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malawi's vaccinationA partnership between Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Aspen Institute plans to strengthen the national leadership in Malawi, as well as Malawi’s vaccination program through the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health). By combining their efforts, they will gain support for Gavi’s plan to ensure that every child living in Malawi will be protected with vaccines.

By 2020, the Immunization Alliance of partners plans to immunize 300 million children across the globe, in turn saving five to six million lives. AMP Health works with Ministries of Health to create better leaders and managers through skills training and will act as a foundation for guiding the progression of Malawi’s vaccination plan. Through AMP Health, the partners will help coordinate Malawi’s vaccination plan, as well as train staff and improve the performance of the immunization program.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has also been working on strengthening the health system in Malawi and improving the efficiency and strategies of the system. In turn, more people can be vaccinated to prevent certain diseases, something that everyone around the world should have access to.

The main reasons why children in developing countries die are because of sicknesses like pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. This is because in developing countries they are not able to have routine immunization, due to its unaffordability. Immunizations are the key to preventing premature death in developing countries like Malawi.

Vaccinations protect children from illnesses that can often result in amputation or even death. Vaccinations are safe and effective. If a child is not vaccinated they can spread diseases to other children that may be too young to be vaccinated, or have weakened immune systems. People who are more susceptible to contracting diseases could have serious complications or even death. The plan to vaccinate those living in Malawi is crucial to the health and well being of those living in and around the country.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

 

ThailandDeath from rabies has decreased significantly in Thailand from almost 200 deaths 10 years ago to only eight in 2015. With the death rate from rabies-related cases decreasing, Thailand is well on its way to reaching its proposed goal of eliminating the disease by the year 2020. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol visited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva this past August advocating for an end to rabies. She has contributed to promoting the mass vaccination and management of dogs and to enhanced awareness of the disease.

Rabies is a fatal but curable disease that targets rural and poor communities, predominantly, in Asia and in Africa. It can be transferrable through bites and scratches from infected animals, most commonly, dogs. Her Royal Highness’ aid in helping people become aware of the disease and how to prevent it is helping Thailand reach its goal to eliminate rabies by 2020, which is in line with the wider international initiative to end human rabies deaths by 2030. 

Eliminating a disease like rabies requires a response from the many pet owners in Thailand. Vaccinations for the disease stop disease transmission at its source, the animal. Thailand actually leads the world in developing and implementing disease control methods such as cost-saving intradermal vaccines which are also dose-saving, meaning low-income pet owners can give fewer doses with the same level of effectiveness. This is especially important when it comes to making these vaccines more widespread in poorer and more rural populations.

Education programs have been created around the world and are being used in Thailand to help communities understand how to avoid being bitten, how to learn animal behavior and what to do when in contact with a rabid animal. Programs teaching the Thai people how to take care of wounds are also being implemented and help in the fight to eliminate rabies.

Increasing mobile units to more rural areas outside of Bangkok that provide care for the people and to bring the necessary care-service to dogs is another step in ending this disease. Post-exposure prophylaxis or, PEP, is brought to these remote areas and helps ensure that at least 70 percent of dogs in the area receive the vaccination. HRH Princess Chulabhorn not only cares to help improve the health of the people but is also concerned with promoting a more humane treatment of dogs and is helping other countries adopt more sustainable and compassionate ways of treating them. She goes on to say that if any other country needs help with the elimination of rabies she is willing to lend a helping hand.

WHO is working closely with Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn to help achieve the goal of eliminating rabies globally by 2030. As for Thailand, with an action plan already in place, it is up to the communities in the country to eliminate rabies by 2020. 

– Lorial Roballo

Photo: Flickr

Disease Prevention: Polio in Africa is Nearly Eradicated
After a 28-year-long effort, polio in Africa is nearly eradicated. In August, the World Health Organization launched an intensive investigation into all of the continent’s collected data. The results already indicate one of the greatest public health victories of the century.

Only two cases of polio, both of which occurred in Nigeria, have been reported in the last two years. While these couple of cases prove that more work is needed, the global health community has made incredible strides in eradicating polio in Africa and throughout the rest of the world.

Polio is a highly infectious virus that progressively destroys the central nervous system. Initial symptoms include fatigue, headache, fever, vomiting, pain in limbs and stiffness of the neck. In some cases, it only takes several hours to cause total paralysis of the entire body. The virus spreads person to person or by way of a contaminated vehicle, contaminated drinking water or food are a couple of examples. Children are most susceptible and have been the focus of large-scale vaccination efforts for decades.

When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched in 1988, the disease was present in over 125 countries. More than 350,000 people were paralyzed every year. Since then, cases have dropped by 99% and universal vaccination has protected over 13 million children from potential paralysis.

Today, polio was eradicated throughout most of the world. According to the CDC, the U.S. hasn’t seen a single case since 1979. For countries whose health care delivery systems lack funding, infrastructure and political support, polio eradication is an astonishing victory.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio transmission has never been interrupted. Even so, the two nations have joined forces to improve vaccination efforts. Pakistani and Afghan leaders have pinpointed their shared border as the focal point of their synchronized effort, establishing 14 new vaccination points.

Recognizing this victory in context reminds us that long-term disease control is possible given the cooperation of stakeholders at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

Zika Virus

The Zika virus has been in Asia and the Pacific for roughly six decades but its symptoms had caused little concern in the area. Yet after the recent outbreak in the Americas, certain countries in the region are now taking preventative measures.

Zika is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947. The first outbreak in Asia, though, occurred in the 1960s.

“It has appeared in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan, but no widespread cases have been reported and symptoms have typically been mild and similar to dengue and chikungunya, which may have helped mask its presence,” according to the Associated Press.

Nonetheless, after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency a few weeks ago, several countries in the region have started taking special precautions.

According to IRIN, “Tonga has declared an epidemic, and the government of the Cook Islands has advised women to delay becoming pregnant. Japan, South Korea, Nepal and India have issued advisories to pregnant women against traveling to infected countries.”

Nepal is attempting to get rid of standing water where the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito might breed, said Dr. Babu Ram Marasini, director of the Department of Health Services.

“South Korea has announced a fine of two million won (about $1,700) on doctors who fail to immediately report suspected cases, while Malaysia has asked travelers to the country to report to health centers if they have symptoms,” added IRIN.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it is unclear how the Zika virus arrived in the Americas. However, it is theorized that it arrived with participants from the Pacific at sporting events in Rio de Janeiro two years ago.

Since then, the Zika virus has been spreading rapidly across the Americas, with 1.5 million cases reported in Brazil alone.

IRIN emphasized that “despite Zika’s relatively benign history in Asia and the Pacific, there is a risk that a stronger form of the virus may have emerged, and that it could spread throughout the region with much more severe consequences than previous outbreaks.”

Additionally, Dr. Shailendra Saexana from the Indian Virological Society said “The strain in Brazil could be new because mutation rates in these viruses are high. Moist tropical climates, population explosion and international travel mean Asia is susceptible to Zika.”

Various Asian countries are currently very vulnerable to an outbreak of Zika, especially due to the increase in migration from rural areas to cities, as well as the lack of sanitation and abundance of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed. However, with these new preventative measures in place, the risks may be reduced.

Isabella Rolz

Sources: World Health Organization, IRIN, Associated Press
Photo: Flickr