyroid disorders than men.

Speaking of thyroid disorders in women during pregnancy, Dr. Hema Divakar, President - Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India [FOGSI], Bangalore said “Hypothyroidism is emerging as one of the most common endocrine problem during pregnancy and often goes undetected.

It increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and placental abnormalities that adversely affects the overall development of the foetus. In the best interest of the mother and baby, we encourage regular screening for thyroid disorders amongst pregnant women. The guidelines recommend screening at the 1st antenatal visit by measuring TSH levels.”

Often symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and poor concentration are ignored as signs of stress. These could have been triggered due to abnormal levels of thyroid hormone which can push people into depression.

According to Dr Sarita Bajaj, President Endocrine Society of India (ESI), Allahabad, “Thyroid hormones have a tremendous effect on body processes and can even impact cognitive function. There is little awareness that depression is a co-morbidity associated with hypothyroidism. All patients with depression should preferably be screened for thyroid function tests and be appropriately treated with thyroxine as judged by the physician.”
Dr. Shashank Joshi, President Elect - The Association of Physicians of India [API], Mumbai says "Many hypothyroid patients have underlying lipid abnormalities which get controlled by simple thyroxine therapy. Hypothyroidism needs lifelong thyroxine therapy and if controlled well, the patients can lead a normal life."

Hypothyroidism also leads to a co-morbid condition called dyslipidemia indicated with an increase in serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), apolipoprotein B, lipoprotein (a) levels, and possibly triglyceride levels. Dyslipidemia puts a patient at an increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

The Chairman Organising committee Dr. K. M. Prasanna Kumar confirmed that close to 500 eminent speakers and Key Opinion Leaders from across India were present at the ITSCON-2013 conference. The speakers highlighted various disorders arising from thyroid dysfunctions, the importance of timely screening and recommended treatment to prevent further complications. Till 2012, ITS had screened close to 12 lakh women for thyroid disorders at various diagnostic and education camps throughout India.

Campylobacter infections in Alaska linked to drinking of raw milk

Raw milk suspected in Campylobacter infections in Alaska

At least four people in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula recently suffered Campylobacter infections after drinking raw milk, the Alaska Division of Public Health (DPH) said in a Feb 15 health advisory.

The four people were infected with Campylobacter isolates that were matched by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. In addition, at least one person with a probable infection also reported drinking raw milk, and an infant in close contact with a confirmed case-patient has a suspected case, the statement said.

The strain identified in the cases has not been seen in Alaska before, it said.
Feb 15 Alaska DPH notice

Assocham study reveals the impact of trade union strike on India's GDP

GDP to take Rs 15,000-20,000 crore hit from strike: ASSOCHAM

While sharing some of their concerns like rising prices, ASSOCHAM today appealed to the central trade unions to call off their two-day strike as the country’s economy will take a hit of big hit of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore from the nation-wide disruption in economic activity.
“The national economy, battling slowdown can ill-afford this situation. In fact, the strike would aggravate the price situation because of disruption in the supply line of essential commodities”, said Mr. Rajkumar Dhoot President ASSOCHAM.
Mr. Dhoot further said the strike would cripple mostly the services sector like banking, insurance and transport, besides the industrial production. Even the agriculture would be affected as the movement of vegetables, highly perishable items, would be disrupted.
The ASSOCHAM has estimated the national loss figures based on the daily erosion of about 30-40 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) for two days. As per the Advanced estimates of the CSO, the national GDP for the current financial year is projected to be about Rs 95 lakh crore. In other words, it is Rs 26,000 crore per day and Rs 52,000 crore for two days. Of this , the strike would take its toll on at least 30-40 per cent – Rs 15,000 crore-Rs 20, 000 crore.
“Given the nature of the strike and involvement of the all the five major central trade unions, it is going to affect largely the services sector including the banking, financial services, tourism, transportation etc, which are the major contributors to the country’s GDP”, added Mr. Dhoot.

States like West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka and parts of Uttar Pradesh are likely to be affected significantly. Besides, banking operations including the cheque clearances and some segments of the financial markets would take a hit. Moreover, disruption in railways and other public transportation in major cities would hit the movement of the workforce and the cargo operations at the ports.
The cargo operations both at the airport and ports are likely to be affected, the chamber apprehends. 
“Our conservative estimates show that at least 30-40 per cent of the daily GDP would take a hit. For two days, it would be something like Rs 15,000-20,000 crore,” reveals the ASSOCHAM Economic Research (AER) department.
Expressing concerns over the impending strike, the Mr. Dhoot said, it would not be in the interest of the country’s economy to stop work in the crucial sectors. “While we share some of the concerns like rising prices, the solution lies in working together to ensure that the situation is brought under control by raising production and pumping up the supply. The strike, in fact would put further pressure on the price situation as the prices of vegetables etc would immediately go up because of disruption”.

He said the GDP growth is projected to be at a decade low of about five per cent and several sectors like manufacturing are operating at a much lower scale and work disruption would make a big dent on the economic activity.
“Besides, the services sector which has remained backbone of the economy, has also started slowing down,” he said.

