Information and news about disease category

Diseases in TanzaniaAbout 36% of the 57 million people living in Tanzania fall below the poverty line. It is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Many impoverished countries deal with severely inadequate healthcare. However, Tanzania has recently experienced tremendous advances in healthcare. Overall better accessibility to healthcare improved death rates and diseases in Tanzania and even prompted innovative disease prevention. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tanzania.

6 Facts About Diseases in Tanzania

  1. Health access and quality have increased. Healthcare access and quality are essential for a prosperous community. When disease and illness go untreated, entire populations of people can be affected. Tanzania received a Healthcare Access and Quality Index rating of 33.9 in 2016 compared to 21.9 in 1990. Some of the factors contributing to this increase include a flourishing economy, increased education and foreign aid.
  2. Malnutrition has decreased by almost 10%. Although malnutrition is still one of the leading causes of death and disability in Tanzania, it has been declining since 2007. Malnutrition causes many diseases, especially in children. Malnutrition is detrimental to children’s cognitive growth and overall health. UNICEF is an organization working with the government and other local partners in Tanzania to improve child nutrition by implementing a food and nutrition policy.
  3. HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased drastically. As one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has prompted many years of advocacy and support from organizations and governments all around the world. As a result of these efforts, HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased tremendously in Tanzania. In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the number one leading cause of death in Tanzania, and by 2017, the death rate had declined by 75%.
  4. Only 15% of people in rural areas have improved sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of the spread of disease. Many impoverished communities struggle with combating diseases that spread through poor sanitation facilities. In rural Tanzania, about 85% of the population struggles with poor sanitation equipment, including toilets, showers and water sources for drinking. UNICEF implemented the Behaviour Change Communication approach which sets an example on effectively educating communities on embarrassing topics, such as personal hygiene. The work of UNICEF and local communities has helped prevent the rapid spread of disease through poor sanitation in the impoverished areas of Tanzania.
  5. Tuberculosis has a 90% treatment success rate. Even though tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, it has a high treatment success rate. One of the contributing factors to tuberculosis treatment success is the increase in accessible quality healthcare. Considering that the tuberculosis mortality rate is less than half of a 10th percent, treatment options for tuberculosis have successfully prevented many deaths related to this disease in Tanzania.
  6. Around 78% of households have an insecticide mosquito protective net. Transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is one of the leading causes of death in Tanzania. Preventative measures have been taken to decrease contact with mosquitoes, including the installation of the insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) in homes. These nets are safely treated with insecticide to block mosquitoes from entering. A more durable version of the ITN called a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN), has been produced. Both of these nets are recommended by WHO for malaria prevention.

Despite being one of the most impoverished countries in the world, Tanzania has made great advancements in its healthcare. Combating many of the issues that come with poverty, Tanzania has found innovative ways to combat disease. With the efforts of UNICEF and local community groups, Tanzania has decreased diseases that are caused by poor healthcare and malnutrition.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. For example, Kenya has less than 2,000 cases due to effective government actions in curbing the spread of the virus. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr

The Malaria Crisis in India
The malaria crisis in India has been an ongoing issue for centuries. However, along with the rest of the world, India has been making significant progress throughout the past few years with respect to decreasing its malaria cases. While millions are still at risk, India has implemented multiple health care plans that have contributed to its malaria reduction.

 What is Malaria?

Malaria is a parasite that mosquitoes spread and can produce a wide range of symptoms including fever, chills, sweating, mental confusion and gastrointestinal symptoms. Malaria is most common in warm, humid and rainy climates because that is where the parasite is able to survive and complete its growth cycle. This is why malaria has been such a prevalent disease in India and in other countries close to the equator. However, despite the stagnant weather patterns, India has been making strides towards a malaria-free nation.

In 1995, there were approximately a total of 2.93 million cases of malaria in India, with about 1,151 deaths from the disease. In comparison, 2017 saw approximately 0.84 cases of the disease in the nation and only 194 deaths.

Eliminating Malaria

Due to a combination of factors, India is on track to complete its goal of total elimination of malaria by 2027. The nation has taken the disease very seriously and has strengthened both its Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) and the National Health Mission (NHM). A combination of these two programs has helped health professionals and citizens respond to the malaria crisis in India.

A few different strategies currently control malaria cases in India. One is vector control, which means that people control mosquitoes in high-risk areas of malaria with personal protective measures and environmental awareness. Early Case Detection and Prompt Treatment (ECDPT) is a necessary strategy for all cases of malaria, as it not only improves symptoms of the disease in those already infected, but it also helps prevent the spread of the disease by providing treatment at the time of infection.

Since malaria is a very widespread disease across Asia, India is a member of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN). This is a network that the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) runs, which has the goal of eliminating malaria and sharing action plans across the countries of that region.

Though there is not a malaria vaccine yet, multiple countries in Africa are currently testing a vaccination program that could make its way to India if successful. A vaccine would be economically friendly for those who are among the poorest in India or live in remote areas, where 90 percent of malaria cases occur. The vaccine would also solve the recent issue of drug-resistant parasites.

World Malaria Day

Every year, on April 25, people celebrate World Malaria Day to encourage everyone’s education about the disease and how to prevent its spread. Four percent of all malaria cases occur in India, a substantial amount, which is why it is important that the awareness of the disease is prevalent in the country.

With the significant progress that the country has made in eliminating malaria, India will continue to defy odds by continuing to empower communities and committing to further action plans.  This will ensure that the malaria crisis in India will no longer pose a major threat to its population.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

Kershaw’s Challenge's Impact
In 2011, LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and wife Ellen Kershaw started Kershaw’s Challenge, a faith-based, nonprofit organization. They founded the organization with the goal of encouraging people to use their talents to give back to people in need. Nine years later with the same goal at heart, Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic continues to grow through Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission.

While Kershaw’s Challenge focused solely on Zambia at its start, it expanded to focus on Dallas and Los Angeles in 2012 and in 2015, widened its reach to the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the organization announced its partnerships with Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission, focusing on the Dominican Republic. Both Clayton and Ellen felt led to serve the Dominican Republic because they knew many fellow baseball players and teammates from the country.

Both Ends Believing (BEB)

In May 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced Both Ends Believing (BEB) as its new beneficiary. BEB’s mission is to “see every child grown up in a family” and has implemented Child First software to accomplish this.

According to SOS Children’s Villages, nearly 578,000 children under the age of 15 in the Dominican Republic are without parental care. Child pregnancy, chronic disease and mental or physical disabilities are among the factors that lead children to be at risk of being without care.

Through BEB’s software, it is able to identify children living in situations where they are vulnerable or at risk of neglect. BEB is then able to form a plan to get children out of these situations and into a loving home.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has continued through its support of Both Ends Believing. Its partnership with BEB also has a focus on Zambia, its other international beneficiary.

International Justice Mission (IJM)

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced International Justice Mission (IJM) as its new beneficiary, focusing on efforts combatting human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Several months earlier, Clayton and Ellen Kershaw traveled to the Dominican Republic alongside IJM. While there, they had the opportunity to meet with the Dominican Republic’s President, Danilo Medina, and they discussed the exploitation of children in the area. They were also able to visit Santo Domingo’s red-light district where they spent an afternoon playing baseball with survivors of sex trafficking. They even spent a night undercover in Boca Chica, where they saw trafficking first-hand.

According to the International Justice Mission, human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is mainly street-based, where customers can purchase young girls very easily. IJM has rescued more than 120 children and young women and has restrained more than 30 criminals since it opened its field office in the Dominican Republic back in 2013.

Through its partnership with IJM, Kershaw’s Challenge hopes to focus on the rescue and restoration of survivors, the restraint of suspects and the conviction of traffickers in the Dominican Republic. The organization also wants to help improve aftercare and investigation programs.

7th Annual PingPong4Purpose

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge hosted its seventh Annual PingPong4Purpose, where it had a Giving Wall that raised funds for a rescue mission through IJM. A portion of the proceeds also went to Both Ends Believing, as well as its other national beneficiaries.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has been great through both International Justice Mission and Both Ends Believing, as both organizations remain a special cause for both Clayton and Ellen. Kershaw’s Challenge plans to announce its 2020 beneficiaries on Opening Day, March 26, 2020. People can donate to Kershaw’s Challenge directly through its website, and can also support the organization through buying merchandise or attending events.

 – Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr

New Ebola and Malaria Vaccines
In December 2019, the Gavi Board, an organization that improves the accessibility of immunizations to vulnerable children, approved a new program that will allocate new Ebola vaccines. A new funding initiative will invest about $178 million by 2025 for a new program to develop the vaccines. The decision is monumental in leading global health emergency stockpiles, which will grow to 500,000 doses.

Ebola’s Effect on Poverty

A study in December 2014 in Liberia indicated that the infectious disease hits poorer neighborhoods most. People in poverty are 3.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those in wealthier areas. Due to the dense population and lack of sanitation and health care facilities, the people in these communities are more susceptible to the virus. Ebola first appeared on an epidemic level in West Africa in 2014. While it existed prior to that, those cases were more contained. Crowded urban areas resulted in higher transference, further developing the outbreak.

Malaria Vaccines

In addition to the Ebola vaccine, Gavi approved continued steps in curating an implementation program for new malaria vaccines. The routine distribution of these vaccines will reduce child death significantly. Malaria is the primary cause of death of children under 5-years-old, with a reported 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Malaria is also one of the top four causes of poverty, according to the United Nations. Its lack of affordable measures has strained many African economies, costing an estimated $30 billion a year. Many people cannot afford efficient medication and 20 percent often die due to poorly distributed drugs.

Countries affected by poverty and low income will have access to these vaccination campaigns free of charge, which will help boost economies. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually experienced rash Ebola outbreaks, with the latest one being in August 2018. Since then, the DRC has grappled with over 2,200 lives lost and 3,421 more reported cases in January 2020. In July 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency that called for international concern.

The US Fights Against Ebola

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also participate in close efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The FDA granted programs in order to advance the development of new drugs that will lead to the prevention of tropical diseases. People primarily contract Ebola through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood and infected wild animals or people. Limiting these factors is difficult, but with proper medication and programs, along with the investments in sanitation and health care facilities, outbreaks will significantly reduce. These types of decisions are paramount in shifting the United States’ focus to a more global standpoint in regards to large-scale poverty.

The development of Ebola and malaria vaccination pilots is essential to the sustainability of areas affected by extreme poverty. Preventable measures will reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases among these low-income communities. These comprehensive overviews will scale back the rate of Ebola outbreaks in African regions, which will also cut back on excessive government spending. Vaccination programs will help prevent 24 million people from facing extreme poverty by 2030. People could prevent a quarter of deaths that the outbreaks caused through simple vaccination, which makes these programs all the more noteworthy. The Gavi Board and the FDA’s efforts in launching new malaria and Ebola vaccines will contribute to the positive impact.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2019 Coronavirus
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak in China has infected thousands and killed hundreds of people in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, France, the United States and other countries. As a result, there are strict preventative measures, as currently, only supportive care exists – meaning there is no definitive cure. Understanding all relevant information about the virus itself and the reaction of the global health community is highly relevant, important and necessary.

The 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19)

Originating in Wuhan, China, the 2019 coronavirus is a viral infection that causes breathing problems. The 2019 coronavirus is within the same family of viruses – but a different strand – that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It transmits from human to human through coughing, sneezing and other moist bodily particles. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, fever and cough, similar to typical viral infections.

Treatment

People can use supportive care for symptom relief, such as fever relief with Tylenol. No one has developed an antiviral for the 2019 coronavirus yet, which would consist of suppression of further viral infection of host cells, rather than viral eradication.

Prevention

The CDC recommends avoiding crowds to reduce the chance of interacting with infected persons. People should also practice hand-washing and good hand-hygiene practices. These measures include avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing. Moreover, people should disinfect surfaces frequently.

Monitoring

Those individual(s) who might have traveled on a plane or are concerned about becoming infected should monitor for symptoms. Symptoms are likely to occur between two to 14 days after traveling to China or interacting with individuals(s) who have traveled to China. Contact with the 2019 coronavirus can occur within six feet of a person and/or can occur directly when touching moist bodily particles. If symptoms occur, one should notify and visit a doctor’s office immediately.

Global Health Response

The WHO International Health Regulations Committee first met to advise the Director-General on disease control and prevention strategies. WHO then visited Wuhan, China in January 2020 to establish a plan with China’s President, Xi Jinping, in treating existing patients and containing the virus. Globally, WHO is currently conducting research to find a viable treatment for COVID-19; the U.S. is simultaneously conducting a vaccine trial to prevent further spread. WHO and various international health ministries are gathering up funding, projected to be about $675 million, to support the Strategies Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan outlines preparedness protocol for countries, in particular, those with limited health systems, to stop virus transmission, treat patients and collaborate between countries to carry out all necessary operations.

