Awareness: a changing climate

Awareness: a quick look into Japan’s changing climate

I have been thinking about the best way to go into detail about Japan’s changing climate. I do realize that this is a global issue, but sometimes an abstract idea like a global environment is a bit too hard to understand. So instead, please look at the picture below: it says more than I ever could.

The headline simply reads “there’s no snow”.
From the Asahi-Shinbun dated 22/01/2020

Japan is an extremely long country starting north of the equator and leading up to the Arctic- it has a vast and varied climate and each prefecture can almost be seen to be its own sub-climate. Hyogo Prefecture is known for snow sports- or should that read was known for snow sports? The long lonely strip of snow is not a ‘freak of nature’, it is an import.

Imported snow- in an effort to keep afloat an economy based on winter sports. Did you also see the ski lift? There’s not much use in that now is there. Imported snow not only moves resources from one place to another, but there are high economical and carbon costs associated with this as well.

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The lack of cold temperatures has also been felt in Hokkaido especially in the run up to the Snow festival or Yuki-matsuri. Snow has been imported as well due to the warmer than usual winter. According to the JMA (Japanese metrological agency), Hokkaido has only received 48% of the expected snow fall a fall of 52% from the previous year.

Climate change is indeed happening and it is happening extremely quickly. This change has been reflected in the forthcoming Olympics as well. Due to exceptionally high temperatures in summer 2019, the marathon has been moved to Sapporo City, Hokkaido. On a more anadoctial front, I recorded temperatures as high as 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 38 degree Celsius) in the shade this summer in Iga- and I was not alone with seeing such temperatures.

Across Japan and even the world, record numbers of people were hospitalized due to heat related problems. Currently, one just needs to look at Australia- where they have at times run out of colours to use on heat charts due to the heat. If you need a bit more, conditions have been perfect for the wildfires which have caused complete devastation in places and the true costs of these fires (socially, environmentally, economically, ecologically etc) will possibly never truly be known.

There is a lot one can do but if business do not reflect personal effort i.e. a person becomes incredibly green but the business they work for either doesn’t change or becomes more environmentally damaging, nothing much will change. According to the wolves of Wall Street “Greed is good”, but what will greed do once the planet is uninhabitable?

Last quick note on this, there is an increasing difference on the amount of rice needing to be produced and the amount of rice being eaten. We are already seeing signs of troubles to come. Please do you part- even if it just a small action, it can and it does add up.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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Awareness: Chinese coronavirus outbreak

An awareness post on the new Chinese coronavirus nCov-2019

Worries are spreading across not just East-Asia but globally

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

There are increasing worries spreading across Japan regarding the new Chinese coronavirus (names nCoV-2019) and its ability to infect both animals and humans. Specifically, the worry is about the virus’s ability to become a pandemic.

To highlight the seriousness of this issue, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has stated that “please take every possible precaution,” which has lead to a public awareness campaign on this issue (it has appeared not just on Japanese news but day-time television as well) and a full traveller screening programme at each Japanese airport.

Current estimates suggest that around 400 people are known to have contracted nCov-2019 and the current death-toll is (at time of writing) at 4 deaths- but why is the global community (and indeed Japan) so concerned about this virus? The answer is simple- uncontrollability.

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Chinese new year is soon to be upon us, which is the time in which most Chinese people travel- both nationally and internationally- which has the potential to ignite a new global pandemic. Global pandemics are most often caused when: a disease can be easily spread across the world with high movement and when the disease has been shown to cross the species barrier.

These prerequisites have already been met in nCov-2019. Initial cases first appeared in Wuhan, China in a market with high frequency animal contact and since this time, the diseases have been spread from person-to-person.

Chinese authorities are already taking action against this outbreak by ordering the use of facial masks in Beijing hospital, and controlling the number of people entering and leaving Wuhan (where the disease was discovered). Currently, this virus doesn’t appear to have mutated and the CDC and WHO are working on the virus but it is still early days.

Symptoms

Current reports suggest that initial symptoms mimic a common cold with some pneumonia-like symptoms. Initial symptoms include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath- the most concerning of which is the tightness of chest- which initially can be easily misdiagnosed.

Current countries with nCov-2019 patients are China, Japan (the person had just returned from Wuhan), Korea, the USA (a traveller had visited Wuhan), Thailand, and more regionally in China from Beijing, to Taiwan.

The international community is highly aware of the potential for this and infection disease control procedures are underway both in China and around the world to deal with the threat of this virus.

