Institutions should emulate UCU’s drug fight – Rugunda

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The UCU team led by the band during the Drug Awareness Walk in Kampala (Photo by Fred Hidula)

BY ELIZABETH AMONGIN

“Institutions of higher learning have been urged to emulate Uganda Christian University (UCU) in the fight against alcohol and drug abuse,” the Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, has said. He was flagging off the campaign walk, organized by UCU’s counseling department, to create awareness against alcohol and drug abuse, on Saturday, September 10, in Kamwokya, Kampala. “Drug addiction is a major threat to the young people, who feel it is normal to abuse alcohol and drugs. I, therefore, thank UCU for organising the walk and I urge other institutions of higher learning to emulate them in this fight,” Rugunda said.

 

“Drug addiction is a major threat to Uganda’s population, targeting the young people. This campaign walk against drug abuse is crucial in eradicating alco-hol and drug abuse, which comes innocently and the young people fall for it,” he explained.

He called upon the addicts not to feel condemned but rather seek help.

The Vice Chancellor of UCU, Dr John Senyonyi, urged parents to avoid secrecy while dealing with the issue of drug abuse.Hesaidthatthe best way of handling addictions is through speaking about them.

“Secrecy is a major problem that hinders recovery from addiction. Some parents never tell us about the child’s situation and this adversely affects the recovery process.”

The Director of Butabika Hospital, Dr David Basangwa, who was the chief walker, encouraged people to reach out to those suffering with addictions such that they can be helped.

“It is our responsibility and we all have a role to play towards ending drug abuse in society. We have opened up rehabilitation facilities where addicts can get help,” he said.

He thanked the counseling department of UCU for passing on the message of hope towards drug addicts, emphasising that addiction can be prevented.

Tonny Nganwa, a recovering alcoholic, testified of how he recovered from al- cohol abuse, with the help of his parents.

“My family never gave up on me, they never pushed me away even when I went for rehabilitation for over four times, they kept on encouraging me. No one should fool you that you can recover from addiction without anyone’s help so ask for help,” he said.

The walk, which began at the KCCA gardens opposite Cafe Javas in Kamwokya, Kampala Capital City Authority, was also attended by Ms Beti Kamya, the Minister for Kampala; as well as

participants from the Ministry of Health, and rehabilitation centres like Recovery Uganda, East African Centre for Addiction Services, and Stop Underage Drinking (Uganda).

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Mosquito named the world’s deadliest animal

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named mosquitoes as the deadliest insects in the world, because of their ability to spread diseases like Malaria, Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue and West Nile fever, Chikungunya and the Dog Heartworm.

Despite the number of Malaria cases globally falling by 18 perc ent from an estimated 262 million in 2000 to 214 million in 2015, Malaria alone caused 480,000 deaths worldwide in 2015, more than Ebola, Cholera, HIV/AIDS, war or famine.

According to the World Malaria report released by the WHO, Uganda is reported to have had a six fold increase in Malaria cases compared to those in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

Malaria is a big threat to maternal health because it is responsible for 15 percent of pregnancy related deaths.

Today, many health workers advise expectant mothers to continuously take anti-malarial medicines as a means of protecting the baby from being affected by the parasite, which could cause death.

Besides, the mosquito spreads the deadly Yellow Fever virus mostly common Yellow Fever in Africa because the mosquitoes usually breed in both the wild and around homes.

Increased contact between people and infected mosquitoes leads to increased transmission and many separate villages in an area can develop outbreaks at the same time.

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A statement released by the World Health Organisation shows that the Zika Virus was first isolated from a rhesus monkey in Zika forest, Uganda in 1947, in mosquitoes (Aedes africanus) in the same forest in 1948 and in humans in Nigeria in 1954.

Research done by CNN world news, a cable and satellite television, showed that Brazil has been the most affected country as the Zika virus causes life-altering brain damage to women infected with Zika during their pregnancies; immune-compromised adults are dying of complications, and a Zika-triggered auto-immune disorder called Guillain-Barré attacks the nervous system, causing temporary paralysis, and even death.

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. The proven most effective forms of vector control are sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net, and indoor residual spraying.

