Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic

What is it?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

How many swine flu viruses are there?
Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. Pigs can be infected by avian influenza and human influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. When influenza viruses from different species infect pigs, the viruses can reassort (i.e. swap genes) and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. Over the years, different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged. At this time, there are four main influenza type A virus subtypes that have been isolated in pigs: H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. However, most of the recently isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.

1976 U.S. Outbreak
On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix felt tired and weak. He died the next day and four of his fellow soldiers were later hospitalized. Two weeks after his death, health officials announced that swine flu was the cause of death and that this strain of flu appeared to be closely related to the strain involved in the 1918 flu pandemic. Alarmed public-health officials decided that action must be taken to head off another major pandemic. The vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, but about 24% of the population had been vaccinated by the time the program was canceled.

2007 Philippine Outbreak
On August 20, 2007 Department of Agriculture officers investigated the outbreak of swine flu in Nueva Ecija and Central Luzon, Philippines. The mortality rate is less than 10% for swine flu, if there are no complications like hog cholera. On July 27, 2007, the Philippine National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) raised a hog cholera "red alert" warning over Metro Manila and 5 regions of Luzon after the disease spread to backyard pig farms in Bulacan and Pampanga, even if these tested negative for the swine flu virus.

2009 Mexico Outbreak
In March and April 2009, more than 1,000 cases of swine flu in humans were detected in Mexico, and more than 80 deaths are suspected to have a connection with the virus. As of April 25, 2009 there are 11 laboratory confirmed cases in the southwestern United States and in Kansas, and several suspected cases in the New York City metropolitan area. The first announcement of the outbreak in Mexico was documented on April 23, 2009. Some of the cases have been confirmed by the World Health Organization to be due to a new genetic strain of H1N1. The new strain has been confirmed in 16 of the deaths and 44 others are being tested as of April 24, 2009. The Mexican fatalities are said to be mainly young adults, a hallmark of pandemic flu.

On April 26, the New Zealand Minister of Health confirmed that 22 students returning from a school trip from Mexico had flu-like symptoms (most likely swine flu). 13 of the students with flu-like symptoms were tested and 10 tested positive for Influenza A, their cases strongly suspected to be the swine flu strain. However there is a possibility that the infected are not infected with the swine flu but other forms of the flu. The government has suggested that citizens of New Zealand with flu-like symptoms should see their physician immediately.

Is there a vaccine for swine flu?
Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine will likely help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1 viruses.

(Source: and

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baby Loves Dadsi, Momsi, and Pacifier

My wife and I used to envy parents who were blessed with babies who easily find comfort in a well-ventilated and soft-padded crib while suckling a warm bottle of milk. With less pain in the back, parents can then rest easy on morning weekends, have breakfast together, and take pleasure in watching their baby sleep.

Not our baby, she’s the type that would cause hair-pulling trauma to first time parents. Even though we had a couple of baby books, none can seem to explain why she cries a lot – and I mean A LOT! If the crying was not addressed the first few minutes, it usually extends to a concert-length of an hour or more. Her uncontrollably crying makes us panic we couldn’t sleep.

So whenever our baby starts to cry, we cycle through our compiled list of baby-soothing remedies - from giving milk to checking the diapers, and out-of-tune singing to lulling her to sleep. If none of those work, we call her lola (ehehehe). Grannies have a very high tolerance in handling hysterical toddlers.

My wife, who is fond of shopping items for our baby, decided to include a pacifier. We’ve been avoiding pacifiers in stores as books generally do not approve of it as well as most parents we know of. They say it has an awkward effect on the teeth’s growth. And since back then our baby only has gums, we figured it’s safe to try.

We immediately had the pacifier sterilized upon arriving home. Baby began crying and we were again cycling through our “parents stop baby from crying” TO DO list. On the bottommost part of the list was to carry and hush her to sleep. But instead of doing that, we gave her the pacifier.

She started suckling and it was funny for us. She doesn’t seem to mind that there’s no milk coming out. Probably because it was just minutes since she last finished her milk. Slowly she started to relax and closed her eyes.

And before we knew she was asleep, still sucking though. We waited a few more minutes and then gently pulled the pacifier out.

Pacifier use help toddlers become comfortable and give them a means for self-relaxation. Parents shouldn’t be exceedingly upset over their babies wanting to use a pacifier.

For utmost baby’s comfort and security, choose a pacifier from a trusted brand. Others break easily and would pose choking risks. They also come in different shapes and sizes so choose one that’s right for her age.

(Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Time Pregnancy

Getting married is one of the most stressful and luxurious event in my life. So right after marriage my wife and I agreed not to have any babies, at least not within the first year. Or so that was our plan.

Barely a month after marriage, our in-laws were lightly throwing off cues that they want to become grandparents soon. Aah ok, let’s wait and see – after a year that is (ehehehe).

Couple more months passed and the light cues have turned to in-your-face inquisition as to whether my wife is already positive or what. It has even come to a point that if “nothing” happens in the coming months my in-laws would drag me to a fertility expert for a count.

Was I being threatened? Well, in a way, yes. My in-laws feared that their remaining years won’t last that much to see their would-be grandchild reach puberty.

Halfway through the first year of our marriage, my wife felt the most unusual dawn ever. She feels nauseous and craving for something at the same time. A few drips on pregnancy kit proved positive. I felt relieved more than being happy – relieved that my in-laws would no longer hound me.

Pre-natal check-up the next day confirmed that she was already two months pregnant. Further test revealed “spotting” as a result of strenuous activity. Her obstetrician advised to take at least two weeks rest with medication or risk losing the baby. No more pilates sessions for her.

A follow-up check at the end of second week showed considerable reduction in spotting. She was given a go signal to resume work.

The rest of her days up to the hour she gave birth were crammed with weird cravings, odd dislikes, abdominal pains, awkward stances, swollen nose and limbs, uncontrollable farts, and indescribable joy beyond anything we had ever experienced.

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kid Yells Back at Mom

It’s fairly easy to say not to show your angry emotions in front of kids. It scares them. Too much of it and it makes them cry. Children frequently exposed to heated confrontations will make them think it’s a normal behavior. Sooner or later they will adapt and then learn by imitating. Get the idea what’s going to happen next?

I have a gorgeous 3 year old baby daughter. Yes, at her age, I still consider her my baby. She’s my first and also the first to make my in-laws grandparents. Naturally she gets the best spoils from everyone else in the family. Whatever my baby desires, she gets it.

I know what you’re thinking. No, she’s not a bratty kid - she just g-gets what… s-she… wants. Ok I admit, her lolo and lola inadvertently nurtured her into a cute little monster.

My baby stays with her grannies most of the day because… you know – busy parents. She cries louder t louder than most 7-year olds, by the way, probably the reason why she’s constantly pampered with goodies from their sari-sari store, her lola found it amusing when she asks for more.

The problem with this is our daughter eventually favored junk food over proper meals. This is understandable. For me, candies and chocolates do taste better than rice and vegetable soup. Makes me wonder if I passed on this trait genetically to my daughter.

Now my wife who is ever SO patient at work dealing with err… patients, is not so (one more time) patient with our daughter’s table manners. She will try to use her arsenal of persuasion techniques just so our baby would finish her meal. Each scoop is a struggle between mother and daughter – one giving the best possible meal on the table and the other asking for the most flavorsome candy at lola’s store.

An epic meal battle ensues leaving me the only winner – I was able to finish my plate (burp).

My wife ends up frustrated and angry, screeching words that would make ear plugs on top of your wish lists. Baby daughter on the other hand, now crying from the trauma of mommy’s noise barrage, is still asking for that candy.

Almost every feeding scenario between them would end up like this. But with each time our daughter cries less and starts to deal (imitate actually) with mommy. She’ll either give mommy a shrug or repeat what mommy has just yelled.

The first time she return-screamed was really fascinating for us. Wow… she’s got attitude! This should be included in her milestones. But the more she does it, the more we realize it really is not entertaining.

Maybe my wife has gotten too loud too many times enforcing discipline that our daughter got the wrong impression. Time for calm daddy to intervene and try to clear things up a bit more (gulp) easily. At that time though, I have exactly no idea of what to say.

I just carried my daughter to another room explaining gently that it is not proper for her to shout back at mom. That mommy is only doing it for her to obey. That she may not always get what she wants but mom and dad will always give what is best for her.

(Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Practical Buying Through eBay

Have you ever wanted to buy a digital camera but just can’t afford it yet (at least not for the next couple of years)? Have you been skipping meals for days (not counting the last few months) that you’re barely indistinguishable from an Egyptian mummy just to save up on your dream 8GB iPhone? Did you suddenly camouflage yourself as an ever obedient whiz kid look-a-like hoping that your (now suspicious) parents would increase your allowance? Hmm…

With the global economic decline you’re better opt saving for your future. Just relax, take it easy. Think twice before spending that hard-earned cash. But if you do are intent on getting it, that no Berlin wall or piranha-infested river is going to stop you anyway, might as well make sure your every penny counts.

