viral outbreak

How rubber plantations are exacerbating the dengue outbreak in one north Kerala area

Anywhere between one-third and two-thirds of Koorachundu panchayat’s population has been affected by fever.

On Monday, 48-year-old Jolly pawned her gold ornaments for Rs 15,000. Jolly had just recovered from a bout of viral fever. But her husband, son, brother and sister-in-law still had fever and were being treated for it at the Koorachundu community health centre.

“All the members in my family are under treatment for fever,” said Jolly. “Even if they recover, they have to take rest for one month. I do not have any option but to pawn my ornaments.”

Many residents of Koorachundu, a hilly gram panchayat in Kozhikode district in north Kerala and 40 km from Kozhikode city, have been affected with fever in the last three months. Media reports suggest that about 12,000 residents have been infected with some kind of viral fever in the panchayat, which has a total population of 17,000. However, health officials say that this is an exaggerated figure as the total number of patients who visited the community health centre did not exceed 6,000.

“We have not done any official enumeration of the number of fever-infected persons,” said KS Divya, medical officer at the Koorachundu community health centre. “The figure should be less than 6,000.”

Kerala has been in the grips of a severe health crisis since June due to the spread of dengue and H1N1 or swine flu. The Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, the government’s disease monitoring system, indicated that 12 lakh people were affected by some kind of viral fever this year. The project confirmed 7,473 dengue cases till June 21. Thirteen deaths have been confirmed as dengue deaths while 51 others have been classified as suspected dengue cases. As many as 86 swine flu cases were confirmed in the state till June 21.

Thiruvananthapuram has been the district worst affected by fever followed by Kozhikode, where Koorachundu has registered the maximum number of fever cases.

The microcosm of the Koorachundu panchayat reflects the falling health standards across Kerala. On Monday, hordes of patients waited at the community health centre. They had been there since 7 am, a good two hours before the arrival of doctors, nurses and para-medical staff.

Long queue for blood tests at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)
Long queue for blood tests at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)

The health centre managed the crowd of patients and their relatives only with the support from volunteers, who distributed tokens and ensured everyone formed queues to see the doctors and to get laboratory tests done. The volunteers carried patients who could not walk or set them in wheelchairs and provided them with water, tea and rice gruel.

The community health centre administration has pressed three ambulances into service to shift patients with complications to the Government Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode and to other private hospitals. On Monday alone, 40 patients were shifted to other hospitals for advanced treatment.

The community health centre functions for 11 hours these days. “We have detected six confirmed and 66 suspected dengue cases,” said Vidya. “But what frightened residents was the death of five people due to dengue fever.”

Death report prepared by the medical officer at Koorachundu community health centre. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)
Death report prepared by the medical officer at Koorachundu community health centre. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)

Kerala has the lowest infant mortality rate in the country, with only 6 deaths for every 1,000 children born, which is equal to the infant mortality rate of the United States. The state also has the highest lifespan of 74.9 years among all Indian states. But the fever outbreak has exposed the chinks in this rather robust healthcare system.

The director of state health services RL Saritha said spurt in fever cases should not be construed a big problem with the healthcare system.

“Infectious diseases will increase during monsoon,” she said during her visit to Koorachundu community health centre on Monday. “The health department has taken all measures to check the spread of diseases.”

Saritha said the fever outbreak was under control even though the number of fever patients visiting hospitals is rising every day.

Dengue among rubber crops

Koorachundu is a predominantly farmers’ village. Rubber is the major cash crop and the farmers made good fortunes before the prices slumped sharply in the recent years. Now rubber cultivation is not profitable and farmers have stopped collecting the latex from rubber trees. The cups that they used to collect the latex with now get filled with rain water – the perfect breeding ground for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the dengue virus.

Cleaning in progress in Koorachundu. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)
Cleaning in progress in Koorachundu. (Photo: TA Ameerudheen)

Health officials in Koorachundu have requested all rubber farmers to remove the mugs from the plants. “Removing the mugs will deny mosquitoes a major habitat,” said KC Basheer, a health inspector attached to the community health centre.

Another reason for the spread of mosquitoes, Basheer said, is the fact that coconut farmers had not cleaned the crowns of palm trees, having neglected their crops after a fall in coconut prices. These fibrous stalks that remain on a palm tree also provide a good habitat for mosquitoes.

Basheer insisted that Koorachundu would become fever-free panchayat with active vector control measures.

Meanwhile, some residents attributed the the fever outbreak to unscientific waste disposal from pig farms in the panchayat and dumping of hospital waste from Kozhikode city on private land in the area.

Volunteers carry patients on wheelchair at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. Photo TA Ameerudheen
Volunteers carry patients on wheelchair at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. Photo TA Ameerudheen

“The medical waste contaminated water and provided ideal climate for mosquito breeding,” said aanganwadi teacher Jolly. “It made us all patients.”

Though the number of patients at the Koorachundu community health centre has slowly been coming down, some people who recovered from dengue have got infections for the second time.

Fifty-year-old Aboobaker recovered from dengue fever a week ago, but he came to health centre on Monday again with high fever.

Divya, the medical officer, is worried by these cases of repeat infections. “Four serotypes of the dengue virus are in circulation,” she said. “Persons who get infection for the second time should be very careful. The second infection might have caused by a different serotype.”

Fever patients waiting for consultation at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen
Fever patients waiting for consultation at the Community Health Centre in Koorachundu. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen

This reporting project has been made possible partly by funding from New Venture Fund for Communications.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.