Domestic Assistants- Keep them safe and healthy!

This COVID 19 pandemic has caused many an upheaval in our lives, right from oWfH (overWorking from Home) to the Lockdown . This disruption to our lives, when many of us wielded the spatula and the frypan, the broom and the dustpan, possibly for the first time, highlighted the role of the missing person – Our Domestic Assistants! One truly appreciated the support that had been given silently over the years by these good people who assist us in our daily lives.

In these pandemic times, with Physical Distancing, Masking and Sanitization being the only measures we have to rely on to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones, the question often asked is what can we do, to have our cake and eat it too.

It is an inescapable fact that those who assist us and keep the house in order, reside in conditions of overcrowding, with questionable hygiene and poor sanitation. We may choose to pretend otherwise.

Have a look-see at these posters specifically designed to be practical. Do what you must, and do what you can.

As usual, please share freely, comment , connect directly with me. Ask for any specific inputs or suggestions.

Stay safe! Remain well!

COVID 19 – At our doorstep!

There may be a wee bit of trepidation when one switches on the television, opens one’s phone, reaches for the daily newspaper, what with the overload of information and news on Coronavirus. My advice is to just disregard any coronavirus news, pay no attention to anything other than the simple measures for prevention that have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of the pandemic, maybe just got a little more refined.

The Three C’s for prevention in July 2020

There are cases occurring everywhere now. Well, India is the second largest country in the world, so it stands to reason , right….? Do not worry, at this point of time, experience of the past few months has found that the vast majority of cases are asymptomatic and in those who become symptomatic, the majority get ok sooner than later. Complications do occur, but then they do so in many other diseases too. All you can do, and all you need to do at this juncture (Sep 2020) is to “Stay Calm, and Be Cool” and “Prevent to Stay Safe”.

For those who are living in residential Societies, an updated advisory is placed here, for ease of reference.

Please do reach out in case you need any customised advice, specific to your context, or just simply need sane counsel. Please use any / all the material on this blogpost for informing people about the current situation. No attribution or credit is required. Information of the correct variety empowers people.

In case you have households that need to be quarantined (those who have exposure but no cases), and those that need to be isolated (those who have cases), please comply with local administrative instructions as may be applicable to your city. A few generic info flyers are placed here for your ease of reference:

Part 1 and 2 – Guidelines for Home Isolation

We cannot escape being exposed to the virus, being a pandemic, implying widely spread, with transmission happening, though not very efficient. (Dont bother yourself with epidemiological terms like R0 etc).

However, what we can do is simply adhere to what is the expected behaviour required during this New Normal.

Please reach out on Email / Whatsapp, or through the Contact Us page for getting more information. You can also subscribe to this blog and be updated with relevant info (no spam , assured!).

Dont hesitate to point out any inadequacies or shortcomings in the info being provided, and if you would like some specific additional information for future posts, please add to the Comments below.

Exercise is good for you!

If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.

Think of “Health” and what it means to you personally. When I used to teach the philosophical context of health per se, to young students in their first year of medical school, an assignment for them was to interview their mothers to obtain views on what feeling healthy meant to them at that point of time.

When you are young you do not realize its worth, and as you age, you would trade in a fortune to have good health. The time to start working on good health is when you are young, and to sustain the effort required as you age, to stay ‘healthy’.

Exercise of any sort, should be a lifestyle choice and not just a habit , on most if not all days of the week.

A self explanatory set of posters is enclosed in this post for the reader to use at his / her discretion to spread information in their circle of influence.

For starters, I recommend downloading any step counting app for your phone, or wearing a watch which counts steps. Try to reach up to at least 10,000 steps per day. You can have a look at some information about this seemingly arbitrary target https://www.readersdigest.ca/health/fitness/walking-10000-steps-a-day/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/10000-steps/art-20317391

Please circulate to your friends , family and others. Exercise is for anyone and everyone, at any age, to the extent that is feasible, within circumstances that are conducive. It is mostly a choice to be exercised, daily.

Move, for health!

If you need any advice about health through fitness for your corporate workforce, please do get in touch.

Breastfeeding saves Babies!

The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 (every year from 01 August to 07 August) was “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. In line with this theme, WHO and UNICEF sent out a call for governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, which is considered to be a critical component of breastfeeding support.

Breastfeeding provides every child with the best possible start in life. It delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers. And it forms part of a sustainable food system. But while breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy. Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding. (Source: WHO website)

This post is not to give you information about Breastfeeding or such like. It is just to bring to your attention that we all know someone or the other who will breastfeed or would have already breastfed at some point in their lives. In our roles as fathers, mothers, mothers in law, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, husbands, friends and well wishers, we can influence people who matter about the benefits to babies and their mothers from breastfeeding. We can all provide some form of breastfeeding counselling which can help mothers to build confidence while respecting their individual circumstances and choices. Counselling can empower women to overcome challenges and prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breastfeeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, foods, and breastmilk substitutes to infants and young children. (Source: WHO website)

If you are an employer, you can provide facilities to your staff for those who need to breastfeed their babies or give them time off during the day for this. If you are an employee, you can be supportive of those who need to breastfeed their babies. If you are just a well wisher, who wishes babies and their mothers well, encourage and support breast feeding.

A set of posters were released during the World Breast Feeding Week of 2020 , to create awareness amongst people. Please download them and share with all those who matter to you. Be a baby’s best supporter today. Spread the information around.

If you are a doctor or a nurse in a hospital or a clinic, Delta Zulu’s consultancy service can help you make your facility a “Baby Friendly Facility“. I have done this with great satisfaction all around (not just from babies) for many facilities in India and abroad. Just for your information , there is even certification available under the Babyfriendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) which was launched by WHO and UNICEF in 1991, following the Innocenti Declaration of 1990. The BFHI is a global effort to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. However, you need not even go the whole hog… you can just institute systems and policies in place to ensure that your baby customers are happy customers.

60 Parachute Field Hospital

SIXTY , the Airborne Angels , the mother unit for all paratrooper doctors of the Medical Corps, was raised on 10th August 1942. For those interested in military history and for the trivia buffs, the first Indian paratrooper is none other a doctor who went on to command SIXTY with distinction- Col Arcot Govindaraj Rangaraj, MVC.

Col AG Rangaraj, MVC being escorted by me when I was a young Captain, just before my Para Basic course, circa 1992

Read here about Col Rangaraj:- https://theprint.in/defence/an-indian-army-officers-photos-will-be-all-over-south-korea-next-july-heres-why/328693/#:~:text=A%20decorated%20soldier%20and%20recipient,patients%20during%20the%20Korean%20war.

SIXTY has operated in support of the armed forces in India and abroad , from the jungles of Arakan, to the Korean War, from deserts, to jungles, to mountains, the doctors and men of SIXTY have been there, and done that! And along the journey, SIXTY has the quiet distinction of having received two Maha Vir Chakras, seven Vir Chakras, and multiple other awards, commendations, and citations, in its glorious 78 year history.

Only one way out of a plane for a paratrooper!

SIXTY being one of the few Airborne medical units across the world, is at the forefront of all rapid medical deployments, and its doctors and men, those who wear their maroon beret with pride, have rendered stellar service wherever they have been deployed across the decades.

The Platinum Jubilee of SIXTY was a much celebrated event in 2017 and was marked by a renewed focus on ensuring that the paratrooper doctors and men who pass through the portals of SIXTY will forever cherish their association.

Proud to be a paratrooper !

Happy Landings to all those Maroon Beret doctors out there!

Eggs and COVID19

This is a tagline that most of us in India would be very familiar with…. from the persuasive advertising of the goodness of eggs! In plain English it just means “On Sunday or Monday, every day you can eat an Egg”

Eggs are rated as one of Nature’s most perfectly balanced foods, containing all the protein, minerals and vitamins (except vitamin C) essential for good health. And they are tasty too when cooked ! I am emphasizing on this as there is a fad some people , especially young, athletic types have, about consuming raw eggs and such like.

Egg white contains an anti nutritional factor (avidin) which binds with biotin and makes it unavailable, it also contains a protein (ovomucoid) which can inhibit trypsin activity. However cooking (or boiling) ensures that these anti nutritional factors are destroyed. Hence eat only cooked eggs, as there is no benefit achieved in eating them raw.

  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 70° C. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • Once cooked , hot items must be served straight away and cold items must be stored cold.

Kitchen Safety : Wash hands, utensils and equipment with hot, soapy water and wipe down kitchen surfaces with a regular kitchen compatible surface disinfectant, before and after they come in contact with raw eggs and raw egg-containing foods.

Do we put all our eggs in one basket? Read on for eggciting info. In these COVID19 pandemic times, everyone is washing everything! Including eggs! Scrubbing things with disinfectant or soap or warm water is ok, even if it borders on OCD… However Do NOT wash eggs ! Definitely not!! The eggshell has pores , just the way your face has pores. Try running a wet finger on the surface of a dry egg, and you will feel a slight bit of slime. Simply put, there is a substance that blocks these eggshell pores which prevents entry for the harmful bacteria from outside. The egg shell pores become more porous when wet, making it easier for bacteria to get in. Do you want that ? Obviously not.

Fresh eggs, even those with clean, uncracked shells, may contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause foodborne illness.

So what do you do?…. Simply wipe away extraneous dirt on the surface of the egg with a dry tissue or kitchen towel before storing in the fridge or use a dry toothbrush for gently scraping away at contaminants on the egg shell surface. DO NOT wash before storing.