But how can you possibly get the best bang for your buck? Well for one, don’t buy on impulse. Let it soak in the geek market for a while, listen for feedbacks. See if the product functions as advertised or find out which store offers the most discount.

Ok then, assuming that you now have a target store in mind, it still may not be the cheapest place to buy. Bear in mind that stores get their product from suppliers who in turn import them from somewhere else. Each of this transfer necessitates an overhead cost which is eventually passed on to consumers. In short, you get to pay more for the item.

So where to go now? Perhaps you can try on eBay! “E” what?!

A couple of years back it maybe unheard of. But with the availability of budget DSL providers, more and more people are becoming aware of it.

eBay is, in general, an internet-based advertising medium. Sellers can advertise their products, buyers can search (and compare) them – all for free! Of course sellers can opt for premium privileges but that is another matter.

Is it safe to buy through eBay? If you follow their safe trading practices – YES! The entire “thing” may take a while getting used to so just read their guidelines and you won’t be lost. Remember, on-line help is always available.

What’s great with eBay is their feedback system. It immediately informs the buyer how reliable a particular seller is. A higher positive rating means that a seller is trustworthy while a negative rating means you should be wary. Comments are always included that further justifies a seller’s rating.

Have I tried eBay? Ah yes. But have I bought anything through it? Also yes, I’ve made a number of purchases there ranging from pirated (oops) CDs to Braun brush heads, and home theater system to huge Samsung LCD TV.

How cheap did I get them? Less than half their current mall prices at that time plus I get their same manufacturer’s warranty.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Simple Way to Make a Child Obey

For a 3 year old or any other child for that matter, everything has to be fun. That’s why during meal time they run; they get bored sitting on one place. Or when watching Barney DVD, they dance. And even during nap time, they jump incessantly making it impossible for you to sleep.

On the other hand, parents enjoy watching their children play. Especially when, at their young age, they pretend to be grown-ups and try to do the things that we do.

What’s even amusing is when they start to demonstrate their creativeness. Dolls become babies, battery-operated animals become the real thing, and household wares become their toys.

When they’ve grown tired of playing they just leave their play things behind. Creating a mess is their expertise, returning them to order is a back-bending task they leave to their parents. Argh!

Last night, my daughter was having fun with her flash cards. She asked me to play with her and so I did. I then laid out a few cards on the bed forming a crude shape of a fish. She’s all smiles at my creation and took the rest of the cards I was holding. She then proceeded to create her own art and made her daddy proud

Bed time came, my wife asked her to clean up her mess. Even though hesitating, my daughter shoved everything to the floor. Too tired to argue, my wife asked me to make our daughter obey. No problem. My daughter doesn’t like to see me angry so I’m 100% sure I can make her.

Boy I was wrong. The minute I told her she just covered herself with pillow. Angered, I made her sit from where I was. I ordered her again, she didn’t make an effort. Now I’m losing patience. But no matter how I asked her she won’t move a limb.

Then came the waiting game. I knew she will get tired of sitting and will eventually go to bed. The moment she tried climbing the bed I stopped her. I made her a deal that if she likes to go to bed I’d let her but only after she picks up her “cardy” mess.

No good, she preferred to sit than clean up. I can see that she’s tired but I just wanted her to comply. I have to otherwise she wins… again (sigh).

Hmm… last try. Since I had the laptop open, I decided to play her new favorite cartoon – Tarzan. The intro caught her attention. I tried to deal with her again that I’ll let her watch Tarzan if only she’ll comply with what I’ve been asking her.

Eager to watch, she started piling up her flash cards. Wow, I finally made her! I think I know what to do next time.

Rewarding kids for their good behavior may not be the optimum approach but I consider it healthier than employing physical intimidation.

(Photo from

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Needed Push to Safety

I finished college enduring the daily 4- to 5- hour commute for more than half a decade. And that was including Saturday and even the Sunday ROTC. The only time-out that I had was during holidays and severe flooding. Yep, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a storm signal #3, or it’s been raining hard for days straight, as long as the roads are passable, classes will go on. Sigh…

So after graduation, it’s kind of natural for me to decide to take a very short rest - a year maybe.

But no no no! My dad, who spent most of his entire back-breaking career for my excellent education, strongly opposed my brilliant idea. Oh man!

He insisted that I prepare for the licensure exams. In short, I was back again to that 4-hour daily commute (cough cough). The good thing was there were no reports, no thesis, and no exams to fail - just study and review the whole day! Witwiw!

