World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day, is observed annually on March 24 each year, to build public awareness about the virulent, infectious disease tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate it. In 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.3 million died from the disease, mostly in the Third World. World TB Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Hepatitis Day and World AIDS Day.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called “consumption” due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease. Active infection occurs more often in people with HIV/AIDS and in those who smoke.

March 24 commemorates 24 March 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis, to a small group of scientists at the University of Berlin’s Institute of Hygiene. According to Koch’s colleague, Paul Ehrlich.  Koch explained the aetiology of tuberculosis presenting many of his microscope slides and other pieces of evidence. At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch’s discovery opened the way toward diagnosing and curing tuberculosis.

In 1982, on the one-hundredth anniversary of Robert Koch’s presentation, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 be proclaimed an official World TB Day as part of a year-long centennial effort by the IUATLD and the World Health Organization under the theme “Defeat TB: Now and Forever.” However World TB Day was not officially recognized as an annual occurrence by WHO’s World Health Assembly and the United Nations until, 1995, when WHO and the Royal Netherlands Tuberculosis Foundation (KNCV) hosted the first World TB Day advocacy planning meeting in Den Haag, Netherlands. In 1996, WHO, KNCV, the IUATLD and other concerned organizations joined to conduct a wide range of World TB Day activities.

For World TB Day 1997, WHO held a news conference in Berlin during which WHO Director-General Hiroshi Nakajima declared that “DOTS is the biggest health breakthrough of this decade, according to lives we will be able to save.” WHO’s Global TB Programme Director, Dr. Arata Kochi, promised that, “Today the situation of the global TB epidemic is about to change, because we have made a breakthrough In developing health management systems that makes it possible to control TB not only in wealthy countries, but in all parts of the developing world, where 95 percent of all TB cases now exist.”

By 1998, nearly 200 organizations conducted public outreach activities on World TB Day. During its World TB Day 1998 news conference in London, WHO for the first time identified the top twenty-two countries with the highest number of TB cases. In 1999, over 60 key TB advocates from 18 countries attended the three-day WHO/KNCV planning meeting for World TB Day. U.S. President Bill Clinton marked World TB Day 2000 by administering the WHO-recommended DOTS treatment to patients at the Mahavir Hospital in Hyderabad, India. According to Clinton, “These are human tragedies, economic calamities, and far more than crises for you, they are crises for the world. The spread of disease is the one global problem for which . . . no nation is immune.” In Canada, the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health noted on World TB Day 2014 that 64% of TB cases reported nationally were among foreign-born individuals and 23% among Aboriginal people, highlighting TB as a key area of concern about health equity.

World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is observed on 21 March and has been officially marked by the United Nations since 2012. On this day, people with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world organize and participate in activities and events to raise public awareness and create a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well being of people with Down syndrome. Many of these events are recorded on the official World Down Syndrome Day website. However there is still so much more we can do.Down Syndrome International encourages people all over the World to choose themes, activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.

Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition, being universally present across racial, gender or socio-economic lines, and affecting approximately 1 in 800 live births, although there is considerable variation worldwide. Down syndrome usually causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome. The original idea was proposed by members of the European Down Syndrome Association and Down Syndrome International. WDSD was first observed in 2006 in many countries around the world and Down Syndrome Association Singapore launched and hosted the World Down Syndrome Day website from 2006-2010, on behalf of Down Syndrome International, for global activities to be recorded.

Since 2011, Down Syndrome International (DSi) has co-ordinated the World Down Syndrome Day website and the WDSD Global Video Event “Let Us In!” (see 2012 Event “Let Us In – I Want to Learn!”). In 2012, DSi organized the first WDSD Conference held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA on 21 March (see 2012 “Building Our Future” Conference) which was sponsored by the Brazilian Mission and Polish Mission to the United Nations, UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and UNICEF and was organized in collaboration with the Brazilian Federation of Associations of Down Syndrome, Down España, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Down Syndrome Society, Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation, and Global Down Syndrome Foundation. The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon also said on 21 March 2012 “On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.” Down Syndrome International also announced that the World Down Syndrome Day Awards would be held every year on 21 March.

Alexander Fleming

Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist Alexander Fleming sadly died 11 March 1955. He was born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield, a farm near Darvel, in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the third of the four children of farmer Hugh Fleming (1816–1888) from his second marriage to Grace Stirling Morton (1848–1928), the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. Hugh Fleming had four surviving children from his first marriage. He was 59 at the time of his second marriage, and died when Alexander (known as Alec) was seven.Fleming went to Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School, and earned a two-year scholarship to Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London, where he attended the Royal Polytechnic Institution. After working in a shipping office for four years, the twenty-year-old Fleming inherited some money from an uncle, John Fleming. His elder brother, Tom, was already a physician and suggested to his younger sibling that he follow the same career.