You can help keep eggs safe by storing them safely! * Firstly prefer to buy eggs only from a proper vendor who stacks and stores eggs properly, or if you are the supermarket type of grocery shopper, select the cartonized eggs. * Check the eggs you buy to make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked. * Preferably store promptly in your refrigerator at a temperature of 4°C or below. * Use eggs within a maximum of two weeks when kept refrigerated.

The masked bandit on the prowl! Searching for contaminated eggs!

How to know if you have any ‘bad eggs’ ….Sniffing either a raw or cooked egg is a simple but reliable way to tell if an egg has gone bad. You can shake it gently beforehand too, there is a particular feel you will get when an egg is bad… like a sloshing within the egg. The popular Float Test , wherein you simply place an egg in a glass or mug of water, and if the egg sinks it is good, i.e fresh, and if it floats , it is not fresh , is a simple screening technique. However, it cannot tell you if an egg has gone bad. Dont do this Float Test before storing in the fridge.. Remember, you dont want to wash your eggs!

However, the simplest way to check an egg, is to crack the egg into a clean bowl and give it a sniff. If anything smells ‘off’, discard the egg and wash the bowl with hot, soapy water before using again.

Be safe, stay safe! Eat an egg a day, a week, a month, or not at all! Just do not wash them before storing them.

Health Informational Advisories for social media circulation in these COVID pandemic times

Since mid March 2020, there was a perceived requirement for civil society to sort out the chaff from the wheat in light of the surplus of information flooding social media and inundating the poor home bound homebody with irrelevant and confusing information, mostly originating from either NASA, f-CDC, f-WHO (f is for fake), or the Renjhen MinJhin Hospital in China (there is no such hospital) or even some Italian hospital.

So what should the homebound person do? Believe in all that is out there? Or ask someone like me? I am a sifter of news and facts and a distiller of information and at times a translator of evidence. Modest description indeed.

Thus emerged a series of health advisories focused mostly on an urban , urbane, English speaking audience residing in cities of India, in claustrophobic colonies , cloistered within their homes.

These advisories were / are meant for circulation ad lib on social media. My name and contact details are incorporated therein, to ensure that people can reach out to me for any clarification or further information and advice and most importantly, suggestions for future iterations.

Please browse through the collection and download to peruse at leisure or circulate at your discretion. These will be updated with newer advisories as and when released.

Disclaimer : The contents of each advisory were current as on the date of release and have not been revised subsequently. You are solely responsible for any decisions you make based on the contents. There is no intent implied or otherwise, to suggest the advisories to be a replacement for current consultation with a registered medical practitioner for any medical or other ailment.

Please send across any issues (no individual treatment related queries please) you would like me to address.

Be Safe!

‘Let there be Spaces in your togetherness’ – Physical Distancing in these COVID 19 times!

Is it ‘Social Distancing’ or should it be ‘Physical Distancing‘?

Little did the Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran know of the far reaching portent of his oft quoted statement, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness…”, even more relevant, now in these modern COVID 19 pandemic times. One could possibly conjecture a metaphorical inspiration for the philosopher, from the post Spanish Influenza world of the 1920s?

In a pandemic affected society, we commonly use the words isolation (for cases), quarantine (for those exposed), and social distancing (for those in the larger community) in the context of the prevention and control measures being instituted across the world. We know people take away different, and sometimes contrary, meanings from well-worn words. So when coining new terms, how can we prevent people from getting the meaning wrong?

We do not want people to consciously or subconsciously understand the term ‘social distancing’ to imply or mean emotionally pulling apart from each other. All we want is for a greater physical distance to be maintained between people. This might seem like an alien concept for most of the developing world, where ‘personal space’ is a figment of a fertile imagination mostly. To be socially distanced in its local nuances, to most people would mean ‘cutting off ties’ , breaking away from relationships, verily giving up on family, which the entire clan may be a part of. In an increasingly interconnected world (through the ubiquitous internet enabled smartphone) to a disconnected society, where neighbours do not know each other, where one has more virtual friends than real ones, where society is in the throes of the pangs of modernization, do we actually need to imply even if incorrectly, that humans need to be ‘socially distanced’ from each other?

So why not let us call it ‘physical distancing’ from today onwards? If you wonder who should push for the change? Well, I think you should, I should, we all should! We could try out this concept by bandying it about with friends and family, and it might influence how they view it and change what they do. And the ripples may spread out to change what everyone says and does. Be the change you want to see!

Physical distancing will perforce be the new ‘normal’, once this pandemic blows over, whenever. Cough etiquette will become a part of social norms. We might actually become more hygienic in our personal habits and start living cleaner public lives. Civic administrations might actually start delivering on keeping cities, towns and villages clean. A good scare does this to people. The issue that remains though, is sustaining the change.  

The WHO has already been asking people to change from using ‘social distancing’ to ‘physical distancing’, but language is a funny thing. We in our millions create the definition of the word by its usage, an organisation cannot do this, however influential it may be. We need to be the change.

Be connected with the people and to the people, yet let there be visible gaps in your togetherness… (Preferably at least 6 feet of that gap!) And that is all the space one needs, horizontally, eventually…

In the initial days of the pandemic, it seemed apt for everyone to withdraw into their shells, pull up the moat bridges and draw up their defences, and be ‘socially distanced’. Now, we have learned that we truly do need each other, to stay balanced, stable and happy.  We need people for us to be human and not just a digital image online.  It is now being understood that the social connection is what is essential, while physical proximity can be given up!

We, the people, need to appreciate that ‘lock down’ does not mean ‘locked up’. It is not about breaking contact with your friends and family — but rather keeping at a safe  physical distance from them, to ensure no further spread of the disease.

We need to keep our social connect alive, our sense of humanity intact and have a common sense of purpose binding us together to combat this, and all future threats to humanity that may arise. Ironically, the same technologies we often blame for tearing apart our social fabric might be our best chance now, of keeping it together.

So in the interest of humanity and your own sanity, try and use new ways to connect at a distance. Sing songs and make music together from different balconies if you have the talent. Use the humble phone, or email, or video call, social media or new conferencing tools to keep in touch with friends and family alike. Enjoy sharing quizzes and board games across digital screens, or maybe just share a meal and a drink through digital media. If you have never learned these skills, now is the time! What else are you going to do locked in at home? Be socially connected and yet physically distant. We recently had a med school Batch Get Together online. The Zedd Batch Zoom Party so to say. What is stopping you?

Physically distanced party in progress

Be physically distanced, NOT socially distanced.

Reach out, but touch me not !

Let there be spaces in your togetherness.

This post was written in collaboration with my batchmateZ Aravind, Narinder, Ranjith and Rohit.

The 5 P’s of Mass Gatherings

I was privileged to have been invited in the recent past to give a TEDx talk at IISER Pune.

For those of you who are not aware, the IISER institutes were established by the Government of India at Berhampur, Bhopal, Kolkata, Mohali, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram and Tirupati to integrate and promote interdisciplinary science education and research. Over the past decade, the IISERs have been attracting talented young minds who want to pursue ‘pure sciences’. Through my interactions with the Faculty members at IISER Pune (my dear friend John with the theatrical talent and the literary bent of mind being the main man), while I was on the teaching faculty at the Armed Forces Medical College, I had the opportunity to academically interact with the students there, in person, on more than a few occasions , and came away impressed at their intellect , dedication and enthusiasm. It felt reassuring to learn that indeed the future of India as a scientific nation is well on its way to make its mark on time, with students such as those at the IISERs.

The Kumbh Mela in its various iterations is a phenomenal exposure to humanity, and not just the Coffee Table book variety, but the administrative machinations that are required for these…

Being a Public Health Specialist, I had acquired a taste for Mass Gathering Medicine , from early in my military career… hence when invited to give a TEDx talk at the IISER Pune, on a topic of my choice, well….

Thats me exceeding the time limit at a TEDx talk at IISER Pune in Feb 2020

If you were to ask me today, on how this applies to the current COVID 19 pandemic, well I would say that crisis expansion facilities for those 80% of the corona virus infected, who do not need ICU facilities, the overwhelming majority, can be accommodated in ‘tent cities’ like the Kumbh Mela… We have the template ready… we have the tentage… Go ask the Wedding Planners.

This is India, we will survive.

Be safe

Lock down Home Tips – Cleaning vegetables, milk packets and your hands…

Everyone is locked down or locked in… Better surely than being locked up? Right?

Combating the COVID 19 pandemic requires various preventive measures to be instituted at the individual , family and societal levels. You can read more about these other measures elsewhere on the http://www.who.int (International) or http://www.mohfw.gov.in (India specific) websites.

From the food safety perspective, keeping fruits and vegetables safe for our consumption is a practice that we must all adhere to in routine, and not just in these COVID times.

The right time for food safety is now and everytime!

For cleaning vegetables and fruits with steeping in Potassium Permanganate crystal solution please click here….

Cleaning veggies with PP crystal solution (the colour is purplish and not pink! Forgive me please… I am a man who cannot think beyond basic colours !

For cleaning vegetables and fruits with usage of cooking soda please click here…. Its a link to some one else’s video. However I too endorse this as an alternative to PP crystals.

For cleaning milk packets please click here….

For a quick reminder of how to wash your hands … Surely, we all can do with a quick peek at this 1 min 26 sec video… and revise what we already know…

A quick reference on the ‘correct’ hand washing technique….

In case you would like me to answer more of your queries on issues related to food safety in the times of COVID 19 , go ahead , email me or comment below.

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