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10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 through a group of diseased monkeys. In 1952, the first infected human was found in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The Island of Yap is the first location where a large scale outbreak of the Zika virus was recorded. This incident took place in 2007. There are currently no countries facing a sizeable Zika outbreak, however, there may be a risk of contracting the disease in regions where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. This article looks at the top 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus.

10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus

  1. People are more likely to contract the Zika virus in poor countries. Mosquitoes that carry Zika often breed in stagnant water. These buildups of stagnant water are found in areas where communities lack adequate plumbing and sanitation. According to the United Nations Development Programme, poor households are least equipped to deal with the virus and are most likely to be exposed to the disease.
  2. Women face the biggest consequences during a Zika outbreak. Health ministers throughout Latin America have told women not to get pregnant during a Zika epidemic. In poorer countries, women lack access to sexual education, which leaves them vulnerable to misinformation. Furthermore, women may be blamed for contracting the virus during pregnancy, which carries an unfair social stigma.
  3. Zika poses a threat to unborn children. In some cases, when a pregnant woman is infected by the virus it disrupts the normal development of the fetus. This can cause debilitating side effects like babies being born with abnormally small heads and brains that did not develop properly. This condition is called microcephaly. Symptoms of microcephaly are seizures, decreased ability to learn, feeding problems, and hearing loss.
  4. Even though a mosquito bite may be the most well-known way to contract the Zika virus, it is possible to get the disease through other avenues. It is possible to get the disease during unprotected sex with a partner, who already have been infected by the virus. Individuals can also contract the virus during a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.
  5.  Symptoms of a Zika virus infection may go unnoticed. The symptoms can be described as mild. If symptoms do occur they can present themselves as a fever, rash or arthralgia. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women because they may not know that they have been infected, unknowingly passing it on to their unborn baby. There is no treatment available to cure this disease once it has been contracted.
  6. There are other birth defects associated with the Zika virus. Congenital Zika syndrome includes different birth problems that can occur alongside microcephaly. Some malformations associated with congenital Zika syndrome include limb contractures, high muscle tone, eye abnormalities, and hearing loss. Approximately 5-15 percent of children born to an infected mother have Zika related complications.
  7. The cost of caring for a child born with Zika related complications can be quite expensive. In Brazil, each kid born with the disease could cost $95,000 in medical expenses. It would cost approximately $180,000 in the U.S. to care for the same condition. Some experts believe the numbers are higher when taking into account a parent’s lost income and special education for the child.
  8. Even though there are more than 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus, there are also measures being taken to prevent future outbreaks. Population Services International (PSI) is working with the ministries of health in many different Latin American countries to spread contraception devices. This promotes safe sex practices. This also gives the women the power to decide if and when she wants to become pregnant.
  9.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is also implementing steps to control the Zika virus. Some of these steps include advancing research in the prevention of the virus, developing and implementing surveillance symptoms for Zika virus infection, improving Zika testing laboratories worldwide, supporting global efforts to monitor strategies aimed at limiting the Aedes mosquito populations and improving care to support families and affected children alike.
  10. The good news is that there are currently no major global outbreaks of the Zika virus. This is a sign that steps around the globe have been successful to lower the number of Zika cases. However, this doesn’t mean that precautions shouldn’t be taken when traveling to areas where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. Even though they are no major outbreaks the disease still exists and may cause problems if contracted.

Conclusions

Even though the Zika virus may currently not be a threat worldwide, it is still something that needs to be accounted for. Zika has serious repercussions in poverty-stricken countries where people can’t afford adequate medical care. The Zika virus is also more likely to be contracted in poorer regions. The Zika virus has a strong correlation with poverty.

– Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Gates Plans to Eradicate Malaria

Bill Gates is currently the second richest person in the world, with a net worth of $95 billion. But he also has a reputation for humanitarianism. As one of the world’s leading philanthropists, Gates is widely considered to be the most prominent humanitarian public figure. Together, he and his wife established The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private, charitable foundation that globally combats poverty and enhances healthcare. Now, Gates plans to eradicate malaria by 2040.