So in 1903, the younger Alexander enrolled at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington; he qualified with an MBBS degree from the school with distinction in 1906. Fleming had been a private in the London Scottish Regiment of the Volunteer Force since 1900, and had been a member of the rifle club at the medical school. The captain of the club, wishing to retain Fleming in the team suggested that he join the research department at St Mary’s, where he became assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer in vaccine therapy and immunology. In 1908, he gained a BSc degree with Gold Medal in Bacteriology, and became a lecturer at St Mary’s until 1914. On 23 December 1915, Fleming married a trained nurse, Sarah Marion McElroy of Killala, County Mayo, Ireland. Fleming served throughout World War I as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was Mentioned in Dispatches. He and many of his colleagues worked in battlefield hospitals at the Western Front in France.

Following World War I in 1918 he returned to St Mary’s Hospital, where he actively searched for anti-bacterial agents, having witnessed the death of many soldiers from sepsis resulting from infected wounds. Antiseptics killed the patients’ immunological defences more effectively than they killed the invading bacteria. In an article he submitted for the medical journal The Lancet during World War I, Fleming described an ingenious experiment, which he was able to conduct as a result of his own glass blowing skills, in which he explained why antiseptics were killing more soldiers than infection itself during World War I. Antiseptics worked well on the surface, but deep wounds tended to shelter anaerobic bacteria from the antiseptic agent, and antiseptics seemed to remove beneficial agents produced that protected the patients in these cases at least as well as they removed bacteria, and did nothing to remove the bacteria that were out of reach. Sir Almroth Wrightstrongly supported Fleming’s findings, but despite this, most army physicians over the course of the war continued to use antiseptics even in cases where this worsened the condition of the patients..

By 1927, Fleming was investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci that had immediately surrounded it had been destroyed, whereas other colonies farther away were normal. Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price, who reminded him, “That’s how you discovered lysozyme.”Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the Penicillium genus, and, after some months of calling it “mould juice”, named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929. The laboratory in which Fleming discovered and tested penicillin is preserved as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms, and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive pathogens that cause scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria, but not typhoid fever orparatyphoid fever, which are caused by Gram-negative bacteria, for which he was seeking a cure at the time. It also affected Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea although this bacterium is Gram-negative. Fleming published his discovery in 1929, in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. Fleming continued his investigations, but found that cultivating penicillium was quite difficult, and that after having grown the mould, it was even more difficult to isolate the antibiotic agent.

Fleming thought that the difficulty in producing Penicillin in quantity, Plus the slow action, Meant it would not be effective in treating infection and it would not last long enough in the human body (in vivo) to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive, probably because it had been used as a surface antiseptic. Diring the 1930s, Fleming’s trials occasionally showed more promise and he continued, until 1940, to try to interest a chemist skilled enough to further refine usable penicillin. Fleming finally abandoned penicillin. However not long after, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain took up researching and mass-producing it at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, using funds from the U.S. and British governments. They discovered how to isolate and concentrate penicillin. Shortly after the team published its first results in 1940, Fleming telephoned Howard Florey, Chain’s head of department, to say that he would be visiting wit him the next few days.

Scientist Norman Heatley suggested transferring the active ingredient of penicillin back into water by changing its acidity. This produced enough of the drug to begin testing on animals. There were many more people involved in the Oxford team, and at one point the entire Dunn School was involved in its production.After the team had developed a method of purifying penicillin to an effective first stable form in 1940, several clinical trials ensued, and their amazing success inspired the team to develop methods for mass production and mass distribution in 1945. Fleming was modest about his part in the development of penicillin, describing his fame as the “Fleming Myth” and he praised Florey and Chain for transforming the laboratory curiosity into a practical drug. Fleming was the first to discover the properties of the active substance, giving him the privilege of naming it: penicillin. He also kept, grew, and distributed the original mould for twelve years, and continued until 1940 to try to get help from any chemist who had enough skill to make penicillin. But Sir Henry Harris said in 1998:”Without Fleming, no Chain; without Chain, no Florey; without Florey, no Heatley; without Heatley, no penicillin.