It didn’t take long though for me to suffer from “formula overload”. There’s just too much information to absorb! I wasn’t even sure if I can cram all those years studying numerous formulas into a month’s period. And it came to a point where I was just reading but not retaining anything!

‘Till the exam day came. I kept on psyching myself I’m ready for this. Though a great part of me says that I’m not. Why did I ever give up on the latter part of my review? Silly me, it’s too late for that now.

Both my parents accompanied me to the exam site. They believed in me, they were there for moral support. How can I hide the worried look on my face? Somehow they understood my fear, laying a hand on my shoulder, assuring me that everything’s going to be ok. Oh boy!

We parted by the gates, I’m all by myself now. There were so many examinees, probably from mixed universities. I paused for a moment trying to recognize a familiar face. Didn’t find one, I searched for my designated room instead.

Unlike me, everyone else looked so composed. Occasionally glancing at notes, but still smiling. They seemed like they can take on the toughest questionnaire in a jiffy. Heck, they can even share a mathematical joke while me… well I was just about to panic.

Here I was on my seat, shading my hopefully first correct answer. So far, so good. Whenever I encountered an item without having a ready answer, I skip to the next. Going back only when there’s still more time. At least I get to answer more easy questions rather wasting time thinking (or guessing) on just an item.

I handled the first part of the exam pretty well. What a sigh of relief. One down, two to go.

Moving on to the next. Item #1… tricky. Skip to #2… mmm… #3 - wait a minute. It appeared like each succeeding question relies upon the result of its predecessor. My goodness, then I really have to make good of my very first answer. Guessing is not an option.

But no matter how much I try, none of the equations and iterations in my head seemed to fit. Then it occurred to me - the solution must have been discussed during my overload period. Why didn’t I put on a bit more effort? Aside from panicking, what am I going to do now?!

Good thing the entire exam is based upon multiple choice, if I can’t find a solution… guess! That’s what I practically did. I tried to compute but my answer didn’t even come close to any of the choices.

Stress is building at such a rate that I can literally feel the pulse in my head, my back trickling with sweat. I’ve never been like this ever. During break, I accidentally poured chocolate on my shirt. I was drinking in a hurry, tilting the bottle faster than I can consume it.

After the exam, I was mentally drained but relieved at the same time. It’s finally over and so am I. Darn.

On my way out, my mind kicked into thinking mode again. What will I say to my folks who patiently waited outside the gates? Will they ask me how I did? I knew they will but I was hoping they won’t.

True enough, they did. I told them it was hard. They didn’t ask more, I guess they can see that I had enough mental beating for the day. As parents are, they assured me again that everything’s going to be ok. Oh I wish.

After a couple of weeks, the results were published in the Sunday papers. For obvious reasons, I didn’t bother buying one. After breakfast, I went to my girlfriend. Don’t want to see that disappointed-angry face on my dad when he checks on the papers.

When I arrived she was on the phone (as usual). She seemed to have a good start and me… well I was just delighted to see her. Then almost immediately, she handed me the phone telling me it’s my dad. Crap, there goes my happy morning.

I never thought that a phone can frighten me so much. It’s like a precarious black thing that’s about to crush me. Yep, I was that scared.

“H-hello?” that’s probably the first and last word that I said on the phone.

“Please come home this instant!” dad sounded with such a demanding tone. “Read the papers… you passed!”

Aha, was that supposed to calm me down? And was he was using reverse psychology on me? Could be.

But then my GF’s dad, who came from the backdoor, rushed in to congratulate me with those “you did great” words.

As it turned out, I really did. Wow! Unbelievable, I managed to pull the whole thing through!

The following week, I claimed the official results at the releasing center. I met few of my buddies there but they weren’t as fortunate as I am. They’re initial expectations were entirely the opposite. They say I was just lucky, I don’t think so. It’s more like a blessing to me.

As I recall during the exams, these people finished about an hour and a half early while I consumed the entire 6-hour or so period. It kind of was embarrassing to finish last but I was worried more about the blanks on my sheet. I tried my best deriving the nearest possible the answers up to the last minute.

Those remaining minutes were my real life savers. Out of nowhere, my much needed equations came popping out as I was frantically writing. Whoa… I was having goose bumps?! I finally found logic.

To this day, that incident felt like I was being pushed to safety. I don’t know who though I wanted it to be Him (who else). But I rarely go to church or even pray so how could it be. Even so, I was thankful!

Whenever I can, I try to remind myself daily of it. That He’ll be there to help if we help ourselves too. And that when we least expect it, He’ll be that needed push to safety.

(Photo courtesy of