Sunday, 30 August 2009

India's Moon Mission is Dead: Chandrayaan-I Spacecraft Loses Radio Contact

Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST).

Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed, according to ISRO scientists.

It may be recalled that Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota on October 22, 2008 .The Spacecraft has completed 312 days in orbit making more than 3400 orbits around the Moon and providing large volume of data from sophisticated sensors like Terrain Mapping Camera, Hyper-spectral Imager, Moon Mineralogy Mapper etc., meeting most of the scientific objectives of the mission.

Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST).

Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed.

It may be recalled that Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota on October 22, 2008 .The Spacecraft has completed 312 days in orbit making more than 3400 orbits around the Moon and providing large volume of data from sophisticated sensors like Terrain Mapping Camera, Hyper-spectral Imager, Moon Mineralogy Mapper etc., meeting most of the scientific objectives of the mission.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Charak Samhita: Did swine flu find mention in Ancient Ayurvedic texts

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 27: Did swine flu, which has killed hundreds of
people world-wide, find a mention in Charak Samhita, the ancient
Ayurvedic text dating back to the third century BC?

The Department of Ayush suggests that Charak Samhita and other
ancient Ayurvedic medical books had made references to symptoms
that are similar to swine flu. The Ayurvedic texts had classified viral
ailments and epidemics including those with symptoms of swine flu
under "Vaata Kaphaja Jwara" category.

According to Charak Samhita, which deals with internal medicine, the
outbreaks of Vaata Kaphaja Jwara are noticed during autumn/spring, in
seasonal change and in moderate climatic conditions.

Soon after swine flu claimed its first victim in the country, the
department of Ayush constituted a group of experts to study the health
problem. Several Ayurveda experts and research councils were
involved in the task of finding remedial measures to curb the spread of
the novel human influenza virus. The experts in their report traced
swine flu to Vaata Kaphaja Jwara category and came out with a number
measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

"The new swine flu virus is just a mutant of the already existing virus.
Ayurvedic texts deal extensively with viral ailments. The symptoms of
swine flu appear in these texts, particularly in Charak Samhita. It has
given a list of do's and don'ts to prevent such ailments. It has also
advised certain preventive measures to build body immunity against
attack of seasonal diseases," senior Ayurvedic physician Dr M Chandra
Sekhar of Institute of Panchakarma and Research, Hyderabad.

According to Charak Samhita, one should avoid kapha provocating diet
like curd, cold food, fruit juices specially citrus, fermented food and
take hot water instead of cold water. One should use decoction made up
of any one or combination of tulsi, ginger, black pepper, long pepper
and guduchi (Tinospora) every morning.

"Ayurvedic medicines like sudershanghana vati, sudershana churna and
samshamani vati improve the host defence mechanism. The medicines
can be taken by normal healthy persons as well as those who have mild
cold, cough, body pain etc. However, in serious cases, people should
go to the nearest screening centre," the Ayush document on swine flu
points out.

Monday, 24 August 2009

High lead levels in enamel paints: Be choosy about the colour when you paint your house

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 23: Enamel paints available in India contain high levels of lead which damage the central nervous system, particularly in children and pregnant women.

According to a joint study by 10 international research organisations, including the Bengaluru-based National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning, Indian paints on average contain 33,000 ppm (parts per million) of lead as against the permissible levels of 600 ppm.

Interestingly, the percentage of lead differs in different colours with white enamel paints having 1,330 ppm, making it the safer bet though it is more than twice the permissible levels.

According to the study, yellow paint has the highest lead at 85,000 ppm (dry weight), followed by orange 79,700 ppm, red 30,600 ppm, green with 28,200 ppm, black 8,050, blue 4,610.

"Though lead poisoning of children is widely recognised as a major public health problem in many parts of the world, very little attention has been given in many countries to the role of leaded paints," Dr Venkatesh Thuppil, one of the members of the research team, said.

"The colour with the lowest lead concentration was white and the colours with the highest concentrations are yellow and orange, followed closely by green and red," said Dr Thuppil, popularly known as the "Lead Man of India" for his pioneering efforts in the introduction of lead-free petrol in the country.

He said the concentration of lead in most of the samples was greater than or equal to 600 ppm. Dr Thuppil along with Dr C.S.
Clark, who led the research, said the lead levels should not cross 90 ppm if people are to be protected from heavy metal poisoning.

The study noted that 73 per cent of paint brands tested from 12 countries fail to comply with the standard limits. Almost half of the world's population lives in these countries which include India and China. About 70 per cent of the brands had at least one sample exceeding 10,000 ppm.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Death of a river? Will Polavaram project kill the river Sabari?

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The picturesque Sabari river that originates in the hilly jungles of the tribal Bastar in Chastisgarh will lose its basic character if the State government goes ahead with the controversial Polavaram project across the river Godavari.
Sabari flows for about 30 km in Andhra Pradesh after entering the State from Chattisgarh and joins the river Godavari at Kunavaram in Khammam district. Once the Polavaram project is constructed, the backwards will extend up to the Chattisgarh border wiping out the Sabari from the face of Andhra Pradesh.
"Polavaram will not only affect the lovely Papi Hills, part of Eastern Ghats, with their unique flora and fauna, but also damage the Sabari river system. The river system of other tributaries will also be hit badly affecting the overall Godavari hydrological cycle," argues irrigation expert Nitin Desai.
The backwaters of Polavaram will not allow the Sabari to drain into the Godavari when the dam is full. The overall length of the Sabari will be reduced by about 30 kilometres which will severely upset the ecology of this tribal river.
According to environmental activist Bhiksham Gujja, even the river system of Sileru that flows through the Eastern Ghats and joins the Sabari on Andhra Pradesh-Chattisgarh-Orissa borders will suffer heavily. "The river rises as the Machkund in the Eastern Ghats in northeastern Andhra Pradesh. Leaving the Machkund reservoir, it flows as the Sileru parallel to the mountain ranges at an elevation of 2,000-3,000 feet in a northeast-to-southwest direction to empty into the Sabari," he says.
Since the Sileru joins the Sabari at the AP border, the backwaters of Polavaram will also prevent Sileru from emptying fully into Sabari.
The Sabari river is not only important from environment point of view but also from the historical perspective. The river was mentioned in several of the ancient texts of India.
A team of irrigation experts and environmentalists on Wednesday visited the Polavaram dam site and studied the impact of the dam on the environment, wildlife as well as the tributaries of the Godavari. Former CWC member Vidyasagar is of the view that there would be larger environmental havoc if the natural river system was disturbed. In the case of Polavaram, not only the Godavari river is exploited, but also its tributaries.
"Generally, only one river is affected by dam. But in the case of Polavaram several tributaries along with the main river Godavari are affected. This is something unpardonable," Vidyasagar observes.

Failing crops in Andhra Pradesh: 10 per cent of land turns saline or alkaline

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: As much as 10 per cent of rich agricultural land in the State has turned either saline or alkaline posing a serious threat to the over all farm production.
Farm experts attribute the drastic change in the delicate soil texture in several districts in the State to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides over a period. The extent of salinity or alkalinity is so severe in some agricultural fields that not even grass grows on them. These soils are practically dead and unproductive.
Moreover, recent sociological changes have compounded the soil problems as traditional practices like application of green manuring have slowly started disappearing. "These changes are in the nature of leasing of land, which has been on the rise. In this case, neither the lease holder nor the land owner is interested in long term soil health management nor have time to plant, raise and incorporate green manure crop," says an official in the farm department.
The difference between normal fields and those affected by salinity or alkalinity is clearly visible even to the naked eye in delta areas. The worst affected districts include Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari, Prakasam, Nellore, Nizamabad, Warangal and Kurnool.
Also intensive agriculture, specially in irrigated lands, and heavy application of inorganic fertilisers has led to increase in extent of problematic soils. While 10 per cent of land is either saline or alkaline, nearly 20 per cent of the total cropped area is water logged. Water logging gradually destroys soil health.
Continuous water logging due to ground water besides rainfall recharge in these areas have turned thousands of hectares of land into alkaline. The soils become alkaline due to accumulation of chemical compounds like carbonates and bicarbonates.
It is estimated that about 7.55 lakh hectares of area is problematic soils in the State, which calls for an immediate reclamation on a massive scale to restore the productivity of these lands. Waking up to the problem, though late, the government has succeeded in reclaiming about 10,000 hectares in five districts. The State has 104.12 lakh hectares under agriculture.

