Autism linked to lack of vitamin D in expectant women.

expectant-woman

An expectant woman./Courtesy 

Expectant women who lack Vitamin D while pregnant are more likely to have autistic children.

A study conducted by researchers at Queensland Brain Institute, shows that there is a link between Vitamin D deficiencies in expectant women and children who are suffering from autism.

The researchers who analyzed the blood of pregnant women and their offspring found those with vitamin D deficiencies scored “significantly higher” on the autism scale than those whose vitamin D levels were regular.

Lead researcher Professor John McGrath said increasing vitamin D levels could reduce the incidence of autism.

“Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism,” he said.

Vitamin D is widely known for maintaining healthy bones; there is now a solid body of evidence that links it to brain growth.

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex neuro-behavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors experienced by the autistic person.

The study examined approximately 4200 blood samples from pregnant women and their children, who were closely monitored as part of the long-term “Generation R” study in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

“This research could have important implications from a public health perspective,” Professor McGrath said.

“We would not recommend more sun exposure, because of the increased risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia. Instead, it’s feasible that a safe, inexpensive, and publicly accessible vitamin D supplement in at-risk groups may reduce the prevalence of this risk factor.” He added.

The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry journal.

KNH surgeons successfully separate conjoined twins

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The team of 60 doctors that separated the conjoined twins at the main theatre in Kenyatta National Hospital/ KNH 

Kenya is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to successfully separate sarcophagus twins.

The twins, who were born on September 4, 2014, shared the anal canal. They were conjoined in the lower region of the spine.

The delicate procedure that took 23 hours ended yesterday morning at 5am at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

“We did the surgery in three stages — to separate, to close the wounds and to create stomachs for them,” Head of paediatric surgery Fred Kabuni said hours after the surgery.

The twins had lived together for two years and two months. They will also undergo four more reconstructive surgeries after their wounds have healed.

“We have successfully separated the babies, but we still have a lot of reconstruction to do. We must reconstruct the anal again so they each have the capacity to pass their individual stool.

Their genitalia and skin defect will be reconstructed as well.” Kabuni said. The two became conjoined during their formation in their mother’s womb.

“When they were being separated, one area got stuck. This is the area where one passes stool. Each of them had a rectum and a spinal cord,” surgeon Nimrod Wang’ombe said.

The twins will be monitored for one month to check on their progress.

They are still in the ICU. Specialists involved in the surgery included plastic surgeons, anaesthetists,neurosurgeons reconstructive surgeons and nurses.

Kabuni said they waited for two years to perform the surgery to allow development of key organs and muscles.

“Surgery of this nature is a clear manifestation that conjoined twins in this country and our neighbouring countries do not have to travel overseas for the service,” acting KNH CEO Thomas Mutie said. “It is testimony the country is endowed with medical specialists who can handle human health problems.”

Adolescents left out in the fight against HIV

When the first HIV case was reported in Kenya in the late 80s, it was a seen as a plague that no one wanted to be associated with. Not much awareness was reported was created about it and neither did the government allocate funds to put those who tested positive on treatment.

Hundreds of people died during this time because they were not able to access treatment. Those who were lucky, to receive treatment had relatives outside the country that would send the drugs to them as it was much cheaper that way.

Despite the progress made in the fight against HIV 31 years later, it still remains one of Kenyas most significant public health challenges. Kenya might not achieve its target of a HIV free country by 2030 owing to the fact that not all people who are HIV positive can access care and treatment services.

Even though the prevalence of the virus has declined among adults, non-governmental organizations are raising concerns over the rate of new infections recorded among adolescents and young people.

About 101,560 new HIV infections are recorded annually in the country. Data from the National Aids Control Council shows that 12,940 are in children, 50, 530 among women and 38,090 in men.

The latest figures that will be released by NACC in a few weeks suggest that almost half of the new infections are among adolescents and young people. The figures suggest that 46% of infections are from this group. In 2014, the percentage of new infections among this group stood at 29%. More than 9,700 adolescents died during the same year as a result Of AIDS.

HIV TEST.jpg

A person taking the HIV test to know his status. PHOTO/COURTESY 

With Kenya having 435,224 adolescents living with HIV, the government and non –governmental organizations s need to come up with better ways to ensure that those who are positive can access treatment and prevent those who aren’t infected from getting the virus.

Stigma and discrimination among those living positively especially among those between 15 and 24 years is cited as the main reason as to why they are not taking medicines.

The worst part is that the stigma does not come from friends and neighbors; it comes from families, and close relatives of those living positively.  These are the people who are supposed to support their loved ones so that their quality of life can improve by getting treatment eating healthy.

The stigma and discrimination rates in the country currently stands at 60% with areas most affected in the country being Garissa, Turkana, Mandera and Marsabit.

One thing that people need to know is that HIV is not a death sentence. One can be able to live a healthy life with the help of treatment which is available.

However the only way that the medicines can work is for a person to first accept his or her HIV status. Remember, you cannot change one’s HIV status but you can change your attitude.

Aids Council launches research hub dubbed Maisha Maarifa

 

Mailu and Nduku

Health CS Cleopa Mailu with National Aids Control Council executive director Nduku Kilonzo. Photo/Courtesy

Health CS Cleopa Mailu with National Aids Control Council executive director Nduku Kilonzo.

The National Aids Control Council, NACC has launched the first online research hub in East and Central Africa.

The online platform dubbed Maisha Maarifa research Hub will help local researchers share their findings in one platform which can be accessed by different stakeholders.

The Hub can be accessed through an internet-enabled device through this web address: www.maishamaarifa.or.ke

Speaking at the launch of the hub health CS Cleopa Mailu said that the data shared in the platform will help in coming up with better policies in the fight against HIV in the country.

“This hub is the first of its kind not only in the country but in the region. It is interactive in nature allowing online debates on topical issues among communities in practice”, Mailu said.

This is important not only to fulfill the constitutional requirements but also tap into the experience of highly experienced Kenyans researchers.” he said.

Mailu added that the hub will promote evidence-based programming and policy formulation through research by availing research reports of studies in Kenya that may not have been drafted into peer-reviewed published manuscripts which often contain rich quality information that is not shared in any platform

Approximately 2000 research proposals are presented monthly to over 20 ethical review boards in the country however once their paper has been finalized, the researchers have nowhere to publish the data.

This in turn means that there must be much duplication in research protocols and many repeated mistakes as well as unnoticed successes that remain in the shelves of institutions and researchers.

“I believe that the hub will provide the much needed and central location where studies done in Kenya on HIV and related co-morbidities, Sexual and Reproductive Health care are collated and availed publicly,” the CS said.

#147NotJustANumber…One year later

 

Death  first

A lady mourning. Photo/Courtesy

 

Today marks exactly one year after the Garrisa terrorist attack.

A day that will never be forgotten by the families and friends of those who lost their loved ones.

148 people died.

142 of them were students and dreamers, pursuing their ambition for a better life.

But there life was cut short on this day last year.

Death last

Photo/Courtesy 

As we remember them today, let us all remember the importance of appreciating the people who love and care for us, as none of knows what will happen tomorrow.

Let them know what you feel, don’t keep it to yourself.

Share it so that you don’t live with regrets.

As the saying goes; you never know death until you experience it yourself.

To those who lost their lives today in the hands of terrorists, may you all rest in eternal peace.

 

No entry to Kenya for Angolans without valid yellow fever certificates

yellow fever

Effects of yellow fever. Photo/Courtesy 

Angolans who do not have valid yellow fever certificates will be denied entry into the country, the government has said, following two cases.

Medical services director Jackson Kioko said those who have the certificates should have been vaccinated ten days before the intended day of travel.

Kioko added in a statement to newsrooms on Friday that Kenyans travelling from Angola who do not have valid yellow fever certificates will be isolated. He said they will be held at the entry points until all tests are done.

The director urged those who wish to travel to Angola or any other country with a yellow fever outbreak to be vaccinated at least ten days before the day of travel.

He said those who will not have certificates will not be allowed to leave the country.

A man from South C, Nairobi, who had been diagnosed with yellow fever was discharged from Kenyatta National Hospital on Thursday evening.

