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Health Crisis in Venezuela

The extreme shortage of medicine and medical supplies in Venezuela has forced many people to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the hopes of getting the medical care that they need. More than three million Venezuelans have fled the country and the number continues to rise. With the continued lack of aid and action from the government, Venezuela’s health crisis shows no signs of disappearing. These are six facts about the health crisis in Venezuela.

6 Facts About the Health Care Crisis in Venezuela

  1. Because of the lack of available vaccinations, preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria are spreading throughout the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that diphtheria had not been reported in Venezuela for 24 years until 2016. Measles had not been seen since 2007. Unfortunately, these diseases are once again affecting the citizens of Venezuela. As of 2018, there have been 2,170 suspected cases of diphtheria with 1,249 being confirmed. There have been reports of 287 deaths due to this preventable disease. Out of the 7,524 cases of measles that had been suspected between 2017 and 2018, 6,252 were confirmed. At least 75 people have died from measles as of 2019. The toll of these diseases could have been prevented if the people of Venezuela had the vaccinations that they needed.
  2. In 2018, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Venezuelan Ministry of Health noted that new cases of HIV had increased by 24 percent. Between 2010 and 2016, deaths due to AIDS increased by 38 percent. In addition, around “87 percent of the 79,000 registered individuals living with HIV” do have antiretroviral treatment because of the shortage of medicine in the country.
  3. Cases of malaria have increased by 76 percent. There were 240,613 reported cases of malaria in 2016 in Venezuela. In 2017, that number increased to 406,000 cases, the largest increase worldwide. WHO estimated 280 deaths due to the disease in 2016. Venezuelans fleeing the country to Colombia and Brazil are taking the disease with them and escalating the spread. The United Nations agency is urging those countries who are hosting Venezuelan refugees “to provide free screening and treatment regardless of their legal status to avoid further spread.” Because so many Venezuelans are fleeing, these diseases are reaching neighboring countries as well. The re-introduction of measles in Manaus, Brazil resulted in 1,631 cases as of November 2018.
  4. Expecting mothers are unable to receive the prenatal medication they need. Many are forced to have unsafe labors. According to a 2017 report by the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, infant mortality has increased by 30 percent and maternal mortality has increased by 65 percent.
  5. Although these neighboring countries are trying their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela, their healthcare systems are also taking a toll. Many HIV-positive immigrants have reached Brazil only to find that local hospitals were already overwhelmed with AIDS patients dying from infection. Colombia is currently hosting the largest number of Venezuelan immigrants with an estimated one million as of November 2018. Public hospitals are struggling to accommodate refugee health care needs such as vaccinations and emergency services.
  6. The current government of Venezuela has not publicly recognized the crisis among its people, and therefore they are not allowing international relief agencies to enter the country. In Colombia, a huge supply of medicine and supplies from the United States waits to cross the border. Unfortunately, the current president of Venezuela won’t allow the supplies into the country. Colombia has organized many events to help raise money to aid their Venezuelan neighbors. A relief concert called Venezuela Aid Live was held in Colombia on February 22, 2019, to support and bring awareness to the crisis in Venezuela. In four days, the organization was able to raise almost $2.4 million. They plan to do the same next year to continue bringing awareness and aid to the people of Venezuela.

Despite Colombia’s struggle to accommodate refugees, the country is providing limited healthcare to Venezuelans who desperately need it. “In May 2017, the Colombian government declared that all public hospitals must provide free emergency” treatment for Venezuelan patients, which includes treatments for malaria and measles. Between 2017 and 2019, 29,000 pregnant women were able to safely deliver their babies in Colombia free of charge. This also means that their children will be getting free vaccinations plus a promise of healthcare due to their Colombia citizenship. Since 2017, Colombia has provided healthcare services to 340,000 Venezuelan immigrants.

Venezuela’s government officials still have a lot of work to do to help its own people, but thanks to countries like Colombia and Brazil, Venezuelans seeking medical treatment are able to get some assistance. Providing this healthcare, although straining, has made a difference to the three million Venezuelans who had no choice but to flee their country. Through this continued support and care, at least some of the health crisis in Venezuela can be alleviated.

Jannette Aguirre
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

Common Diseases in GabonIn 2013, Gabon’s government began building new medical facilities to ensure that all citizens can access quality healthcare. This was an important step toward combating HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other common diseases in Gabon. However, further work is needed to continue protecting Gabon’s people from illnesses.

