iClub Daily Current Affairs : 20 April 2019

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Navy to take part in fleet review in China

Topic : GS Paper-2 International relations

The Indian Navy has sent two ships to take part in the International Fleet Review to be held in Qingdao, China, later this month as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

More in news:

• The ships are stealth destroyer INS Kolkata and fleet tanker INS Shakti.

• Pakistan’s Navy is not taking part in the event.

• The visit of the Navy’s most potent destroyer and versatile fleet support ship showcases India’s prowess, reach and sustainability, besides indigenous ship-building capability. The Indian delegation is being led by the Chief of Staff of the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command, who is of the rank of Rear-Admiral.

• As a reciprocal gesture and as part of the efforts to promote military cooperation, China has agreed to send its ships on port calls to India.

• The Indian Navy had last held an International Fleet Review in February 2016, in which 50 navies of different countries took part with nearly 100 warships.

Cases of measles show alarming rise, warns WHO

Topic : GS Paper-2 Health

World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the number of cases of measles one of the world’s most contagious diseases is climbing.

More in news:

• Preliminary global data shows that reported cases rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

• In 2017, the most recent year for which estimates are available, it caused close to 1,10,000 deaths. Worse, in recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.

• Measles has the potential to be extremely severe. Even in high-income countries, complications result in hospitalisation in up to a quarter of cases, and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss.

• The actual numbers of cases captured in global estimates will also be considerably higher than those reported.

• There is estimate that less than 1 in 10 cases are reported globally, with variations by region. With this as the background to date, 2019 has seen 170 countries report 1,12,163 measles cases to WHO. As of this time last year, there were 28,124 measles cases from 163 countries. Globally, this is almost a 300% increase.

• Countries with the most reported cases include Madagascar, Ukraine, India, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Chad, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

India at risk

• In India, measles is still one of the leading causes of death in young children. About 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose, meaning that if only 80% are fully immunised, an outbreak is likely. We have to ensure herd immunity to stay ahead of the disease.

• WHO’s African region has recorded a 700% increase, the region of the Americas 60%, the European region 300%, the Eastern Mediterranean 100% and 40% increases have been observed in South-east Asia and the Western Pacific.

• Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rise in cases. Current outbreaks include those from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths mostly among young children.

• The disease is almost entirely preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. For several years, however, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85%. This is still short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people, in many communities, at risk. Second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67%.

Measles:

• Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus.

Signs and symptoms

• The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days).

• Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

• Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Who is at risk?

• Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.

• Measles is still common in many developing countries particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.

Transmission

• Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

Treatment
• No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus.

• Severe complications from measles can be avoided through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution.

• All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%.

Prevention

• Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with high case and death rates, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.

• The measles vaccine is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines. It is equally safe and effective in the single or combined form. Adding rubella to measles vaccine increases the cost only slightly, and allows for shared delivery and administration costs.

WHO response

• In 2010, the World Health Assembly established 3 milestones towards the future eradication of measles to be achieved by 2015:

1) Increase routine coverage with the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) by more than 90% nationally and more than 80% in every district.

2) Reduce and maintain annual measles incidence to less than 5 cases per million.

3) Reduce estimated measles mortality by more than 95% from the 2000 estimate.

Tendered Vote

Topic : GS Paper-2 Polity

Do you know that you can still exercise your franchise even if someone else has done it in your name?

• That power given to a voter to bypass identity theft and exercise your right to vote is called the Tendered Vote.

• The Tendered Vote, like the Challenged Vote, is defined in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.

• Here is what it stipulates:

a. If a person representing himself to be a particular elector applies for a ballot paper after another person has already voted as such elector, he shall, on satisfactorily answering such questions relating to his identity as the presiding officer may ask, be entitled, subject to the provisions of this rule, to mark a tendered ballot paper in the same manner as any other elector.

b. Every such person shall, before being supplied with a tendered ballot paper, sign his name against the entry relating to him in a list in Form 15.

• A tendered ballot paper shall be the same as the other ballot papers used at the polling except that

a) Such tendered ballot paper shall be serially the last in the bundle of ballot papers issued for use at the polling station.

b) Such tendered ballot paper and its counterfoil shall be endorsed on the back with the words “tendered ballot paper” by the presiding officer in his own hand and signed by him.