Retinoblastoma: Early detection of eye cancers will save the sight

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Early detection of eye cancers particularly retinoblastoma will save the sight.
According to specialist doctors at LV Prasad Eye Institute, retinoblastoma in children is curable if timely treatment is provided to the patient. The hospital has released a set of do's and don'ts for parents as part of the world retinoblastoma awareness week which will conclude on May 19.
Retinoblastoma is a cancer in a child’s eyes and accounts for about 11 per cent of all cancers in children below one year of age and five per cent of childhood blindness.
"More than 1000 children are diagnosed every year in India with the problem. About 75 per cent of children have a tumour in one eye and
25 per cent have a tumour in both eyes. The early symptoms include a white reflex of eye, squinting eyes and vision loss," says Dr Santosh Honavar, chief ocular oncologist.
He regretted at poor and low levels of awareness among people. "The white reflex in the child’s eye is retinoblastoma. Such a child needs immediate medical attention. By taking the child to an eye specialist, you can help save the child’s life and eyesight," he points out.
Retinoblastoma is a genetic disorder and may be caused by abnormal genes inherited from one or both parents or a mutation of a particular gene after the child is born. This cancer is curable if detected early.
"There are doctors and facilities available in India to provide appropriate treatment that will cure the child of this eye disease. However, it is often the case that parents are not aware of the warning symptoms of retinoblastoma or they may choose to ignore the early symptoms of a white glint in the eye or squinting eyes. Instead, the parents may take the child to the doctor at a later stage when the cancer has advanced, the tumour weighing down the child's face to one side," he said.

Bt cotton seeds are a failure

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: It is now official. Bt cotton seeds are a failure, at least in Andhra Pradesh.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has accepted the contention of farmers and farm organisations that Bt cotton seeds supplied by Mahyco-Monsanto India Limited have failed to deliver the promised results.
The damning report comes just ahead of a review of the permission granted by the Centre for the cultivation of Bt cotton. The permission, given in 2002, was to be reviewed on Friday.
“The fact of yield losses varying from 30 to 60 per cent on an average and even 80 per cent in a few cases, is clearly borne out from the verification reports submitted by the joint teams constituted for the purpose. It is also evident that, whatever may be the other contributing factors, the Bt cotton varieties in question have failed to perform up to the standards that were promised and expected. The poor performance is reflected not only in their vulnerability to diseases, but also in the square/flower dropping that was observed in several fields,” the GEAC report pointed out.
Meanwhile, a report of the MoU committee (Joint Director, Agriculture) has also found fault with the seed company. It even suggests that “M/s Mahyco Monsanto Ltd, is liable for payment of damages at the rate of Rs 1,496.25 per acre and a total amount of Rs 2,48,85,630 in respect of the affected extents... The company shall take necessary action for payment of the compensation accordingly within the period prescribed under MoU, namely 30 days, failing which this award will carry interest at the rate of 24 per cent per annum.”
Thousands of farmers in Warangal, Guntur and Mahbubnagar districts have lost heavily after they changed to Bt version of cotton from conventional hybrid varieties three years ago. While farmers, farm organisations and NGOs blame crop failures on the genetically modified seeds, economists and farm experts prefer to tread a cautious path.
The GEAC and MoU Committee reports only confirm research conducted by NGOs and the NG Ranga Agricultural University which found that there was no substantial difference in use of pesticides with Bt cotton, and the yields were the same if not less. What is more, Bt cotton was vulnerable to attack by other pests like aphids.
Farmers reported that there was an increase of 300 per cent in non-target pests like jassids, aphids and thrips. Bt cotton crop has been attacked by wilt and root rot. Many complain that higher yields of up to 15 quintals per acre were promised, whereas the average yields of Bt Cotton were two to three quintals per acre. Nowhere did Bt Cotton yields cross more than four quintals per acre at the end of the harvest.

Bt Cotton is a genetically engineered form of natural cotton. It contains the property of insect-specific resistance through the transfer of a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt for short). The Bt variety produces a protein which when ingested in adequate quantities is toxic to lepidopteron insects. The Bt cotton is specifically targeted at the most serious scourge of the cotton crop, the boll worm.
In AP, Mayhco-Monsanto and the home-grown Raasi sell Bt cotton seeds. Monsanto provides the Bt genes and the seeds are developed by Mayhco.
Genetically modified cotton varieties were introduced in the State during 2001-2002 amidst stiff resistance by environmentalists and social activists. The government had earlier banned field trials of Bt cotton.
Farmers grow Bt cotton in over 80,000 hectare in the State. Bt cotton seed varieties are sold at Rs 1,600 per packet of 450 gram, against Rs 400 per packet of non-Bt varieties. A Bt-cotton farmer spends around Rs 16,000 per hectare against Rs 10,000 by conventional cotton growers. The returns, however, are almost the same.
Bt cotton was sold by Monsanto with the promise that, by genetically altering the seed it could develop resistance to boll worm, the commonest and most serious scourge of cotton.
Monsanto does not sell its seeds directly, it markets the varieties through its Indian agent Mahyco. Monsanto’s Bt genes are utilised by Mahyco to produce Bt cotton seeds. The high protein content in the Bt varieties make them consume more water upsetting the delicate ecological balance.

Andhra Pradesh, one of the most proactive States in safeguarding the rights of cotton farmers, responded to the increase in farmers’ suicides by introducing a MOU, with the primary aim to arbitrate cases involving seed companies and farmers and to provide quick relief to the latter. Repeated failure of Bt Cotton in the State in 2002-03 and 2003-04 caused the government to make Monsanto-Mahyco accountable to the farmers in Bt. Cotton.
The chairmen of MoU District Level Committee have no hesitation in holding that the defects noticed in Bt. Cotton varieties in question, should be attributed to the genetic impurity and inadequacy of the parent seed used by the company for genetic modification.

According to economist and Chronicle columnist Jayati Ghosh, chairperson of the State Farmers Welfare Commission, an integrated pest management system is the best solution. “During my visits to Guntur, Mahbubnagar and Warangal districts, many farmers brought to my notice that Bt cotton seed was resistant to one particular type of pest. Pesticide usage has not come down. Some farmers said the crop was bad other reported it was not better,” she said.
She feels that farmers have gone in for Bt cotton without adequate knowledge of the varieties they are using. Farmers should look at alternative varieties and opt for alternative pest management methods.
Genetically modified varieties including cotton find a supporter in internationally renowned biologist Dr M S Swaminathan. “We have a lot of things to look into. Before coming to a conclusion, we should look into other factors as well. There are a number of reasons for crop failure. You cannot specify one particular reason,” he said.
State agriculture officials do not find fault with Bt technology per se. "Bt technology is OK. The fault lies with the so-called Bt seed varieties. Certain varieties of Mahyco have failed in the State while those of Rasi are performing wonderfully well", clarifies T Peddi Reddy, additional director of agriculture.
On the production side, Bt varieties are as good as any hybrid variety. The only advantage of Bt cotton is that it is resistant to boll worm and consumes less quantity of pesticide. He said the State government had sent samples of Mahyco seeds to the Cotton Research Centre in Nagpur to verify if they contained the Bt gene.
Environmentalists argue that field trials on Bt cotton varieties were not conducted properly and nor were the results evaluated scientifically. While many countries have fixed a mandatory field trial for six years before granting approval for commercial production, the Central government gave its approval after four years of field trials.
Says State Farmers’ Welfare Commission member Y V Malla Reddy, “the cost of cultivation of Bt cotton is higher but the yields are not commensurate with the expenditure. Bt cotton has both advantages and disadvantages. What many overlook are the unintended benefits. Traders and seed companies deliberately hide the negative side of the products they market.”
He points out that Bt cotton trials were not open for independent scrutiny. Trials were done on very small plots of land and the data sought to be extrapolated into real situations and growing conditions.

Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, Government of India: Report largely agrees that Bt cotton seeds provided by Monsanto-Mahyco India Ltd caused heavy losses to farmers. “The fact of yield losses varying from 30 to 60 per cent on an average and even 80 per cent in a few cases, is clearly borne out from the verification reports submitted by the joint teams constituted for the purpose. It is also evident that, whatever may be the other contributing factors, the Bt cotton varieties in question have failed to perform up to the standards that were promised and expected. The poor performance is reflected not only in their vulnerability to diseases, but also in the square/flower dropping that was observed in several fields,” the report said.
The report of the Joint Director Agriculture says, “some members of the MoU committee (a panel set up to decide on compensation for farmers who lost their Bt cotton crop) have expressed a doubt whether the seed defect as now noticed in the Bt varieties and the consequent losses suffered by the farmers can be brought under the contingency of genetic impurity.”
Mahbubnagar Regional Agricultural Research Station, Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University: The station collected data on Bt cotton performance from 100 farmers from Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Medak districts. It noted that the expenditure on Bt Cotton did not decrease but rather increased. The net income from Bt cotton was almost negligible compared to other hybrids. In Ranga Reddy district, farmers have negative incomes from Bt cotton.
The station reported that the average pesticide use with Bt cotton was one spray lesser than non-Bt hybrids. While 61 per cent of the farmers surveyed found that Bt cotton was effective against boll worm up to three months, 39 per cent found no difference between Bt and non-Bt cotton varieties. Only in Medak district did Bt cotton generate more income to farmers than non-Bt hybrids.
The university team found that Bt cotton was unable to withstand water or moisture stress unlike conventional varieties.
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad: Report said Bt cotton has not been yielding the desired results. According to the CSA study, the incidence of pests, especially bollworm, was still high despite the huge production cost of Rs 2,632 per acre. Cotton production had witnessed better results when organic methods of cultivation had been used, with the expenditure at Rs 382 per acre. The centre has strongly recommended against continuing the cultivation of BT cotton, and has called for more non-pesticidal cultivation of cotton.
Gene Campaign, Delhi: The agricultural policy think tank in its Bt cotton evaluation study reported complete failure of the crop. It reported 60 per cent of the farmers did not recover costs and that most of them incurred a loss of Rs 80 an acre. The seed cost per acre is four times that of quality non-Bt varieties. The savings on pesticides is a mere Rs 217 an acre, while the seed cost, including the licence fee for using the patented Bt seeds, is Rs 1,200 higher.