UNAIDS reports that 44,000 Gabonese adults (ages 15 and older) are infected with HIV. 30,000 women (ages 15 and older) are among that demographic. There are 2,600 Gabonese children (ages 0 to 14) living with HIV and 16,000 Gabonese orphans due to parents who died from AIDS.

Gabon has high incidences of malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases. While Gabon has a yearly malaria risk, the risk is especially high during and immediately after the country’s rainy seasons (October through December and February through April). The disease is mainly transmitted through Anopheles mosquitoes that feed from dusk to dawn.

In July 2017, a vaccine called RTS,S was found to have the capability of stopping malaria before it starts. The vaccine was tested in Gabon from May 2009 to early 2014. In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency gave the vaccine a “positive scientific opinion,” revealing that it could be used for Gabon’s future malaria cases.

Tuberculosis is an increasing epidemic in Gabon. In 2013, a research study observed 64 tuberculosis-infected children in a Lambaréné, Gabon hospital. The findings showed a discrepancy between the tuberculosis burden and the commitment to controlling it. Tuberculosis was found to be especially prevalent in Gabonese children.

International funding agencies have attempted to implement a “DOTS Strategy” program that could slow down and reverse the effects of tuberculosis. However, Gabon is unable to qualify for the program due to the country’s commodities and a high per capita income. As a result, the country’s national program against the disease is funded entirely by the state and tuberculosis remains one among many common diseases in Gabon.

However, efforts are still being made to combat Gabon’s disease outbreaks. In August 2017, a Regional Collaborating Centre was established as part of Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The center will coordinate efforts to prevent infectious and non-communicable diseases in Gabon and other central African countries.

While common diseases in Gabon remain a problem for many residents, these efforts can help Gabonese people combat disease risks. The RTS,S vaccine could prevent many malaria cases if it continues to be used in the country. Gabonese children who are highly vulnerable to tuberculosis and other diseases will need continuing treatment as well.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in France
France is arguably one of the most romantic and aesthetically appealing places on Earth; that being said, it is crucial to be aware of common diseases in France whether one is traveling abroad or a permanent resident of the country.

 

Most Common Diseases in France: Contraction and Vaccination

 

If one is traveling, Hepatitis A outbreaks occur throughout the world, and it is still possible to contract this disease through contaminated food or water in France. Hepatitis B can be contracted through sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies is also a present disease in France if traveling, however, it is not a major risk factor unless the travel includes various actives in remote areas that could put one at risk of being bitten.

For these diseases, the CDC recommends staying up to date on routine vaccines before every trip. Among the vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine, a polio vaccine and a yearly flu shot.

If residing permanently in France, one may have noticed vaccines have been a heated topic in the country. While addressing Parliament recently, Édouard Phillipe, the prime minister under the new president, Emmanuel Macron, stated that starting in 2018 parents will be required to vaccinate their children for 11 different diseases. A major trigger that led to this decision was when a measles outbreak occurred earlier this year and the nation was hit badly.

Three vaccines are currently compulsory: diphtheria, tetanus, and poliomyelitis. In 2018 this list will become more extensive, including other common diseases in France such as polio, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza bacteria, pneumococcus, and meningococcus C.

Ironically, in a study involving 65,819 people across 67 countries last year, France was the most hesitant when it came to trusting vaccinations. Forty-one percent of individuals surveyed in the country disagreed with the statement “vaccines are safe” when compared to the average of 13 percent globally.

In the face of changing attitudes toward common diseases in France, government policy may take time to shift perceptions and alleviate the prevalence of these diseases and ensure prosperity for all.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Google

Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan
For the past century, scientists and organizations across the world have diligently fought to eliminate the polio virus from humanity once and for all. Although this goal is incredibly close to fruition, the presence of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan holds up the complete eradication of the pervasive disease.

Polio Occurrences and its Slow Eradication

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, or ABC, reported that the first polio epidemic occurred in 1916 on the east coast of the United States. Gareth Williams, emeritus professor at the University of Bristol and author of the book Paralyzed with Fear: The Story of Polio, wrote that “about 25,000 people were paralyzed in and around New York, and 6,000 of those died.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, states that the poliovirus lives in the throat and intestines of the infected person, and that it can only be caught through oral contact with disease-ridden feces. Unlike other diseases, only humans can spread polio, which makes eradication a little easier to achieve.