• The elector, after marking a tendered ballot paper in the voting compartment and folding it, shall, instead of putting it into the ballot box, give it to the presiding officer, who shall place it in a cover specially kept for the purpose.

• Provided that where such elector is a member of a political party in an election to fill a seat or seats in the Council of States, the presiding officer shall, before placing the tendered ballot paper in the said cover, allow the authorised agent of that political party to verify as to which candidate the elector has cast his vote.

• For the purposes of this rule, “authorised agent”, in respect of a political party, means an authorised agent appointed to election, in a council constituency and, by assembly members other than by postal ballot by that political party.
As per judiciary, tendered votes are to be considered only when they are likely to affect the outcome of the election, that is, when the margin of victory is less than the number of tendered vote.

Ganga has higher proportion of antibacterial agents

Topic : GS Paper-3 Environment

A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.

More in the report:

• Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches has more of them.

• The study, ‘Assessment of Water Quality and Sediment to Understand Special Properties of River Ganga,’ began in 2016 and was conducted by the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab.

• The NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi (a feeder river of the Ganga) and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.

• Five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada and their numbers compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water. Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.

• In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates.

• Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers. Thus, samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.

• However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river. For instance, the stretch from Gomukh to Tehri had 33% more bacteriophage isolates than from Mana to Haridwar, and Bijnor to Varanasi. In the stretch from Patna to Gangasagar, the bacteriophages were only 60% of that in the Gomukh to Tehri stretch.

• The super-phage isolated from Ganga and decoded for its lysine gene and cloned to produce lysine protein at IIT Roorkee holds great potential as an antibacterial pharmaceutical.

Universe’s first molecule detected in space

Topic : GS Paper-3 Science and Technology

Scientists have detected the most ancient type of molecule in our universe in space for the first time ever.

More in news:

• Helium hydride ion (HeH+) was the first molecule that formed when, almost 14 billion years ago, falling temperatures in the young universe allowed recombination of the light elements produced in the Big Bang.

• At that time, ionised hydrogen and neutral helium atoms reacted to form HeH+, said researchers from The Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Germany.

• Despite its importance in the history of the early Universe, HeH+ has so far escaped detection in astrophysical nebulae cloud of gas and dust in outer space.

How this was formed?

• During the dawn of chemistry when the temperature in the young universe had fallen below 4000 Kelvin, the ions of the light elements (hydrogen, helium, deuterium and traces of lithium) produced in Big Bang nucleosynthesis recombined in reverse order of their ionisation potential.

• Helium combined first with free electrons to form the first ever neutral atom, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

• At that time hydrogen was still ionised or present in form of bare protons. Helium atoms combined with these protons into the helium hydride ion HeH+, the universe’s first molecular bond.

• As recombination progressed, HeH+ reacted with then neutral hydrogen and created a first path to the formation of molecular hydrogen marking the beginning of the modern universe.

• Despite its unquestioned importance in the history of the early Universe, the HeH+ molecule has so far escaped detection in interstellar space.

In the late 1970s, astro-chemical models suggested the possibility that HeH+ might exist at detectable abundances in local astrophysical nebulae, and would be most easily observed in so-called planetary nebula, ejected by Sun-like stars in the last stage of their lifetime.

• The hard radiation field produced by the central white dwarf star with a temperature of more than 100,000 degrees drives ionisation fronts into the ejected envelope, where HeH+ is predicted to form.

• The molecule will emit its strongest spectral line at a characteristic wavelength of 0.149 mm.

• However, Earth’s atmosphere is opaque at this wavelength for ground-based observatories, requiring this search to be performed from space or a high-flying observatory like SOFIA cruising above the absorbing layers of the lower atmosphere.

What next?

• With recent advancements in terahertz technologies it has now become possible to perform high-resolution spectroscopy at the required far-infrared wavelength.

• The discovery of HeH+ is the demonstration of nature’s tendency to form molecules.

The detection of this special molecule brings a long search to a happy ending, and eliminates doubts that we might not understand the underlying formation and destruction as well as we thought.

Editorial Section :

Either way, the news is bad – The Hindu

A dialogue with our fragile past – The Hindu

Humanise the law – The Hindu

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