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite, commonly transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. While malaria occurs in roughly 100 countries, it is most common in tropical and subtropical regions. To this end, the disease is common in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Upon contracting malaria, a person will exhibit symptoms resembling the flu. And if left untreated, malaria can be fatal. However, this is largely preventable.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 207 million cases of malaria reported in 2012. Approximately 627,000 of these cases resulted in death. Significantly, roughly 90 percent of these estimated deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and 77 percent in children under 5 years of age. Given these statistics, the mortality rate of malaria is incredibly slight, at around 0.003 percent. Therefore, malaria does not have to result in death and, moreover, may be prevented entirely. And as Gates plans to eradicate malaria, this possibility may soon become reality.

What’s the Plan?

At the Malaria Summit London 2018, the Gates Foundation pledged to invest $1 billion through 2023 to end malaria. To date, the Gates Foundation has committed $1.6 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, it has committed almost $2 billion in grants to eradicate the disease. At the summit, Gates states, “It’s a disease that is preventable, treatable and ultimately beatable, but progress against malaria is not inevitable. We hope today marks a turning point against the disease.”

Malaria is not a mystery anymore. Cures and vaccinations already exist to combat the disease. There is a solution, it simply needs funding. Between 2000 and 2012, malaria incidence rates declined 25 percent globally. By establishing protocol, proper resources can render malaria a manageable issue. While this is no small order, Gates plans to eradicate malaria and has the capability to fund it. Undoubtedly, this will leave an indelible, positive mark on the fight for better healthcare and war against global poverty.

Lacy Rab
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in EthiopiaThere are many barriers to residents obtaining proper health care in Ethiopia. It is estimated that 76 percent of Ethiopian women live in rural areas and do not have access to health care due to long traveling distances with lack of transportation.

Why Better Health Care in Ethiopia is Necessary

There are 1,949 health stations and 141 health centers in Ethiopia. Many of these facilities do not have a physician present to provide care. Therefore, many people, particularly women, do not want to travel long distances to a facility that may not have a proper physician to provide care. This is especially true for women that must travel alone because of the high rate of rapes and abductions that take place in Ethiopia.

There is a great need for proper health care in Ethiopia when disease is responsible for 74 percent of deaths. The conditions that are most responsible for deaths include malaria, acute respiratory infections, nutritional deficiencies, diarrhea and HIV/AIDS. In 2009, there were 1.7 million cases of malaria reported and 1.1 million cases of HIV/AIDS. Ethiopia is ranked third in all of Africa and eighth in the entire world for the most cases of tuberculosis.

The lack of health care in Ethiopia has resulted in a high rate of infant and maternal deaths. There are an estimated 59 deaths for every 1,000 live births and 88 deaths for every thousand children under the age of five. 34 percent of children are born underweight and 50 percent are stunted due to nutritional deficiencies by the age of five.

Understanding Issues in Ethiopia’s Current System

Ethiopia’s government has been largely focused on battling famine which is why the health care system has suffered. However, in 2012, the government built 13 new medical schools and increased the enrollment in the already established schools. The government has proposed that with the estimate of 85 percent of the rural population not having access to health care in Ethiopia, a large barrier is the lack of physicians available in the public sector.

A study in 2009 that surveyed how many physicians were working in Ethiopia showed that there were 2,152 physicians in the public sector (about one physician for every 42,000 patients). The same survey showed that 73 percent of physicians that graduated from a residency program in Ethiopia either left the public sector to work privately or immigrated overseas for more income. The government has made efforts to increase the number of residency programs to train more doctors and surgeons. However, the increase in students is not enough to support the population.

The deficit of surgeons is even greater than general physicians. Until 1980, all surgeons were trained outside the country and there were roughly three surgeons to every 1,000,000 patients. This improved when the Tikur Anbessa Hospital established the first surgical residency program in 1980 and has since continued to improve.

Since 2005, there have been seven more surgical residency programs added that have incorporated subspecialty training such as neurosurgery, urology, cardiothoracic surgery, plastics and reconstructive surgery. This program accepts only 25 new residents a year and each student will rotate between six different hospitals around the city of Addis Ababa.

