Archive for April 11th, 2012

Autism: A Brief Overview

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Autism has affected more than 1.5 children in the USA. It is a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. What is Autism? Autism is a disorder caused in children during the first three years of their life. Autism is essentially a brain disorder. It affects the normal functioning of the brain. Autism is characterized by a disability in a child’s verbal and non-verbal communication. A child with autism suffers from mental retardation, stereotyped activities and impaired learning. The child also suffers from restrained social interactions and pursuits of individualistic interests and hobbies. What causes Autism? Despite the fact that autism is such a life impairing disorder, researchers have not detected its common cause. Several studies indicate that it is caused due to abnormalities in the brain’s structure and working. This fact has been supported by various brain scan comparisons. The comparisons showed that an autistic child’s brain shape and structure differs from that of a normal child. Genes are also considered as a cause of autism. Genetics play an important role in a person’s lifestyle and behavior. A child can suffer from autism if he has a family history of autism or other disabilities. 1 out of every 500 children is believed to develop autism on a genetic basis. Even if one child in the family suffers from autism, the chances of autism increase in the other children up to 20 percent. Prenatal infection with viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and rubella can also result in the development of autism in a child. If the pregnant mother has not built up immunity against this virus, it can cause autism in the new-born child. Autism can also develop in individuals suffering from medical conditions like Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and undiagnosed phenylketonuria (PKU). Developmental brain abnormalities like macrocephaly, cerebral dysgenesis and microcephaly can also cause autism. Neurological disorders like bacterial meningitis and lead encephalopathy which are acquired after the birth can also lead to autism. Features of a child suffering from autism Autism is known to affect three prime areas of a child’s life – verbal and non-verbal communication, creative mind play and social interaction. A child’s ability in these three areas is impaired. The severity varies from individual to individual. One of the prime symptoms of autism is impaired social interaction. A child suffering from autism fails to respond to his name. The child avoids looking at other people and their activities. A child would remain passive to various tones of voice. He would remain blank about facial expressions and would not react to emotions of people. He is completely oblivious of what others feel for him, and what impact he is leaving on people. A child suffering from autism tends to engage himself in repetitive activities like biting, rocking, hair twirling and even head banging. Autistic children refer to themselves by their names instead of ‘I’ or ‘me’. They also tend to speak quite late compared to other children. An autistic child shows unusual responses towards touch, sound or any other sensory stimulation. He might show decreased reaction and sensitivity towards injury or pain. He might react against being cuddled and other activities. A child suffering from autism shows impaired learning. He finds it difficult to adjust himself to a daily give and take routine. He would avoid making eye contact with almost everyone. He spends his time in solitude and offers resistance to being kissed and hugged. He doesn’t even react in the absence of parents. He tends to takes longer time in interpreting and understanding things. As they grow, autistic children can become aggressive and show a tendency to harm others. They become increasingly frustrated and may even harm themselves. Children might also develop a condition known as echolalia. In this condition they only learn things by parroting what they hear. A child suffering from autism also suffers from a lack of creativity. He might simply gaze at a new object or toy, or hold it. He would not play or experiment with it, like normal children. Treatment There is no specific medication that can be given in the treatment of autism. Treatment differs according to the severity of the impairment in a child. If you feel your child displays signs of autism a specialist should be consulted immediately for diagnosis and also to suggest what treatment can be given.

How To Lower Your Risk Of Catching Flu (Including Bird Flu)

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Influenza is in no way a new ailment to plague the people of the world. However, a new deadly strand of the virus has everyone running for cover. How do you avoid catching flu, including the dangerous bird flu that threatens so many? First, it should be explained that bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a virus much like the regular flu we are accustomed to. It is transmitted in much the same way, through droplets of saliva and mucus. However, bird flu is currently only transmitted from infected birds to humans and can not be passed from human to human like the regular flu. The main concern arises with bird flu as it is expected to mutate and at some point be transmitted by humans as well. Until this takes place, bird flu is only passed from infected birds to humans by way of direct contact with the animal or its feces. The current outbreak of bird flu is taking place in Asia; therefore, there is little concern of catching the virus unless you are in that region and handling fowl. However, once the virus mutates it will be transmitted much like the standard flu and may be avoided in much the same way. The obvious first step in lowering your risk of catching the virus is being administered a vaccine. There is currently not a vaccine for the dangerous strand of influenza, but one is being developed. With any luck one will be produced prior to any widespread contamination of the virus. Another option is one utilized in most regular flu cases – taking antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu. These are expected to be effective on the dangerous strand of influenza as well as the regular flu virus. However, for this treatment to be useful, it must be administered early in the virus, typically within two days of showing symptoms. This and other drugs do not cure the virus, but instead lessen the effects of the symptoms. They may, however, prevent the virus from becoming severe. The most effective way to avoid catching the flu, the regular flu as well as the bird flu, is prevention. Proper hygiene reduces the risk of the spread of influenza. Simple things, like washing your hands and avoiding close contact with sick people, may be your best technique in lowering your risk of becoming infected. Utilizing hand sanitizer is also a useful option.

The West Nile Virus Mosquito

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

West Nile virus is a new member or «emergent» to the virus of the family. West Nile Virus is found in both tropical and temperate regions. Because of this it is a dangerous and world-wide killer. The Virus ainly infects birds, but also has the ability to affect humans, horses, and some other mammals. The Virus is spread by bites from infected mosquitoes. In the majority of cases, eight percent, people who are infected with the virus have none of the symptoms. In the other, approximately twenty percent, the virus causes mild symptoms which resemble those of the flu. These symptoms are known as West Nile. The virus is highly capable and able to pass through the blood-brain barrier. The most serious effects ofWest Nile Virusare encephalitis and meningitis. Both of these diseases can result in death. People that are over the age of fifty are at a greater risk of developing the severe disease. The symptoms of which include nausea, fever, stiff neck and changes in mental status. Symptoms to West Nile Virus will begin to develop three to fifteen days after the initial infection. Currently there is no known effective treatment to the virus. West Nile can be diagnosed by employing an ELISA test which will detect ‘IgM antibodies’ that develop as a result of the virus. The disease normally starts in an infected bird. A female mosquito will come and bite the infected birds who than carries the virus in her salivary glands. If she bites another bird they will become affected with the virus, and the diease continues to spread in that fashion.