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As temperatures go higher and the weather gets warmer, we should be more prepared for the possible impacts of extreme heat. Part of being prepared is being aware and knowledgeable. Here are the top 3 things we, Filipinos, should know about the term heat index:

1. It’s how you feel.
Heat index, also known as human discomfort index, determines how your body perceives the temperature. Its two factors are air temperature and relative humidity.

Air temperature is what weather instruments measure, while relative humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air. It’s the reason why we get that “malagkit” feeling during hot days.

According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Shelly Ignacio, a higher temperature and a high relative humidity will give a high heat index, making the body feels warmer.

The rate at which a person sweats depends on how much water is in the air. Sweat evaporates more quickly on dry days than humid days. On humid days, the air is saturated with moisture, resulting to a slower evaporation. A human body feels hotter in high humidity because sweat, the body’s natural cooling system, evaporates more slowly.

2. Heat index can be fatal.
In extreme cases, high heat indices can result to fatigue, heat cramps and heat stroke. If the heat index reaches 27 to 32 degrees Celsius, fatigue is possible, while prolonged exposure or activity can result to heat cramps.

Once heat index elevates to 32 to 41 degrees Celsius, extreme caution is needed due to possible heat cramps and heat exhaustion. The danger level begins when the heat index climbs to 41 to 54 degrees Celsius or more. In these cases, heat strokes, which are extremely hazardous, are more likely to occur.

The Department of Health (DOH) defines heat stroke as the most severe form of heat illness. This occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool down.

Signs and symptoms include warm flushed skin, feeling faint, dizziness, weakness, headache, high fever reaching 41 degrees Celsius, rapid heartbeat, convulsion, and sometimes, a patient may become unconscious.

heat

To prevent heat stroke, take note of these tips:
– Stay indoors as much as possible.
– Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. PAGASA explains that light colors will reflect the sun’s energy.
– Regularly drink plenty of water.
– Avoid drinking liquor because this dehydrates the body.
– Eat small but frequent meals. Avoid eating food with high protein content as these can increase metabolic heat.

3. Heat index is different from heat wave.
Some may think that heat wave and heat index are the same, but they’re not. Heat wave occurs when there is a prolonged period of extremely hot days.

PAGASA Weather Forecaster Meno Mendoza explains, “Mayroong sinusunod na criteria para dito, kailangan makapagtala tayo ng higit sa limang centigrade na above the normal na temperatura sa loob ng limang magkakasunod na araw (To declare a heat wave, we need to record a 5-degree increase in the normal temperature within 5 consecutive days.)” He added that heat wave has not yet occurred in Philippine history.

In related news, an intense heat wave is currently affecting the southern and eastern part of India. The death toll increased to more than 160. The Indian government are also concerned that more than 300 million people may be threatened by extreme drought and water shortage due to soaring temperatures. Last year, India’s heat wave claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Sources:
PAGASA-DOST
Department of Health
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/04/22/brutal-heat-wave-in-india-puts-330-million-people-at-risk/
http://engineering.mit.edu/

 
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It crosses borders on social classes, age and gender. When it comes to the dengue fever, no one is safe.
 
It’s a viral disease that can be spread through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, whose breeding habitat thrives in wet climates like what we we have in our country. This is because these mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water and flooded areas.
 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there is an estimated 390 million dengue infections a year– of which 96 million are clinically manifested. Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 92,807 dengue cases as of September last year– 23.5% higher than the recorded cases in 2014.

 
Climate Change and Dengue
 
Due to the strong El Niño the Philippines is continuously experiencing, DOH expects to have a higher number of dengue cases this year. This is because El Niño can cause stronger typhoons that can lead to flooding, which can contribute to dengue production. Increased stagnant water leads to an increase of dengue-carrying larva. And because more people are storing water to survive the water shortage, this may also be a factor in the spreading of the virus, according to the DOH.
 
The extreme temperature and drought in some areas are also favorable conditions for the virus. When the weather is cold, mosquitoes hibernate, which may lead to their death. During dry conditions, their eggs can survive for months.