How the Government is Battling the Issue

The local government has decided that increasing the number of students and graduates will decrease the physician shortage which is currently the worst barrier of proper health care in Ethiopia, but the increase in student enrollment has compromised the quality of physician training. One factor that contributes to lowering the quality of training is the limitation of resources; there are on average 30 students to one cadaver.

Another damaging factor to the quality of medical training due to the increase of enrollment is the lack of instructors. There are not many incentives in teaching students, therefore recent graduates with little clinical experience are asked to instruct the new students.

There is a desperate need to develop health care in Ethiopia. The lack of attention to the health care system is due to the great efforts to end famine in the country. However, the country’s government is making small efforts to improve citizens’ access to health care in Ethiopia.

– Kristen Hibbett
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis Control InitiativeOne of the many challenges hindering the alleviation of global poverty is the health conditions that afflict those in poverty. Poor health contributes to higher child mortality, premature death and inconsistencies in the ability for the public at large to function. Many impoverished countries experience lower rates of student attendance due to the effects of health conditions. However, many of the ailments experienced by the extremely poor are preventable or curable, but without access to appropriate medicines, they can be detrimental to a productive life or in many cases fatal. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative is an organization working in sub-Saharan Africa to help those that suffer from such diseases and infections.

In 2015, 218 million people lived with preventable diseases, one of which was soil-transmitted schistosomiasis, or parasitic worms. This infection originates from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water and water treatment facilities. The parasite lives in contaminated freshwater and the recipient becomes infected when they come in contact with the water. There are effective treatments for schistosomiasis once it is contracted, but in some places, these medicines are scarce, unavailable or expensive.

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative works in several ways to help generate support for administering medicine for schistosomiasis as well as public outreach and communication to prevent such diseases. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative collaborates with local and global government and nonprofit agencies to ensure access to treatments and helps develop strategies for prone communities to prevent transmission. In line with the United Nations Development Goals, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative’s goal is to make a significant impact on health conditions for the extremely poor by 2030, thereby improving quality of life across many standards such as school attendance, child mortality and general productivity.

As of 2015, 74.3 million people have been treated worldwide for schistosomiasis, in part due to the efforts of Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. In the following decades, simply due to the nature of the disease and the availability of treatment, one can expect these statistics to improve, thanks to groups willing to transport treatments to the locations that need it most and arm communities with the knowledge to prevent it in the future.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr


Several years ago, civil unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic – similar to other protests connected to the Arab Spring – broke out into a full-scale civil war. Millions of civilians have, in one way or another, been adversely affected by it, and the conflict shows no signs of slowing down.

However, not all of the news coming from Syria has been completely negative. Providing access to healthcare in a war zone is not always easily accomplished, but is by no means impossible. This is apparent as, earlier this month, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced the successful vaccination of over 355,000 children under the age of five against polio – nearly 30,000 more children than the target goal outlined in June. The news comes particularly from Raqqa and the Deir Ez-Zor regions of the country, both of which are normally especially difficult to access.

The campaign was carried out in conflict-affected areas by over 1,000 WHO-trained volunteers in Syria and it was funded and equipped by UNICEF.

Prior to this region becoming a war zone, the immunization rate of children in Syria was approximately 80 percent, with polio maintaining zero presence at all. In fact, 95 percent of all polio cases could be traced back to Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria. Since the outbreak of conflict, however, the nationwide vaccination rate has halved, as doctors, hospitals and other forms of healthcare in the war zone have focused on treating those injured in armed conflict. The WHO has also stated that since the war began, 17 children in Syria have been paralyzed by the effects of polio.

In order to continue vaccination efforts and restore the facilities of healthcare in a war zone, UNICEF and the WHO are planning to continue to work with local partners in the Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor regions of Syria. Hopefully they will be able to keep up the momentum of combatting this deadly disease and progress in eradicating polio will continue.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in GrenadaA tiny island in the Caribbean, Grenada is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C. and has a population of only 111,219 individuals. Today, the country’s economy heavily relies on tourism along with agriculture. After Hurricane Ivan, the nation struggled to rebuild and now faces enormous public debt, inhibiting further public spending. This, of course, has a negative effect on the quality of healthcare, and slows the progress of reducing the prevalence of certain diseases. Here are the most common diseases in Grenada:

Ischemic Heart Disease
A condition characterized by constricted heart arteries, causing reduced blood flow to the heart, ischemic heart disease can ultimately result in untimely heart attack. Also known as coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease was assessed to be the most fatal of the common diseases in Grenada in 2005. By 2015, it was still the most fatal, but the prevalence of deaths by the disease had actually decreased by 5.9 percent.

