Medi snips | Sunday Observer

Medi snips

25 October, 2020

disABILITY - World’s first Teletherapy App launched

A tri-lingual app designed to support Lankan children with disability and their families, by connecting them to expert guidance, was launched recently on World Cerebral Palsy Day (October 6) by the Merill J Fernando Charitable Foundation (MJF) and Millennium IT ESP, with partners Microsoft, Sarva and World Vision Lanka. The app complements the MJF Foundation’s disability advice channel on YouTube in reaching children and people with disabilities in remote parts of Sri Lanka, Head of Rehabilitation Services at the MJF Foundation Dr Gopi Kitnasamy told the Sunday Observer.

Noting that it was the first interactive App for disabled children globally, he said the App is currently available for android phones and tabs on the PlayStore and will shortly also be available for iOS on the App Store. It is designed in an intuitive manner basඉඉed on the age of the person and its services are available via an interactive platform on any Smartphone with only the most basic skills required to use the app, he said.

He said the app was available in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and offers an invaluable teletherapy service for people with Cerebral Palsy (CP).

Asked what kind of information it included and for whom, he said the App includes guided disability and development screening, access to paediatricians, early identification and intervention, therapeutic, educational and rehabilitation assistance. It also allows caregivers to monitor progress with guidance from the MJF Foundation’s multidisciplinary team, he added.

On plans for expanding this project, he said the disABILITY project focuses on emphasising the ability of people who are considered disabled and seeks to increase awareness of the estimated 40,000 people with Cerebral Palsy in Sri Lanka, 17 million around the world, and others with Down Syndrome or other developmental disorders.

“The app aims to share knowledge, therapies and services for people with disability - especially children - in regions of Sri Lanka where access to transport, regular therapy and other services are limited,” he said.

Influenza and Dengue in elders can cause serious complications – Geriatric specialist

The monsoon rains have begun and every year at this time around we see an increase in the incidence of Influenza, dengue fever and other rain related illnesses. Elders, over 65 years need special protection, says Dr Dilhar Samaraweera,Consultant Physician ,Geriatrics Unit , Kalubowila Teaching Hospital .

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Observer, on how these two diseases impact on the health of elders, he said that Influenza (commonly called the flu) is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B virus. The flu is contagious and is present in respiratory secretions and spread from person to person by droplets emanated from coughing, sneezing and touching surfaces contaminated by the virus. It is usually a self-limited minor illness. Influenza can cause devastating complications leading even to death in the elderly, he warned, adding that young and pregnant women were also vulnerable .


Since the Covid-19 pandemic has re surfaced , and symptoms were similar to the Covid-19 virus we asked him how we could identify flu symptoms. He said symptoms of flu include fever (temperature >100F or 37.8C), fatigue, body aches and joint pains, headache and muscle pains, cough and sore throat. However, the elderly may have atypical presentations with malaise, loss of appetite, weakness and dizziness and absence of typical symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle pains. Vomiting and diarrohea could also be a presentation of the flu. Thus it is best that measures are taken to prevent influenza as well as Covid-19 in the elderly. The younger generation needs to protect the elderly from these viral illnesses.

Commenting on other contributory factors, he said having multiple diseases such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney diseases ,high blood pressure, Diabetes mellitus and other immune compromising conditions also make the elderly more vulnerable to influenza resulting in debilitating viral/bacterial pneumonia. “Secondary infection of influenza with bacteria can lead to bacterial pneumonia in the elderly due to reduced immune mechanisms with senility,” he said, adding that Secondary bacterial pneumonia can result in severe illness and death.

Catastrophic results

He said Influenza can lead to a series of catastrophic events. “A simple flu can lead to confusion of an older person who may already have impaired cognitive functions, and confusion could lead to wandering, which could result in a fall due to already weak muscles, and the fall could result in the fracture of femur due to already brittle bones. The fracture could result in immobilization leading to accumulation of secretions in lungs leading to pneumonia aided by the immune compromised status caused by multiple chronic diseases encountered in old age.”, he said.

Preventive measures

To avoid getting the flu , he said the present measures initiated by the Health Ministry to prevent infection with Covid-19 could apply to influenza as well. They include :Social distancing, hand hygiene, avoidance of touching eyes, nose or mouth, or surfaces, covering your nose and mouth with your bent elbow when coughing and wearing of masks should be practised to prevent spreading the infection to others and to protect yourself. “Elders need to be aware of these measures and learn to practice them.”, he said. “ Improper use of the mask is common among the elderly who try to expose their nose and face when speaking to others. We often see people constantly touching and adjusting their loose masks and exposing the nostrils. The mask should be properly fitting to the face and one should refrain from touching and adjusting,” he said.

Other preventive measures include :Avoidance of crowded enclosed places , avoiding getting wet in the rain, and avoiding contact with infected persons. He advised elders to meet their doctor and get the flu vaccine every year before the seäsonal flu gets at them. . The flu vaccine is very effective in preventing the elderly from caching the flu and if you do get the flu after being vaccinated the symptoms will be milder and prevent complications. The flu vaccine is recommended to all those over 65 years, annually.

His final advice to elders is , “ If you get the flu, stay at home, take plenty of fluids, have lots of rest. Make sure that you pass urine adequately. For most the flu settles on its own. However you should consult your doctor if you develop shortness of breath, chest pain, intractable cough, high fever, feel confused or weak, dizzy or cannot keep fluids down due to severe bouts of vomiting. If an elderly person has the above symptoms it should be treated with appropriate antiviral therapy after hospitalization. The diagnosis of the flu is done by a nasal and throat swab.”