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Alert: Zika Can Be Transmitted By Sexual Contact

Alert: Zika Can Be Transmitted By Sexual Contact

The future of human health is under threat with the WHO (World Health Organisation) declaring the Zika virus infection to be a ‘public health emergency of international concern’. Although, it was previously known that the Zika virus was transferred by infected mosquito bites from the Aedes genus, recent reports claim that it can also be transmitted via sexual contact. There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus.

The Zika outbreak

The Zika virus itself is however not a recent phenomenon, with the virus first being isolated in 1947 and deriving its name from the Zika Forest of Uganda. The virus is also closely related to the dengue, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis viruses, with its carriers being the day-time Aedes mosquitoes. Initially, the infection was confined to the narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia, but it spread eastwards across the Pacific Ocean from 2007-2016, reaching the Americas and began infecting people on a global scale, resulting in the outbreak of the 2015-16 Zika virus epidemic.

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Perhaps, the most difficult part about containing the infection is the fact that only one out of five people affected actually shows the symptoms, making it very difficult to diagnose. Furthermore, a pregnant mother may also transfer the virus to her fetus which may lead to birth defects such as microcephaly or incomplete brain development. However for most people, the Zika virus causes only mild, flu-like symptoms, although in adults, it is also connected to the Guillan-Barrè syndrome wherein the immune system nerves are affected, causing muscle paralysis and weakness.

The Zika outbreak began in Brazil, and has spread to other South American and Central American countries, Caribbean island and has climbed upwards to Mexico. In fact in March 2016, Zika was isolated from a 2014 blood sample of a man in Bangladesh as part of a retrospective study. As of August 1, the virus has even reached Florida’s mosquitoes and can travel further north. 14 cases of infection have already been reported in South Florida. Cases of death have also been reported.

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As per reports,“the first reported occurrence of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus” seems to have come from New York City. So far, 15 cases of infection in the US have been confirmed to have been transmitted via sex. Studies also suggest that the virus remains in the semen for as long as 93 days. U.S. travellers are also responsible for bringing Zika back with them with the CDC reporting 2245 travel-linked cases and 8000 local infections in the country.

Measures You Can Take:

Attempts are being made to contain the infection as well as develop a vaccine to immunise the people against the virus. But prevention is better than cure, and here are some steps which we can take to protect ourselves from the deadly infection.

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Prevent Mosquito Bites:
1. Use EPA-registered insect repellants
2. Wear long-sleeved clothes
3. Keep doors and windows closed
4. Empty buckets and flower pots of standing or stagnant water around your house.
5. Keep rooms and toilets clean.

Practise Safe Sex:
1. People living in Zika-infected areas should practise safe sex (including condoms) or abstain from sexual activity.
2. Abstain from sexual activity throughout the pregnancy cycle.
3. If you’re returning from a Zika-infected area, abstain from sex or practise safe sex for at least 8 weeks.
4. If you experience Zika symptoms, abstain from sex or practise safe sex for at least 6 months, particularly if you’re planning a pregnancy.
5. Avoid sharing sex toys.
6. Abstaining from sex negates the possibility of getting Zika via sex.

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Do Not Travel To Zika-Infected Countries
1. Pregnant women should in particular not travel to Zika-infected areas.
2. Do not travel to a Zika-infected place unless it’s an emergency, and if you do, take necessary precautions.

Featured photo credit: naturegirl 78 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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