As per the chamber estimates, despite global slowdown and difficult domestic conditions, the Indian industry has not really resorted to job trimming and has generally been working in partnership with the labour-force.
“The labour force is a very important stakeholder in the national activity. In fact, it is the human resource which is India’s advantage vis-à-vis several other high cost economies. Thus, welfare of the workforce is on top of the priorities of the industry and ASSOCHAM is fully committed to ensuring their welfare,” added Mr Dhoot.
He appealed to leaders of the all the central unions including CITU, AITUC, INTUC and BMS to engage with the government and find amicable solutions to the issues raised by them. The Industry shares some of the concerns like rising prices, but then “we need to work together to resolve the issue and ensure better supplies which is possible by higher investment and production. The workers’role in this area too is of paramount importance,” he said.
Mr. Dhoot also appealed to the government to immediately engage with the labour unions to find out amicable solutions to the issues raised by them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More about the breast pump and hygiene

Breast Pump Basics

  • Breast shield: Cone-shaped cup that fits over the nipple and surrounding area.
  • Pump: Creates the gentle vacuum that expresses milk. The pump may be attached to the breast-shield or have plastic tubing to connect the pump to the breast shield.
  • Milk container: Detachable container that fits below the breast shield and collects milk as it is pumped.

These days, many new mothers return to the workplace with a briefcase in one hand—and a breast pump kit in the other.

For those moms working outside the home who are breastfeeding their babies (and those who travel or for other reasons can’t be with their child throughout the day), using a breast pump to “express” (extract) their milk is a must.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety and effectiveness of these medical devices.

New mothers may have a host of questions about choosing a breast pump. What type of breast pump should they get? How do they decide ahead of time which pump will fit in best with their daily routines? Are pumps sold “used” safe?
Choosing the Right Pump for You

Kathryn S. Daws-Kopp, an electrical engineer at FDA, explains that all breast pumps consist of a few basic parts: a breast shield that fits over the nipple, a pump that creates a vacuum to express the milk, and a detachable container for collecting the milk.

There are three basic kinds of pump: manual, battery-powered and electric. Mothers can opt for double pumps, which extract milk from both breasts at the same time, or single, which extract milk from one breast at a time.

Daws-Kopp, who reviews breast pumps and other devices for quality and safety, suggests that mothers talk to a lactation consultant, whose expertise is in breastfeeding, or other health care professional about the type of breast pump that will best fit their needs. Questions for new moms to keep in mind include:
How do I plan to use the pump? Will I pump in addition to breastfeeding? Or will I just pump and store the milk?
Where will I use the pump? At work? When I’m traveling?
Do I need a pump that’s easy to transport? If it’s electric, will I have access to an outlet?
Does the breast shield fit me? If not, will the manufacturer let me exchange it?

Should You Buy or Rent?

There’s also the decision of whether to buy or rent a breast pump. Many hospitals, lactation consultants and specialty medical supply stores rent breast pumps for use by multiple users, Daws-Kopp notes.

These pumps are designed to decrease the risk of spreading contamination from one user to the next, she says, and each renter needs to buy a new accessories kit that includes breast-shields and tubing.

“Sometimes these pumps are labeled “hospital grade,” says Daws-Kopp. “But that term is not one FDA recognizes, and there is no consistent definition. Consumers need to know it doesn’t mean the pump is safe or hygienic.”

Daws-Kopp adds that different companies may mean different things when they label a pump with this term, and that FDA encourages manufacturers to instead use the terms “multiple user” and “single user” in their labeling. “If you don’t know for sure whether a pump is meant for a single user or multiple users, it’s safer to just not get it,” she says.

The same precaution should be taken for “used” or second-hand pumps.

Even if a used pump looks really clean, says Michael Cummings, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist at FDA, potentially infectious particles may survive in the breast pump and/or its accessories for a surprisingly long time and cause disease in the next baby.
Keeping It Clean

According to FDA’s recently released website on breast pumps, the first place to look for information on keeping the pump clean is in the instructions for use. In general, though, the steps for cleaning include:
Rinse each piece that comes into contact with breast milk in cool water as soon as possible after pumping.
Wash each piece separately using liquid dishwashing soap and plenty of warm water.
Rinse each piece thoroughly with hot water for 10-15 seconds.
Place the pieces on a clean paper towel or in a clean drying rack and allow them to air dry.

If you are renting a multiple user device, ask the person providing the pump to make sure that all components, such as internal tubing, have been cleaned, disinfected, and sterilized according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Cummings notes that there are many benefits to both child and mother from breastfeeding. “Human milk is recommended as the best and exclusive nutrient source for feeding infants for the first six months, and should be continued with the addition of solid foods after six months, ideally until the child is a year of age,” he says.

The benefits are both short- and long-term. In the short-term, babies can benefit from improved gastrointestinal function and development, and fewer respiratory and urinary tract infections. In the long-term, children who have been breast fed may be less obese and, as adults, have less cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and even some cancers.

Cummings adds that moms and their families benefit by the bonding experience and economically as well, since a reduction in acute and chronic diseases in the baby saves money.

For women considering this option, FDA ‘s website offers resources and information on breast pumps and breastfeeding. These include information on the selection and care of the pumps, in addition to describing signs of an infection or injury related to their use.

(This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products. January 14, 2013)