The first case was of a man who had also returned from Angola. He was referred from a clinic in Eastleigh estate to KNH where he died on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization has said that at least 158 people have died in Angola, with over 50 deaths reported last month, warning the disease could be spreading very fast.

Angola lies in the yellow fever belt of Africa where 90 per cent of about 60,000 annual global deaths occur due to the disease, according to WHO data.

There is no specific treatment for the viral disease which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes.

Vaccination is the best preventive measure against it.

This article was first published in The Star Newspaper. 

CAFÉ DELI AND DELICATEESSEN.

Looking for café to sit down, bond with friends or have a meeting? Look no further Café Deli and Delicatessen is the café to visit.

Cafe Deli cup

A cup of cappuccino/ Cafe Deli

I promised myself that 2015 won’t end without tasting what Café Deli offers to her clients. I must confess, I’ve been there twice.

My favorite branch is the one along Kenyatta Avenue. It’s quite spacious compared to the other branches in the CBD.

It was around 7.30pm. I was leaving class to meet my pal at I & M building. We knew we to have coffee but didn’t know which café.

Right there, we saw Café Deli across the road, the good thing about it, there’s always room for one more.

On walking inside, we got the perfect spot, a booth.

Long Shot Kenyatta Avenue

A view of the Kenyatta Avenue Branch/ Cafe Deli

My pal could not understand my obsession with the booth so I started telling him the story behind it. (Watch 2 broke girls)

We sat down and one of the waiters came to take our order.  We both ordered double lattes but I had to try one of their pastries. I had their signature cake, Blue velvet.

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Double lattes

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Blue Velvet cake

The cake was perfect, not too sweet. Even though the pastry chef was a bit selfish on the whipped cream, I enjoyed it nevertheless.

The décor is clean and simple and the ambience is laid back. The paintings on the wall signified the importance of embracing Africa Culture and art as well.

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Some of the at work in Cafe Deli.

In case you visit Café Deli ensure to try their;

  1. Blue velvet cake.

     2. Milkshakes.

     3. Pork ribs.

My ratings; 

Ambiance – 7/10

Food – 7/10

Service – 6/10

Remember, food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed.

Thanks for stopping by. Xoxo.

PASTA WEEK: Festa Della Pasta.

If you know an Italian very well or anything about Italy, you’d know that Pasta is one food they can’t live without.

And I’m pretty sure there are Kenyans who love Italian food.

In a bid to celebrate Italy’s National Dish, all Mediterraneo Restaurants are this week offering traditional and authentic pasta dishes.  The event dubbed Fella Della Pasta has amazing offers on pasta where you buy one pasta dish and get one free.

The event started on Monday 23rd November and will run till Sunday.

 

Lasagne

Meat Lasagne . pic Courtesy of Meditarraneo Restaurant. 

The idea came from the restaurant owner Mediterraneo owner Giuliano Zanette. Here’s a sneak peak of what you should try out this week.

 

FESTA DELLA PASTA

A mediterrano Special Event.

Nov 23rd to 29th

 To Eat…

Choose one of the pasta specials below and

receive a second, of equal or lesser value, on the

house.

V Penne in a Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce – Ksh1,250

V Fusilli in a Creamy Mushroom White Sauce – Ksh1,350

V Vegetarian Lasagne – Ksh1,300

V Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach in a Tomato and Basil Sauce – Ksh 1250

V Rigatoni alla Romana in Olive Oil, Pecorino Cheese and Black Pepper – Ksh1,450

Farfalle with Smoked Sailfish, Asparagus Tips and Pink Sauce – Ksh1,650

Meat Lasagne – Ksh1,300

Spaghetti with Spicy Prawns, Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Ksh1,450

Casarecce “all’Amatriciana’’ with Onions, Tomato and Speck – Ksh1,450

Tagliatelle “alla Carbonara’’ with Cream,

Egg, Bacon and Parmesan – Ksh1,350

To Drink…

Those taking advantage of our Festa della Pasta

menu also have the opportunity to sample some

fine Italian ‘vino’. Choose one of the below wines from Sicily and receive a second glass on the

house.

Nero D’avola (Red) glass at Ksh500

Chardonnay Pinot Grigio (White) glass at Ksh500

The best thing about this deal is that the prices are affordable ranging from 1250 – 1800.