Advise

The best advice is to be prepared- use masks in Asia (especially in China) but don’t worry- there is nothing major (currently). Life in Wuhan is ongoing without interruption- life before this virus was discovered. While this virus has the potential to become serious, measures are already underway.

If you have been travelling in China and are experiencing symptoms, please call your doctor- and get their advice. Don’t just turn up in person. While you could just have influenza, they may want to take precautions. There is no data to suggest if some people are more susceptible than others or if it is more damaging to people with compromised immune systems.

Current screening procedures at airports just involve walking in front of a thermal camera. If there is anything wrong- you may be taken to an isolation area until tests are performed. From there, a treatment plan may be started or general health advice given.

Thank you for reading and happy and safe exploring.

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Resolution and awareness: vaccination

An awareness and resolution post, looking into global vaccinations including proving Karens of the world wrong! Also, vaccinaion programs in Japan

While scrolling through social media, there have been several posts suggesting that a pandemic is to occur this decade. There have been major epidemics and thus pandemics in the 1720s, 1820s, 1920s with the 2020s to possibly follow. But what disease if any would be the probable cause?

Firstly: terminology. An epidemic is when a disease affects a great number of people in an area or country. A pandemic is a global epidemic- simple. Previous examples of pandemic diseases are SARS, avian influenza, Ebola, small pox, yellow fever, TB, leprosy, Spanish flu etc.- there are an awful lot of examples.

While many countries are doing a lot to combat this, there is certainly more that can be done. However, not every country is able to prepare to a similar level- which is part of the problem.

In some LMICs (lower to middle income countries), are more prone to starting a pandemic due to very high contact with animals along with poor access to medical facilities. In addition to this, these countries are usually unable to invest large amounts into epidemic preparedness.

There are many challenges facing the global community with regard to pandemics and one of the more worrying examples is increased antibiotic resistance which a disease can develop if, for example, a person does not complete a dose of antibiotics correctly, if antibiotics are over prescribed and if the disease mutates.

I do have to note that antibiotics will NOT work for viruses at all- if you have influenza antibiotics are as useful as tick tacks- but at least tic tacks will freshen your breath.

Immunization 101

One thing that increases the risk of an ID (infectious disease) mutating is lack of immunization. Immunization helps protect a population from a disease by introducing them to either a dead or ‘live’ disease via an injection. The body’s immune system then works to counter act the disease and produces antibodies which are then ‘saved’ in the body. Some time later, if a person comes into contact with the actual disease, their body is already ready and prepared to fight off this disease.

Many people suffer or die from preventable diseases because they are not immunized. A 2015 case in Japan featured a 10-month-old boy who caught Japanese encephalitis and although he did live, his arms and legs have been severely paralysed. There are many cases of people catching and dying from measles.

The elephant in the room

Some people (we’ll call the Karens) are against immunization because of several reasons including: possible side effects including the adverse medical reactions, the introduction of harmful chemicals (including aluminium and mercury), and there being “no point” in being immunized because the diseases that people are immunized from are ‘no longer a risk’.

I know that I have set up a straw-man argument against the Karens of the world but I shall enjoy using this argument flaw method regardless.

Number 1: immunizations cause adverse medical effects

Most people will cite the study that “showed” a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Simply put there is NO link between the two- in any way. The review into this study was produced by the WHO (World Health Organization) who’s only bias is the promotion of global health.

Other people may look at the “link” between the DTP vaccine and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and while it seems to be directly related to one another, this is again false. If there were a true link between the 2 factors, the number of SIDS deaths would be astronomically higher. The SIDS deaths were by chance but people have a need point to a cause of death and the vaccine was chosen.

In fact, several studies have shown that the DTP vaccine actually reduces the chance of SIDS deaths.

Number 2: the introduction of harmful chemicals

Many Karens will also say that “vaccines contain harmful chemicals that will harm me/ my child, so I’m not going to vaccinate. It’s my choice.”

The first question for the Karens of the world is: do you drink from soda cans, or live near a road, or smoke? Yes, you already take in 4 times the aluminium that is allowed in a vaccine.

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Other harmful chemicals that may exist within a vaccine usually only exist in trace amounts which help with the bodies autoimmune response and only in certain vaccinations. However, using mercury and formaldehyde as examples- mercury acting as a preservative- in tiny amounts and in a safe compound- and formaldehyde used to render certain viruses such as polio inactive for use in vaccines, more harmful chemicals are ingested in everyday life than via vaccines.

