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Tuesday's papers: Drone warfare, measles jab advice, coping with SAD

Speculation about a new drone warfare unit, advice on vaccine protection and tips for overcoming the autumn blues.

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People interviewed by daily Helsingin Sanomat said that a visit to Helsinki's swanky new public library Oodi has given them a much-needed fillip to combat the effects of the ongoing darkness. Image: Yle

Tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat leads off Tuesday with a report that the Defence Forces are looking into the use of commercial drones in a new wartime force to be set up. The paper cites documents in its possession which indicate that the new unit would use commercially-available drones.

According to IS, the Defence Forces have sent out letters to Finnish citizens who have applied to the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi for permits to operate helicopters or other similar equipment. The letters ask recipients if they are interested in the proposed unit and outlines as criteria for joining, the completion of military service in Finland and a commitment to support police or emergency personnel as a drone operator.

They should also be interested in duties that require training and would have to initially commit to participating in annual training exercises. Recipients of the invitation letters were asked to respond by the end of the year.

Defence Headquarters communications chief Max Arhippainen told Ilta-Sanomat that the Defence Forces have conducted limited research into using commercial drones, but had not made a decision on establishing any new units.

Measles rears its head in Espoo

"No single vaccine provides complete protection from disease," Mia Kontio, a specialist with the national public health watchdog THL told Helsingin Sanomat in the daily's Tuesday edition. Kontio was referring to a case in Espoo where an adult who had previously been vaccinated against measles was diagnosed with the disease on 4 December.

The epidemiologist noted that the individual in the Espoo case had been vaccinated once as a child, and added that the current immunisation programme administers the shot twice. "Illnesses have been diagnosed in cases where [people] have received one or even two vaccines decades ago. In those cases the exposure generally must be quite intense," Kontio remarked, adding that such exposure may occur when a parent cares for an unvaccinated child with measles, for example.

Kontio explained that a single vaccine does not prevent a pathogen from invading the body. She stressed however that for vaccinated people, the symptoms of the disease may be milder and shorter-lived and they don't run the risk of serious complications. A double dose meanwhile, prevents re-infection. She pointed out that even a single dose is enough to ensure that the majority of people suffer no symptoms from infection, although some may experience a slight fever and a rash.

The THL expert explained that in 1975 Finland began to administer a single dose of the measles vaccine to all one-year-olds. "In 1982, Finland transitioned to the MMR vaccine, which was administered in two doses between the ages of one and six. Some of the single-dose infants also received a second shot," she added. However some born in the 70s are among those who received only one jab. MMR is a triple-dose vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Banish SAD, visit hip new Helsinki library Oodi

In another health-related piece, HS reminds readers suffering the ill-effects of Finland's polar night or kaamos that days will begin to lengthen in just two weeks. Until then however, some people react physically and psychologically to the period of extended darkness. Polar nights began in northern Finland on 24 November, heralding a period when the sun does not rise above the horizon until mid-January. The effect in the south is longer nights and fewer hours of daylight.

Another THL researcher, Timo Partonen, has been examining the phenomenon of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and told HS that symptoms of sensitivity to the darkness include a craving for sweets and poor quality sleep. He noted that more than 30 percent of adults in Finland suffer from the disorientation caused by the dark, while another two percent develop a form of depression related to the disorder. The first symptoms generally appear between the ages of 20 and 30.

Women take a harder hit than men during the autumn gloom. In Finland more than 20 percent of women are affected by the seasonal disorder, compared to about 12 percent of men, while four out of the five people who fall into depression are women. According to Partonen, the reason for the gender variation is unclear but is believed to be hormonal.

Researchers have long plotted a connection between insomnia and the secretion of melatonin in the brain but have not come to any conclusive results. However the hypothalamus' internal clock is believed to influence how people react to the amount of light available.

HS asked people in Helsinki about their coping mechanisms during the period. Some mentioned a light therapy lamp, while others said they turned to music, spending time with friends and family, exercise, travelling and enjoying nights in with a favourite movie or TV series. Oodi, Helsinki's chic new public library also received more than one mention as a reason to shake off the autumn blues.

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