This is an offer that you wouldn’t want to miss.

See you on Sunday Chef Dario!

WE DIDN’T SETTLE OUR BILL!

I know your thinking this sort of thing happens only in movies but no!!! This happened in Nairobi.

A friend of mine decided to invite me for a cup of coffee after class to catch up since we had not seen each other in a long time. We met at this restaurant called Orient Cuisine. It was the first time I set foot in that place and I liked it. I couldn’t stop staring at the place because it was just too beautiful. The restaurant has a family section where family or friends can bond, a section where those who wish to smoke shisha can and the other section is open to all.

The place had a touch of brown and yellow…a combination that most restaurants would not embrace. Even with the all the stuff I’ve said about this place,I think after reading this piece you might want to go there or not.

We entered the restaurant at around 7.30pm started laughing and talking about work, school basically catching up then it hit us that no waiter had come to take our order thirty minutes on.

DL: Eish is it just me ama these waiters don’t feel like serving us.

(From 7.30 to 8pm they kept on passing us like we didn’t exist so I had to raise my hand as if I was in class for us to get noticed. Then a waiter came to our table)

Odhisi: Hi could we please have the menu?

Waiter: Sawa.

That was at 8pm. She took ten minutes to bring the menu and another 20 minutes to take our order. So I raised my hand again.

Odhisi: (Trying to fake a smile) Sasa, unaitwa?

Waiter:* Khadija (not her real name)

Odhisi: *Khadija, yaani tangu tuingie nyinyi hu serve watu na moods?

*Khadija : Hapana, aki pole nijutu nikona stress zangu?

Odhisi : Eeeh pole lakini ata hao wengine pia wako na stress?

*Khadija : Hapana, kila mtu ako to poa ni huyu cashier ndio anafanya hesabu hazieleweki.

DL : Eeeh sawa sasa mi nataka black tea.

Odhisi : na mi nataka maji moto, ndimu na honey kama hakuna double latte will do.

*Khadija : Sawa.

Instead of going to get our order she goes back to the table where she was and starts laughing with another customer…and we waited…well we were checking out the place, so yeah.

She brought our tea after another 25 minutes. And I was so shocked to see how ‘big’ a double latte looks like so I had to ask.

Odhisi : *Khadija, eeh mi sikuwa nataka single nilisema double.

Single latte

Single Latte. 

*Khadija : Si ndio hii

Odhisi : Ai uko sure?

*Khadija : Eeeh

DL : Kwani how does a double latte look like?

Odhisi : Like this…(I had to show DL how a double latte looks like.)

double latte

Double Latte.

Then she went on to laugh with the customer she was with. After 45 mins we were done. Then we waited for the bill again for another thirty minutes…untill we gave up.

The waiter later disappeared and no one came to give us our bill. So when we went to check who can come give us our bill, one guy who I think was the cashier was smoking shisha and two other ladies were laughing. The total amount was Ksh 340.

And that’s how we left the restaurant, and no one followed us.

Autism: Don’t try to cure us, just understand us.

I sit down with Elizabeth Gachie Dunlop, a teacher at Nairobi School. Elizabeth is a mother of three children, a boy and two girls, one who is autistic.

She is all tears after she sees her daughter, 13-year-old Melissa Dunlop, typing words from a book.

“I am shocked! I didn’t know she can do that. She can type! It’s absolutely amazing. When you’re told that somebody will not be able to have any words and now she can type words from a book. It’s simply a miracle,” she exclaims.

Melissa was born in 2001 and was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, after numerous tests that included brain function tests and epilepsy tests.

Elizabeth tells me Melissa used to cry a lot when she was a baby. She made no eye contact with her and could not speak.

“She never had a sound. There was this time she imitated the sound of bird, ah! That’s when she was two years old…and because she used to cry a lot, people around me tried to understand why she was crying. They kept saying that I didn’t feed her enough. So each time she cried, I had to feed her…and as a result of that she now has a problem eating.”

Melisa Dunlop

Melisa Dunlop, who has autism, with her carers at Kaizora.

Even though Elizabeth’s family was very supportive, she admits facing a lot of stigma from some of her friends. “Each time my friends had birthday parties some would send me invites and say, “only the first child can come but not Melissa.”

“I took it personally, I wanted to dislike them. But eventually I stopped seeing them because I learnt that they were not my real friends.”

Elizabeth takes a deep breath. She is still grateful to her friends because their actions drew her closer to her child. She admits she is very protective of Melissa and does not allow her to go to new places alone.

Melissa now attends classes at Kaziora Consultants, a special needs school in Nairobi, where she is taught how to read, write and do other basic things. She enjoys swimming and keeping the house tidy.

Millicent Atieno*(a mother who requested we don’t use her real name) also has an autistic child at the school. She learnt that her child was diagnosed as autistic at 18 months.

“Fortunately, my child’s paediatrician noticed that he delayed in meeting the milestones in certain ages such as talking, walking and pairing two words. It was then that he realized that he is autistic.”

“During that same period, he also recommended that Luther* (not the child’s real name) attends speech therapy so that he can communicate,” Atieno adds.

She says at two, Luther did not have any eye contact with her, had difficulties making friends and played the same video game repetitively.

“As a mother, I had a feeling that something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was also very concerned that he walked later than most kids and was not speaking very well like his peers,” she says. Luther, now five years old, can speak a few words he learnt at the speech classes.

He enjoys playing outside. But he is only allowed to play after he has finished his chores, including eating food, and changing clothes. He is put on a schedule to reduce any form of aggression.

“We call it his reward,” says Atieno. Both Elizabeth and Atieno were able to identify a few symptoms that are associated to autism. Both kids did not have eye contact, could not speak at two and cried a lot.

Parents of younger children cannot tell if a child is autistic or not. Autism revolves around behavioural difficulties, social and communication skills, parents need to look out for the following symptoms: no eye contact, repeating an activity numerous times, playing alone, crying a lot and lack of speech, experts say.

The condition is a neuro-developmental disorder, fully known as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as it is viewed as a spectrum going from high functioning to low functioning.

Data from the US Centre for Disease and Control show that one in every 68 children there are autistic. Pooja Panesa, the proprietor of Kaziora school for autistic children in Nairobi, says figures in Kenya could be similar, noting that many parents of autistic children, especially those from rural areas, never really identify the problem.

“This is where we find people who say that when a child has autism, they believe that the mother is cursed, while others say it’s black magic. As a result, the children are tied to a piece of furniture at home while others are beaten by their parents because they think that they are dumb, but what they don’t know is that they are autistic,” says Pooja.

April is the Autism Awareness month globally. Pooja says autism can only be detected when a child is one and a half years old through numerous tests. However, in Kenya, most children are diagnosed at three years because their parents did not see the red flags early.

Some people in rural areas associate autism with witchcraft due to lack of awareness. Atieno and Elizabeth say they were lucky paediatricians identified what was wrong with their children early.
Elizabeth says that the government needs to create awareness about the disorder, as many urban mothers also don’t know about it.

“The same way the government is creating awareness on cancer, HIV/Aids, and non- communicable diseases, we would like to see them create awareness on autism so that people can be more aware about it,” Atieno says.

Elizabeth says the government also needs to educate the public on dyslexia so people do not confuse the two.
Dyslexia involves difficulty in reading and interpreting words. A dyslexic child will concentrate on words for a long period compared with other children.
Kaizora Consultants has 15 students and 14 teachers. Out of the 14 staff members, 6 are university graduates. Pooja says the six underwent more training at Kaizora, because most courses offered in universities only focus on counselling and psychology.

“What we add to the graduates is what we call applied behaviour analysis. This analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. The field of behaviour analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviours and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning,” she says.

Studies are individualized. Each student has their own timetable. Joe Mwenda, a teacher at the school, says the children have different needs. Some have low functioning autism while others have high functioning autism, hence the different schedules.

The timetables have the student’s name at the top and are on hang on a wall. They are placed on a table near the reception where students can check which subject they are having. The subjects include speech therapy, horse riding, Mathematics, English, Computer classes and colouring.

Pooja says that if the government created more awareness about the disorder, more people would be aware of it and find ways to bring up their children.

This article was first published on The Star Newspaper