If we look at mercury, and ignoring the fact it has been eliminated from most vaccines since 2001, 69 mcg of mercury is ingested in 1 can of tuna while 25 mcg of mercury is taken in with one influenza injection.

Regarding formaldehyde (the highly carcinogenic, environmentally toxic chemical used in embalming), is extremely common in the environment. Most apples contain more formaldehyde than in the “Hepatitis B, DTaP and polio vaccines together”- a little FYI, this includes organic apples as formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical and the human body produces it as part of metabolism which is then converted into carbon dioxide and exhaled.

Pont 3: there is no point in vaccinations as the diseases that are being vaccinated against are no longer a threat

This one is the easiest to disprove to the Karens of the world and can be done with just one world: measles.

Need a bit more? The WHO reports on disease prevalence and outbreaks globally and has reported such trends as the highest measles’ prevalence are in countries with low vaccination rates and there are ongoing out breaks (Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand). While the data from 2019 is still provisional (to be finalized by July 2020), there were some serious trends that appeared when comparing the first 6 months of 2018 and 2019.

  • The US reported over 90,000 cases of measles at the start of 2019- the highest in 25 years
  • From 2018 to 2019 measles prevalence has increased:
    • 900% in the WHO Africa region
    • 120% in the European region
    • 50% in the Eastern Mediterranean region
    • 230% in the western Pacific region
  • Additionally, the WHO reports that fewer than 10% of measles cases are actually reported.

The final jolly bit will be just one number- the number of people that died from measles in 2018. Please remember the measles is mostly a preventable disease- so most of these deaths if not all were preventable.

More than 140,000 (…)”

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/05-12-2019-more-than-140-000-die-from-measles-as-cases-surge-worldwide

So Karens of the world, there is no reason not to be vaccinated- not even ignorance will save you!

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Vaccination in Japan

There are 2 types of vaccines in Japan: voluntary and routine vaccinations. Routine vaccinations are free if you take your child to a clinic within the time frame. Some voluntary vaccines may be routine vaccines in some prefectures.

Voluntary vaccinations are paid for out-of-pocket- and there is quite the list (see below). It is also important to note that out of the 15 vaccinations, 5 are ‘live’ vaccines which depending on pre-existing medical conditions, you may not be able to take.

Routine VaccinationsVoluntary Vaccinations
RotavirusHaemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
MumpsPneumococcal Conjugate (PCV13)
InfluenzaHepatitus B virus (HBV) universial vaccine
Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio (DPT-IPV, IPV)
BCG
Measles, Rubella (MR)
Varicella
Japanese Encephalitis
Diphtheria, Tetanus (DT)
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

The ministry of health has a vaccination programme in place for children under 1 to be inoculated free of charge, and they’ll receive 19 shots in total (including boosters) but not every family is able to go to a clinic regally and if an appointment is missed, the remaining shots must be paid for by the parent.

An additional problem regarding vaccinations in Japan is the lack of combined vaccinations. In the UK, most children receive the MMR vaccine but in Japan the Mumps vaccine is routine while the MR vaccine (measles and Rubella) is voluntary. One way to increase total vaccination rates would be to have a greater availability to combination vaccines but Japan wants to protect domestic vaccination production rather than import vaccines which are seen by many to be better.

A full vaccination schedule (in English) is available on the further information page.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Ride the Noble Prize wave

Japan continues to ride the Nobel prize wave

The door to science, a feature of Asahi Newspaper

Japan’s interest in science and technology has always been at the forefront of reporting and a key highlight of day time talk shows. However, what I found interesting was this piece on the history of batteries and the explanation as to why the Nobel prize was such a deserved one.

The picture above accompanied the article its self and if you can, please do read the article. It’s an extremely interesting explanation of a seemingly boring subject: batteries. The thing that we are using but never take note unless there is a problem.

The most famous problem was the lithium-ion batteries that were exploding due to it overheating. Interesting fact: the explosions and spontaneous combustion was not caused by the lithium in the battery but the chemical surrounding the cell is extremely flammable at high temperatures.

One of the key aspects of the article was the promotion of of the スマ―トホウス (smart house) concept, where individual homes fitted with solar panels generate and store energy for later use either in the home or to help charge one’s electric car.

One thing the article does mention is that the use of rechargeable products does help reduce CO2 emissions by up to half per household but it does not seem to take into account the CO2 produced at time of manufacture.

Japan will continue to ride the Nobel wave as there has been a Japanese laureates every year since 2014, in multiple fields, and it is likely to continue.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Dengue feaver drill: a month on

It just takes a bite……

Is this something that Japan and the world should be concerned with?