Global Response

Many countries and organizations, such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Japan and Pakistan among many others, are sending medical supplies and equipment to help China in addressing COVID-19 treatment needs. Doctors in China are administering care to patients in temporary treatment centers while other health officials are managing supplies and equipment to ensure appropriate use. Furthermore, various Chinese companies are investing in research; other organizations are fundraising to support disease control efforts. Chinese city locals and groups are also coming together to lend a hand in stopping the outbreak.

Globally, support is even coming in from philanthropists, international businesses and foreign aids. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million. These efforts are all contributing to research, treatment and prevention funds. Foreign aid from the U.S. comes in the form of a medical advisory board going to China to work with its health officials while the European Union is providing $11 million USD for research on the virus.

Information regarding the 2019 coronavirus is emerging daily. Health organizations, governments, non-government organizations and businesses are pulling resources to contain the illness and its outbreak.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including malaria and the Zika virus, abound in hotter, more humid countries and regions including Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Africa. Whereas malaria has many symptoms like high fever, diarrhea, nausea and sweating, the Zika virus is not as easily detectable. Its symptoms are milder, and this includes rashes, itching, high fever and muscle pain. Accordingly, the organization Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses in Honduras through numerous efforts.

The Ways that Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Our Health is a project that Global Communities runs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds. It works with the Honduran Ministry of Health (SESAL). There are two parts to Our Health, which focuses on strengthening communities and improving education.

The goals of the first part are to increase the number of response activities in Honduran communities to prevent Zika transmission and to improve the communication of said activities. This focus is on the poor, urban areas of Honduras, including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Lima and Villanueva. At the moment, Our Health has 36 health establishments and 360 communities to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus. However, being successful in promoting the power of communities means it must have a way to implement this community-based solution. Its implementation phase takes an estimated three years with the first phase taking one year. The first phase fosters community-led responses to Zika outbreaks and building up communities in general. The second phase takes the remaining two years. This phase continues to strengthen the relationships from the first phase, organizing the community, allocating responsibilities and promoting positive behavior.

The second part of Our Health focuses on three aspects:

  1. Education
  2. Working with the Honduran Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health
  3. Improve understanding of these diseases including how they spread and how people can prevent them
Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses by educating children to bring awareness to their families. The children can teach their families what they have learned. This does not have a predicted time period but has already started in 76 educational centers in Honduras, benefiting 29,000 kids and 1,230 teachers. The program provides teachers with virtual training and teaching materials to prevent the transmission and spread of Zika. This also supports the first part of Our Health in promoting community participation. Moreover, fifth and sixth graders receive education on how to prevent disease through a number of activities including theater, poetry, singing and drawing, as well as creating models to show their own knowledge about the Zika virus. The teachers firmly believe that addressing Zika in the classroom and spreading the knowledge to homes and communities is vital.

General Solution to Malaria

The Honduran Ministry of Health recently received a donation of more than 12 million lempiras (around $487,899 USD) in Hudson pumps, deltamethrin and bendiocarb (insecticides) and mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide. People also know this as MTILD. It is using this donation to fight Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus. MTILD use in vector control strategies and are effective in preventing malaria.

The Ministry of Health implemented these methods in Gracias a Dios and Islas de la Bahía. In addition, the Ministry of Health installs the insecticide-filled pumps in each home. This helps spray the homes on a bi-yearly basis and keeps mosquitoes away. In 2018, two spray cycles sprayed around 50,000 homes. As a result, this helped 303,467 people. Furthermore, in 2019, it expected to spray around 60,000 double-cycle homes. This protected an additional 218,959 people. For 2020, the biyearly spray might increase by 62,050 and with an additional 116,872 mosquito nets installed. As for cases of malaria, as of 2017, 1,287 people received treatment against malaria. In 2018, there were 651 cases. Additionally, the project hopes to lower it to zero cases in 2020.

Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit works towards controlling malaria in the country. Over the past three years, malaria cases have been lower than 56 percent in the six biggest departments of Honduras. It works together with communities to address malaria Also, Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit monitors the areas with surveillance, increases their coverage and secures treatment for victims.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

The Battle Against Monkeypox
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease, meaning that animals transfer it to humans. Infected animals, usually small rodents, transmit the disease through bodily fluids. Sometimes, however, the disease can transmit through human-to-human contact via bodily fluids, but this is less common. Symptoms include body aches and pains, and fever as well as a bumpy, localized rash. Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, a related infection that people have eradicated worldwide. Yet the battle against monkeypox continues. According to the World Health Organization, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) saw over 5,000 monkeypox cases in 2019, including 103 fatalities. In addition, most deaths occurred among younger age groups.

History

People first discovered the virus in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys that they used for research, hence the name. The first human cases were in the DRC in 1970. The disease mainly impacts the country’s rural areas and rainforests, where many consider it endemic. In 2017, Nigeria also experienced one of the worst monkeypox epidemics following 40 years of no confirmed cases in the country.

While the virus has largely concentrated in Africa, there have been documentations of cases of monkeypox outside of Africa in recent years. Usually, these cases involved people who visited Africa and returned home harboring the infection. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa occurred in the United States. In the past two years, there have been cases in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Israel.

Treatment

Monkeypox and smallpox share many similarities and both have classifications under the genus orthopoxvirus. Currently, a recommended treatment for monkeypox entails the use of antibiotics and there has been an 85 percent success rate using the smallpox vaccine. A new third-generation vaccine received approval in 2019 for the prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox while scientists continue to develop additional antiviral agents.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), an NGO established in 1971, has been on the frontlines battling monkeypox. MSF, which translates to Doctors Without Borders, provides medical assistance to people affected by outbreaks, epidemics and disasters. In October 2018, an emergency team dispatched to a village in the Central African Republic after a monkeypox outbreak there infected about a dozen children. The group set up a quarantine, treating the children while administering vaccinations to others.

World Response

A number of world health organizations have come together in the battle against monkeypox. After the 2017 Nigeria outbreak, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control sought to unite West Africa’s response to the disease. The NCDC also teamed up with organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to better observe and document the disease.

Monkeypox prevention includes raising awareness, avoiding potentially infected animals and practicing good hygiene. Several countries have also put forth restrictions on animal trade to stop the spread of the disease across Africa and to other parts of the world. These steps, as well as additional preventative measures and research, will be key to the battle against monkeypox and the prevention of future outbreaks.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Limit the Spread of Epidemics
In the past, there has been some difficulty in tracking and containing epidemics. In 2014, the Ebola virus killed thousands in West Africa. At the time, many national health systems had trouble properly addressing and controlling its spread. With aid agencies not knowing where to dedicate their attention, more people fell to Ebola. Determining where to distribute a vaccine is critical for the future of any region. It is often difficult to make the correct decision when there is not enough information on human mobility, the spread of an epidemic and its lethality in certain areas. People could have better contained Ebola had newer technology been available to help aid agencies track its spread. The Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) may be able to limit the spread of epidemics.

A Solution for Limiting the Spread of Epidemics

The Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) is a project that Korea Telecom (KT) Corporation and the Ghanaian government created to improve Ghana’s health information system and limit the spread of epidemics. The project employs information and communications technology (ICT) to gather data on epidemics. It works by gathering existing data and by incorporating newer input from its users. It analyzes Call Detail Record (CRD) data to determine the spread of people such as cross-border movement. Its main goal is to prepare its users for possible epidemics, whether its users consist of the general public or the Ghanaian government. Its existence helps detect the early spread of an epidemic, allowing governments more time to respond and giving humanitarian agencies and NGOs the opportunity to identify possible relationships and trends.

GEPP Explained

There are three parts to the GEPP: GEPP Public, GEPP Clinic and GEPP Gov. The GEPP Public’s intention is to inform Ghanaians of epidemic-prone areas. When someone is nearing one such area, they receive a notification and warning of its status. If a user is in an area that may become contaminated soon, the app provides disease information and prevention measures for pre-response during their stay. They also receive a list of nearby hospitals.

The GEPP Clinic is for the public to make real-time reports to nearby health centers in the event of an epidemic outbreak. Users can fill out a report for either themselves or another individual with their symptoms. This report goes into the GEPP Clinic’s database and gives the government a better idea of what is happening in a particular region.

The government uses GEPP Gov, which allows it to access the data gathered from GEPP Public and GEPP Clinic to monitor any possible health crises. As a result of the digitization of airport immigration information, the government can consider immigration levels when monitoring. This also takes away the need to manually compile this information. All of this aims to help developing countries and their governments prepare for and reduce the impact of epidemics.

If a disease has already spread and it is too late to prevent infection, the GEPP can also address the aftermath of disease by conducting communications in the area. Not only can it address health crises, but it can also apply to natural disasters and their control. In the event of a natural disaster, the GEPP can help aid workers provide shelter, food and health care to victims. If an area does not have a working mobile network, as a result of a natural disaster or not, the GEPP can use its collected data to contact them via satellites and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

GEPP Support

The Ghana Health Service, KT, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Resolution 202, Resolution 136, Resolution 36 and WTDC Resolution 34 support the Global Epidemic Prevention Platform. While all of these play a large role in assisting the GEPP in its goal to limit the spread of epidemics, MNOs arguably do the most. MNOs provide the app with its official data. It gathers data from around the world and its software anonymizes it to protect privacy. This data then stays on a server or an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) cloud and can go towards creating a dynamic map for the ITU. Humanitarian actors and NGOs can, with permission, view this data through MNOs.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

diseases in UgandaAs a developing country, Uganda struggles with multiple intractable diseases that kill millions of Ugandans every year. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are among the top five causes of death in Uganda. But, medical research is providing innovations that give hope to relieve suffering and prevent death in Uganda. Here are three diseases in Uganda that can be tackled with treatments that seem like science fiction.

Tuberculosis and Bedaquiline

Science fiction often explores the possibilities of DNA manipulation. Now, this sci-fi premise is becoming a reality through a new tuberculosis drug called bedaquiline. Bedaquiline is a new drug that blocks energy transfer enzymes that a tuberculosis bacteria cell needs to survive. Without this essential energy, the cell dies. A June 2019 study discovered that bedaquiline has long-term treatment potential. The drug forms small reservoirs in the body, allowing it to naturally release throughout the body and continually kill tuberculosis cells over time. This is a major breakthrough for Ugandan citizens since this is the first tuberculosis treatment to come out in 50 years. 

Malaria and Genetic Mutation

Popular science fiction games outline the use of biological weapons, such as Mass Effect’s fictional “genophage” which causes a female host to produce sterile offspring. Experimental genetic engineering technology is now taking on a highly deadly disease in Uganda. Scientists have developed an engineered genetic mutation that deforms mosquito reproductive organs and passes from female mosquitos to daughter eggs, meaning that the hatched females are unable to breed. In other words, the mutation makes the next generation of mosquitos sterile, reducing the population and thus reducing the risk of malaria.

Further, the mutation changes females mosquitos’ mouths to resemble male counterparts’. Male mosquitos cannot bite humans, thus the mutation “de-fangs” female mosquitoes, making it impossible for them to transmit malaria. Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has been controversial and research continues. According to Uganda’s Ministry of Health, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of Uganda. If it is found that modifying mosquitoes is safe and successful, this development could be a critical contribution to treating malaria and other mosquito transmitted diseases in Uganda.

HIV/AIDS and the Immune System

Science fiction extensively narrates the use of genetic properties to repair and fix humans. Dual studies from 2007 and 2019 used similar methods to combat the insidious syndrome of HIV/AIDS that plagues Uganda. A bone marrow transplant replaces the patient’s immune system with mutated systems via lymphatic pathways. It essentially replaces the patient’s immune system with a new, mutated version that combats the disease.

Using this technique, a 2007 patient has been off anti-retroviral medicines for 12 years. The most recent patient, cured in 2019, has been HIV-free for more than 18 months. With difficulties in bringing patients back for consistent treatments, a possible long-term solution for HIV/AIDS is an extremely important advance for the 1.3 million Ugandans infected with HIV.

Conclusion

Famous Star Trek character Captain Jean-Luc Picard stated, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Relieving Uganda’s suffering seemed impossible – the stuff of science fiction – as if they would never be free of disease. But, the above treatments provide hope for the people of Uganda. Through rigorous research and innovation, doctors are developing treatments for diseases in Uganda and other countries.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr