Archive for March, 2013

World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day is a holiday observed every year on March 24th. Not only does this date commemorates the discovery of tuberculosis (TB), but the primary purpose of the holiday is to increase awareness about the infectious disease as well as treatment measures to help prevent its spread and related deaths. While not a public holiday, the celebrations are crucial to the education, and hopefully the eventual elimination of this deadly disease. Due to the worldwide prevalence of TB, World Tuberculosis Day is observed in several different countries every year.

Tuberculosis Defined

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of the lungs. It is spread from person to person through extremely contagious bacteria. While direct contact can spread the disease, droplets from coughs and sneezes can also transmit TB through the shared airspaces.

People contract numerous other types of infections every year that are treated with antibiotics. What makes TB so dangerous, however, is the fact that the disease is often resistant to medications. Some patients respond to antibiotics, while others with the worst strains may be hospitalized. This is why tuberculosis is often considered deadly.  BCG vaccines are often required in infants to help minimize the effects of tuberculosis that may be caught during childhood. The downside is that this type of vaccine is not 100-percent effective, and it does not work in adults.

History

Tuberculosis was originally discovered by Dr. Robert Koch on March 24, 1882. This was also the date in which Dr. Koch announced his findings of the bacterial cause of the disease to the world in Berlin, Germany. During this time, TB was running rampant in both Europe and the United States.

Since its discovery, TB tends to strike communities in waves. During the time that Dr. Koch made his announcement, tuberculosis cases were high in western nations, but this wouldn’t be the last. During the 1970s and 1980s, there were in influx of cases in the United States, some of which were related to decreased immunity in patients with HIV. Such cases tapered off in 1993 with increased awareness. According to the World Health Organization, the majority of the world’s TB cases are currently found in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Since tuberculosis is difficult to treat, the best way to protect people from infections is to prevent its spread. In 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease proposed the idea of a World Tuberculosis Day. The World Health Organization backed this idea up to help promote efforts to fight the disease. March 24th was the date chosen in order to commemorate Dr. Koch’s findings a century earlier.

Celebrations

This holiday is celebrated in numerous ways. Organizers primarily utilize the day to educate the public about TB, as well as ways to help keep themselves healthy. In regions where healthcare access is limited, communities may increase awareness about the importance of seeking treatment. Charity events are also common to raise funds for research.

World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated by numerous countries. It is also sponsored by the World Health Organization. This is extremely helpful in raising awareness, since this entity has the resources to reach people in all parts of the world, rather than just one single region.

Considerations in 2013

In 2013, the slogan for World Tuberculosis Day is “Stop TB in my lifetime.” This is the second year of a related campaign that aims to raise awareness and action to help stop tuberculosis-related deaths. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control says that technology has made it possible to detect tuberculosis so early treatment is possible. It is up to people to spread the word about these treatments to help prevent the spread of TB throughout communities. The previous slogan for 2011 and 2012 was “Innovation,” primarily pertaining to awareness about TB vaccines.

World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day is a holiday designed to increase awareness about the related deadly disease. This holiday is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), and it occurs on April 25th of every year. While this day doesn’t incorporate an atmosphere of celebration as other holidays do, World Malaria Day is regarded as a crucial day to help promote education and preventive measures to protect people around the globe. WHO estimates that malaria causes an average of 655,000 deaths, many of which may be prevented with increased awareness.

Malaria Defined

Malaria is an infection spread by mosquitoes. It is directly caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which attacks the body’s healthy red blood cells. While this isn’t a modern disease by any means, it was better understood by the 18th century, when scientists made the connection between mosquito bites and subsequent illnesses.

At first, those infected exhibit typical flu symptoms that can include fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme fatigue. Unlike a minor flu strain, however, malaria causes severe symptoms that last for several days. In fact, some patients may develop jaundice that causes a yellowing of the eyes and skin. Malaria can be deadly once it spreads through the body, causing organ failure, coma and seizures. Treatment is crucial, as the infection is deadly without medical intervention. In some cases, malaria is still deadly despite rapid treatments.

Locations

While malaria can infect people anywhere, cases are most common in tropical areas where mosquitoes run rampant. There doesn’t seem to be as many cases in warmer regions of the United States, due to the many control methods over the mosquito population. Local communities spray chemicals over the land during mosquito season, and many residents have easy access to repellants.

However, such control methods aren’t as common in other areas of the world, such as Central America and Africa. For this reason, malaria cases are higher compared to other regions. Visitors and travelers are just as susceptible as local peoples. Supporters of World Malaria Day hope that knowledge can help increase methods of mosquito control and protection, thereby reducing cases of malaria.

History

World Malaria Day was founded in 2007 by WHO, which is the United Nations’ leading panel on global health. During this time there was also a surge in worldwide malaria cases. Many countries jumped on board to help WHO with efforts for malaria awareness. The United States, Uganda, Germany and Switzerland are just a few of the examples of active participants in the holiday. Since the first holiday was held in 2008, it has been held on April 25th every year.

While the United States participates in World Malaria Day, the government does not recognize April 25th as a public holiday. This means that all banks, schools and other government institutions are all open.

Celebrations and Observations

Education is at the core of World Malaria Day. The more that people understand malaria, the better they are equipped to ward off the disease. This can include simple measures, such as protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Furthermore, learning the symptoms of malaria can help save lives.

In some countries, people do not have access to mosquito repellants and localized control methods. On World Malaria Day, some supporters hose fundraisers to gain money needed to help communities pay for these crucial protection methods. Others may petition local politicians to urge changes to reduce malaria in various communities around the globe.

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day

Held on April 2nd of every year, World Autism Awareness Day is a holiday designed to increase awareness about the related spectrum disorder. It is officially observed by the United Nations as well as other non-governmental organizations across the globe. Not only is increased awareness important to activists, but it is also an opportunity for affected families to come together and support each other.

Autism Defined

Autism is a developmental disorder. Formally known as autism spectrum disorder, this medical condition develops in early childhood. By the age of three, affected children may exhibit numerous developmental delays. Speech and cognitive skills are among the most common delays. In many cases, autistic children do not have an interest in socializing with others and they are obsessed with repetition. This makes it difficult for them to adapt to new environments.

Treating autism requires a combination of treatments, such as behavioral, speech and occupational therapies. Some children may require medications for hyperactivity. While treatments help, there is no cure for autism. Therefore, early detection is crucial in the overall treatment of the disorder. World Autism Awareness Day was created to help promote such early detection so children in all countries get the services they need to improve their lives. Autism affects children of all gender, races, ethnicities and backgrounds.

History

The concept of a holiday dedicated to autism was founded by the United Nations. In 2007, the organization voted on dedicating April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day. It was first officially held on April 2, 2008. It is a worldwide holiday that has supporters increasing awareness through education and activism in various countries across the globe.

Celebrations

World Autism Awareness Day is primarily celebrated through educational efforts. Autism rates are on the rise, but it is not clear if this is due to increased diagnoses or if more children are actually getting the disorder. No matter what the reason, early intervention is important in the success and overall quality of life. While symptoms may be apparent before the age of three, many families are afraid to take action, or they don’t know about the disorder. One of the goals of this holiday is to provide education about autism so parents can provide medical and behavioral intervention right away.

Research is ongoing in autism. There is still no one direct cause, and there is no cure. Proponents of World Autism Awareness Day may host fundraisers or write letters to help support autism research. Scientists hope to find the cause someday so that better treatments may be available. Other supporters encourage increased availability of resources, such as behavioral therapies, for families who cannot otherwise afford them.

Another aspect of World Autism Awareness Day is support for affected families. Due to the way many autistic patients do not like to socialize, other family members may feel isolated. World Autism Awareness Day shows parents that they are not alone in the struggle, and many form lifelong friendships to help carry them through this journey.

Other organizations and entities are jumping on the bandwagon to support this holiday. For example, the Empire State Building held a lighting event in 2012 for World Autism Awareness Day.

While this is a global holiday, it is not recognized by public governments. Public schools remain open, although some autism groups may hold special days for celebrations.

Seward’s Day

Seward’s Day

Seward’s Day is an official holiday to commemorate the purchase of the state of Alaska from Russia in 1867. While celebrations are primarily held in “The Last Frontier,” people in other regions of the country may also observe the holiday, which is held every last Monday in March. This is not a federal holiday, but Seward’s Day marks an important milestone in our country, and Americans continue to enjoy the resources that are derived from Alaska every year.

A Purchase from Russia

The purchase of Alaska came about relatively easy. The United States was interested in the land, and Russia was eager to get rid of the territory for monetary reasons. A price was negotiated for $7.2 million, which was extremely controversial during a time when a big portion of the United States was still recovering from the aftermath of the Civil War. Still, the American government unanimously agreed that there was potential in the large piece of land, and they went on with the agreement.

Secretary of State William Henry Seward was largely responsible for the negotiations, and he subsequently signed the treaty for the sale. This is why the holiday has its name of “Seward’s Day.” The transaction officially took place on March 30, 1867. However, the official transfer took months to complete. Some Americans who opposed the transaction referred to it as “Seward’s folly.” Little did they know that Alaska would prove to be a valuable resource; unfortunately, Seward died five years later before he had a chance to witness this.

Alaskan Resources

Seward’s purchase from Russia proved to be a financial success years later. The transaction came about during the height of the frontier period, where adventure and fortune seekers were already scouring the western states for new opportunities. In 1897, miners discovered gold along the Klondike River, which attracted even more inhabitants to the new frontier.

While gold certainly prompted many people to relocate to the area, Alaska has provided numerous other resources over the decade. Examples include seafood, lumber, oil and natural gas. Such resources are not only utilized by U.S. residents and exported to other nations, but they also create numerous jobs for hardworking people.

Celebrations

Alaskans are proud to celebrate Seward’s Day as a new beginning to what would become the nation’s 49th state in 1959. Residents celebrate the holiday through parades, public educational events and history lessons surrounding the era. Schools often have special events and assignments surrounding the week of Seward’s Day. Residents and visitors can also access parks and monuments dedicated to Secretary Seward around the capital of Juneau.

Better yet, many people get the day off of work and school on Seward’s Day. Government offices and public schools are closed for the holiday. It is a state holiday, so such closures do not extend to other areas of the country. If you are visiting Alaska around Seward’s Day, it is important to be prepared for increased traffic on this holiday so you can make transportation plans accordingly.

Seward’s Day vs. Alaska Day

Seward’s Day is often confused with Alaska Day. The latter holiday is celebrated on October 18, which commemorates the official transfer of Alaska from Russia. On October 18, 1867, Russia made the transfer, nearly seven months after Secretary Seward signed the treaty. Both Seward’s Day and Alaska Day are celebrated by residents of the Last Frontier. Many residents also enjoy paid time off during both holidays.