Research links excess weight to premature death

BY GEOFFREY MULINDWA

Increasingly many people worldwide are either overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of dying prematurely than being normal weight, according to a collaborative study conducted at Harvard H T Chan School of Public Health and Cambridge University. The study was published on July 13, 2016.

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How does one know whether one is overweight or obese? This is done by calculating one’s Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI is one’s weight in kilogrames divided by one’s height in metres squared. Because the calculation requires height and weight, it is inexpensive and easy to use for both clinicians and for the general public.

Since in adults above 19 years, height does not change, one can monitor their BMI by keeping an eye on the changes in weight.

Once you have done the above BMI calculation, the table on the top right is an indicator of one’s weight status:

The harmful effects of excess body weight on chronic disease have been well documented. These include increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) diseases and cancer. 

To obtain an unbiased relationship between BMI and mortality, it was essential to analyse individuals who had never smoked or had no existing chronic disease. Smokers tend to weigh less than non-smokers, but have a much higher mortality rate

In order to obtain more definitive evidence of the association between excess body weight and premature mortality, researchers joined forces in 2013 in order to establish Global BMI mortality collaboration involving 500 investigators from 300 global institutions.

The researchers looked at data from more than 10.6 million participants from 239 studies carried out between 1970 and 2015, in over 32 countries, in four continents. Out of 10.6 million people, 4 million adult participants were followed over 14 years and 1.6 million deaths were recorded across these studies.

The results showed that participants with the normal/healthy weight had the lowest risk of premature mortality.

The risk of mortality increased significantly over the overweight range.

The BMI of 25-27.4 was associated with seven percent higher risk mortality, the BMI of 27.5-29.9 was associated with a 20 percent higher risk, the BMI 30-34.9 was associated with a 45 percent higher risk, the BMI of 35-39.9 was associated to 94 percent higher risk and the BMI of 40-60 had a three-fold risk. 

Every five units higher BMI above 25kg/sq. m was associated with a 31 percent higher risk of premature mortality. Participants who were underweight also had a higher mortality risk

Looking at specific causes of death, the study found that for each five unit increase in BMI above 25 kg/sq. m, the corresponding increase in risk were 49 percent for cardiovascular mortality, 38 percent for respiratory disease mortality, and 19 percent for cancer mortality.

Researchers also found that the hazards of excess body weight were greater in younger than older people, and in men than in women

BMI is one of the parameters that are assessed at Allan Galpin Health Centre whether one is sick or not. Health education is then given to the client on lifestyle interventions necessary to attain/keep within a safe BMI range.

The author is Director of Medical Services at Uganda Christian University (UCU)

Why and how pregnant women should work out

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Exercise is vital to pregnant women. 

BY ROSE RUTH AKONGO 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expectant mothers who exercise do not deliver prematurely, as was once believed, but are generally healthier and are less likely to deliver by caesarian section.

Researchers analyzed the outcomes of more than 2,000 pregnant women and found that up to 90 minutes of exercise three or four times a week is beneficial for women who are pregnant with one child and are generally in good health.

Women who exercised had a lower risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension and nearly three-quarters of them had vaginal deliveries, compared to the 67.5 per cent of the sedentary women, the report said.

Delivery by cesarean section brings about a host of potential complications, including blood clots, infection, and placental problems with future pregnancies.

There are also risks for the baby, such as breathing problems, specifically transient tachypnea, which is marked by abnormally fast breathing during the first few day according to Mayo Clinic.

The baby also faces an increased risk of becoming obese, developing allergies, asthma, and type 1 diabetes.

The best exercises during pregnancy, according to the research, are fast walking, swimming, stationary cycling and yoga. 

Derrick Muluya, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) gym instructor, says that exercising during pregnancy keeps both the baby and the mother in perfect body size and shape, easing the process of natural delivery.

“It is advisable to exercise up to the sixth month of the pregnancy, and resume two months after delivery, to get back into shape,” Muluya said.

Previously, pregnant women were discouraged from physical activity due to the fear of increasing the risk of pre-term birth. Pre-term birth is delivering a baby before 37 weeks.