 
Other factors that cause dengue
According to DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, the increase in globalization, urbanization and jet travel make human interaction more frequent. Where there are crowded areas, the practice of storing water may be common because of the stiff competition for water sources because of the El Ñino.
 
In a highly urbanized area, such as Metro Manila, wet markets abound with questionable hygienic practices. It is because of this that the DOH is strongly urging the people to keep their surroundings clean, and to always cover stored water.
 
Did you know?
 
Dengue can be found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, and mostly in urban and semi-urban areas. These are cities and towns where human structures like houses, commercial buildings, bridges, railways, and bridges can be found. The higher the population, the faster the rate the dengue virus can spread.
 
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Dengue Vaccine
 
Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin announced last December that the first vaccine against dengue will be available in the country this month. This medicine was tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and was manufactured by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur. The vaccine is suitable for all four types of dengue patients, ranging from 9 to 45 years old.
 
But you can still prevent dengue through these simple routines:
 
· Regularly clean your area.
· Use mosquito nets over your bed.
· Wear long sleeves.
· Use mosquito repellant.
· At the onset of any symptom above, immediately consult a doctor.
· Support local fogging in your area.

February is indeed the month of romantic expression. Proof of which is the explosion of heart symbols everywhere you look. Fittingly enough, February is also considered as the Philippine Heart Month. This is by virtue of Proclamation No.1096 as declared by the national government in 1973. So, just like how we guard our hearts when falling in love, so must we learn how to keep our hearts healthy and disease-free.

The heart is a muscular organ located under the rib cage at the center of the chest. The muscular walls beat or contract, pumping and providing blood to each part of the body. This pumping motion creates heartbeats, which can be measured by counting the pulse felt through the arteries near the skin’s surface.

A healthy heart pumps blood normally, also ensuring the healthy of the different parts of our body. However, some factors could lead to coronary diseases, making the heart function improperly.

Several heart diseases are common around the world. One of these is the heart attack which, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is the number one cause of death in men and women in the United States. Heart attacks are often related to coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, a condition in which plaque builds up within the arteries that supplies the blood to the heart. As a result, the heart muscle becomes blocked and can hardly get oxygen.

The Department of Health (DOH) says the risk factors of coronary heart disease include heredity, high levels of cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high-fat diet, lack of exercise and emotional stress.

Causes/Risk Factors of CAD. Photo from: Department of Health
Causes/Risk Factors of CAD. Photo from: Department of Health


Signs and symptoms that a person may have the disease include cardiac arrest and chest pain. Discomfort is usually felt over the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or the left side of the back. A patient may also experience shortness of breath, palpitations, irregular heartbeat and dizziness or fainting.

Signs & Symptoms of CAD. Photo from: Department of Health
Signs & Symptoms of CAD. Photo from: Department of Health


Medical treatments

With the help of technology, there are medical procedures that can be done to treat heart problems. According to NHLBI, two major treatments can be conducted to limit the harm of the damaged muscle: the clot-bust medicine and the coronary intervention. Thrombolytic medicines or clot busters are given to the patient to help dissolve blood clots in the arteries.

On the other hand, the percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called coronary angioplasty is a nonsurgical procedure that unblocks the arteries using a thin, flexible tube threaded through a blood vessel.

DOH also recommends the coronary bypass operation in which a healthy vein or artery is removed from your body and is connected or grafted to the blocked coronary artery.

Cardiac Rehabilitation is also suggested. It is a medically supervised program that helps people with heart problems through exercise training, counseling and education.

Prevention

Go for a proper diet. A healthy diet is very effective in lowering the risk of heart disease. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grain, lean meats, fish and fat-free or low-fat milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Alcohol must also be omitted from the diet because it can also lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and increased caloric intake.

Bid smoking goodbye. Smoking affects almost every organ of the body. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco smoke can damage blood cells that could lead to the malfunctioning of blood vessels and the heart.

Lose it. Weight gain does not only raise your mass index but also raises your risk for coronary heart disease. Studies show that obesity can also lead to heart failure, a serious condition wherein the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the body’s needs.

Get moving. Regular exercise is a major component of weight loss. But beyond that, it also helps one’s fitness level and health. Being active is a vital factor in good blood flow and normal blood pressure.

Be stress-free. According to the World Heart Federation, a stressful life can generate bad habits like smoking and over-eating. Stress also affects blood flow and the heartbeat.

As the saying goes, you cannot give something you don’t have. So take care of your heart first before giving it away. Remember that your own heart deserves your love, too.

Sources:
Department of Health
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
World Heart Federation
http://www.gov.ph/1973/01/09/proclamation-no-1096-s-1973-2/

Wishing you a safe and Healthy Christmas

Christmas is a season of love and happiness— the time of year filled with joyful melodies, countless parties and family reunions.

However, this is also the season of fire hazards, which come in the form of lavish displays that make use of substandard Christmas lights.

Last year, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) documented a total of 1,079 fire incidents during the “ber” months in National Capital Region alone and 4,029 fire cases in the whole country. Based on the data, most of the fire incidents happened during the month of December.

That’s why this Yuletide Season, it’s important to prioritize your family’s safety with these tips:

Look for the ICC mark. When buying decorations such as Christmas lights and lanterns, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) suggests buying only those with ICC marks, which are printed on stickers. The ICC or the Import Commodity Clearance is obtained through the Product Certification Scheme of the Bureau of Product Standard (BPS) under the governance of DTI. ICC marks validate that the products have met the requirements of the Philippine National Standard (PNS) specified by the BPS.
ICC marks must bear the unique serial number of the product shipment and the name of its manufacturer or importer. This way, you can easily trace the product’s source.
For consumer complaints and queries, call DTI Direct at 7513330 or 0917-8343330.

Inspect your Christmas lights thoroughly before use. Check the cord and plug for any damage. If you plan to use your old Christmas lights, watch out for exposed live wires, melting or opening in the lamp holders, and loosely screwed light bulbs.

Read the instructions carefully. Make sure you follow voltage requirements and warnings such as the following: For indoor use only; Disconnect from supply before removing or inserting any lamp; Do not overload electrical outlets; and Avoid damage to insulation. Do not attach more than the recommended sets of Christmas lights. Normally, only three sets are allowed to avoid overloading.

Keep lights away from combustible materials. If you’re buying ordinary Christmas lights sans safety features, the BFP says its best to keep them away from curtains and other flammable items. The bulbs of this type of Christmas lights easily overheat, which may cause fire. It also helps to position appliances such as your television, computer, sound system and heating devices like your microwave oven in a spacious area to prevent overheating.

Let your lights cool down. Avoid leaving Christmas lights turned on overnight to avoid overheating. This will also help keep your electricity bill from ballooning.

Follow the safety rules. Never place electrical cords under a carpet to prevent someone from stepping on them. Unplug appliances by grasping the plug, not by yanking the cord, to prevent damage. Do not leave infants or children near electrical outlets. Their curiosity may lead to accidents, including fire.

Aside from safety, health is also important to keep in mind this festive season. At this time, social gatherings are inevitable, as well as indulging in food and drink.

Data gathered from the 2006 Philippine Health Statistics showed that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are among the leading causes of death in the country. Cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and diabetes mellitus are the four major NCDs acquired through an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, hypertension cases have increased to 25% from 22% from 2003 to 2008, with diabetic cases increasing from 3.4% to 4.8% The study also revealed an increase in the consumption of food high in fats and sugars and the lack of physical activity among the entire adult population.

To ensure that we enjoy a disease-free Christmas, the Department of Health (DOH) reminds us to take note of the following:

Prepare early. Overfatigue and stress due to rushing and preparing for the holidays may cause health complications such as heart disease and hypertension. Get enough sleep so that the mind and body can rest.

Give safe and age-appropriate toys to children. Choose toys without small and sharp parts, which may cause choking and injury among children. Read and follow instructions carefully.

Prepare well-balanced holiday meals. Aside from rich holiday foods such as ham, lechon, queso de bola and sweets, make sure that your dining table is also loaded with fruits and vegetables. Ensure cleanliness and freshness of foods to avoid food poisoning.