Fleming also wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the antibiotic substance penicillin from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Floreyand Ernst Boris Chain. On 1999, Time magazine named Fleming one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating:It was a discovery that would change the course of history. The active ingredient in that mould, which Fleming named penicillin, turned out to be an infection-fighting agent of enormous potency. When it was finally recognized for what it was, the most efficacious life-saving drug in the world, penicillin would alter forever the treatment of bacterial infections. By the middle of the century, Fleming’s discovery had spawned a huge pharmaceutical industry, churning out synthetic penicillins to help against diseases like syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis.

World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day is a campaign held each year by Office of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness of the World Health Organization (WHO). Activities take place across the globe and an event is hosted at the World Health Organization on March 3rd. The campaign’s objective is to share information and promote actions towards the prevention of hearing loss and improved hearing care. The first event was held in 2007. Before 2016 it was known as International Ear Care Day. Each year, the WHO selects a theme, develops educational materials, and makes these freely available in several languages. It also coordinates and reports on events around the globe.

The theme of the campaign for World Hearing Day 2019 is “Check your hearing”. Data from both developed and developing countries indicate that a significant part of the burden associated with hearing loss comes from unaddressed hearing difficulties. A study conducted in the United Kingdom indicate that only 20% of those who have a hearing problem seek treatment. A study performed in South Africa reported that individuals who experience hearing difficulties wait between 5 and 16 years to seek diagnosis and treatment. Part of the 2019 activities of the campaign is Wiki4WorldHearingDay2019. The purpose of this is to facilitate the contribution of hearing-related content into Wikipedia in several languages. Activities are reported in a Wikimedia dashboard.

A Meet-up took place with presentations by hearing researchers from the Hear in Cincinnati group, by hearing researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and National Center for Environmental Health, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the Wikipedian-in-Residence from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Wikipedia Consultant for Cochrane. A recording can be viewed online.

Rare Disease Day

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February. The purpose of Rare Disease Day is to raise the public awareness of rare diseases and improve access to treatment and medical representation for individuals with rare diseases and their families. It was established in 2008 because, according to European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), treatment for many rare diseases is insufficient, as are the social networks to support individuals with rare diseases and their families. In 2009 Rare Disease Day went global as National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) mobilized 200 rare disease patient advocacy organizations in the United States while organizations in China, Australia, Taiwan, and Latin America also lead efforts in their respective countries to coordinate activities and promote the day. leading rare disease patient advocacy organizations including the Global Genes Project have joined forces to promote Rare Disease Day.

The first Rare Disease Day was held on 29 February 2008 in numerous European nations and in Canada through the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, organized by EURORDIS. The date was chosen because February 29 is a “rare day,” and 2008 was the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Orphan Drug Act in the United States.bIndividuals observing Rare Disease Day took part in walks and press conferences to raise public awareness of rare diseases, organized fundraisers, and wrote en masse to government representatives; health-related non-profit organizations across numerous countries also held events, gatherings, and campaigns. The day also included an open session of the European Parliament specifically dedicated to discussing policy issues relating to rare diseases. The days leading up to Rare Disease Day included other policy-related events in numerous locations, such as a reception in the British Parliament where policymakers met with individuals with rare diseases to discuss issues such as “equal access and availability of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.”

In 2009 Rare Disease Day was observed for the first time in Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Australia, the People’s Republic of China, and the United States.In the United States, NORD signed on to coordinate Rare Disease Day on February 28 and collaborated with media partner The Discovery Channel and program partner Mystery Diagnosis,bas well about 180 other partners, to organize activities across the country for the observance of Rare Disease Day.vSeveral United States state governments issued proclamations regarding Rare Disease Day. In Europe, over 600 patient advocacy and support organizations, again coordinated by EURORDIS, also planned events. The theme for Rare Disease Day 2010 was “Patients and Researchers: Partners for Life”. The event saw the participation of a total of 46 countries participated in 2010. Newcomers from Eastern Europe were Latvia, Lithuania Slovenia and Georgia. 3 African countries joined the event as well. The Theme for Rare Disease Day 2011 was “Rare Diseases and Health Inequalities”, to focus on differences for rare disease patients between and within countries, and compared to other segments of society, in order to ensure equal access for patients to health care, social services and rights, and to orphan drugs and treatments.

Rare Disease Day 2012 was the fifth to be observed and since 2012 was a leap year, this was the second time the day falls on the originally intended date (February 29, a Wednesday). Each year, the global planning committee, under the leadership of EURORDIS and with NORD as the US representative, selects a theme to be used around the world. For 2012, the theme was “Solidarity” and the slogan was “Rare But Strong Together”. Other members of the global planning committee include representatives from the national rare disease alliances in several European countries. Thousands of patient advocacy organizations also got involved, including more than 600 partners working with NORD in the US to promote Rare Disease Day.

The theme for 2017 and 2018 is research with many events taking place around the globe, the tagline of the campaign is “with research, possibilities are limitless” – This years theme aims to draw attention to the fact that more research is urgently needed to help patients.

Anosmia Awareness Day

Anosmia Awareness Day takes place each year on February 27 to spread awareness about Anosmia. Anosmia refers to the loss of the sense of smell, either total or partial. It may be caused by head injury, infection, or blockage of the nose. Creators of this event suggest that since there are fewer visible and practical difficulties associated with olfactory disorders than with visual or auditory impairments, the nature of olfactory dysfunction and its consequences for an individual’s safety and quality of life are not widely understood. Anosmia Awareness Day aims to expose this situation, push for the development of successful treatments, and inform the general public about the serious impact that anosmia can have on a person’s life. Anosmia sufferers have been shown to be susceptible to dangerous situations such as gas leaks, fires, hazardous chemical vapors, and ingesting spoiled food. Additionally, people with smell loss can also experience difficulty with eating due to the close relationship between smell and taste. Studies also indicate that some individuals develop depression in response to feelings of social isolation, fears regarding safety and personal odor management, and a diminished connection to pleasure, emotion, and memory.

Anosmia Awareness Day was first launched by Daniel Schein, an American man with olfactory dysfunction, on February 27, 2012. The event page that he created on Facebook established the date and the practice of wearing red to show support for the cause. Subsequently, smell and taste centers (like The Monell Center in Philadelphia, PA) and charities (like Fifth Sense in the United Kingdom) have thrown their support behind the event, linking it to research and educational initiatives aimed at patients, doctors, and the general public. Fifth Sense, a UK-based charity that provides support and information to people with smell and taste disorders, has connected Anosmia Awareness Day to its international online awareness and fundraising campaign called #LongLostSmell.

World Animal Reiki Day

World Animal Reiki Day takes place annually on 5 February. It wasFounded by Kathleen Prasad after she rescued a dog named Dakota from an animal shelter, who becomes her beloved canine companion for over 16 years. Prasad practiced Reiki Massage on her dog Dakota, and saw a difference, this convinced her of the benefits of Reiki massage therapy for animals as well as people.

Reiki (霊気, is a form of alternative medicine called energy healing. Reiki practitioners use a technique called palm healing or hands-on healing through which a “universal energy” is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage emotional or physical healing. It was Developed in Japan in 1922 by Mikao Usui. The Japanese reiki is commonly written as レイキ in katakana syllabary or as 霊気 in shinjitai “new character form” kanji. It compounds the words rei (霊: “spirit, miraculous, divine”) and ki (気; qi: “gas, vital energy, breath of life, consciousness”).Ki is defined as “… spirits; one’s feelings, mood, frame of mind; temperament, temper, disposition, one’s nature, character; mind to do something, intention, will; care, attention, precaution” “feeling of mystery,””an atmosphere (feeling) of mystery”,,and “an ethereal atmosphere (that prevails in the sacred precincts of a shrine); (feel, sense) a spiritual (divine) presence.” Besides the usual Sino-Japanese pronunciation reiki, these kanji 霊気 have an alternate Japanese reading, namely ryōge, meaning “demon; ghost” (especially in spirit possession).

Chinese língqì 靈氣 is similar, this was first recorded in the (ca. 320 BCE) Neiye “Inward Training” section of the Guanzi, and describes Chi as either “a mysterious vital energy within the mind which is affected by mental agitation. A”spiritual influence or atmosphere”; intelligence; power of understanding, or a supernatural power or force, A spiritual influence, an ingenuousness or cleverness.”

However many consider Reiki a pseudoscience it is based on qi (“chi”), which practitioners say is a universal life force, although there is no empirical evidence that such a life force exists. Clinical research has not shown reiki to be effective as a treatment for any medical condition. There has been no proof of the effectiveness of reiki therapy compared to placebo nevertheless it has been adapted into varying cultural traditions across the world. An overview of reiki investigations found that studies reporting positive effects had methodological flaws. The American Cancer Society stated that reiki should not replace conventional cancer treatment, a sentiment echoed by Cancer Research UK and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.