“But numerous studies have since shown that exercise does not harm the baby, and can have benefits for both mother and baby,” said Dr Vincenzo Berghella, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and professor at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, USA.

It is important to remember, however, that the study was carried out on women who were carrying a single baby. 

Dr Berghella, who is also the senior author of the study, advises women who are expecting multiple babies, or those who have complications like high blood pressure or anemia, to remain relatively sedentary during pregnancy and follow relevant medical practitioners’ advice.

More action needed to curb surging hepatitis

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World Hepatitis Day 2016

On July 28, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commerate World Hepatitis Day. Alex Taremwa examines the country’s efforts to counter the epidemic so far.

Kenneth Akampwera fell sick on April 22, 2016. He retired from work at Dada Digital Photo Lab in Mbarara and did not return until early July, following a seemingly endless battle with strange illness that would later be discovered as hepatitis B.

His mother Juliet Tugume watched life drain out of his previously strong, resilient son.

Akampwera is one of the 240 million people globally estimated to be infected with hepatitis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 686,000 people die annually from hepatitis B related complications.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis is the most common cause of liver cancer all over the world, constituting 83 per cent of liver cancer cases. 

It is one of the most infectious diseases although many people remain unaware of its toll on global health. This makes viral hepatitis a silent killer.

It should be stressed that viral hepatitis is a group of infectious diseases classified as A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis B virus is the most prevalent in Uganda and can be transmitted through sharing of needles with an infected person, sexual intercourse, mother to child, and blood transfusions. Experts have noted that hepatitis is thrice as infectious as HIV/AIDS.

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It is estimated that at least 3.5 million people are living with hepatitis B in Uganda, accounting for 10 per cent of the population. The regional prevalence of hepatitis B in Uganda is as follows: Northeast 21.7 per cent, Northcentral 19.4 per cent, West Nile 18.7 per cent, Western 10 per cent, Kampala 5.8 per cent, Central 5.5 per cent while Southwest has 2.9 per cent.

Unfortunately, the WHO reports that only 5 per cent of the people with chronic hepatitis know their status and less than one per cent have access to treatment. 

This situation is worsened by the complexity of hepatitis tests that are costly, and the lack of laboratory capacity in many countries. Independent investigations show that a single dose of the hepatitis B anti-viral drug costs between Shs60,000 and Shs90,000 in private clinics since the supply of the test kits and vaccines in public hospitals has been disappointing.

Government intervention 

On a similar day last year, the government launched yet another initiative to vaccinate eligible adolescents and adults against Hepatitis B in Uganda but this has not altered the standings much.

On July 26, The New Vision ran a story in which they quoted the Commisioner Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health as saying that “there is no concrete explanation as to why there is a high hepatitis B prevalence in the northern and West Nile regions.” She added that plans were underway to investigate this phenomenon.

In 2002 the Ministry of Health introduced the pentavalent vaccine along with routine immunisation schedules of the Uganda Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI).

This effectively means that if the UNEPI schedules are followed and adhered to, over 8 million children up to 13 years would have been fully immunised against hepatitis B. 

This year, the theme for the World Hepatitis Day is Know Hepatitis, Get Tested . The new strategies will be to expand vaccination programmes for hepatitis B, focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission of Hepatitis B; improve injection, blood and surgical safety, ‘harm reduction’ services for people who inject drugs; and increase access to diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis B and C.

The public is urged to learn about the infection, take positive action to know their status by getting tested, and finally seek treatment to reduce needless deaths.

Why self-medication is harmful to your health

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BY ALEX TAREMWA 

How often have you been tempted to take non-prescribed antibiotics? If the answer is often, then you could well be getting into the habit of self-medication.

Self-medication is defined as the selection and use of medicines by individuals (or a member of the individual’s family) to treat self-diagnosed conditions or symptoms. 

Many educated people feel it is fine to pop a pill without a doctor’s instructions. However, this well-meaning gesture is not without side-effects, and can wreck your system.

This article explores the most commonly abused over-the-counter medicines and their potential side-effects.