Thanks to Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin’s invention of extremely effective vaccines, most of the industrialized world was free from the threat of polio by 1960. Unfortunately, their admirable mission still needs to be completed–there is still polio to eradicate. Due to this need,  the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) formed in 1988 when the World Health Organization (WHO), joined by Rotary International, CDC, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made ending polio an urgent mission.

Since its formation, the ABC reports that this team of organizations has been able to cut rates of polio “from 350,000 per year to less than two-dozen cases so far in 2016.” Today, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio has not been eliminated; but this is sure to change.

The Ongoing Battle

The continued prevalence of polio in  Pakistan and Afghanistan is a result of multiple factors. The ABC stated that most of the polio cases in Afghanistan this year have occurred in a small part of the Shigal district, which is staunchly anti-government and does not allow vaccinators to enter.

In Pakistan, the Taliban attack health workers and immunization centers, believing that vaccinations are used by the U.S. and other countries to sterilize and spy on Muslims. Also, the border between the two countries is easy to traverse and allows for the disease to travel easily from one region to the next.

According to their website, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “contributes technical and financial resources to accelerate targeted vaccination campaigns, community mobilization, and routine immunization.”

The foundation is working alongside local scholars and religious leaders to achieve multiple goals: convince families to vaccinate their children, create updated maps and programing to help workers locate children that need vaccines, develop new vaccines and work with other GPEI organizations to improve fundraising for the elimination of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The eradication of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan is near. In a recent article, The National wrote, “by the end of this year, or early next at the latest, Afghanistan and Pakistan will declare themselves free of poliomyelitis.” Such an accomplishment will be one step for Afghan and Pakistani health, and one giant leap for the health of humankind.

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr

HealthHygiene-related illnesses cause more than 1.8 million deaths worldwide and the Global Soap Project (GSP) is taking a stand to reduce this number by taking advantage of the 2.6 million bars of soap are thrown away in hotels daily.

Founder Derreck Kayongo was inspired to provide hope to refugees around the world with his own experience as a refugee when he fled a civil war in Uganda for the U.S. at age ten.” Ask any refugee anywhere in the world, they’ll tell you that they lose dignity right off the bat,”  Kayongo stated in a passionate talk hosted by Keppler Speakers.

Since its inception in 2009, GSP has been improving the lives of people in 32 countries by distributing clean soap and educating communities on hygiene. The life-saving organization targets victims of disaster, refugees, the homeless and mothers and children living in extreme poverty. The goal? Making an impact on global health.

The Global Soap Project has implemented educational programs providing access to information otherwise unattainable, such as how and when to use soap and its importance to sanitation, hygiene and long-term health. The GSP and its partner, Clean the World, collects unused soap from hundreds of hotels that have united with the organization.

Then, GSP recycles and redistributes them, with help from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Partners in Health and CARE.

The organization has created a micro-loan program that offers financial and training support to local, small-scale soap makers. To support this initiative, hotels send boxes of unused soap to GSP, where they are recycled, inspected and given to NGO’s for shipment to affiliations in impoverished areas.

NGO’s are not charged for the provided soap. After distribution, NGO partners relay reports of successful dispersion and educational programs. In Kenya, the Global Soap Project has had a sizable impact. The organization distributed soap to more than 300 families in Lindi, located within one of the largest slums in Africa. GSP also allocated soap to 1,320 students in Kenya.

https://youtu.be/htSyaFAGY4U

According to the GSP, a head teacher from a receiving school, commented on the organization’s success and expressed gratefulness. He stated, “Most of my kids know how to use soap after toilet, after eating, after playing, after classes, and you will find them with soap in their hands and in school compound. So thank you HHRD and GSP for this so unique gift, because it has brought a big impact in our school.”

Within the international community, world health has been a topic of concern. The World Bank has worked with organizations such as WHO and UNICEF gathering the most recent information about hygiene in developing and impoverished areas.

According to the World Bank, hygiene and hand washing have an immense impact on the quality of health and the ability to avoid deadly sicknesses like diarrhea and pneumonia. With over 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year, about 1.6 million of those are found in children under the age of five.

The GSP’s ideals are solidified by the World Bank, as it is suggested that, “public health promotion and education strategies are needed to change behaviors.” School health programs are imperative in ensuring that students have sanitation standards that can be translated into community principals.

The organization promotes involvement by accepting donations and volunteers and makes it easy for hotels to contribute. It has grown exponentially, expanding as a global leader in health promotion and implementation and continues to serve around the world. “Our soap doesn’t just mean health,” Kayongo says, “it means hope.”

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr