Information and news about disease category

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria - The Final Three
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It is a devastating disease that primarily impacts children and it can survive in the wild, but not for long without a human host. There is no cure, therefore, immunization is the foundation for eradication efforts. Today, polio is almost entirely eradicated from the planet.

Global immunization campaigns have made terrific progress in decreasing wild poliovirus (WPV) cases by over 99 percent in the past 30 years, down from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 29 reported cases in 2018. While more work needs to be done, the world is closing in on the virus and all eyes are on polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria- the three final endemic countries. In the text below, the status of polio in these three countries is presented.

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan

Between the three countries listed above, in 2018 the most global polio cases were reported in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan is the only endemic country not currently battling vaccine-derived polio, a form that can paralyze, in addition to WPV, which is a victory. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Emergency Operation Centres, has dedicated continuing high-priority surveillance and instituted an aggressive immunization campaign to eradicate WPV in order to protect those most affected.

In November 2018, the country concluded an immunization campaign that targeted over five million children in the highest-risk provinces. These accomplishments are impressive, but at the same time fragile, because every single child must be vaccinated in this rapidly growing country. The Emergency Operation Centres are continuing to work under a National Emergency Action Plan and with local communities to ensure that all children are consistently reached now and in the future.

Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Polio could be eliminated from Pakistan this year, with continued strategic implementation. A vaccination campaign in December reached nearly 40 million children and the number of reported cases in the country is the lowest it has ever been. The race to the finish line requires continued focus on immunity gaps in high-risk and mobile communities, especially those that are close to the places where the virus is still indigenous, as well as continued accountability and high childhood vaccination rates.

Additionally, several of the endemic polio regions remain on the border with Afghanistan, which will require the two countries to continue addressing these WPV strongholds together. This region highlights the continued global threat of a virus that transcends geopolitical boundaries.

Polio Eradication in Nigeria

While WPV has never stopped circulating in Nigeria, there have not been any WPV cases since 2016. This is a terrific start towards wild polio eradication, but Nigeria has seen years without a WPV outbreak in the past only to see it return. The country is also managing continued vaccine-derived outbreaks. While immunization is paramount to eradication, some forms of the vaccine can infect patients and cause an outbreak. Though this adds a complex level to eradication strategies, immunization remains the most viable solution.

Currently, a variety of innovative solutions are underway to reach children in high-risk areas, including international immunization campaigns in the Lake Chad Basin whenever security permits, market vaccinations and seeking out nomadic communities. Similar to Afghanistan and Pakistan, continued efforts remain focused on closing immunity gaps, vaccinating all children and working with the country’s neighbors, but additional support for political and financial commitment is needed in Nigeria.

Going Forward

Wild polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria is almost complete, but there are several challenges facing major vaccination efforts. In order to achieve elimination, every single child needs to be immunized. Even one unvaccinated child leaves the entire world at risk of infection.

There are, however, real challenges to this seemingly straightforward goal. Barriers like reaching children in mobile populations or in active conflict zones require international political coordination and more resources for mobile and stationary vaccination teams. Another major barrier is vaccine-derived polio cases, which threaten populations that don’t currently see polio in the wild. Research into the implications of adjusting the vaccine are underway and seek to address eliminating the spread of vaccine-derived infection.

It will not be possible to eradicate every disease with vaccination. Polio is one of the ones that can be. As global health efforts target polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, the world will likely be able to list polio next to smallpox and rinderpest on the coveted list of globally eradicated diseases.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Five Diseases That Thrive in Poor Sanitation
Around 4 billion people in the world lack access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets or latrines and nearly 900 million people still defecate in the open. In addition, USAID estimates that 2.1 billion people currently do not have access to safe drinking water. These dismal conditions pose serious health hazards to the men, women and children living in these communities. Without toilets and latrines to separate human waste from living conditions and water sources, bacteria and virus are easily spread through food, water and direct human contact with waste.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are the result of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio that thrive in unimproved sanitation conditions. This might not sound like a high number, but when considering that these diseases can be relatively easily prevented with inexpensive sanitation and potable water solutions, this percentage sounds absurd. The following list of five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation provides a glimpse of what is at stake when communities are devoid of proper water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure.

Five Waterborne Diseases that Thrive in Poor Sanitation

  1. Diarrhea causes approximately 480,000 childhood deaths each year. This condition is linked to several viruses, bacteria and protozoans and ultimately depletes a person of water and electrolytes which, for many without oral rehydration solution, leads to death. One of the most important factors in eliminating diarrheal deaths, next to proper sanitation facilities, is handwashing. Something so simple can save lives and stop the cycle of diarrhea.
  2. Cholera is not just a disease from the pages of a history book, it is currently endemic in 51 countries in the world. It is unknown precisely how many deaths are directly the result of this waterborne disease, but WHO estimates that cholera kills from 21,000 to 143, 000 on a yearly basis. Contact with waste from an infected individual either directly or through food and water perpetuates the cycle of infection at an alarming rate. Proper sanitation is currently the first line of defense needed to curb this disease.
  3. Dysentery can be caused by either bacteria or an amoeba and presents an infection of the intestines. Fortunately, dysentery is usually cleared up on its own without treatment. However, this disease can be easily spread throughout communities without a system to separate waste from food and water.
  4. From 11 to 20 million people are infected with typhoid fever every year, causing up to 161,000 deaths on yearly basis. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria Salmonella Typhi through contaminated food or water and sometimes from direct contact with someone who is infected. Unlike many waterborne diseases, antibiotics and new vaccines can provide treatment and limited immunity. Yet, without proper water, sanitation and hygiene typhoid infection will persist and antibiotic-immune typhoid will spread which will make treatment of the disease more complicated.
  5. Polio transmission has significantly decreased over the past 30 years thanks to aggressive, worldwide immunization. Still, the threat of infection continues to spread as a direct result of poor sanitation. Poliovirus is spread when humans come into contact with the virus from human excreta or poliovirus that survives in the wild. Polio is close to being eradicated and providing sanitation to the areas where the disease persists is imperative if the world hopes to one-day be polio-free.

Strategies to Eradicate Waterborne Diseases

Efforts to control these five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation come from both government and international aid organizations. There is also a concerted effort to implement strategy and resources to address the need for clean water and sanitation.

On the strategy front, a 2013 call to action from the U.N. Deputy Secretary-General on sanitation that included the elimination of open defecation by 2025, the sixth Sustainable Development Goal that aims ensure clean water and sanitation for all as well as numerous global guidelines and action plans for water and waste management set forth by WHO, UNICEF and partners are paving the way for large-scale change.

Meanwhile, in terms of providing resources, some examples include USAID’s country-based programs between 2012 and 2017 that supplied potable water to 12.2 million people worldwide. Numerous companies are partnering with large development organizations to develop their own campaigns or are developing products like LifeStraw, Life Sack and PeePoople that provide immediate potable water and sanitation solutions to millions around the world. These examples, in addition to new vaccines, antibiotics and other disease-specific campaigns are working together to eliminate the threats posed by unimproved sanitation and to eradicate waterborne diseased that are taking the lives of millions of people across the globe.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is common in the United States since the ticks that spread it are indigenous to the Midwest and East Coast. Humans are actually incidental hosts for ticks, meaning that there is limited communicability from humans to other species, but the impact that Lyme Disease has on the populations that it affects is tremendous. In order to combat this issue, it is important to look at how Lyme disease affects humans, how people can protect themselves with prevention measures and how to better understand the nature of Lyme Disease and its symptoms.

How Lyme Disease Works

Different ticks transmit different diseases. Lyme disease, also known as (Borrelia burgdorferi), is a bacterial infection carried by the deer tick, also known as the Ixodes tick. Humans get infected after an Ixodes tick has been latched onto them for at least 36 to 48 hours because it takes time for the tick to propagate enough bacteria for it to spread to salivary glands and infect the blood.

There are three major stages to Lyme Disease.

  1. Stage 1 can occur within 3 to 32 days after a tick bite and is characterized by a highly distinctive bullseye rash called the erythema migrans on the skin where the bite occurred. Studies have shown that only 70-80 percent of infected people get this rash, which accounts for the number of patients that go undiagnosed.
  2. Stage 2 can occur days to weeks after the tick bite and it is when the bacteria spread to various parts of the body, resulting in different symptoms in the host including additional bullseye rashes, facial or Bell’s palsy, severe headaches, meningitis, pain in joints, heart palpitations and dizziness. This is also the stage where flu-like symptoms arise such as fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches
  3. Stage 3, the last stage, can occur months to years after the tick bite. Patients who have not received treatment may start noticing symptoms of arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling. The CDC Lyme Disease Brochure states that roughly 10 percent of patients that undergo antibiotic treatment develop what is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), which is likely due to the host’s immune response continuing after the infection has been cleared.

Preventing Lyme Disease

According to the CDC, the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to protect yourself. First, it is important to be aware of where ticks are found, and second, use tick repellant frequently around areas of the body where clothing might not be sufficient to prevent bites or where the skin is exposed and ticks can directly access the skin. The CDC recommends tick checks, especially on children, in arms pits, in and around the ears, around the waist and inside the belly button, the back of the knees, all around the head and in the groin area. Making these checks part of the regular routine after outdoors activities is the best way to prevent long-term exposure to ticks.

If a tick is found on the body, then it’s important to be able to quickly and effectively remove it with a tweezer. If the tick is attached on the skin for fewer than 24 hours, than the chance of getting Lyme disease is much lower. It is also important to protect household pets from Lyme Disease, mainly by using tick pesticides around areas where the pets often go, like the lawn, and by discouraging close contact with deer.

Kelly Mai
Photo: Google

Immunization in Sudan
For the past few years, Sudan has been in the middle of one of the worst measles outbreaks in their country’s history. With 1,730 confirmed cases and over 3,000 suspected cases, measles is spreading like wildfire. This has brought to light the desperate need for a proper system for immunization in Sudan, especially for diseases like measles.

Measles Prevention

Measles is a highly infectious disease that spreads very quickly, but can be easily prevented by vaccine.

After the introduction of the measles vaccine, there was an 84 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2016 worldwide. It is estimated that the vaccine prevented 20.4 million measles-related deaths during this time period. This statistic delineates the power of the vaccination and the positive effects it can bring to a country like Sudan.

With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health launched a country-wide campaign to vaccinate almost 8 million children for measles.

Combatting Poverty and Measles

Children living in poverty are particularly susceptible to catching measles as they are often malnourished. Additionally, children living in conflict zones are difficult to reach in order to immunize. As a result of such conditions, UNICEF has been tirelessly fighting to get humanitarian access to these areas.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also come to the forefront in the fight against measles. GOAL Global, a nonprofit that focuses on international aid for those in poverty, launched its own campaign for immunization in Sudan. Within the first 7 days, they vaccinated over 20,000 children.

GOAL Global worked in partnership with other major groups like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to get this campaign off the ground. Thanks to groups such as these, children that would otherwise lack access to healthcare are able to stay safe in the face of the measles epidemic.

Campaigns for immunization in Sudan are not as simple as just bringing the vaccine out to children. They require extensive planning and mapping out of areas, in addition to training healthcare workers to administer the vaccine.

Meningitis and Aid Organizations

Meningitis is another disease that Sudan struggles with. Meningitis affects the spinal cord and brain and in some cases can be life-threatening. Sudan accounts for 15 percent of meningitis cases in the “meningitis belt,” which is a stretch of countries heavily affected by the meningitis infection.

In recent years, WHO in partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF have launched an immunization campaign for meningitis with the goal to vaccinate 720,000 children in Sudan. Campaigns such as these require upkeep in order to keep the outbreak at bay and prevent the return of the disease.

Fostering Impactful Change

Vaccines are also an inexpensive, high-impact solution to disease. The introduction of immunization campaigns to Sudan has the potential to stop the measles epidemic and the meningitis problem dead in their tracks.

Vaccinations are a big step towards evening the playing field for children living in poverty compared to children from more affluent communities. Immunization in Sudan for diseases like the measles and meningitis give all children across the board a better chance at life.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in South AsiaEvery two minutes a child dies of Malaria worldwide. This potentially fatal disease has resurged in many countries in South Asia and surrounding Australia. A big attributor to this is the fact that infected mosquitos are developing resistance to the insecticides that are typically used in bed nets.

Papua New Guinea, for example, experienced a 400 percent surge in malaria cases between 2010 and 2016 and had 3,000 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. Additionally, the disease is more commonly drug-resistant than it used to be, which is leading to an increase in fatality levels.

Obstacles To Eradicating Malaria

Contributing to the spread of the disease is the lack of necessary funding to properly eradicate it. WHO needs between $6-9 billion to fight malaria, but there is currently only around $2.5 billion is being allocated. WHO had a goal to eliminate malaria by 2030, but due to its resurgence and the lack of funding, the likelihood of that being achieved is not high.

Malaria is known as a “disease of poverty.” Its prevalence in certain regions is indicative of the poverty rates in that area. Communities living in poverty are significantly less likely to have access to bed nets and insecticides among other tools to fight malaria. Lack of education also contributes to the lack of knowledge of how to prevent and treat malaria and, consequently, causes a rise in fatalities.

The disease often returns after a period of success in mitigating it. After malaria in South Asia has been successfully fought off, healthcare groups will focus on other diseases and stop actively maintaining the fight against malaria. This dynamic allows for a resurgence of the disease and perpetuates a cycle of malaria spreading.

Organizations Fighting Malaria

Luckily, there are developing solutions on the market. A new drug called Tafenoquine is giving hope to leading malaria experts. The treatment is taken over the course of two days, which is an advantage compared to the previously used treatment, Primaquine, which is taken over twelve days. The shorter treatment time increases the likelihood that those infected will comply and finish treatment.

There are also organizations that are putting their efforts towards eradicating the resurgence of malaria in South Asia. Unitaid has been putting money behind the development of simpler and easier treatments. The group has been collecting data in South Asia to better inform their efforts in addition to surveying in malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africa.

Working alongside Unitaid is The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Secretariat (APLMA). This group focuses not only on increasing innovation in malaria treatments but on providing access to treatments in at-risk communities. Many low-income regions are hard to reach, so APLMA has been looking for new and faster ways to get to these areas.

The efforts to reach at-risk communities are just as important as the work in developing new treatments. All the innovative treatments in the world could be discovered, but they would not matter if the people infected could not access them.

Thanks to Unitaid and APLMA’s projects, the outlook for malaria in South Asia is looking up. Technological advancements and expedited transportation are expected to assist in eliminating the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Death in GuyanaIn Guyana, the life expectancy is anywhere from 64 to 69 years-old. However, the probability of death occurring before the age of 60 is much higher due to a number of health issues affecting the people of Guyana every day. The World Health Organization and The Pan American Health Organization have made substantial progress in lowering fatality rates caused by communicable disease and have since shifted focus to more chronic conditions. These are the top 10 causes of death in Guyana as listed by the HealthData.

10 Causes of Death in Guyana

  1. Ischemic/ Coronary heart disease (CHD) – CHD is characterized by narrowed arteries that disrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart leading to heart attacks. This disease is caused by poor health habits such as drinking, smoking and inactivity. In Guyana, coronary diseases make up 32 percent of all deaths. To combat this issue, The Public Health Ministry of Guyana, The Canadian High Commission and Guyana Program for Advanced Cardiac Care are using PSAs to educate the population.
  2. Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke) – Strokes are attacks on the brain because oxygen and nutrients can’t reach the brain, which leads to the death of brain cells. The most common way to prevent a stroke is by adopting healthy dietary habits such as not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. A stroke doesn’t always result in death, but it can still cause a number of physical problems that require the availability of rehabilitation treatments.
  3. Diabetes Mellitus – In 2017, there were 52,400 cases of diabetes in Guyana, putting the prevalence of this disease at about 11.3 percent. Those most affected by diabetes are individuals between the ages of 45 and over. One strategy that has been taken to reduce the number of patients getting diabetes is the introduction of a tax on sugary beverages.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infection – According to The Guyana Budget & Policy Institute, respiratory infections make up for 31 percent of all child deaths between the ages of 0-1 in Guyana. Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis are the result of poor living conditions such as lack of hygiene, inaccessibility of clean water or sanitation as well as contact with unvaccinated individuals, which is common in Guyana.
  5. Self-harm/Suicide – Guyana has the third highest suicide rate in the world. In Guyana, the rate is 29 suicides per 100,000 deaths. It is also the second leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 15 and 24. Organizations like The National Suicide Prevention Plan and The Suicide Hotline are making efforts to improve mental health services, opening lines of communication and raising awareness about related factors such as alcohol abuse and mental health issues that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
  6. Hypertensive Heart Diseases – These are conditions that are caused most often by high blood pressure and include conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and thickening of the heart muscle. According to an assessment study in Charleston, Guyana, hypertension is the major cause of death for individuals 45-64 years old. In the study, it was shown that 7 of the 22 subjects, who were between the ages of 27 and 78, had high blood pressure readings and benefited from receiving medication. Certain cases of hypertension can be greatly reduced through long-term efforts. Creating awareness through education such as seminars and workshops and making more heart-healthy foods can contribute to the reduction of these conditions.
  7. HIV/AIDS – In 2016, it was reported that 8,500 people were living with HIV. Almost 100 of those infected were children who had contracted it from their mother. To combat this, Guyana has received more financial support, which allowed for the development of treatment sites and more resources for Voluntary Counselling and Testing clinics. As a result, the availability of antiretroviral drugs had increased to 83.5 percent in 2008, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had decreased to 1.1 percent in 2011.
  8. Chronic Kidney Disease – This is on the list as one of the causes of death in Guyana because of associated costs. Screening and identification are insufficient to detect chronic kidney disease. As such, many Guyanese people end up being checked into emergency rooms for kidney failure. The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is able to provide transplants at no cost to patients, but patients have to pay the cost of cross-matching tests to find a suitable donor. These tests are currently done in the U.S. and cost least $1 million. In order to avoid kidney failure, it has been recommended to drink sufficient amounts of water and avoid the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
  9. Road Injuries – According to World Health Rankings, road injuries have accounted for 2.05 percent of all deaths in Guyana. Furthermore, survivors of road accidents are left disabled and, therefore, can’t work, which creates financial instability. The estimated cost of care for accident victims is $100 million. Identified major factors include unlit roads, inexistence of sidewalks and bad driving habits.
  10. Interpersonal Violence – Guyanese people are encouraged to learn how to protect themselves and to seek help from authorities, especially since the police force has undergone a number of reforms such as modernization and more detailed instructions on how to deal with violence. The highest form of violence in Guyana is domestic violence towards women. The First Lady revealed that domestic partner violence has risen from 74.8 percent to 89 percent in just 6 years. As a result, she is increasing efforts to conduct research to find and address the root cause of this violence. She is also calling to educate and empower women in regions of Guyana where domestic violence is high. She is planning to enact The U.K. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security to accomplish these goals.

Despite the efforts made to decrease communicable diseases, there still remains a number of conditions that are in need of attention since they continue to claim the lives of many Guyanese people. The goal, therefore, is to achieve higher life expectancy through the elimination of these non-communicable diseases as well as education and awareness of health risks due to violence, mental health issues, unsafe road conditions and preventable illness.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

India beat NipahIn recent years, India’s healthcare sector has been growing greatly. By the year 2023, the market is anticipated to grow by 16-17 percent due to its strengthening coverage, development assistance and increased investments. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) reported that the hospital and diagnostic centers had attracted foreign investments worth five billion dollars between 2000 and 2017.

In attempts to continue improving healthcare in India, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed in India and Cuba in order to increase cooperation in the areas of health and medicine. In 2018, a budget of $13.16 billion dollars was approved to continue The National Health Mission from April 2017 to March 2020. The Government of India described the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between India and The World Health Organization (WHO) as a way to facilitate in improving health. Because of these improvements, India has had breakthroughs in many extents.

Healthcare Improvements in India

In the public health arena, India’s mortality rates have decreased. In 1951, the life expectancy was 37 years, but that number had increased to 65 years by 2011. The infant mortality rate has reduced from 146 to 70 infants per 1000 every year.

India, in the past, almost half of the global polio cases were in India. It was considered one of the most difficult places to end polio due to poor sanitation and a high-density population, but that changed in 2011 when the last polio case had been reported in early January. Now, they have been polio-free for the past seven years. This is a huge accomplishment in international health efforts.

In 2015, India was recognized for its significant efforts in public health by the World Health Organization for eliminating the problem of maternal and neonatal tetanus. In all 675 districts of the country, tetanus was reduced to less than one case per 1000 births as opposed to the prior 150,000 to 200,000 annually. This is due to improving access in rural areas to immunizations and pre/post natal services.

The Nipah Virus

Most recently, India successfully contained a Nipah virus outbreak. The Nipah Virus (NiV) is contracted from animal or human through contact with fruit bats. Some cases were found in humans after the consumption of contaminated date palm sap, but many have also contracted the disease from contact with infected pigs. From human to human, the disease is spread through fluids and can affect anyone who comes in contact with a contaminated body.

Since symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after a person gets infected, early symptoms are often confused with a common cold or fever. Some common symptoms are headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness, but more dangerous symptoms are neurological, causing confusion and disorientation.

Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease and the potential mortality rate of those infected, The World Health Organization has classified the virus as a priority. Currently, there is no cure, only intensive treatment; therefore, containment is the best way to prevent further outbreaks.

Successful Containment of the Nipah Virus

In May of 2018, the NiV virus was found in Soopikada where a family was affected when two brothers fell sick after cleaning an abandoned, bat-infested well. At the time, the young men died of an unknown cause. Dr. G Arunkumar, a virologist and the head of The Department of Microbiology at The Manipal Center for Virus Research, received a call about the illness and believed it was critical to investigate.

The labs at The Manipal Center for Virus Research and the National Institute of Virology in Pune were prepared to identify outbreaks of Nipah due to training in 2014 initiated by the United States Global Health Security Agenda. Arunkumar explained. “I ruled out other causes of encephalitis and suspected it was Nipah right away.” Less than 12 hours after he received the patient’s tissue samples, his lab confirmed his suspicion.

Public-interest messages were sent out telling people with flu symptoms to report to the government-run Kerala Minister for Health for treatment. A helpline was set up so the public could call to report their symptoms. The same protocol used for Ebola was used for Nipah. As word spread about NiV, people stayed indoors. Businesses remained open but schools were closed.

Three weeks after Nipah had been identified as a cause of the outbreak, on June 10, Kerala’s Minister for Health, K.K. Shylaja, declared that India beat Nipah. There have been no new cases since the last death on May 30. Arunkumar feels that heightened awareness and monitoring for encephalitis symptoms should continue among health-care practitioners in India.

Successfully containing NiV was an important indication that healthcare is improving in India. Limiting the spread of deadly diseases is a step toward increasing the mortality rate and safety of the people in India and all over the world. Having the facilities necessary and the training to recognize and treat various illnesses has been the key to other important breakthroughs, like being Polio-free and reducing maternal and neonatal tetanus.

– Akira Johnson

Photo: Google

Swine Flu in Limpopo
A number of citizens in the northeastern part of South Africa have contracted the H1N1 virus, which is commonly referred to as the swine flu. The swine flu in Limpopo is most prevalent in the city of Tzaneen, in which many residents have been hospitalized due to the severity of this ailment. The outbreak and its effects are very serious, and could potentially be lethal; despite the dangerous concerns, South Africa is ready to handle the virus.

Influenza and Beyond

The influenza strain itself frequently causes illness in pig herds. For humans, the virus is considered a “variant case” because it rarely occurs in humans, yet when it spreads, the Swine Flu transforms into a respiratory infection that causes exhaustion, fever, sore throat and nausea. The illness is very contagious, and spreads through touching contaminated surfaces or breathing the virus itself.

If the symptoms persist without detection, the virus could turn into pneumonia, bronchitis or lung infection. Such developments could result in further health complications. Pregnant women are the most vulnerable group to contract the swine flu — according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, pregnant women who have the H1N1 virus are four times more likely to be hospitalized than non-pregnant carriers of the disease.

Pregnant Women in South Africa

In South Africa, pregnant women are treated as a priority group because they are exceedingly susceptible to the disease; therefore, hospitals have taken great caution to prevent and treat pregnant women who have contracted the virus. Due to the seriousness of the H1N1 virus, provinces within South Africa have issued amber alerts to warn residents about the continued threat of the swine flu in Limpopo.

A staggering finding found that about 98 percent of influenza infections this year within South Africa have been the H1N1 strain — this statistic shows the extremity of the virus among humans within the country. The latest outbreak occurred just weeks ago on June 30, 2018, and the H1N1 virus has left many individuals, particularly in Limpopo, in critical condition. Fortunately, there are no deaths yet that are due to the swine flu.

Hospitalization and H1N1 Counteractions

The illness has caused the hospitalization of individuals of all different ages and genders. For instance, one middle-aged man who seemed rather a health prior to the virus is now hooked up to a machine. The virus could have been a lot worse if medical professionals did not brace their patients for a bad flu season; many vaccines were given before the start of the season.

Not only did the nation prepare in advance for influenza, but most of the country also formulated a robust plan to counteract the virus. Evidently, the swine flu in Limpopo warranted a strong response from health departments and medical centers across the nation. The Western Cape Department of Health used data from global statistics and research to combat the further spread of the virus. They have since improved their vaccine so that it can prevent the newest version of the virus.

Preventive and Future Efforts

Medical centers and governmental officials are advising residents to visit their doctors if they experience symptoms related to the swine flu. Hospitals have outlined guidelines to abide by in order to prevent its spread, such as washing hands more frequently, consulting doctors as soon as any symptom occurs, inhaling fresh air and eating unprocessed, vibrant foods.

The best way to avoid the virus is to get vaccinated. Each year, doctors and researchers urge South African citizens to receive the vaccination. The country and its residents encountered one of the worst flu seasons last year, therefore, they were more prepared to handle this recent outbreak.

The swine flu in Limpopo reflects how influenza continues to be a global health issue. The international community and nations across the globe must be ready to combat the outbreak of influenza. Limpopo shows that preventative measures are exceedingly effective, yet they are always making improvements to better the response in the next year to come.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Google

Typhoid in MalawiTyphoid is a bacteria known as Salmonella Typhi that causes a gastrointestinal infection, leading to typhoid fever. This bacteria transfers from person to person and is spread due to lack of access to adequate sanitation and clean water. Typhoid continues to afflict many countries across the world in regions lacking access to sanitation. In 2016, an estimated 130,000 people died from typhoid fever across the world. One of the countries where typhoid continues to be a serious problem is the southeastern African country of Malawi.

Symptoms and Effects of Typhoid

Those affected by typhoid fever often struggle with symptoms such as extreme fatigue, rashes and a loss of appetite. In severe cases, typhoid can cause hemorrhaging or a perforation in the intestines.  Even after patients recover from typhoid or stop showing symptoms, they may continue to carry and spread the bacteria. Typhoid also affects more than just physical health; illness can impact people’s lives by impeding their ability to work or even to go to school. This results in a loss of wages or education for the duration a person suffers from typhoid. In recent years, typhoid has become more dangerous, as the bacteria grows increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment.

The New Vaccine Against Typhoid in Malawi

Due to the severe prevalence of typhoid in Malawi, there has been a push for the use of vaccinations to prevent, or at least reduce, the effect of typhoid. In February of 2018, a conjugate vaccine trial was launched in Malawi. This vaccine is called Typbar-TCV. Young children are particularly vulnerable to typhoid, and Typbar-TCV is the first vaccine against the disease that can be given to children younger than two years old. Roughly 24,000 children in Malawi will participate in the trial.

Typbar-TCV was developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian biotechnology company. Several studies have been conducted since 2005, and the vaccine was first launched in 2013. This vaccine has a wide range of effectiveness, from children as young as six months old to adults. Tests have shown that the vaccine to be 87 percent effective in preventing the contraction of typhoid. It also lasts longer than previously used vaccines, providing greater protection for a longer period of time.