Indian sambar has several anti-oxidant properties which prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the body

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The mouth-watering south Indian sambar has several anti-oxidant properties which prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the body.
The special ingredients that go into the preparation of this south Indian patented dish help in easy digestion, provide the much-needed energy and boost the immune system. They are also anti-carcinogenic in nature and prevent the development of cancer.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in association with the Public Health Foundation of India, has launched a campaign to promote traditional Indian foods as part of its "healthy India" programme. The campaign highlights the importance of south Indian sambar in the over all diet balance of an individual and prevention of a variety of diseases including carcinomas.
"Vegetables that are incorporated in dal preparations like sambar increase the glycemic index of food and provide a variety of nutrients and anti-oxidants. This also ensures that a number of vegetables get consumed everyday, as sambar is an essential food item consumed by most households," the MoHFW points out in its campaign. Drumsticks, onions, garlic, asafoetida, bhendi, brinjal and bottle gourd are essential ingredients of sambar and each of them have their own medicinal and anti-oxidant properties.
Any item that increases the glycemic index of food keeps the body healthy and strong and free from diseases or major health complications. A balanced glycemic index means control over diabetes, weight and blood lipids and improved body sensitivity to insulin and fast re-fuel of carbohydrate stores after exercise. Sambar is the ideal kitchen preparation to maintain the glycemic index of food.
Since sambar is prepared with less oil, it does not give much calories to the body. Consumption of sambar and traditional chutneys prepared from special spices provide additional health benefits by virtue of micronutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins present in them in sufficiently large quantities.
"Healthy eating habits and increased physical activity alone can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 58 per cent, high blood pressure by 66 per cent and heart attacks and stroke by 40-60 per cent," it points out.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Docodont: A new mammal species discovered

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A new mammal belonging to the docodont group has been discovered from the Kota Formation at Paikasigudem village in Adilabad district.

The fossilised mammal is at least 150 million years old and this is the first time that a docodont mammal has been found from the Southern Hemisphere. Docodont mammals are primitive animals found during the Jurassic period along with dinosaurs and they are considered to be the final line of mammalian old-timers.

Scientists the world over thought that docodonts were present only in North America and England as the remains of several species of docodont mammals were excavated only from these parts in the Northern Hemisphere. The latest discovery showed the presence of such animals in Southern Hemisphere too. "It is now quite clear that docodonts were widely spread across the earth," says GVR Prasad, who discovered the animal remains.

The new animal has been named Gondtherium dattai in honour of the local Gond tribal population. The find from Adilabad is of paramount importance as it testifies to the presence of typical docodont mammals in Gondwanan continents.
The Kota Formation, which dates back to late middle Jurassic period (150 million years ago) and lower Cretaceous period (65 million years), had earlier yielded mammal groups like symmetrodontan and eutriconodontan.

Bulk screen-washing of the clays and mud stones found in Kota Formation produced an isolated mammalian upper premolar. A detailed study of the tooth led to the discovery of the new mammal genius Gondtherium.

The premolar tooth has asymmetrical chewing/biting outline, two labial cusps and other features very similar to the upper premolars of docodont mammals. Detailed comparisons with the upper dentition of various known docodont animals showed that the premolar pattern of the new specimen from Adilabad was similar to Haldanodon, an animal found during the Mesozoic period.

The tooth of Gondtherium dattai differed from the upper molars of all known docodont animals in having labial cusps with diverging tips that are separated by a broad notch. The enamel of the tooth was not preserved as also the roots, but from the broken dorsal surface it appeared that there were probably three roots. The pulp chamber was widely open and had a smooth surface and rounded edges as in permanent teeth.

Docodont mammals were earlier known only from the Upper Triassic, Middle and Upper Jurassic, and Lower Cretaceous deposits of North America and Europe, pointing to a typical Euramerican distribution for this group.

"The associated mammalian study helps us in reconstructing a generalised paleobiogeographic scenario. The more recent discovery of Dyskritodon from the Kota Formation first recorded from the Early Cretaceous of Morocco, represents an example of faunal continuity across India and Africa. The occurrence of closely related mammals in the Jurassic of India and Late Triassic and Early Cretaceous of Africa, as well as Middle and Late Jurassic of Europe points to biogeographic connections between these regions," he points out in his study.

This is not surprising because paleogeographic maps show Europe in close proximity of NW Africa and India adjacent to Africa in the Early/Middle Jurassic. The cosmopolitan distribution of the Kota fauna has also been corroborated by the non-mammalian vertebrate groups like ostracods and charophytes.
Barapasaurus and Kotasaurus, sauropod dinosaurs from the Kota Formation, and the Early Jurassic sauropod Vulcanodon of Zimbabwe appear to be closely related to the Late Triassic sauropod Isanosaurus of Thailand.

"In view of this continuity of mammalian as well as non-mammalian animal remains during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous across Gondwanan continents, it is predicted that early docodonts might have existed on other southern continents as well," says Prasad.

The possible reasons for not finding Docodonts on the southern continents until now are restricted occurrence of Jurassic continental sequences in this part of the globe; low intensity sampling of the known deposits; and taphonomic (decaying) factors.

The mummy of Hyderabad in deterioration, needs $20,000 for restoration

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug17: El Awady, director and head of the Research Department,
Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, has prepared a report on the present condition of the Egyptian mummy of a royal lady, lying at the State Museum in Hyderabad. The mummy was brought to Hyderabad about 80 years ago and has been lying since then at the State museum. The mummy is deteriorating and the Egyptian expert has come out with a number of suggestions on its restoration. It is estimated that $20,000 is required to bring back the mummy to its original status.

Here is the copy of the draft report he submitted to the State government of Andhra Pradesh:

Description of the mummy
It is 140 cm tall. Female mummy based on the result of an X-Ray examination which had been carried on the mummy few years ago (no report is available?!). The identification of the sex of the mummy is also based on the hieroglyphic text which is well preserved of the linen wrappings of the mummy. It is depicted on Cartonage and mentions the name of the young lady among prayers for her to enjoy a safe journey to the netherworld.

The age of the mummy is not certain; however it is believed that the owner of the mummy died very young, possibly age 16-18. This is also based on the results of the X-ray report, which is not available in the archive of the State museum of Hyderabad.

The mummy is to be dated to the Ptolemaic period and possibly 300-100 BC, it is also possible that the mummy can be dated to the beginning of the Greco Roman Period. Dating the mummy is in fact based on the style of Mummification and the style of writing and the decoration of the mummy.

The body is wrapped with layers of linen cloth and finally a strip of linen is wrapped around the whole body of the mummy with no geometrical design. The mummy wears a cartonage mask covers not only the face of the mummy but the head and the shoulders. The face of the mask was originally painted white with the features of the face lined with black paint; the lips still bears traces of the red paint.

The decoration on the top of the mummy’s head depicts a winged scarab pushing a sun disk; the scarab is surrounded by geometrical decorations repeated in circles. Around the face of the mummy a dark green paint is applied.

Under the face of the mummy and directly on the chest of the mummy a beautiful painted Wsekh (pectoral) is depicted. The Wsekh consists of ten layers of pedants and closes on each side with a big pendant shaped like the falcon god Horus with the sun disk above his head. The Wsekh is painted with deferent colors (dark green, red, yellow, blue, white and black).

Following the pectoral there is a geometrical decoration followed by a strip depicted scenes in three layers toped by the winged sun disk with two cobras on each side of the sun disk. The first scene depicts the sky goddess Nut as a lady in yellowish white long dress and a dark green wig. She is sitting looking left, with her two legs tucked under her. Her two arms stretched with two wings under and each hand is holding a Maat feather (symbol of truth, order and justice).

Under each wing of the goddess a figure of a mummy is laying on its back (under the protection of the goddess). The second scene is depicting a Jed pillar (symbol of Osiris) in the middle flanked by a female goddess (perhaps goddess Nut) on the left side and a ram on the right side. The scene in fact is representing the erection of the Jed Pillar which symbolizes the resurrection of god Osirus – god of the netherworld.