Eat healthy. Eat nutritious foods to sustain your daily activities. Salty and fatty foods are prevalent this season so remember to only eat them on moderation.
Drink plenty of liquids, such as water and fruit juices, to facilitate excretion.

Avoid too much alcohol. Do not drink and drive; we all know how drunk driving results to vehicular accidents. Too much alcohol can cause serious damage to the liver and heart, and may induce strokes.

Guard yourself against sickness. During this season, we’re more susceptible to coughs, colds, and fever. If these symptoms persist for more than five days, consult your doctor.

Greeting everyone a Merry Christmas has become a standard this season, but to truly achieve merriment, remember that health and safety should come first. Here’s to a fire-free, heart-healthy Christmas to everyone!

Sources: BFP | DOH | DTI

According to the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola is a rare and fatal disease caused by infection with a strain of Ebola virus. The fact that the 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history should be enough motivation for everyone to know the basics of the disease.

Ebola Virus | Photo from: www.cdc.gov
Ebola Virus | Photo from: www.cdc.gov

Ebola explained
Ebola has become a topic of conversation these past few months due to the alarming cases reported all over the globe, especially in numerous West African countries. Various scientists, as well as international and local health organizations, have been doing their best to raise public awareness to help prevent the spread of this malignant disease.

Historically, the first case of Ebola was recorded in 1976, when a young Belgian scientist named Peter Piot travelled to a remote area in Congo to find out the cause of death from an unidentified disease.

An aerial photograph that shows the small village of Yambuku in Zaire. Photo Credit: Dr. Joel G. Breman | via Live Science
An aerial photograph that shows the small village of Yambuku in Zaire. Photo Credit: Dr. Joel G. Breman | via Live Science

The virus was primarily discovered in the Yambuku village but since naming the virus after the village may be deemed as offensive, Piot’s team decided to name it after the nearest river. According to Live Science, one option was the Congo River. However, the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus was already in existence.

With the help of a small map, they plotted out the nearest river from Yambuku and that was the Ebola River. Ebola River means “Black River” in Lingala, the language spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Symptoms and Transmission

The Ebola Virus Disease or EVD is one of the most virulent viral diseases affecting humankind. It is a viral haemorrhagic fever with symptoms of fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, impaired kidney and liver functions, and internal and external bleeding. Rash, red eyes, hiccups and bleeding from body openings could occur in some instances.

The Department of Health (DOH) clarified that Ebola cannot be spread through air, water or food. The disease can be transmitted only through direct contact with the body of a deceased person; blood secretions, organ or other bodily fluids of infected animals; and body fluids and stools of an infected person via blood, vomit, pee, poop, sweat, semen or spit. One can also get the virus by using contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients.

Healthcare and laboratory workers who are exposed to secretions and specimens from the patient and family members, or those who are in close contact with the infected individuals, are prone to the virus.

EVD knows no boundaries

Because of the EVD outbreak in West Africa, an area known for its hot and dry climate, some have speculated that it may be a weather-related disease. But according to Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy of the Department of Health-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (DOH-NCDPC), there is no scientific proof that weather affects the spreading of the Ebola virus. He added that as of now, there are no studies yet on how cold or warm weather stimulates the virus.

According to the CDC, countries with widespread transmission include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone while those with localized transmission are Madrid, Spain; Dallas, Texas and New York City, New York in United States. Mali in West Africa was affected with travel-associated cases.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and Dakar, Senegal were already declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Based on WHO’s report, more than 10,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and United States of America. Out of this number, nearly 5,000 patients have been reported dead.

Table: Chronology of previous Ebola virus disease outbreaks

Untitled

Source: World Health Organization
Source: World Health Organization

Actions taken in the PH

In a press release of DOH dated on October 17, 2014, the department stated that it will conduct specialized training programs to raise awareness and response to EVD. With the help of WHO, the programs aim to deepen the understanding of health workers on the detection and treatment of EVD cases and to stop the infectious disease from spreading.

The training programs started on October 28 when Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy led the “Training on Hospital Management of Ebola Virus Disease” held at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Sources:
Department of Health
World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Live Science
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28262541