As the first global health blog this month, we will look at something that policy makers are panicking about internationally.

Overview of the disease

Dengue fever is a vector-borne infectious disease spread through the bite of a female mosquito. It is a viral infection, which is dependant on the bodies own immunity and possible antivirals to treat if infected.

Why that previous line? Simply put, anti-biotics would be as helpful as taking candy- it would do nothing.

The Drill

Why the panic and the drill in Tokyo? The incidence of Dengue has increased and due to poor health-care systems in LDCs (Least developed countries- the modernisation of 3rd world countries)  the actual numbers of victims (incidence) globally has increased bringing with this a higher morbidity and mortality rate (morbidity is the rate of disease in a population while mortality is the death rate).

There are incidence of Dengue in the Philippines and Thailand- whose populations share close political and economic ties with Japan. What has got Japanese policy makers worried is the world converging on Tokyo next year.

If a major outbreak were to occur, the response from Japanese preparations would be underwhelming. There is information in Japanese from the NIID (National institute of infectious diseases 国立感染症研究所 Koku-ritsu-kan-sen-shou-ken-kyuu-jou) about the principles of treatment for dengue (which is treatment of the symptoms with a 1% mortality rate).

The Japanese policy on dengue can best be summed up by:

“予防には流行地域において蚊に刺されないような予防対策をとることが重要である”

It is important to take countermeasures in areas where mosquito bites are common.

Translated by author

Or prevention is better than cure! There are no outbreak plans I have found- just use repellent and treat what we can.

So while nothing has been said on the Dengue fever drill in Tokyo, possible to keep people calm about the possibility of occurance, it is still important to keep in mind the possibility of occurance.

After all, Zika Virus (from the Rio Olympics) is still a major problem but it is no longer in the public’s mind. Out of site, out of mind after all.

Thank you for reading the first of my international health posts and happy exploring.

The best sources I have found for this is Japanese is:

Typhoon 101

What to do when there’s a typhoon coming your way

So you have just found out that there is a typhoon heading your way while in Japan. What do you do? Panic? Scream? Wait…why is no-one else around you panicking?

IF you are in Japan for either the rugby world cup or the Olympics, welcome to a very diverse and beautiful country. This is a what if guild, so if here, please note.

Firstly advice, it’s mostly likely nothing to worry about- I’m happy to say that the monstrous devistation you see in movies is usually played up- that’s not to say they can’t happen the same way. You need to be prepared.

Firstly, what type of typhoon is it? On the Japanese meteorological agency website (in English) there are the following categories for typhoons:

  • TY: Typhoon
  • STS: Severe Tropical Storm
  • TS: Tropical Storm
  • TD: Tropical Depression
  • LOW: Extra-tropical Low

My advice is be careful about anything over TS, the others are more than likely not to be cause for concern (they can become stronger).

Additionally, have you ever heard of “PPPPPPP”? It means:

Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performace

There’s a disaster coming so what have you done about it? Do you know where the local refuge areas are? Have you prepaired anything in case it becomes a level 5 emergency? No, well let’s make a start.

The where- Refuge areas

There are different types to be aware of. The most basic is a temporary evacuation site- which is often organised by the local community. It is a good place to meet up for ‘smaller’ disasters in order to assess the situation.

Open evacuation sites are designated places by the ward or city that people will go to if the temporary one is either dangerous or inaccessible. There is often help available here and they are either in Tsumani or earthquake resistant buildings- expect to be here for around a day.

Finally, evacuation shelters- this is for the longer stay. This is used if a persons’ home is unsafe or non-existent.

Please note, in coastal areas there are more specialised Tsunami evacuation areas, please take note of what disaster is heading your way (if for some reason you do not know).

One last thing on the where, mate sure you know where the where is or in other words where is your nearest refuge area and how far do you have to travel on foot/ bike. There is no carparking at emergency facilities and there is a possibility that the roads would be unusable anyways.

The what- belongings

I would recommend preparing a bug out bag and keep it in a safe place. Inside should be 3 days of emergency food and water (think calorie mate for food) and at least 6 l of water per person (which is a lot I know). Additionally, there should be a change of clothes, toiletries , important papers (passport and residence card), a flash light, batteries, a wind up radio, mobile/cell phone charger, a knife, and money at a minimum!

More could be packed (and should be if you have a real need for it) but remember space at a shelter is at a premium and you may have to run while carrying everything you need.