Benefits of Typbar-TCV

The cost of treating typhoid can be a significant burden on people living in poverty, but the new vaccine takes steps to alleviate this burden. A study in 2016 reported that almost 70 percent of people living in Malawi were surviving on $1.90 USD or less per day. In the majority of developing countries, treatment for typhoid can be between $50 and $5,000. In contrast, the new Typbar-TCV vaccine costs $1.50 per dose to GAVI eligible countries. Through the vaccine’s affordability, the prohibitive cost burden that typhoid places on those who are the most vulnerable can be avoided.

Over the span of four years leading up to 2014, the appearance of multidrug-resistant typhoid increased by 90 percent in Malawi. Because of inadequate sanitation, people in the country remain vulnerable to typhoid while the disease itself becomes more difficult to treat. This antibiotic resistance increases the urgency for methods to prevent the spread of typhoid so that antibiotics become unnecessary. The Typbar-TCV vaccine is a step in the direction of reducing this danger by hindering the growth of increasingly deadly and untreatable forms of typhoid.

The use of Typbar-TCV in Malawi is a great achievement. The vaccine provides a method of preventing the spread of typhoid among those who need it, including infants who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the disease. Typbar-TCV will reduce the need for the antibiotics required after a person has contracted typhoid; this reduces the prevalence of multidrug-resistant strains of typhoid as well as protecting people from becoming infected in the first place. This vaccine against typhoid keeps the most vulnerable populations of Malawi safe.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Pneumonia in HaitiPneumonia is lung inflammation caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide for children under the age of five. The issue is exacerbated by environmental and economic factors. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, especially in young children, and leaves people more susceptible to disease. Poverty and inadequate public infrastructure lead to poor access to medical care, affecting both those who are already sick and those trying not to contract an illness. By nearly every metric, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and this is further illustrated by the country’s high rates of pneumonia.

Vaccination Efforts in Haiti

According to a study conducted by Albert Schweitzer Hospital, pneumonia in Haiti is responsible for close to 40 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five. In response to the epidemic of pneumonia in Haiti, the Haitian government has focused on vaccinating more people. However, the country still lags behind the rest of the world in vaccination rates; according to a 2012 study, only 45 percent of children between one and two years old have been satisfactorily vaccinated.

The Benefits of Foreign Aid

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, also known as the GAVI Alliance, has helped the Haitian government in reaching its vaccination goals. In a 2012 press release, the GAVI Alliance announced a nationwide vaccination campaign that would utilize both the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which would target the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhea. The organization has also pledged $9.2 million in total support to the people of Haiti. The funding has gone toward immunization, injection safety and medical training.

Other organizations have attempted to address the problem of pneumonia in Haiti. In conjunction with USAID, the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) runs 60 mobile health clinics that visit villages around Jérémie, a coastal town in southwestern Haiti. USAID also leads a team of health agents, who provide life-saving medical knowledge and doctor referrals so that victims of pneumonia can find the help they need. Within Jérémie, the Haitian Health Foundation runs a 27,000-square-foot outpatient clinic which serves more than 120,000 patients per year.

The Future of the Fight Against Pneumonia

However, the fight against pneumonia in Haiti is far from over. There are still massive regional disparities in vaccinations in Haiti which result in disparities in instances of pneumonia. For example, a study of vaccinations in Haiti found that western Haiti, as well as parts along the eastern coast, had a vaccination rate between 55 and 65 percent. In contrast, large swathes of central and southern Haiti had a vaccination rate of less than 35 percent.

The work of organizations like the GAVI Alliance, the Haitian Health Foundation and the government of Haiti has produced positive results in alleviating pneumonia. In southwest Haiti, child deaths from pneumonia have been cut in half. As a whole, Haiti’s mortality rate for people afflicted by pneumonia has plummeted since the ‘90s, despite the spike in pneumonia cases that occurred between 2004 and 2013. The fight is not over, but important battles are being won against pneumonia in Haiti.

-Peter Buffo
Photo: Flickr