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Losing sleep over the COVID-19 outbreak? These 5 tips will help

26/05/2020

The widespread panic and uncertainty being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means sleep isn’t coming easy for many people right now. But good quality sleep is the bedrock of our lives, consuming about a third of our total time on this planet and dramatically influencing the other two-thirds. That’s why it’s so important that we all get enough good quality sleep on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are five tangible tips to promote better sleep at this difficult time: 1. Get into a routine By getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, you can significantly boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. If you get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same times each day, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you follow random patterns. 2. Exercise more In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, regular exercise also helps you sleep better. And while cardiovascular exercise, strength training and yoga are all great for helping you sleep – especially if you do them during the day and not just before bed. 3. Watch your diet For the best sleep, try and eat a balanced diet that contains vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins - like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. 4. Consume less alcohol While some people rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep, studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep. In fact, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative kind. 5. Limit gadget use at night Blue light from TVs, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets plays havoc with your circadian rhythm and, as a result, the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is suppressed. For the best night’s sleep, limit your use of gadgets and other visual devices to around one to two hours before bed.

Reduce your chances of catching the new coronavirus: Wash your hands at least 6 times a day

21/05/2020

In our Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public post we talked about the importance of frequent hand washing in significantly reducing the spread of the virus. Now, a new study by UK researchers shows that washing your hands between six and 10 times a day provides the greatest protection. For the study, the researchers looked at data from 2006-2009 relating to viruses similar to the one responsible for the current pandemic. They found that washing hands with soap and water was effective at killing such viruses. In fact, of the 1,663 study participants, those who washed their hands at least six times a day were significantly less likely to be infected by a virus. Interestingly, hand-washing more than 10 times a day resulted in no additional benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, its author, Dr Sarah Beale, from University College London, said: “Good hand hygiene should be practised at all times regardless of whether you show symptoms or not. “This will help protect yourself and prevent unwittingly spreading the virus to others around you.” The study is published in Wellcome Open Research and is awaiting peer review.

3 bogus coronavirus health claims exposed

19/05/2020

As we continue to tackle the virus outbreak and take steps to reduce its momentum, widespread sharing of health advice has become commonplace. But if there is one thing the current coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, it is that there is so much misinformation out there. Let’s look at a few examples and see why they aren’t just false, but also potentially dangerous: Bogus health claim 1: Drinking alcohol kills coronavirus While alcohol-based hand gels and sprays can remove the new coronavirus from hands, drinking alcohol (any kind) will have no positive impact, and could actually cause serious damage to your health. Whenever you hear any advice about alcohol and coronavirus, it is referring to the kind that helps clean your hands. Bogus health claim 2: There are licensed drugs for treating COVID-19 Just because President Trump has spoken on several occasions about hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19, it doesn’t make it a licensed or even recommended treatment.  In fact, there is still no proof that hydroxychloroquine helps prevent or cure COVID-19, and misusing it could cause serious side effects. Bogus health claim 3: You can check if you have COVID-19 by holding your breath The only way to determine if you have COVID-19 is to undergo a laboratory test. Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort will not prove anything. You can read about more coronavirus myths on the World Health Organization website.

Did you know there are 7 known coronaviruses that can infect humans?

14/05/2020

You can’t switch on the news right now without hearing the word ‘coronavirus’. But coronaviruses are actually nothing new and most people will be infected with one at some point in their life. But don’t worry, most coronaviruses cause only moderate symptoms. In fact, of the seven known coronaviruses that affect humans, four are endemic (found regularly) and rarely cause severe disease on their own. These four are called 229E, OC43, NL63, and HKU1. Coronaviruses 229E and OC43 usually result in the common cold most of us experience from time to time, particularly during the winter. However, there are also three known coronaviruses that cause more severe symptoms: SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and the one we are dealing with now, SARS-CoV-2. What SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus have in common is that they are more dangerous for people with underlying medical conditions. And while SARS and MERS have significantly higher case fatality rates than COVID-19, the latter is more infectious. Finally, it is worth noting that there have been no new SARS cases for over a decade. However, MERS remains a public health concern, with a handful of cases cropping up every year. Two of the biggest challenges with the current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak are that many people are asymptomatic and our lust for international travel and the ease with which we can do it have allowed the virus to spread rapidly around the globe. [Related reading: Why COVID-19 hits some people harder than others]

Why COVID-19 hits some people harder than others

12/05/2020

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases now topping 4 million globally, the urgency to develop a vaccine has never been greater. Now something that’s been witnessed throughout this pandemic is the way COVID-19 seems to hit some people harder than others. Whether a COVID-19 patient is hospitalized and requires more serious medical interventions, like ventilation, often depends on several risk factors. Age In the United States, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in patients aged 65 and older. The reason for this is thought to be because elderly individuals have more chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes A recent meta-analysis of 13 separate studies found that people with diabetes were nearly 3.7 times more likely to have a critical case of COVID-19 or to die from the disease than patients without any underlying health conditions. Heart disease and hypertension The American Heart Association says people with cardiovascular issues, including heart disease and hypertension, generally tend to suffer worse COVID-19 complications than those with no pre-existing conditions. Smoking A study from China found that 12.3% of current smokers were admitted to an ICU, were placed on a ventilator or died. This compares to 4.7% of non-smokers. Obesity Being obese has been linked to an increased severity of COVID-19 in younger patients. Furthermore, a separate study from China – which has not yet been peer-reviewed – found that obese individuals were more than twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia as compared with patients who were normal weight.  

Blood thinners associated with improved outcomes for COVID-19 patients - study

07/05/2020

With more evidence emerging that COVID-19 can cause dangerous blood clots in some patients, new research shows that blood thinners could help improve survival rates. According to the study by a team from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, which looked at nearly 2,800 COVID-19 patients admitted to five hospitals across the Mount Sinai Health System, blood thinners were seen to have a positive impact on patient outcomes. The blood thinners were found to be especially helpful for patients who were put on ventilators to help them breathe. The study found that 63% of patients on ventilators who were not given blood thinners died, compared to 23% of patients on ventilators who were given blood thinners. Furthermore, of the patients who died, those who were given anticoagulants did so after spending an average of 21 days in the hospital. In contrasts, those who didn't receive anticoagulants died after an average of just 14 days in the hospital. Finally, the study also revealed that patients who were given blood thinners were not significantly more likely to develop bleeding problems -- one of the risks of taking such drugs. Speaking about the findings of the research, study senior author Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Heart and physician-in-chief at the Mount Sinai Hospital, said: “Using anticoagulants should be considered when patients get admitted to the ER and have tested positive for COVID-19, to possibly improve outcomes.” [Related reading: World leaders pledge billions to help develop coronavirus vaccine]

World leaders pledge billions to help develop coronavirus vaccine

05/05/2020

As the number of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cases globally passes 3.5 million, world leaders have pledged more than $8bn (€7.3bn) to help with the development of a coronavirus vaccine and fund research into diagnosing and treating the disease. The donations came from more than 30 countries, as well as numerous UN and philanthropic bodies and research institutes. Pop singer Madonna was one of the donors, pledging $1.1m (€1m), while Norway matched the European Commission’s contribution of $1bn (€920m) and France, Saudi Arabia and Germany all pledged $500m (€458m). Japan promised to give more than $800m (€733). Russia and the United States, which has suspended funding to the World Health Organization, were notably absent from the online summit hosted by the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, China, where SARS-CoV-2 originated in December, was represented by its ambassador to the EU. The EU said that $4.4bn of the money raised will go towards developing a vaccine, $2bn on the search for a treatment and $1.6bn for producing tests. In an open letter published in newspapers over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the pledged funds would “kickstart an unprecedented global co-operation between scientists and regulators, industry and governments, international organizations, foundations and healthcare professionals”. “If we can develop a vaccine that is produced by the world, for the whole world, this will be a unique global public good of the 21st Century,” they added. [Related reading: How long before there’s a coronavirus vaccine?]

Being obese linked to increased COVID-19 severity in younger patients

30/04/2020

Young people with COVID-19 who are obese are at greater risk of being hospitalised and experiencing more severe symptoms, new research has found. According to the study of 3,615 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, while being overweight didn’t appear to have any negative impact on individuals aged 60+, it did in younger patients. Compared to those with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), which is less than 30, patients with BMIs of 30-34 were twice as likely to need hospitalisation and twice as likely to need acute care. Meanwhile, while younger COVID-19 patients with BMIs of 35 or higher were also found to be twice as likely to require hospitalisation, they were three times more likely to end up in the intensive care unit. One of the study co-authors, Jennifer Lighter, MD, a hospital epidemiologist in New York City, said the findings are significant, especially in the US where 42% of the population has a BMI over 30 and is considered obese. “Our hospital was one of the first to find the association between obesity and coronavirus, but I think it will soon become very common,” Lighter said. It is important for frontline health workers to understand how being obese potentially changes a patient’s clinical outlook and consider such patients as high-risk.  

Some less common COVID-19 symptoms you can miss

28/04/2020

We’ve written previously about a lesser known COVID-19 symptom to look out for. But as experts learn more about COVID-19, new symptoms of the infection are coming to light. In addition to fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, plus a sudden loss of smell or taste (as per our above-referenced post), some people with COVID-19 have also presented with less typical symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, delirium, chickenpox-like lesions, and more. Indeed, according to a study by Stanford Medicine, which analyzed the medical records of 116 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, almost a third displayed digestion related symptoms, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Meanwhile, a study in Italy that looked at 88 patients who has tested positive for COVID-19 found that approximately 20% displayed skin symptoms, including a red rash, widespread hives, or chickenpox-like lesions. While people with atypical COVID-19 symptoms may also develop more classic symptoms too, not all will. And then there are the individuals who contract the virus and don’t have any symptoms at all i.e. are asymptomatic. This is why it is useful to spread awareness about some of the less common COVID-19 symptoms, so that people can potentially spot if they or someone they know develops the disease.

Protecting your mental health during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

23/04/2020

While there is a lot of focus on how infectious disease outbreaks, like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, can impact our physical health, their effect on our psychological wellbeing is often overlooked. But the current coronavirus outbreak is scary. Add this to the fact that many of us are spending more time than ever before stuck in our homes and it’s easy to understand how our mental health could be affected by what’s going on. With that in mind, we have compiled this short list of things you can do to protect your mental health during this testing time. 1. Stay informed (but avoid speculation) It’s important to stay informed about the COVID-19 outbreak and access information from high quality, reputable sources. Rumour and speculation only serve to fuel anxiety, which is why you should avoid less than trustworthy news. Also, don’t feel as though you have to constantly watch, read or listen to updates. Limit you consumption to once or twice a day to reduce overwhelm. 2. Stay connected It can be easy to feel isolated right now, especially if you are used to going out and interacting socially with other people. Overcome this feeling by staying as connected as possible with your friends and family. We’ve never had so many methods of communication available to us, so take advantage of technology and keep social conversations going. 3. Stay busy When we’re not keeping ourselves occupied, there’s a tendency for our minds to run wild – especially while there is an ongoing global pandemic. This can lead to negative thoughts, including lots of ‘what if’ scenarios. Use the extra time you’ve got right now to complete all those tasks around your house you’ve been meaning to do for ages. It’ll keep your mind occupied and give you a sense of achievement. [Related reading: 5 simple ways to stay physically active while you’re stuck at home]

5 simple ways to stay physically active while you’re stuck at home

21/04/2020

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak means many of us are spending a lot more time at home than we usually do. If you’re someone who enjoys regular trips to the gym, or jogs around your local park, you might be feeling decidedly antsy right now. But while social distancing measures and self-isolation means fewer opportunities to stay fit and active outdoors, there are ways you can maintain your physical and mental health while at home. Fortunately, there are a number of activities you can do at home that will satisfy the global recommendations for adults to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. Here are 5 ways to stay physically active in your own home: 1. Online yoga Yoga is great for both physical health and general wellness. It can also help relieve lower back and neck pain. The best part of all is you can practice it very easily and affordably at home. Just put some comfy clothes on and find a yoga channel you like on YouTube. 2. Simple resistance exercises If you haven’t got proper weights at home, no problem. Just be a little creative instead. Use a can of soup in each hand in place of dumbbells and do repetitions while sat comfortably on a chair. Find heavier objects if you want more resistance. 3. Basic calisthenics Calisthenics are exercises that require nothing more than your own body weight. So things like sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups are all classed as calisthenics. If you want some additional encouragement, pull up a YouTube video and workout while watching it. 4. Home cardio Cardiovascular exercises work by increasing your heart rate for a short period of time. Examples of cardio exercises include running on the spot, jumping jacks, lunge jumps, and skipping in place. 5. Household chores Believe it or not, your household chores are a great way to get some exercise. Vacuuming and mopping floors is a great way to burn some calories, while removing laundry from the washing machine and hanging it out to dry gives your muscles a workout.

Why COVID-19 poses a greater risk to men than women

16/04/2020

Several studies have revealed that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting men and the potential reasons include everything from biology to bad habits. According to the World Health Organization, men have accounted for 69% of COVID-19 related deaths in Europe. Meanwhile, reports suggest that in New York City men have been dying from COVID-19 at almost twice the rate of women. It is thought that both genetics and lifestyle choices play a part when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes in men. First and foremost, because of their extra X chromosome, women have stronger immune systems and respond better to infections than men. Then there is the fact that more elderly men suffer from heart disease than elderly women and that high blood pressure and liver disease are more prevalent in men too. All of these conditions are factors that are associated with more negative COVID-19 outcomes. In addition, men are statistically more likely to smoke than women. In fact, according to Our World in Data figures, more than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke, compared to just over 6% of women. With smoking one of the biggest risk factors for chronic lung disease, men are at a much greater disadvantage should they get COVID-19. [Related reading: Can you catch the new coronavirus twice?]

Can you catch the new coronavirus twice?

14/04/2020

When you are infected with a virus, your immune system produces very specific antibodies to try and fight it off. It’s these antibodies that then provide us with immunity from future outbreaks of the same virus. If the virus comes back, the necessary antibodies are swiftly called to action and defeat it before it can make you feel unwell. However, reports emerged in February of a lady in Japan who was apparently given the all-clear having developed COVID-19, but who then tested positive for the virus a second time. But the biggest question this scenario raises is in regards to the reliability of the tests. The bottom line is we simply don’t yet know whether people can become infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, a second time. Small animal experiments suggest reinfection is unlikely, but right now, we don’t have a definitive answer. Perhaps the most obvious place to focus is on related viruses, such as SARS. A 2017 study of SARS patients found that 89% of people who recovered had detectable antibodies two years after the infection had cleared. However, at the six-year mark, this went down to just two out of 23 patients, suggesting people have immunity, but perhaps not indefinitely. Our best hope will be if a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine can be developed which will provide rapid immunity. [Related reading: How long before there’s a coronavirus vaccine?]

How long before there’s a coronavirus vaccine?

09/04/2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing chaos in many countries around the world, much focus has turned to developing a vaccine to prevent the horrible respiratory disease. But how far off is a coronavirus vaccine and what’s taking so long? At present, estimates on how long it will take to develop a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine range from one year to 18 months, with some experts warning it would take even longer. The reality is that in vaccine years that is extremely fast and the likelihood is that a coronavirus vaccine will take longer. Right now, no less than 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus. At least four have candidates that they are currently testing in animals. One, produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna, will begin human trials very soon. One of the reasons why some companies had a head start creating a vaccine is because coronaviruses have caused two other recent epidemics: the 2002-2004 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. In both cases, work began on vaccines, but these were later shelved when the outbreaks were contained. Some of those vaccines are now being repurposed to help in the fight against Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe and effective in humans has been approved, another challenge will be producing it in the vast quantities needed. In the meantime, thoroughly wash your hands regularly and follow COVID-19 advice.

5 Coronavirus myths debunked

07/04/2020

It’s impossible to turn on the news at the moment and not be greeted with updates about the coronavirus disease, COVID-19. The problem, however, with so much news coverage is that it can be difficult to discern which pieces of information are true and which are simply myths. To help provide some clarity, we have compiled this list of coronavirus myths: Myth 1. Children cannot catch the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) While the majority of coronavirus cases have been in adults, people of any age can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. What is true is that adults with several pre-existing health conditions are more likely to become severely ill. Myth 2. COVID-19 is just like the flu While COVID-19 causes many symptoms that could be described as ‘flu-like’ and both illnesses can lead to pneumonia, the overall profile of COVID-19 is more serious than ordinary flu. While the actual mortality rate of COVID-19 remains unclear, it is expected to be many times higher than that of seasonal flu. Myth 3. Antibiotics kill coronavirus COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus. Antibiotics only kill bacteria, so they are all but useless against the new coronavirus. Myth 4. Thermal scanners can diagnose coronavirus The only thing that thermal scanners can detect is an elevated body temperature  (a fever). While this is one of the symptoms of COVID-19, it cannot be used to diagnose the disease alone. Myth 5. Face masks protect against coronavirus Wearing a face mask is not guaranteed to protect you from SARS-CoV-2 – especially if the face mask is ill-fitting. Where face masks can make a real difference is when they are worn by people with the virus, as they can help prevent others from becoming infected. [Related reading: A lesser known COVID-19 symptom to look out for]

A lesser known COVID-19 symptom to look out for

02/04/2020

While fever, tiredness and a dry cough are the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, evidence is beginning to show that a sudden loss of smell or taste could also be a sign. The latest researchers to report that a loss of smell and taste could be associated with COVID-19 are a team from King’s College London. They looked at responses from more than 400,000 people with suspected COVID-19 symptoms who entered how they were feeling into an app. Of the people who had tested positive for COVID-19 (579 individuals), three-fifths (59%) reported a loss of smell or taste. While a loss of smell or taste have not yet been added to the official list of COVID-19 symptoms published by the NHS or Public Health England, it is important to note that the current situation is rapidly evolving and this could change at any time. The King’s College researchers say that a loss of smell or taste should not be used on their own, but could be useful when considered alongside other important symptoms such as a dry cough and fever. Speaking about their findings, lead researcher Professor Tim Spector said: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.” [Related reading: Why social distancing is crucial for reducing the spread of COVID-19]

How to Clean Your Groceries During the Current COVID-19 Outbreak

31/03/2020

The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19 has meant that many people are staying at home as much as possible, only venturing out to exercise, seek medical assistance and buy essential grocery items. But while you can reduce your risk of infection while you are out of your house by regularly washing your hands, observing social distancing and remembering to clean your cellphone, something many people forget to clean is the groceries they return home with. Now there’s a good chance that the products you have bought have been handled by other people before you put them in your basket or trolley. They may have even been sneezed or coughed on. And when you consider that the new coronavirus is stable for anything from several hours to a few days in aerosols and on certain surfaces, there is a risk every time you bring groceries home. So what can you do to minimize the risk that your groceries pose? Here are a few pointers: Touch only the items you intend to buy Wipe down the basket or trolley you’re going to use with disinfectant wipes Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you’re done shopping Wipe cans and food boxes before storing them Throw away any disposable packaging Thoroughly wash any tables or countertops that came into contact with your groceries Wash your hands again [Related reading: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public]

Why social distancing is crucial for reducing the spread of COVID-19

26/03/2020

With SARS-CoV-2 spreading rapidly across the globe and causing more and more cases of COVID-19, governments everywhere are urging their citizens to observe social distancing. But why is this simple measure so effective in halting the spread of the virus? One of the biggest problems with the new coronavirus is that some people are completely asymptomatic i.e. they exhibit no obvious symptoms, or have very mild symptoms only. However, these individuals can still pass the virus on to other people, further fuelling its spread. That’s why social distancing – even for people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms – is so important. Just look at the image that accompanies this post (Credit: Dr Robin Thompson/ University of Oxford). By staying at least 2 metres away from other people, a carrier of the virus can reduce the number of people affected in total by 33%. So instead of over 1,000 new cases after six weeks, the number is just 127. With social distancing, the transmission of the virus is significantly reduced, which in turn reduces the burden on already overstretched healthcare services. The bottom line is that by keeping our distance from each other, we can break the chain of the virus. In simple terms, avoid any mass gatherings, such as weddings, concerts or even a busy train/bus. You should also try and maintain at least 2 metres distance from the people around you when out in public. Finally, reduce your social activities as much as possible. It’s not going to be forever, but your cooperation now could make a monumental difference in the long run.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

24/03/2020

The current coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy and has totally consumed all media outlets. But with so much information being shared about this deadly virus, it can be difficult to discern what precautions you and your loved ones should be taking at this difficult time. The advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) right now is simple: Wash your hands frequently - For at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. In the absence of soap and warm water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Maintain social distancing – Stay at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from other people, especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – If contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus into your body via your eyes, nose and mouth. Practice respiratory hygiene – Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you sneeze, and dispose of the tissue immediately afterwards. If you develop any symptoms associated with COVID-19, seek medical care ASAP – If you develop a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Stay informed and up to date – Keep abreast of the latest coronavirus developments to ensure you are always up to date with the latest information and precautions to take. Finally, please follow any quarantine or lock down guidelines issued by your government. Breaking the virus’ chain will be one of the biggest keys to defeating it.  Stay safe, everyone...

How and how often should you be cleaning your cellphone during the current COVID-19 outbreak?

19/03/2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many people to start doing something they should have already been doing on a regular basis: washing their hands. But while keeping your hands clean and observing social distancing rules are two of the best ways to protect yourself from this horrible virus, there is another fundamental part of your daily life that could be leaving you vulnerable and that’s your cellphone. Cellphones – particularly their touchscreens – can be a haven for bacteria, viruses and fungi. Most worrying of all, though, is the fact that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – is detectable for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Now, obviously you can’t wash your cellphone under the tap with soap, so what’s the answer? First and foremost, before you attempt to clean your cellphone, consult the manufacturer’s website. It should contain directions on how to safely clean your phone.  Apple, for example, has cleaning recommendations and guidelines on its website [here]. How often should you clean your phone? If you’re diligent about washing your hands regularly, you can probably get away with cleaning your cellphone once or twice a day. But if it’s frequently placed down on potentially dirty surfaces, you should probably be doing so more often. However, according to Dr. David Westenberg, associate professor of biological sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology, you should clean your cellphone immediately if you have been near someone who was coughing and sneezing.

Cancer mortality rates continuing to fall in U.S.

17/03/2020

With news headlines currently dominated by the Covid-19 outbreak, it could be easy to overlook other health stories worthy of note. That’s why we are pleased to share that cancer rates in the United States are continuing to fall, according to a new report. As outlined in the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, cancer rates in the U.S. continued falling from 2001 to 2017 – dropping, on average, by 1.5% a year. Furthermore, new cancer diagnoses have decreased at an average annual rate of 0.6% over the same period. Interestingly, the annual decline in mortality was slightly more pronounced among men (1.8%) than women (1.4%); nevertheless, decreases were seen across all major racial/ethnic groups and among adults, teens and children alike. Among men, mortality rates fell for 11 of the 19 most common cancers. They remained stable for four cancers, including prostate. And increased for another four: mouth, pharynx, soft tissue and pancreas. Among women, mortality rates fell for 14 of the 20 most common cancers, including the top three: lung, breast and colon. However, an increase in mortality rates was seen in cancers of the uterus, liver, brain, soft tissue and pancreas. Mouth and pharynx cancer rates remained stable. Despite mortality rates decreasing by 4.8% a year in men and 3.7% in women, lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer death in the United States. Commenting on the findings of the report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said: “The United States continues to make significant progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.”

Third-hand smoke can be as dangerous as second-hand smoke

12/03/2020

We often hear about the health risks of second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, but now a new study reveals that third-hand smoke can be dangerous too. Third-hand smoke is the term used to describe tobacco contaminants that stick to walls, carpet, bedding and other surfaces, leading to a room smelling like an ashtray. However, research by Yale University has revealed that third-hand smoke actually clings to a smoker’s body and clothes as well, allowing it to be released into environments where smoking has never occurred. While this might not sound like too big a deal, the worrying revelation from the study is that non-smokers in such environments can be impacted. In fact, the study says chemical exposure in a movie theatre could be the equivalent of being exposed to between one and 10 cigarettes of second-hand smoke by the end of the movie. Speaking about the findings of the research, Drew Gentner, study authord and an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, said: “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they're not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not the case.”

Lose weight, lower prostate cancer risk - study

10/03/2020

If there wasn’t already enough motivation for overweight men to shed some pounds, new research suggests losing weight could help lower the risk of advanced prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men globally, with approximately 1.3 million new cases in 2018 alone. Fortunately, if discovered early enough, prostate cancer has a relatively low mortality rate, with 96% of patients surviving for 15 years or more following an early stage diagnosis. However, as with any cancer, prevention is better than cure, and survival rates for advanced prostate cancer are very poor. That’s why a new, large-scale analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 831,000 men is significant. It found that having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of above 25 during middle to late adulthood was associated with the highest risk for advanced prostate cancer. Furthermore, the researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University found that having a larger waist size was also associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and death. “These study results show that risk for advanced prostate cancer can be decreased by maintaining a 'healthy' weight, which is in line with guidelines by the American Cancer Society and World Cancer Research Fund,” said study author Jeanine Genkinger, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health The study was published March 4 in the Annals of Oncology.

Irregular sleep patterns linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

05/03/2020

It’s a well-known fact that sleep is of utmost importance to health. Specifically, it’s been shown that a lack of high-quality sleep negatively impacts our resilience, productivity and performance. Furthermore, long-term chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Now, new research suggests that irregular sleeping patterns may contribute to the risk of cardiovascular problems. The study was carried out by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, who analysed data from 1,992 patients in their 60s and 70s with no cardiovascular problems at baseline. They found that those who had the most irregular sleep patterns (defined as 2 hours or more difference in sleep duration each night) had a twofold plus increased risk of cardiovascular disease than patients with one hour or less difference in sleep duration. Importantly, even after adjusting for other risk factors, patients with irregular sleep patterns remained at significant risk of cardiovascular events. Publishing their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers said: “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability and that this can have an important effect on heart health.” Do you get enough sleep each night? Is your sleeping pattern pretty irregular? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember, getting enough high-quality sleep is extremely important and beneficial to your health.

Weight gain speeds up lung function decline in older adults

03/03/2020

Gaining weight in later years has a detrimental impact on lung health, a new study suggests. People’s lungs naturally deteriorate as they age and lose functionality as the years go by. But now new research has linked moderate or significant weight gain to an even sharper decline in lung health. According to the study of 3,700 individuals in Europe and Australia, who were recruited between the ages of 20 and 44, and were studied for 20 years, people who gained weight throughout the course of the study – regardless of whether they were a healthy weight or overweight/obese to begin with – had accelerated lung function decline. Furthermore, overweight/obese individuals who lost weight during the study saw their lung functionality decline slow. Publishing their findings in the journal Thorax, the researchers said large amounts of fat in the abdomen and chest can limit the space lungs have when people inhale. It was also suggested that fat produces inflammatory chemicals that can reduce the diameter of airways and damage lungs. Speaking about the findings of the research, study leader Judith Garcia Aymerich, head of the non-communicable diseases and environment program at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), said: “Although previous research has shown that weight gain is linked to lung function decline, ours is the first study to analyze such a varied population sample over a longer period of time.”  

How AI is helping boost IVF success rates

27/02/2020

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being used in a huge number of ways. One of its latest applications is in the field of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), where it is helping select embryos that have the greatest chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy. The AI algorithm that is at the heart of the process is called Ivy, and it analyzes fertilized embryos during their incubation period to see which ones have the greatest likelihood of successful development. Developed by Harrison.ai, a Sydney-based, clinician-led healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) company, Ivy has already been used to help several thousand women undergoing IVF treatment in Australia. Ivy’s decisions are faster and better due to the fact it uses machine learning from thousands of successful and unsuccessful embryos. Ivy is also a self-improving system, using a comprehensive three-dimensional growth model of each embryo to better its accuracy and understanding. When IVF first came onto the scene in 1977, success rates were less than 50%. With the development of Ivy, that has risen to a remarkable 93%., highlighting just how important the technology could be for the IVF industry going forward. If IVF treatment is something you have considered, we are here to help. Find out more about how we can facilitate IVF treatment for French-speaking patients in Spain by contacting us today.

Cutting salt intake is 'immensely beneficial'

25/02/2020

We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”

You could live up to 14 years longer by avoiding these 5 bad habits

20/02/2020

A new study has revealed five bad health habits which, if avoided, could help you live significantly longer. While the habits themselves are nothing we haven’t heard before, the findings of the study are important as they highlight just how much of an impact the five factors can have on lifespan. So if you want to live years longer, avoid these five behaviours: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet. Specifically, the study found that women aged 50 who avoided all five risk factors lived 14 years longer than women who did not. Among men, the difference in lifespan was 12 years. Publishing the study findings in the BMJ, senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.” Importantly, the results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors – emphasising that everyone stands to benefit from avoiding these five unhealthy habits. Finally, the research also revealed that the five habits had a positive impact for people diagnosed with a disease during the study period. For example, individuals who developed cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of the five healthy practices. In contrast, among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were witnessed for both heart disease and diabetes.

More health benefits of Mediterranean diet discovered

18/02/2020

The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.

Could cervical cancer really be a thing of the past by 2120?

13/02/2020

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020, there will be around 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer diagnosed and about 4,290 women will die from the disease. Nevertheless, cervical cancer has a lot of optimism surrounding t, with specialists and the World Health Organization (WHO) arguing that the disease could be eradicated completely in the next 100 years. The WHO says that by applying the right preventative measures, cervical cancer mortality rates could be lowered significantly. Now, two separate studies published in The Lancet contend that cervical cancer could become a distant memory by 2120. Both studies outline measures that should be taken by different countries to prevent cervical cancer. First, girls from low- and middle-income backgrounds should be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the top risk factor for cervical cancer. This would, the WHO says, avert an estimated 61 million cases of cervical cancer up to 2120. Furthermore, if individuals get screened for this type of cancer twice in their lifetime, its incidence can be reduced by 96.7%, and avert 2.1 million new cases. However, Prof. Marc Brissonco-lead of both studies from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine in Québec, Canada, warns that cervical cancer eradication can only be achieved with “considerable international financial and political commitment, in order to scale up prevention and treatment.”

Term ‘painkillers’ should be banned, says UK government adviser

10/02/2020

A government adviser in the UK is calling for the term ‘painkiller’ to be dropped as it is inaccurate and can lead to people have unrealistic expectations about the drugs the medications they take. According to Professor Jamie Coleman, who is part of a working group analysing the use of opioid medication for the government in England, the term ‘painkiller’ should be replaced by the term ‘pain reliever’. Professor Coleman said he is also in favour of ending the over-the-counter sale of low-dose codeine drugs in pharmacies, which he says can lead to people becoming dependent on prescription drugs, even addicted. He said even in low doses, such medication can cause serious side effects, including vomiting and nausea. Meanwhile, research suggests that just one in 10 people taking strong painkillers for long-term pain actually experience any benefits. Professor Coleman says the key to combatting people misusing opioid medication, such as codeine and morphine, is to make it prescription-only, as well as encourage a cultural shift away from GPs prescribing such drugs for long-term pain control. A report released last year by Public Health England (PHE) warned that people were getting hooked on opioids, anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. The same research revealed that more than 5 million people are given opioids every year, with 1.2 million taking them for at least 12 months. The bottom line, according to Professor Coleman, is that there is no such thing as ‘painkillers’ and that opioids just mask symptoms.

Landmark cancer study to transform treatment

06/02/2020

Cancer is like a 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and until now, 99% of the pieces have been missing. But a new landmark cancer study, involving more than 1,300 scientists, has built the most detailed picture of the disease ever, providing an almost complete picture of every type of cancer. Published in the journal Nature, the studies could lead to individual treatments being developed based on a patient’s unique situation, as well as the development of new ways to find cancer earlier. Historically, doctors have been left frustrated when two patients with seemingly identical cancers respond differently to the same treatment. It’s proof of cancer’s complexity and something that has challenged doctors for years. With the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) project, though, scientists now have a much better understanding of why cells in cancerous growths keep growing uncontrollably. The specific set of DNA changes that cause this to happen are known as “driver mutations”. The project found between four and five fundamental mutations that drive a cancer’s growth. These are potential weak-spots that could be exploited with treatments that attack these driver mutations. “Ultimately, what we want to do is to use these technologies to identify treatments that are tailored to each individual patient,” said Dr Peter Campbell, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The study also uncovered some surprising similarities between cancers found in different types of tissue.

Why you shouldn’t wait too long to have knee replacement surgery

04/02/2020

Americans have more than 600,000 knee replacements every year and that number is expected to increase to 1.28 million by 2030, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). But despite the high numbers, many individuals wait too long to undergo surgery, and can miss out on some of the potential benefits, a new report reveals. The report, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in January, 2020, shows that 83% of patients with osteoarthritis in their knees wait too long to have a replacement. As a result, these patients don’t get as much function back after surgery as patients who undergo a knee replacement in a timely fashion. Furthermore, patients who wait too long to have knee surgery also place themselves at risk of developing other health conditions like depression. This is due to the fact their mobility is severely hindered, making exercise and physical activity difficult. But having knee replacement surgery too early can also lead to issues. By having knee replacement surgery too soon, patients put themselves at risk for complications and may need a revision surgery later in life. Revisions are typically more difficult and can result in poorer outcomes. The study highlights just how important it is to consult a medical professional when you are experiencing problems with your knees and undergo surgery in a timely fashion. For more information on how France Surgery can facilitate knee replacement surgery for you right here in France, contact us today.

Study shows it’s never too late to quit smoking

30/01/2020

Lungs have the ability to repair themselves, but only if a person stops smoking, new research suggests. It had previously been thought that the mutations that lead to lung cancer were permanent and smokers had already done irreparable damage with their habits. However, the surprise findings, published in the journal Nature, show that some cells escape the damage caused by smoking and can actually help repair the cells around them once a person has quit. This almost magical ability was witnessed by scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and UCL even in people who had smoked a pack a day for 40 years before giving up – highlighting that it’s really never too late to quit. Exactly how certain cells avoid the genetic devastation caused by smoking is unclear, but the researchers said they appeared to “exist in a nuclear bunker”. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rachel Orritt, from Cancer Research UK, said: “It's a really motivating idea that people who stop smoking might reap the benefits twice over - by preventing more tobacco-related damage to lung cells, and by giving their lungs the chance to balance out some of the existing damage with healthier cells”. It is estimated that of the 47,000 cases of lung cancer in the UK each year, almost three-quarters are caused by smoking.

Prostate overtakes breast to become most common form of cancer in England

28/01/2020

In 2018, there were nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of prostate cancer in England – around 8,000 more than in 2017, which makes it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, overtaking breast cancer for the first time. Now Public Health England says that the reason why more cases of prostate cancer are being confirmed is simply because more men are getting tested, and not because the cancer has seen a sharp rise. With 49,029 confirmed cases, prostate tops the list of common cancers in England, followed by breast with 47,476 cases. Lung and bowel cancers are the next most commonly diagnosed. The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, says that celebrity prostate cancer stories, like actor and comedian Stephen Fry’s, have helped raise awareness of the importance of having prostate cancer tests. Fry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, which he says was “thankfully caught in the nick of time". He subsequently underwent prostate cancer surgery. Prostate cancer has a high survival rate, with Cancer Research UK statistics showing that more than 8 in 10 (84%) men diagnosed with the disease in England and Wales survive for 10 years or more. But the key to successfully treating prostate cancer is to detect it early and begin treatment as soon as possible, which is why it’s crucial for men to get tested on a regular basis. Cancer tsar Prof Peter Johnson said: “As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk.”

White hairs? Maybe you’re stressed…

23/01/2020

Scientists believe they have discovered the reason why stress can make hair turn white. They’ve also found a potential way of preventing it from happening which doesn’t involve hair dye. In a chance finding while studying mice, the scientists noticed that dark-furred mice turned completely white within weeks after experiencing stress. The reason for this, the scientists say, is because the stress damaged stem cells that control hair and skin colour. The US and Brazilian researchers say their discovery is significant as it could lead to new treatments being developed that can protect hair colour from the effects of stress and ageing. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature, the researchers Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard say the effects are linked to melanocyte stem cells, which produce melanin and are responsible for hair and skin colour. In a separate experiment, the researchers found they could prevent stress from affecting hair colour by giving the mice an anti-hypertensive, which treats high blood pressure. They were also able to identify the specific protein that causes damage to the stem cells. When this protein, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK), was suppressed, mice that were subjected to stress did not experience the same fur colour change. It’s a breakthrough that could lead to drugs being developed which suppress CDK and delay the onset of grey/white hair.

Breakthrough immune discovery could help with treatment of all cancers

21/01/2020

Scientists from Cardiff University in the UK have discovered a part of our immune system that could be harnessed to kill all types of cancer. Despite their work being at an early stage, the team says the newly-discovered technique killed prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests. The findings of their research, which are published in the journal Nature Immunology, have not yet been tested in humans, but, nevertheless, the researchers say they hold “enormous potential.” The scientists made their potentially game-changing discovery while looking for “unconventional” ways the immune system naturally attacks tumours. They found a T-cell in blood that could find and kill a wide range of cancers, while leaving normal tissues untouched. Speaking about their findings, researcher Prof Andrew Sewell said: “It raises the prospect of a 'one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population.” While T-cell cancer therapies are nothing new, with treatments like CAR-T already being used to seek out and destroy cancer, the Cardiff researchers’ discovery is exciting because it could lead to treatments being developed that are more effective against solid cancers (those that form tumours). The researchers say their discovery has the potential to lead to a "universal" cancer treatment.

Sleep apnoea likely caused by fatty tongues

14/01/2020

Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes some individuals to experience pauses in their breathing while they are sleeping, resulting in them gasping for breath. Said pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds right up to a few minutes. But while sleep apnoea can be alleviated with certain measures, including wearing oral appliances at bedtime, its exact cause has remained open to debate. Now, a new study has revealed that having a fatty tongue could play a part. According to the research by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, larger, fattier tongues – which are more common among obese individuals – could be a main driver of sleep apnoea. That’s why when overweight and obese people shed the pounds, including fat in their tongues, any sleep apnoea they’ve been experiencing also tends to improve. “You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine. “It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.” The researchers now plan to discover which low-fat diets (if any) are particularly good at reducing fat in the tongue.

Running a marathon significantly improves arteries

09/01/2020

While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.

Avoid fad diets and ‘party drips’ this New Year, says UK’s top doctor

07/01/2020

It’s now 2020, the start of a New Year, and for many people that means following a set of resolutions, one of the most common of which will be to lose weight over the next 12 months. But if you’re keen to shed some pounds in 2020, don’t try to do it using fad diets because they don’t work and can even be harmful, says NHS England’s top doctor. Speaking about diet pills, "tea-toxes" and appetite suppressant products, Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said they are not quick fixes. Furthermore, they can even cause side effects, such as diarrhea and heart issues, he added. How to spot a fad diet? Well, according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), any diet that promises rapid weight loss of more than 2lbs (0.9kg) of body fat a week should be viewed with caution. If it sounds too good to be true, then it more than likely is – despite any celebrity recommendations it might have. The best way to get in shape safely is through sensible eating and regular exercise. Professor Powis also warned the public against using so-called ‘party drips’ as quick fix hangover cures. These nutrient therapy IV drips are usually made up of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C. But some individuals can react badly to them and, in the most serious cases, death can occur due to a toxic overdose.

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