The third and the last scene depicts the mummy laying on a funerary bed shaped like a lion, under the bed the four canopic jars are depicted with the four heads of the sons of Horus. On each side of the bed two of the four sons of Hours are depicted giving linen to be used in the mummification. The three scenes are depicted on a white background and separated from each other by a strip of geometrical decoration.

The scenes are followed by an inscription consists of four vertical columns the two columns in the middle are painted red, while the two side columns are painted dark green. The inscription reads from left to right, up to down. It reads:
“Spoken words by my souls…………..and end with may she live in the netherworld for ever and everlasting”

Preservation state of the Cartonage

The mask is in fragmentary state of preservation, the left side of the mask is completely damaged and quite large pieces seemed to be missing, the top of the mask covering the head has some damages both in the cartonage itself (holes exist on different places) and in the colors of the scenes depicted. The lower part of the cartonage mask under the head of the mummy is completely smashed and lost its round shape.

Suggestions: the mask appears to be almost separated from the mummy and taken into consideration how difficult is to restore the mask in situ, I suggest taking the mask of the head of the mummy, restored and put it back. This operation definitely will lead at the beginning to more damage of the mask but the work of restoration will safe the mask.

Between the cartonage mask and the pectoral there are two pieces of cartonage should be restored together to the mask and the pectoral in order to complete the original shape. One of these two pieces still can be seen on the right shoulder of the mummy but not in its original place. The other piece cannot be seen however there are some fallen pieces from the mummy can be seen upside down around the mummy and hopefully one of these fragments will fit into the missing part of the cartonage mask. On the left side of the cartonage mask one can easily see the serious damage which lead to a complete separation between the mask and the mummy itself.

The pectoral is in fact in a well state of preservation; only a vertical crack in the middle of the pectoral divided it into two equal parts. This can be easily fixed and consolidate the pectoral from the back. The shape and the colors are still intact.

The geometrical design under the pectoral is not complete and small pieces are missing. A consolidation work is needed. The scenes and the inscription are still in good condition, only a horizontal crack appeared on the upper part of the inscription which can be easily fixed and reconnected again. Also a work of reinforcement and consolidation needs to be done on the back of the cartonage.

In summation, it is essential to take the cartonage mask and chest plate off the mummy in order to restore it and consolidating it and then put is back on the mummy. The colors are still in good state of preservation; Damages occurred on the cartonage and the chest plate and caused many broken parts and cracks in the mask and the chest plate of the mummy.

Two reasons are suggested that led to this condition of preservation:
First: the deterioration which occurred to the mummy itself and effected the position of the mummy’s body and caused many movement of the limbs which put pressure on the cartonage mask and chest plate and causes many damages and displace of mask on the face of the mummy.

Second: according to my colleagues at the State Museum in Hyderabad, the mummy was a subject of many movements and it was transferred many times to be exhibit in different places. Moving was handled by workers and no safety precautions were taken. The Old Photographs which we got till now give an evidence that some of the damages hap been occurred long tome ago (Old photographs we have are dated to 1969 according to our colleagues at the SM).

Preservation state of the Linen wrappers

The white color of the linen wrappings turned yellowish. The outer layer of the wrappings is badly damaged; the outer strips of linen are unfolded with many cuts in the strips. Under the cartonage mask, one can see the chin of the skull completely bare. The wrappings around the feet toes are open revealing the mummy toes.

Suggestions: after removing the cartonage and the mask of the mummy a careful cleaning and consolidating the linen wrappings should be carried out. The area around the toes can be left like it is now after cleaning and examine if there is any bacteria lives or not.

Preservation state of the mummy

Unfortunately, there is no documentations work available on the mummy since it was given to the SM in 1930. Even archival photographs does not exist as far as we know until now (searching for this material is continuing). The absence of this material stops any attempts to trace the history of deterioration of the mummy.

We cannot know for example if this deterioration happened long time ago and now stopped or still going on and also the speed of this deterioration cannot be traced. Therefore, one has deal with the state of preservation of the mummy as it appears now on the mummy. The condition around the mummy is not pleasant at all, humidity changes always up and down according to the weather and the number of visitor inside the mummy room which is relatively small and opened to the hall through a glass door with four leafs.

Also the temperature drops during the night hours and raise during the day. Only one fan is working inside the mummy room and not all the time just when there is people inside the room. The mummy is displayed inside a showcase of wood and glass opens from above.

According to our colleagues at the SM, they open the mummy showcase every two or three month in order to change the conservation materials inside the show case, which is also not oxygen free and allow air inside. The mummy is placed on its back on dark blue base which absorbs the heat and moisture and reflected on the back of the mummy which shows the serious signs of deterioration and the difference between the colors of the bottom part of the wrappings is darker than the upper part of the mummy.

A Ct-scan is needed in order to see the mummy from inside and the type of mummification carried on the mummy and also to show how far the mummy still preserved under the wrappings. Microbiological analysis is also needed.
Suggestions: it is essential to change the environment around the mummy in order to reach an appropriate state of stability and preservation. To do so, a free of oxygen showcase is needed.

And the room where the mummy is being display should be climate controlled all the time. The mummy should not be exhibit under direct light, also camera flash should not be allowed in the mummy room. A monitoring system should be installed inside the showcase of the mummy and in the mummy room itself.

A free Oxygen environment will definitely stops any further deterioration either Biological, physics, and chemical deterioration.

NGRI sets up geothermal climate change observatory: Gives insight on temperatures 300 years ago

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 17: The city-based National Geophysical Research Institute has set up a geothermal climate change observatory at Choutuppal near here. The observatory is capable of recording and finding out warming or cooling of the earth in the last 300 years, besides giving data on the present scenario. It will also give clues on the meteorological conditions.

The observatory, which comprises an automatic weather station located next to a set of boreholes going down to 210 metres, will allow earth scientists to study how meteorologic variables affect ground temperature and eventually the deep rock temperature, according Dr VP Dimri, NGRI director.

"The datasets being acquired at the observatory will be invaluable for studies on global climate change and its signature in the solid Earth. This is the first geothermal climate change observatory of its kind in the low latitude belt (0-30 degrees N), and will allow comparisions with a similar observatory set up in Utah, USA in the higher lattitudes," he said.

The weather station samples the surface air temperature, humidity, precipitation, solar radiation, wind speed and direction at two second intervals and stores the information once every 15 minutes. The diurnal and annual variations of surface air temperature decay by about 50 cm and 15 mts of depth respectively.

The long term (10 to 100 years) changes insurface air temperature due to climate change diffuse down in the earth and perturb the natural temperature distribution up to depths of 100 to 200 metres. "By measuring the temperatures in a borehold today, scientists are able to infer both the magniturde and the onset time of warming (or cooling) that took place during the last 300 years, much before the start of the extensive meteorological records in India.

Egyptian expert finds fault with AP officials for mummy deterioration

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 17: Tarek El Awady, director and head of research department, Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, has found fault with the way the mummy at the State Museum is preserved. He wondered over the lack of scientific photographs of the mummy during the last 80 years it had been in the possession of the Museums

Dr Tarek submitted a draft report to the State government on the ways and means of preserving the 5000-year-old mummy from further deterioration. He has been entrusted with the task of restoring the mummy of an Egyptian royal woman said to be 18 year old.

The mask of the mummy is in fragmentary state of preservation, the left side of the mask is completely damaged and quite large pieces seemed to be missing. The top of the mask covering the head has some damages both in the cartonage itself (holes exist on different places) and in the colors of the scenes depicted. The lower part of the cartonage mask under the head of the mummy is completely smashed and lost its
round shape.

"I suggest taking the mask of the head of the mummy, restored and put it back. This operation definitely will lead at the beginning to more damage of the mask but the work of restoration will safe the mask," Dr Tarek said.

The mummy was a subject of many movements and it was transferred many times for exhibition in different places. Moving was handled by workers and no safety precautions were taken.

"Unfortunately, there is no documentation work available on the mummy since it was given to the State musueum in 1930. Even archival photographs do not exist as far as we know until now.

The absence of this material stops any attempts to trace the history of
deterioration of the mummy. We cannot know for example if this deterioration happened long time ago and now stopped or still going on and also the speed of this deterioration cannot be traced. Therefore, one has deal with the state of preservation of the mummy as it appears now on the mummy," he said.

Live cannon balls unearthed in Hyderabad: Explosive belongs to Nizam era

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 17: As many as 1127 live cannon balls, at least 150
years old, have been unearthed from a government school at Bollarum
here on Monday during excavation of soil for construction of a new
building complex.

Some of the iron cannon balls contain seals and weigh as much as 12
kgs each. The cannon balls date to the Nizam era and were probably
manufactured at the gun foundry at Basheerbagh in the city.

According to Dr Channa Reddy, director of archaeology and museums,
of the 1127 cannon balls unearthed so far, 320 weigh 12 kgs each while
807 are small and weigh 1.5 kgs each. They measure between four to
eight cm in diametre. "Probably the area once served as a store room
for the army of the Nizam," he said.

However, local ward member Jai Prakash is of the view that the
Britishers kept these cannon balls as a stock for their Thopkhana.They
were later handed over to Indian Army for disposal. He put their age at
70 to 80 years.

The land is said to be donated by the defence personnel to the State
during 1950.

Drought: Store seeds for future needs, farm scientists tell farmers

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 17: Agricultural scientists have warned of a severe shortage
of quality seeds for next season in view of persistent drought conditions all
over the country.

They suggest that farmers maintain a bank of good quality seeds in
sufficiently large quantities for use in the next rabi and khariff seasons.

With the threat of drought looming large over 177 districts including a dozen
in Andhra Pradesh, agricultural scientists warn of an impending ill impact on
the lives of poor farmers.

This year, half the cropping season has already gone by without rains in large
parts of Andhra Pradesh, and traditional crops raised under normal growing
conditions, have a little chance to be sown at this stage.

"Besides causing concern for food, nutritional security and livelihood
activities, the consequences of this severe drought are going to be felt for
long on agriculture itself", says Dr William Dar, Director-General of

Dr SN Nigam, principal groundnut scientist, added "this situation will negate
all the gains made through popularising improved groundnut varieties and
providing their quality seed to farmers. We will be back to where we started
when very old local varieties were dominating cultivation."

To rebuild the quality seed stock in required quantities for future cropping
seasons will take a couple of years. As a consequence of poor rains in the
current kharif season, underground and other water resources will be
depleted, and the future of the ensuing rabi season crop becomes uncertain. It
is therefore crucial that the seed currently available with farmers is saved for
the next kharif season.

Government intervention at this critical stage can help to arrest this situation,
which will otherwise have a long-term effect on rainfed agriculture. Before
the seed is sold as commercial commodity by farmers in desperation, the
Government should arrange to buy this seed from the farmers by opening
stalls at the mandal and district levels, they said.

According to ICRISAT scientists, the seed can be stored in various
Government facilities under safe storage conditions and be made available to
the farmers in the next cropping season. This will ensure that the gains made
through research and development in rainfed agriculture are not lost due to
vagaries of the weather.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Solar energy: India plans to tap enornous potential of solar power

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 16: Almost a decade has passed since the Central and the
State governments announced their plans to tap the enormous potential of
solar energy in Andhra Pradesh. In the last 10 years there have been several
reworks on the proposal and finally the Centre has decided to select
Visakhapatnam as a solar hub to reduce dependence on conventional energy
by at least 10 per cent.

The Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy and the Prime Minister's
Office have, however, set their eyes on the long-term energy needs. They
want to generate 20,000 mw of solar energy by 2020 with Andhra Pradesh
contributing at least five per cent of the targetted generation of electricity
through sunlight.

But a group of tribals, illiterate, malnourished and poverty-ridden, has
decided that they cannot wait for another decade to enjoy the fruits of
electricity. By any modest estimate, it will take at least four to five years for
the proposed solar hub at Visakhapatnam to become a reality. The solar hub,
even when it becomes a reality, may not serve the villagers and tribals living
far away from the urban agglomerate of Visakhapatnam.

"Villages and tribal hamlets occupy the bottom in the priority list of the
government. We depend on kerosene to light up our houses and fetching
kerosene through PDS is nothing short of a Herculean task, particularly for
people living in inaccessible areas. We decided that we should light up our
homes using the solar energy," says Pongi Ramanamma, a resident of
Thammingala, a remote village in Chintapalli agency area of Visakhapatnam
district, as she tunes to DD news on her black and white TV set.

The tribals of Visakhapatnam have shown the way for officials and
politicians, who rack their brains to find solutions to global warming and
climate change. Apart from two bulbs a house, many households have
television sets with set-top box operated through solar energy. The State
government erected electric poles way back in 1991 and 18 years on, they are
yet to be energised. It will take the lethargic officials five more years to
provide conventional electricity city supply through overhead power lines
and transformers.

"We are very happy that at least our children are fortunate to have the power
facility, which will bring happiness in their lives. We spent all our lives in
darkness. What more can we give to our descendants" said Yerramma, a 60-
year-old tribal woman.

People in Thammingala, which does not figure in the local mandal maps
because of its tiny nature, are overwhelmed about the change from flickering
kerosene lamps to solar cfl bulbs and battery-operated radio sets to solar-
power TVs. "We have never imagined that we would be able to
see moving pictures on the small box. We do not know what an electric bulb
is till three months ago," says Pothu Rajubabu.

The transformation came in the Agency belt, not because of the initiative of
the State or the Central governments, but thanks to the Barefoot Solar
Women Engineers' Association. The Association was the brainchild of four
illiterate women, who underwent specialised training in solar energy

Taking a cue from their counterparts in Thammingala, the villagers of
Pusalapalem too installed solar home light system units. These two villages
sit on the picturesque Eastern Ghats, about 180 km from Visakhapatnam. The
nearest motorable road is about 15 km away.

According to Dr G Valentina, an assistant professor with the Rural
Technology Park, Hyderabad, "this is just the first phase. We will take up the
second phase soon. Women will be trained in setting up one KW solar
power plant, which will energise 15 streetlights and two community TV

Almost all the households in Thammingala and Pusalapalem enjoy the benefits of solar energy. There are no powercuts, no blackouts or outages. The hilly terrain with abundant solar energy is an added advantage for these villages.

"We were given just three litres of kerosene a month through the PDS. We
used to buy another three litres in black by paying thrice the PDS price,
pushing our expenditure on kerosene by Rs 200 a month. The solar energy
now comes almost free. There's no smoke and no pungent smell of kerosene,"
recalls Yerra Chinnamma.

The solar lamps were a boon for tribal students who recently appeared for
class 10 common examination. They could study during the night hours too.

"This time my child worked hard. He was academically brilliant but could
not study well as we had to depend on the kerosene lamps. This year he could
work hard and write his exams better," said Jartha Rajullamma.

A solar home light unit costs about Rs 13,500. Each of the households paid
Rs 1000 towards advance deposit to a local bank, which funded the project.
As against Rs 200 spent on kerosene a month, each family now pays Rs 100
to the bank towards EMI. These villages have village environment
committees to look after the maintenance part.

Solar energy: Illiterate tribal women show the way to fight climate change

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 16: Even as the Central government is still in the "planning
stage" to energise Visakhapatnam district through solar power, four tribal
women have proved that a strong will power could translate dreams into

They have brought electricity, though solar, to two inaccessible
villages deep in the Chintapalli forests in Visakhapatnam district, within a
span of six months. For information of readers, the State government erected
poles 18 years ago (1991 to be precise) to supply electricity to the hamlets of
Thammingala and Pusalapalem. The electric poles have rusted and the
villages are yet to be energised.

The Women Barefoot Solar Engineers' Association, manned by illiterate
women, did the wonders. After being identified by the Rural Technology
Park of National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, for training, the
illiterate women embarked on the solar mission to light up tribal hamlets. The
Association in turn trained four tribal women, Papayyamma, Pravallika,
Santoshamma and Kumari of Visakhapatnam district.

"We know the technology that goes into making of solar lamps. We also
repair the solar panels and batteries," says Papayamma. These units, however,
require little maintenance except filling up the battery unit with distilled
water at frequent intervals.

Rural Technology Park project director Dr Senthil Vinayakam points out that
these illiterate women had grasped the techniques after much efforts. They
were trained using colour coding, and often sign language. They know how
to assemble solar lanterns.

These women also make water pumps that run on solar energy.

Solar energy: What future holds for India?

India's plans to tap solar energy:

* India plans to become solar giant in the next 11 years by achieving 20000 mw of power through solar energy by 2020. It wants to make non-conventional energy at least 10 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country.

* The National Solar Mission, cleared recently by the PMO, also plans to add 1,00,000 mw of solar power by 2030 and 2,00,000 mw by 2050.

* Solar energy will bring down the cost to Rs 4 to Rs 5 per kwhr.

* The country has an installed capacity for manufacture of solar panels of 700 megawatt per year. India has also gained the capability to increase the capacity to 20,000 mw per annum.

* The Centre has identified 16 solar hubs including one in Visakhapatnam to reduce energy dependence on conventional sources by 10 per cent by 2012.

Friday, 14 August 2009

NASA Satellites Unlock Secret to Northern India's Vanishing Water

By Syed Akbar
Beneath northern India’s irrigated fields of wheat, rice, and barley ... beneath its densely populated cities of Jaiphur and New Delhi, the groundwater has been disappearing. Halfway around the world, hydrologists, including Matt Rodell of NASA, have been hunting for it.