The time- what to do when leaving

So, all the warning signs have proven true- DO NOT PANIC. What to do when leaving?

  • Collect emergency info from JMA/ TV/ radio to see what has been recommended (caution, standby, evacuation etc)

If leaving, please note the following

  • Turn off all gas
  • Protect yourself from falling objects internally and externally
  • Keep away from large objects that may fall on top of you.
  • Gather everyone one in one place with the bug-out bag
  • calmly go to the refuge centre (if needed)

If evacuation has not been recommended

  • fill the bathtub with water
  • have an emergency light source to had
  • keep everyone safe
  • prepare in case of evacuation

The type of warning

Finally, the type of wanrning. You may have noticed that I refer to warnings in English and not Japanese, alas in Japanese it is sightly different. But at the base level, there are: advisory, warnings, and emergency warnings. If there is an emergency warning, there will be a broadcast over the emergency warning system, updates on that ward/cities website declaring an emeergency and usually warning messages sent out by text.

No matter the level, be cautious- they are NOT sent out for the fun of it.

No matter what, please be safe and happy exploring.

For further reading, please check out the JMA website in English at:

https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Global views on being eco-friendly

A quick summary of some countries positions on being green

At a macro level, what importance do different countries and cultures put on being eco-friendly and what does the media in those countries report on this topic?

As there are visible changes to global weather patterns, increased plastic waste (or at least increased visibility) and a visible consequence of human actions on the wider environment, the question as to how much do different countries care about the environment must be asked.

I know the introduction sounds very report like and official; but the main focus of this article is to get you to ask the question which is simply: does my country care? What is my country doing? and perhaps mostly importantly, do I care?

Let’s start with the powerhouse of Energiewende- Germany. Germany is one of the more advanced countries in trying to be eco-friendly. They are getting rid of nuclear power and placing more emphasis on being green. They have signed the 2015 climate pack and are committed to reduce their CO2 emissions. So very forward facing.

However, one third ofbtheir power is still reliant on coal and there is still a preference for fast cars (they do have the Autobahns). But the umweltwelle is affecting this as well, with promises by 2030 that there’ll be over 10 million electric cars on the roads (Spiegel Online).

Now for a culture and country change- the USA. In recent times, the USA has had image of not caring for the environment and being almost environmentally callous. One reason for this could be cultural. In the USA, bigger is always better- bigger cars, homes, availability of technology etc, but each process does generate CO2– and when so many Americans also follow this policy, it creates problems.

But we must also consider the actions of the government as to a culture’s stance on the environment. For America, under the current administration, the environment is no longer a priority. The EPA has been scaled back and there is more emphasis on economic growth, while not a bad thing, it comes at the cost of the environment- which will cost a lot more to alleviate later. Also, every international policy that the USA was a part of, is now seen to be a burden to industry and is to be scrapped.

It seems as if the dollar, not the environment is king in America and as the saying goes “In God we trust, all others must pay”, but what will be the final price?

While there are more countries, and more cultures to explore, it is important to highlight the two extremes in the western world- the country riding the wave and the country trying to ignore the problem. Finally, the country where I reside: Japan.

There is a certain meticulous way of soring rubbish/trash in Japan which differs from city to city and is always complex and mistakes are commonly made. According to the council for PET bottle recycling (I wonder is there is any bias here???), in 2014, about 94% of PET bottles were recycled. But the Japanese relationship with plastic is slight ridiculous.

When buying a bento (弁当), there is usually a small piece of plastic grass contained within for decoration in addition to the plastic box, the plastic seal, and the plastic bag that it comes with. Multiply this across many other items in Japan and you can understand why it  was highlighted at the G20, various international media sources and on daytime TV in Japan. Even with this attention, it has been (mostly) ignored by the Japanese.

Looking at the 3 countries, Germany is winning the eco race, Japan is half way, and the US comes last. Looking at all of this, if scientists are wrong and we do nothing, all we have done is reduce go global pollution and help many endangered species survive. But if scientists are correct and things continue the way they have been going, at the very least many people will die either due to extreme weather patterns, low lying countries being flooded, and food becoming a scarce resource. So perhaps doing you part (even just a little bit) will make a difference.

I will write more on being ecologically friendly in other countries in the future- it is vital to explore this as the effects will affect everyone.

Thank you for reading and please consider what I have written. As always, happy exploring.

Want to do something? Don’t know where to start?  please check out the link below to sign a petition

http://chng.it/HCyMWMvQ7X