Archive for May 15th, 2020

Archaeology shows how ancient African societies managed pandemics

May 15, 2020

So many articles telling us how careless we have been towards remembering and more importantly being careful towards pandemics.

Shadreck Chirikure,Professor in Archaeology, University of Cape Town gives perspective from archaeology:

Every so often, a pandemic emerges that dramatically alters human society. The Black Death (1347 – 1351) was one; the Spanish flu of 1918 was another. Now there’s COVID-19.

Archaeologists have long studied diseases in past populations. To do so, they consider a wide array of evidence: settlement layout, burials, funerary remains, and human skeletons.

For example, because of archaeologists we know that the damaging impact of epidemics prompted the abandonment of settlements at Akrokrowa in Ghana during the early 14th century AD. About 76 infant burial sites at an abandoned settlement that now forms part of the Mapungubwe World Heritage site in the Limpopo Valley of South Africa suggest a pandemic hit the people living there after 1000 AD.

Archaeological and historical insights also expose some of the strategies that societies adopted to deal with pandemics. These included burning settlements as a disinfectant and shifting settlements to new locations. Social distancing was practised by dispersing settlements. Archaeologists’ findings at Mwenezi in southern Zimbabwe also show that it was a taboo to touch or interfere with remains of the dead, lest diseases be transmitted in this way. In the late 1960s, some members of an archaeological dig excavating 13th century house floors in Phalaborwa, South Africa, refused to keep working after encountering burials they believed were sacred. They also worried that the burials were related to a disease outbreak.

Social distancing and isolation have become watchwords during the COVID-19 pandemic. From archaeology, we know that the same practices formed a critical part of managing pandemics in historical African societies. In what is Zimbabwe today, the Shona people in the 17th and 18th centuries isolated those suffering from infectious diseases – such as leprosy – in temporary residential structures. This meant that very few people could come into contact with the sick. In some cases, corpses were burnt to avoid spreading the contagion.


Slovenia Becomes 1st European Country To Call An End To COVID-19 Epidemic

May 15, 2020

Some positive news from Europe:

Slovenia opened its borders on Friday after declaring an end to its coronavirus epidemic, despite new infections still being reported.

“Today Slovenia has the best epidemic situation in Europe, which enables us to call off the general epidemic,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, two months after the epidemic was declared.

The mountainous nation of two million people, which borders Italy, had reported some 1,500 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths as of Thursday.

But with the rate of new infections trailing off, the government ordered borders open for all EU citizens, while non-EU citizens will have to stay in quarantine.“Since the danger of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains, some general and special measures will remain in force,” it said in a statement, using a technical term for the COVID-19 disease.

Public gatherings remain banned while social distancing rules and mask wearing remain mandatory in public spaces.

Earlier this week, the government said some shopping centres and hotels would be allowed to reopen next week. It also announced football and all other team competitions could resume from May 23. 

Despite Slovenia apparently declaring an end to the epidemic, experts clarified that the disease was still present in the country.

“No other European state has so far declared the epidemic was over so we should be cautious in Slovenia too,” infectious diseases expert Mateja Logar told public television on Thursday. “The virus remains present,” Logar added.

There should be utmost caution and no celebration…

India’s Inflation decoded through power of words: Media does a great job tracking inflation

May 15, 2020

Shweta Kumari and Geetha Giddi of RBI in this May-2020 Bulletin article:

Media, as an important channel for dissemination of information, has the potential to influence public sentiment and expectations. This article utilises high
frequency unstructured information sourced from the online print media, in the specific context of retail inflation in India. Using Support Vector Machines
(SVM) classifier, a widely used technique for sentiment classification, sentiment is extracted from the news and a sentiment index is constructed. Empirical results suggest that the media sentiment index tracks inflation very well. Its directional accuracy, is high and statistically significant. Further, the Granger Causality test results also indicate that the sentiment index has significant predictive ability for retail inflation.

Can Complementary and Alternative Medicine Help Fight Covid-19?

May 15, 2020

Rajgopal Noidamboor in this Madras Courier piece:

If you have cold, put some turmeric in hot millk, add some ground pepper, cardamom and honey, froth it and drink it. It will make your throat feel good. Alternately, you can make some hot pepper rasam, mix it with rice and slurp it. To get rid of that darn cold, you coulf also mix ginger, lemon and honey to hot water and drink it. These are age-old recipes passed down from generations. Most of us remember getting these lessons from our grandmother.

Today, turmeric mixed in milk is called “Turmeric Latte” and sold in fancy cafeterias. But why does turmeric work? That’s because it is the one ingredient which has curcumin – nature’s antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Similarly, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a natural, preventative intervention.

In the fight against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health’s Ayush has creted a task force to look into how preventative complementary and alternative medicine can help fight COVID-19. 

We have commissioned an independent scholar to produee a report that looks into the science behind natural alternatives.

Today’s story by Rajgopal Noidamboor looks at the role of complementary and alternative medicine in fighting COVID-19.

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