Where is northern India’s underground water supply going? According to Rodell and colleagues, it is being pumped and consumed by human activities -- principally to irrigate cropland -- faster than the aquifers can be replenished by natural processes. They based their conclusions -- published in the August 20 issue of Nature -- on observations from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

"If measures are not taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output and severe shortages of potable water," said Rodell, who is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Groundwater comes from the natural percolation of precipitation and other surface waters down through Earth’s soil and rock, accumulating in aquifers -- cavities and layers of porous rock, gravel, sand, or clay. In some of these subterranean reservoirs, the water may be thousands to millions of years old; in others, water levels decline and rise again naturally each year.

Groundwater levels do not respond to changes in weather as rapidly as lakes, streams, and rivers do. So when groundwater is pumped for irrigation or other uses, recharge to the original levels can take months or years.

Changes in underground water masses affect gravity enough to provide a signal, such that changes in gravity can be translated into a measurement of an equivalent change in water.

"Water below the surface can hide from the naked eye, but not from GRACE," said Rodell. The twin satellites of GRACE can sense tiny changes in Earth’s gravity field and associated mass distribution, including water masses stored above or below Earth’s surface. As the satellites orbit 300 miles above Earth's surface, their positions change -- relative to each other -- in response to variations in the pull of gravity. The satellites fly roughly 137 miles apart, and microwave ranging systems measure every microscopic change in the distance between the two.

With previous research in the United States having proven the accuracy of GRACE in detecting groundwater, Rodell and colleagues Isabella Velicogna, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California-Irvine, and James Famiglietti, of UC-Irvine, were looking for a region where they could apply the new technique.

"Using GRACE satellite observations, we can observe and monitor water changes in critical areas of the world, from one month to the next, without leaving our desks," said Velicogna. "These satellites provide a window to underground water storage changes."

The northern Indian states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana have all of the ingredients for groundwater depletion: staggering population growth, rapid economic development and water-hungry farms, which account for about 95 percent of groundwater use in the region.

Data provided by India's Ministry of Water Resources suggested groundwater use was exceeding natural replenishment, but the regional rate of depletion was unknown. Rodell and colleagues had their case study. The team analyzed six years of monthly GRACE gravity data for northern India to produce a time series of water storage changes beneath the region’s land surface.

They found that groundwater levels have been declining by an average of one meter every three years (one foot per year). More than 109 cubic km (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared between 2002 and 2008 -- double the capacity of India's largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the United States.

"We don’t know the absolute volume of water in the Northern Indian aquifers, but GRACE provides strong evidence that current rates of water extraction are not sustainable," said Rodell. "The region has become dependent on irrigation to maximize agricultural productivity, so we could be looking at more than a water crisis."

The loss is particularly alarming because it occurred when there were no unusual trends in rainfall. In fact, rainfall was slightly above normal for the period
The researchers examined data and models of soil moisture, lake and reservoir storage, vegetation and glaciers in the nearby Himalayas, in order to confirm that the apparent groundwater trend was real. Nothing unusual showed up in the natural environment.

The only influence they couldn’t rule out was human.

"At its core, this dilemma is an age-old cycle of human need and activity -- particularly the need for irrigation to produce food," said Bridget Scanlon, a hydrologist at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas in Austin. "That cycle is now overwhelming fresh water reserves all over the world. Even one region’s water problem has implications beyond its borders."

"For the first time, we can observe water use on land with no additional ground-based data collection," Famiglietti said. "This is critical because in many developing countries, where hydrological data are both sparse and hard to access, space-based methods provide perhaps the only opportunity to assess changes in fresh water availability across large regions."

Promises stem cell therapy holds for in future

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Just think of a world where there's cure for every disease and no one need to donate his or her body parts to save someone else's life. What if kidneys, cornea, heart, liver, mammary glands, lungs and limbs grow in test tubes or petri dish, ready for harvest in a person suffering from some severe organ failure! This will soon become a reality, thanks to the marvellous technological development in stem cell research.

Stem cells provide raw material for virtually every kind of human tissue. It's just a matter of time, before stem cell research can be applied for therapeutic uses.

Here is a small list of benefits stem cells research offer in near future:


One of the promising benefits of stem cell research is treatment for cancer. Research on dogs has shown that adult stem cells are helpful in fighting cancerous tumours. In lab studies stem cells when injected had migrated into the cancerous area and produced cytosine deaminase, an enzyme that converts a non-toxic pro-drug into a chemotheraputic agent. Tumour was reduced by about 80 per cent.

Spinal cord injury:

Spinal cord injuries, which cripple patients, can also be cured through stem cell technology. Korean scientists have demonstrated that multipotent adult stem cells when injected will help patients with spinal cord injuries to walk on their own, without any external support.

Cure for deafness:

British scientists have demonstrated that stem cells will help in curing deafness. They have developed cilia (hair) in internal ear, which will help in curing deafness. Patients will be able to hear once the transplant is done.

Breast implants:

If scientists involved in stem cell research have their way, artificial breast implants will soon be a thing of the past. Those suffering from cancer of breast as also those who want to enlarge their mammary glands for better looks can now pin their hopes on stem cell research. Unlike artificial implants, stem cells will give breasts a natural look.

British scientists have developed a technique in which they extracted stem cells from the spare fat on stomach or the thigh region. Later, they are grown in a woman's breasts. But the process is quite slow and takes months for the breasts to grow "naturally" in size.

Stem cells: Scientists see cure for health problems including AIDS

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: US President Barack Obama is now the new icon of change for scientists around the world. His decision to lift ban on federal funding for research involving embryonic stem cells has opened up new frontiers for biologists to explore. Though Obama's decision will not bring in immediate medical benefits to patients suffering from genetic and non-genetic diseases, scientists see in it a new hope for cure, in near future, for a plethora of health problems including AIDS.

And back home in India, biologists and researchers feel that the US administration's move will stir up the policy-makers here to hasten with the much-awaited legislation on stem cell research. Two years have passed since the Indian Council of Medical Research announced the new draft guidelines on stem cell research. The Central government has been sitting on the guidelines without transforming them into a formal legislation to boost stem cell research in the country.

"It's a welcome decision," says Dr Jyotsna Dhawan of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. "In India clinical trials on stem cells are already approved. But we have not reached the stage where we can use the research for therapeutic purposes," she adds. Dr Jyotsna is one of the three members from Hyderabad on the ICMR expert panel that drafted the stem cell research guidelines.

Once India gets its own legislation on stem cells research, hospitals can use both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells for medical treatment. However, human cloning will not be permitted in the country. Stem cells are considered to have the ability to divide without limits and to give rise to daughter cells that can form specialised cells. The cells categorised as totipotent have the unlimited ability to differentiate into any tissue including extra-embryonic membranes and all embryonic tissues and organs.

"Lakhs of patients suffering from kidney, liver, heart, blood, pancreas, brain and blood problems will stand to benefit once Parliament passes the proposed Bill on stem cell therapy. Only clinical trials are allowed in the country and it's high time the Indian government followed the Barack Obama administration," argues Dr MN Khaja, who is involved in liver stem cell research.

In the absence of legislation, only a few research centres, who have secured special permission from ICMR, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology, are allowed to conduct research on stem cells in laboratories. When it comes to application of the technology to human subjects for treatment purposes, it has been a strict "no" thus far. The only exception is the bone marrow transplantation.

Research on stem cells involves two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. As far as research on adult stem cells are concerned, there's no restriction and researchers have already developed artificial cornea in petri dish. The trouble is with the embryonic stem cell research.

As eminent liver scientist-physician Dr CM Habibullah, who is also a member of the ICMR committee, points out the proposed legislation would permit research on embryonic stem cells. "But to do this, the consent of the donor should be obtained. We have also made a provision that cord blood banks should be registered with the Drug Controller-General of India".

Scientists and doctors are elated over the developments. But many fear that the nascent research will be misused by unscrupulous elements, particularly when it comes to human embryos, as was done in the case of genetically modified crops. Embryonic stem cell research and therapy is a promising medical industry in the country which will boost medical tourism in the next few years. This opens the doors for commercialisation.

Dr RVG Menon, veteran scientist, expresses concern over the possible commercialisation of stem cell research. "There are fears that immature technologies may be marketed for the sake of profit. This means that we would have no idea of the possible after-effects. They would not have been studied properly. We are seeing such unexpected after-effects in GM crops now".

Agrees infertility expert Dr Roya Rozati, stem cell research raises several ethical and social issues such as destruction of human embryos to create human embryonic stem cell lines.

"Ethical and social concerns should be given prime importance in this area of research. There should be controls, but they should come from within the scientific community itself. This will make stem cell research beneficial to humanity."

Geological Survey of India finds thorium reserves in Nalgonda district

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Geological Survey of India has found Thorium reserves in the backward district of Nalgonda. The values of this radioactive element ranged between 104 and 165 parts per million.

This is the first time that Thorium reserves have been observed in Nalgonda. The district is already famous for its Uranium mines and with the detection of Thorium, Nalgonda is going to play a major role in meeting the future power needs of the country.

Andhra Pradesh is one of the few States in the country with vast resources of Thorium and Uranium, the two important radioactive elements required for generation of nuclear energy.

The GSI carried out low altitude magnetic and radiometric aerogeophysical surveys spread over 5000 sq km area in and around Nalgonda district. During the surveys, the GSI found significant radioactive anomaly. The area where the Thorium resources was found forms part of Eastern Dharwar Craton.

Granite rich in biotite (black mica) near Jangammaiahguda showed Thorium values of the order of 165 ppm. In the same area, the GSI also found Uranium ranging between 66 and 138 ppm.

The biotite granite in Mathmurigudem also showed Thorium. But the values varied from 35 ppm to 55 ppm. The Uranium values in the village ranged from 38 to 53 ppm. The GSI found a mineralised zone of Scheelite (tungsten ore) near Guddipalli village.

According to GSI officials, the State has the largest resources of Monazite, a mineral of Thorium, in the country. The city-based Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research has identified 3.73 million tonnes of Monazite at 21 places spread over Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Vishakapatnam, East and West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore districts. In addition to these places, the GSI has found Thorium resources in Nalgonda, which is a land-locked district, unlike the coastal belt.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Swine flu: Dry spell saves Hyderabad from novel pandemic influenza H1N1

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 11: The continued dry spell and above normal temperatures so far this rainy season have saved Hyderabad from the wrath of swine flu, while low temperatures played havoc in Pune.

Hyderabad initially led the swine flu cases in the country but the prolonged dry spell helped in the containment of the novel H1N1 virus that causes human influenza. Above normal temperatures coupled with proper planning by health authorities arrested the spread of the virus in the community. Unlike in Pune, the human influenza virus has not penetrated into the local community. Hyderabad has thus far recorded 74 positive cases and only a couple of them are locally contacted cases.

While day temperatures hovered between 33 and 37 degrees C in Hyderabad, the mercury did not cross 28 degrees C in the last 10 days in Pune. Added to the low temperature was the cloudy sky. In Pune the virus has penetrated into the community as all the fresh cases reported from there have been local residents.

"The climate has been cold in Pune and for several days we have not seen the sun in full brightness. The day temperature was also below normal," said G Dayanidhi, who frequents between Pune and Hyderabad on business.

Pune now leads the swine flu cases with about 270 positive cases and five of the 10 deaths reported in the country. In cold climate, the aerosols stay longer carrying the virus and thus the chances of infection are high during winter and rainy seasons.

"While environmental factors like low temperatures help in the fast spread of influenza virus, the host and viral factors determine the survival or otherwise of the patient. In case of Hyderabad, above normal temperatures helped in the containment of the virus. Since Pune has the maximum number of cases, it also
leads in terms of fatalities. The immunity of a patient (host) and the potent of the virus decide the fate," said senior physician Dr Aftab Ahmed of Apollo Hospitals.

Location of international airport in Hyderabad has also helped in the arrest of the virus from spreading to the locals. Those with swine flu symptoms were quarantined at the airport level itself and those who came into close contact with them had been kept under medical surveillance. But in the case of Pune, the international passengers, with the virus, landed in Mumbai airport and later spread the disease in the community.

Hyderabad district medical and health officer Dr Ch Jayakumari said they had prevented the virus from going to the secondary level in Hyderabad. "Had it gone into the community, it would have been catastrophic. Moreover, those in Hyderabad are nutritionally in an advantageous stage as compared to those living in western India," she said.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ICAAP9: Removal of punitive laws essential for effective AIDS responses in Asia-Pacific

By Syed Akbar
Bali, Aug 12: UN agencies, legal experts and human rights defenders at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) concur that crafting an effective AIDS response in the region will require addressing legal
barriers that are impeding progress.

Throughout the week, scientists, legal experts, activists, people living with HIV and
community representatives will discuss challenges and progress in addressing legal barriers to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Experts from the Commission on AIDS in Asia concluded that in order to prevent and control HIV in the region, there must be a significant focus on improving human rights protections for people living with HIV and typically marginalized populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, prisoners and detainees.

According to Kyung wha-Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), “we have known for years that human rights are the bedrock upon which effective AIDS responses are built. In spite
of this, human rights violations continue to proliferate. Human rights frameworks and principles must be translated into real protections for people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who
use drugs, prisoners and detainees. We must also pay specific attention to ensuring protections for women and children.”

According to JVR Prasada Rao, Director of the Joint UN Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) Asia-Pacific Regional Support Team, “in spite of recent progress, insufficient coverage of services for people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs is still a reality and the lack of legal protections just drive these populations underground – far out of the reach of the meager services that do exist. If we don’t invest in strengthening legal protections for people living with HIV, women, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs, we will jeopardize the gains we have made in the region. This is why the UNAIDS family has recently reinvigorated its collective efforts to advocate for the removal of punitive laws, policies and practices which are thwarting effective HIV responses. This also
means stepping up action to tackle inappropriate criminalization.”

According to Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) HIV Group, “the law can and should be instrumental in scaling up a rights based AIDS response. Instead, we often have situations where laws and their
arbitrary, inappropriate enforcement are increasing risk and vulnerability – thereby posing formidable barriers to effective HIV responses for those most vulnerable and the general population.”

According to O’Malley, “laws which criminalize sex work are used to blackmail, exploit and harass sex workers and sex workers often experience violence at the hands of police and service providers. Violence and harassment often extends to outreach workers, service providers and human rights defenders. Laws which criminalize drug use hamper the implementation of evidence based harm reduction services.

Laws which do not uphold women’s property and inheritance rights can set off a
downward spiral of lost economic opportunities, reduced security and increased risk and vulnerability for women and girls.

Many countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalize male to male sex and these laws often lead to violations of the rights of men who have sex with men and transgender people. ”

According to Anand Grover, Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, “there have been a number of success stories in the region which give us hope. Courts in Nepal, India and Pakistan have been instrumental in recognizing and upholding the rights of sexual minorities. This means that they will no longer be considered criminals in accessing life-saving prevention, care and treatment services. We hope that other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe will follow suit.”

Community representatives and activists note in order to effectively overcome legal barriers and remove punitive laws, it is critical to build robust strategic alliances across traditional and non-traditional constituencies and between groups of people living with HIV and other key populations, women’s groups, affected communities, service providers, the legal profession, law enforcement agencies, human rights bodies, parliamentarians and policy makers.

The momentum for reversing the tide of punitive laws, policies and practices must be sustained for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support to be effective. And in the context of a global financial and economic crisis, it is both cost-effective and a moral imperative to implement legal and social programmes which counter discrimination and stigmatization.

ICAAP9: 90 per cent of men having sex with men in Asia Pacific have no access to HIV prevention and care

By Syed Akbar
Bali, Aug 12: More than 90 per cent of men having sex with men (MSM) in Asia Pacific do not have access to HIV prevention and care services, and if interventions are not urgently intensified the spread of HIV in this vulnerable population will escalate sharply in the very near future.

Moreover, legal frameworks across the region need a dramatic and urgent overhaul to allow public health and community sectors to reach out to MSM, or the consequences could be dire and stretch well beyond MSM to affect the general population.

This warning came at a high level and ground breaking symposium – “Overcoming Legal Barriers to Comprehensive Prevention Among Men who have Sex with Men and Transgender People in Asia and the Pacific” -- held at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) today, and hosted by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM).

Speakers discussed how effective and comprehensive HIV prevention among MSM and transgender (TG) people can occur only when a conducive and enabling legal environment is created that allows unimpeded dissemination of prevention messages and services; appropriate provision of treatment, care and support services; and confidence-building measures among the most marginalized and vulnerable to seek essential information and access services.

“In order to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and realize the Millennium Development Goals, we must facilitate an enabling legal environment and human rights based HIV policies and programmes for MSM and TG,” said Jeffrey O’Malley, Global Director of UNDP’s HIV Group, among the speakers at the symposium. “This will mean stepping up our investment in legal and social programmes which effectively address stigma and discrimination directed at MSM and TG.”

Due to the increased availability in recent years of epidemiological data on HIV among MSM, there is a better understanding of the magnitude and nature of the HIV epidemic amongst MSM and TG within the Asia Pacific region. However, there remains a dangerous lack of interventions which comprehensively address HIV prevention, treatment, care and support needs for MSM and TG.

A 2006 survey of the coverage of HIV interventions in 15 Asia Pacific countries estimated that targeted prevention programmes reached less than 8% of MSM and TG, far short of the 80% coverage that epidemiological models indicate is needed to turn the HIV epidemic around.

“A strategy of prevention requires bold and effective legal and policy measures to reach out to vulnerable communities and individuals at risk,” stated the Honourable Michael Kirby of Australia. “It is here that reform of laws concerning MSM must be seen as an imperative step in the path of reducing the isolation, stigma and
vulnerability felt by MSM communities and individuals. This will help enhance their self-respect and dignity as citizens and protect their legal rights, including receiving information on safer sex practices.”

Currently 22 countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalize male to male sex, and these laws often taken on the force of vigilantism, leading to abuse and human rights violations. Even in the absence of criminalization, other provisions of law violate the rights of MSM and TG along with arbitrary and inappropriate enforcement, thereby obstructing HIV interventions, advocacy and outreach, and service delivery.

These structural barriers significantly increase the vulnerability of MSM and TG to HIV infection and have an immense adverse effect on their health and human rights.
Developing strategic partnerships and alliances between affected communities, the legal profession, human rights bodies, parliamentarians and policy makers is critical.

This very debate was at the heart of the recent landmark ruling by the Delhi High Court that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unfairly discriminates against MSM and consenting adults in general.

“The Delhi ruling is a shining example of such an approach, where education and sensitization of these different sectors was central to the success of the case,” said Shivananda Khan, Interim Chair of APCOM.

“Other key rulings in the region include the 2007 Nepal Supreme Court ruling recognizing the rights of sexual minorities, and the June 2009 Pakistan Supreme Court ruling that hijras or transgendered individuals, are a minority community in the legal sense of the term.”

Given the current global economic crisis and the ever-mounting bill for life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, the impetus for effective comprehensive HIV prevention becomes even stronger. Only a strategy of comprehensive, rights-based prevention, supported by an enabling legal environment, offers a possibility of reducing the numbers of persons infected with HIV each year.

In this context, it is both cost-effective and imperative that governments and other key players introduce and implement legal and social frameworks and programmes which counter discrimination and stigmatization that have long targeted MSM and TG.

ICAAP9: UN Report Draws Parallels with ’97 Financial Crisis and its impact on Migrants and AIDS

By Syed Akbar
Bali, Aug 12: Migrants are left out of current stimulus packages and HIV/AIDS programmes are under threat, warns a UN paper released today at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and Pacific (ICAAP).

The adverse impact of the financial crisis on health and migration is likely to expand, just as it did in the ’97 Asian crisis, as currency devaluations lead to higher drug prices, donor funding declines, and government programs are cut, says the report.

Issued jointly by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the paper (“The threat posed by the economic crisis to Universal Access to HIV services for migrants”), makes predictions on migration policies and HIV/AIDS programmes which mirror trends from the ’97 financial crisis.

“It is critical that policy makers don’t make the same decisions that were made in ’97 vis-à-vis cuts to essential HIV/AIDS programmes, and adverse policies that worked against migrant workers. In contrast to the massive stimulus packages that countries are launching to boost their economies, AIDS spending for a comprehensive response represents a mere 0.01% of such programmes”, said Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Regional HIV Practice Team Leader for Asia and the Pacific.

According to JVR Prasada Rao, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Asia and the Pacific, “Even before the financial crisis, HIV programmes and services for migrants and mobile populations often fell through the cracks in national programmes. Besides, we had seen from the past financial crisis that HIV prevention programmes were first to face budget cutbacks. Issues related to migrants are critical in a region with fast economic growth like Asia. We must strongly advocate with governments and donors not to cut resources on migrant HIV programmes as this will cause serious setbacks to universal access targets and MDG6”.

The ’97 Asian financial crisis showed that policies to reduce migration, such as limiting migrant work permits or cutting jobs and deporting workers, are not successful in reducing irregular migration. Without access to formal channels of migration, many people on the move seek informal, unsafe channels of movement that puts them in conditions with greater risk and vulnerability to HIV. Also, cuts in HIV government funding risks losing all the achievements made in reducing the spread of the AIDS epidemic on a national scale.

The paper illustrates that governments have stopped issuing work permits, are cracking down on undocumented migrants (Malaysia, Taiwan) and many foreign workers in manufacturing and construction are being laid off (Indonesia, China). Also, in several countries there are increasing reports of worsening working conditions (in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore).

There are increasing concerns that female migrants who lose their jobs may move into sex work to survive. In Cambodia, for example, 70,000 garment workers, mostly female, have lost their jobs since the crisis began. A recent study by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking has found that among a sample of sex workers, 58% of them entered into sex work in the wake of the financial crisis, and that 19% of these women were former garment sector workers.

“In times of economic downturn, we cannot forget the needs and rights of migrant workers who are such an integral part of so many economies, especially in our region” says Dhannan Sunoto, of the ASEAN Secretariat. “It is critical to ensure that potential migrants are not barred from working abroad based on their HIV positive status, and that migrants working abroad are not deported because of their positive status.”

“In the context of the current economic crisis we have reports of increased human rights violations, and pressure on migrant workers to move from formal to informal employment or to return to their countries of origin. These trends are likely to exacerbate vulnerability to HIV” says Dr Sophia Kisting, Director of the ILO Programme on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.

“The ILO is in the process of formulating an international human rights instrument on HIV/AIDS and the world of work. If adopted in 2010, this standard focusing solely on HIV and the world of work will give new impetus to anti-discrimination policies at national and workplace levels”, she adds.

According to Rina, from the Philippines, a positive migrant worker, “Undocumented migrant workers are more vulnerable to a lot of problems and challenges including getting infected with HIV because their rights are not protected.”

She continues,“The global recession will affect more and more migrants, and several will become undocumented, moreover, health services for non nationals will be a major challenge. I urge policy makers and practitioners to look into this and ensure that migrants are not further discriminated or marginalized.”

The paper outlines key recommendations for host countries and countries of origin, as they both have an equal responsibility to provide protective policies and programmes. These include:

* Establish protective mechanisms like welfare funds, social insurance schemes and training programmes to help migrants returning home or to relocate on site. Investment to support one migrant or mobile person impacts estimated 3-5 family members in their home countries.

* Translate regional and national strategies for HIV that include migrants and mobile populations into budgets and services that are designed to reach people on the move.

* Maintain prevention programmes and budgets: every $1 invested in prevention can save up to $8 in averted treatment costs1.

* Engage with and support civil society organizations to monitor the health seeking behaviour of migrants so that they do not have to sacrifice treatment for other basic necessities for themselves and their families.

Human influenza: What can I do?

By Syed Akbar

The main route of transmission of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus seems to be similar to seasonal influenza, via droplets that are expelled by speaking, sneezing or coughing.

You can prevent getting infected by avoiding close contact with people who show influenza-like symptoms (trying to maintain a distance of about 1 metre if possible) and taking the following measures:

• avoid touching your mouth and nose;

• clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis (especially if touching the mouth and nose, or surfaces that are potentially contaminated);

• avoid close contact with people who might be ill;

• reduce the time spent in crowded settings if possible;

• improve airflow in your living space by opening windows;

• practise good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

What about using a mask? What does WHO recommend?

If you are not sick you do not have to wear a mask.
If you are caring for a sick person, you can wear a mask when you are in close contact with the ill person and dispose of it immediately after contact, and cleanse your hands thoroughly afterwards.

If you are sick and must travel or be around others, cover your mouth and nose.
Using a mask correctly in all situations is essential. Incorrect use actually increases the chance of spreading infection.

How do I know if I have influenza A(H1N1)?

You will not be able to tell the difference between seasonal flu and influenza A(H1N1) without medical help. Typical symptoms to watch for are similar to seasonal viruses and include fever, cough, headache, body aches, sore throat and runny nose. Only your medical practitioner and local health authority can confirm a case of influenza A(H1N1).

What should I do if I think I have the illness?

If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough or sore throat:
• stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds;

• rest and take plenty of fluids;

• cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and, if using tissues, make sure you dispose of them carefully. Clean your hands immediately after with soap and water or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub;

• if you do not have a tissue close by when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth as much as possible with the crook of your elbow;

• use a mask to help you contain the spread of droplets when you are around others, but be sure to do so correctly;

• inform family and friends about your illness and try to avoid contact with other people;

• If possible, contact a health professional before traveling to a health facility to discuss whether a medical examination is necessary.

Should I take an antiviral now just in case I catch the new virus?

No. You should only take an antiviral, such as oseltamivir or zanamivir, if your health care provider advises you to do so. Individuals should not buy medicines to prevent or fight this new influenza without a prescription, and they should exercise caution in buying antivirals over the Internet.

What about breastfeeding? Should I stop if I am ill?

No, not unless your health care provider advises it. Studies on other influenza infections show that breastfeeding is most likely protective for babies - it passes on helpful maternal immunities and lowers the risk of respiratory disease. Breastfeeding provides the best overall nutrition for babies and increases their defense factors to fight illness.

When should someone seek medical care?

A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures).

Supportive care at home - resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever for aches - is adequate for recovery in most cases. (A non-aspirin pain reliever should be used by children and young adults because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.)

Should I go to work if I have the flu but am feeling OK?

No. Whether you have influenza A(H1N1) or a seasonal influenza, you should stay home and away from work through the duration of your symptoms. This is a precaution that can protect your work colleagues and others.

Can I travel?

If you are feeling unwell or have symptoms of influenza, you should not travel. If you have any doubts about your health, you should check with your health care provider.

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity