Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Touch Test

Image credit: Touch Test
Of the five senses -- sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch -- the last one is the most personal. It's all about who is touching what, whom, where, when, why and how.

Have our attitudes towards touch changed over time, especially in the light of the recent MeToo movement? Are everyone now more sensitive and circumspect in this matter?

A worldwide online survey based on an elaborate questionnaire is currently on to understand the way people across various categories -- like nationality, gender, sexuality, age, profession, disability etc -- view physical contact, be it accidental or intentional.

The study, called Touch Test Project, is a partnership between BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome Collection, which has commissioned the project from psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London

This elaborate study seeks to understand how touch might be not only linked to our health and well-being but also our association with partners and medical practitioners, and even the way we think about our own bodies. It also covers how technology has affected our attitudes towards touch.

The project, which went live on January 21, will run for a few months; and the results will be announced at a live event at Wellcome Collection in the autumn. It will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

I completed the survey yesterday.

It might take up to an hour to complete it (depending on the speed with which you read the questions and answer them), but you need not do it all in one sitting. You can stop and resume within seven days, but on the same browser on the same computer. I did it over two days.

I guess if more people take part, more accurate the survey results will be. To take part in the survey, go to May be you should check it out. It's totally anonymous, and no personal details are collected.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Is there a cure for coronavirus, the new threat to human life?

It is truly worrying if something as common as cold or cough could ultimately lead to death. That's what a new strain of the coronavirus, called novel coronavirus, or nCoV, is doing to humans. The virus first surfaced in a Chinese city called Wuhan in December 31, 2019. Ever since then the virus has spread around China and outside China, as infected people travelled from one place to another and infecting other people.

Other strains of the virus are responsible for diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), besides the more common respiratory tract infections like cold and cough.

What is a coronavirus?
It is a family of different types of viruses. There are four types of them: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Alpha and beta infect only mammals, like bats, pigs, cats, and humans. Gamma infects birds especially poultry, while the delta variety infects both birds and mammals. The first type of coronavirus was discovered in 1960s, and since then we knew six of them. The type that has been discovered in Wuhan now is the seventh one.

Why is it called coronavirus?
It is called so because the virus has crown-like spikes that also look like the corona (or the outer surface) of the sun.

Coronavirus attacks which part of human body?
Coronavirus affects the respiratory system.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common cold, running nose, difficulty to breath, fever.

Any cure for coronavirus?
So far none. There are no medicines or vaccines. Patients are treated for the symptoms they show.

Does garlic kill or reduce the effect of coronavirus?
Can coronavirus be cured with taking boiled garlic water?
There is no scientific proof yet of garlic either killing the new strain of the coronavirus or reducing its effect. But it is a fact that garlic does have many good health benefits, like antioxidant properties, improving blood circulation, and reducing levels of cholesterol. This strain of the virus itself is new. It will take time for researchers to find a cure or a vaccine. There might be anecdotal evidences of patients showing improvement in their condition after taking garlic, or something similar food that has health benefits. But that doesn't qualify as a cure or a medicine.

What kind of indigenous medicine is suitable for coronavirus eradication?
As of now, there is no medicine -- indigenous or any other type -- for coronavirus. Patients are being treated for the symptoms they show.

Can coronavirus be deadly in Indian climatic conditions?

There is nothing conclusive so far to show that people in a particular geographical region is more or less prone to contracting the coronavirus. The 99% of the cases is in China. The rest 1% is spread across all the continents, except Africa.

What precautions one must take?

Wherever we are, we must make sure that we maintain good personal hygiene, keep away from people who have cold, cough or fever; and avoid being in crowded places and travelling in crowded public transport.

Is it safe to travel to Bali from India now due to coronavirus outbreak?

There is no harm in travelling to Bali or anywhere, from India or from anywhere. To say "don't travel", is being alarmist, and it's not the right approach. What is important is to take adequate precautions. (See the answer above.)

Will we get coronavirus if we eat fish or other non-vegetarian food?

Humans first contracted coronavirus from animals in China. But it's safe to eat non-vegetarian food. Only ensure it is properly cooked.

Is it safe to drink cow's milk safe? Will we get coronavirus?

It's safe to drink cow's milk. But ensure it's properly boiled.

What is the incubation period for the coronavirus?
Incubation period is the time taken for symptoms of a disease to surface after the person has been exposed to a virus or bacteria. It's currently 2 to 10 days. However, it's advisable to be under observation for at least two weeks.

Will I be quarantined at airport if I fly with cough, cold and fever?
Very difficult to say. But there is a high possibility that you might be quarantined if you have been to China or you have been around with people who were China.

How many days a person survive after effected from coronavirus?
It varies depending on the immunity levels and general health of the individual.

WHO - Health topics / Coronavirus
WHO - Q & A on Coronavirus
CDC, US - Types of coronaviruses
WHO - Situation Report
EU - Geographic distribution of coronavirus