Pain killers 

Pain killers are drugs used to relieve pain. Most of them belong to a class of drugs called non-steroid anti-inframmatory  drugs, which control inflammation, fever and mild pain.

“Taking them without consultation, buying them repeatedly using the same prescription, taking a double dose for quicker relief or using the left-over medicines for similar prior symptoms can put people in trouble,” says Dr Juliet Tayebwa, a Mbarara University of Science and Technology physician. 

If misused, pain killers can cause ulcers and bleeding in the stomach, acidity, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, dizziness, rashes, and headaches.

Dr Tayebwa advises that one would rather use a hot or cold compress, exercise, physiotherapy or rest, as advised by your doctor, for relief from mild pain, instead of taking non-prescribed drugs.

Cough syrups 

These are medicines used to treat coughs. They are of two types: those used for dry coughs, called cough suppressants or antitussives, and those which help a cough with phlegm are expectorants. Since a lot of the cough syrups are alcohol-based, when abused, they are likely to cause a pounding or uneven heartbeat, dry mouth, nausea, stomach pain, constipation, dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, ringing in the ears, restlessness, confusion and reduced concentration .

The United States National Library of Medicine recommends the use of honey with warm water to soothe a cough, or sipping plain water every few minutes, if you have a sore throat.

It is further advisable to see a doctor for advice on relevant treatment.

Antibiotics 

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Usually, one’s immune system can fight bacteria and stop them from multiplying enough to cause an infection. However, sometimes one’s immunity is low and unable to control an infection, and so antibiotics are used.

“The fact that a competent immune system can control many infections should be reason enough for people not to consume antibiotics regularly and let their body work in a natural way,” says Dr Ivan Magoba, a herbalist researcher in Jinja. 

If swallowed haphazardly, antibiotics can lead to allergic reactions like swelling of the lips, face, and tongue, loose stool, inflammation of the large intestines especially among the elderly, and vaginal infection in women caused by growth of fungus due to suppression of the ‘good bacteria’.

So, it is always wise to seek medical advice so that the doctors can use their knowledge and experience to decide which drugs, you might need.

What you need to know about haemophilia

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BY RUTH ROSE AKONGO 

There are many disorders that may lead to spontaneous bleeding. Examples are bleeding in urine, in stool, uncontrolled menstruation, and post-operative bleeding. All these lead to a disease called haemophilia.

Haemophilia means your blood cannot clot properly. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean you are liable to bleed to death from a minor cut, and neither would you bleed faster than other people if you get injured. You can, however, bleed for longer.

According to Dr Godfrey Mulindwa, the Director Medical Services at Uganda Christian University’s Allan Galpin Health Centre (AGHC), haemophilia is a hereditary bleeding disorder that results from either total absence or a reduction or inhibition of clotting factors.

“Usually, when somebody sustains an injury and blood vessels are severed, the body responds by causing them to narrow and platelets are mobilised to that site to form a clot. Clotting factors (proteins in blood) are further mobilised to strengthen the clot,” Dr Mulindwa explains.

He said further that the genes for haemophilia A and B are in the X chromosome. For this reason, haemophilia is called an X-linked (sex-linked) disorder.

Genetically, a female is described by the sex chromosomes XX and the male XY, where Y is usually empty.

“A mother is usually a carrier and there is a 50 percent likelihood that some of her male children will present with haemophilia,” he added.

When the father has haemophilia and the mother does not, none of the sons will have haemophilia but all the daughters will carry the gene.

Symptoms 

However, females can only have haemophilia if their father has it and their mother is a carrier, although this is very uncommon.

This usually occurs around the joints and muscles, causing pain and stiffness. It can also lead to damage of joints over time.

Diagnosis and treatment 

D i a g n o s i n g haemophilia is done by blood tests. Currently, there is only one haemophilia screening machine in the country, located at Mulago Hospital in the haematology d e p a r t m e n t .

The treatment is factor replacement therapy where the missing factors are administered intravenously as opposed to direct blood derivatives that may have risks of infection transmission though the process is costly.

Mulago in Uganda is the hospital with facilities for factor replacement.

It is estimated that at least 3,500 Ugandans have haemophilia.