Cerebrovascular Disease
Cerebrovascular disease refers to any disorder affecting blood flow to the brain. Such disorders often result in aneurysms, carotid stenosis, intracranial stenosis, vertebral stenosis, stroke and vascular malformations. In 2015, cerebrovascular disease was the second most fatal common disease in Grenada, and had been for the past decade. However, the disease had fortunately decreased in prevalence by 4.4 percent within those 10 years.

Diabetes
A disease that occurs when blood glucose is too high, diabetes can cause a myriad of other health problems, and can even lead to death. In Grenada, diabetes was the third most common cause of death, consistently from 2005 to 2015. Unfortunately, in contrast to the reduction  in prevalence of ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes became 4.5 percent more common within the decade.

In October of 2015, the government of Grenada stated that the “Grenada Diabetes Association and the Ministry of Health continue to strengthen their relationship as both entities collaborate to promote good health and wellness among the population.” In regards to heart disease, the Grenada Heart Project studies “the clinical, biological, and psychosocial determinants of the cardiovascular health in Grenada in order to develop and implement a nationwide cardiovascular health promotion program.” Clearly, the nation is dedicated to domestically addressing the most common diseases in Grenada, and hopefully this dedication will lead to more progress.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Insecticide Resistance in Anopheles Mosquitoes
The consistent and widespread use of insecticides has significantly reduced the incidence of malaria by eliminating the disease’s vector, Anopheles mosquitoes. Unfortunately, this progress is threatened, as 60 countries have reported the existence of insecticide resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes. In 2012, the World Health Organization launched the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management in Malaria Vectors to monitor this problem and try to generate solutions.

Some Anopheles mosquitoes have changed to better withstand the effects of insecticides. This resistance can be passed from one generation to the next, increasing the prevalence of resistant mosquitoes. These mosquitoes can come in contact with treated bed nets or homes and proceed to infect people with malaria.

Scientists have observed resistance to insecticides since the introduction of malaria vector control methods in the 1940s. However, the impact of this resistance has become greater. Over the past decade, global health workers have relied on one type of insecticide, pyrethroids, because it is safe and affordable. This reliance has led to the prominence of mosquitoes resistant to this particular type of insecticide.

Many scientists are developing new vector control methods that do not involve pyrethroids. The Innovative Vector Control Consortium, for example, is inventing non-pyrethroid, long-lasting insecticide nets which may be available in two to five years.

Researchers are also testing attract-and-kill trapping systems with different repellents and attractants. The purpose of these traps is to kill pregnant female mosquitoes before they can lay their eggs. Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that cedrol, a naturally occurring compound, attracts pregnant mosquitoes to egg-laying sites. In the future scientist can develop traps utilizing this compound.

The full effects of insecticide resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes are not yet known. It is crucial for countries to continue monitoring their prevalence and whether traditional vector control methods are still as effective as they once were. Development of new control methods takes time, but many promising ideas are in the pipeline.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Google

Asian H7N9
Mainland China is in the midst of yet another outbreak of the Asian Lineage Avian Influenza A Virus, or Asian H7N9, and both the Chinese national government and several international organizations are scrambling to take a hold of the situation.

This is the fifth epidemic outbreak of Asian H7N9 since the first case of the virus was reported in March 2013. The present epidemic cycle is its largest epidemic to date: the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that, as of July 19, 2017, 756 human infections from Asian H7N9 have been reported since the epidemic’s onset in March. The most recent report brings the total number of confirmed Asian H7N9 infections to 1,554, where at least 40 percent of afflicted persons died due to consequent health complications.

While both local and international health authorities refute the idea of an Asian H7N9 pandemic and cite that there is no strong evidence that would constitute a global outbreak, it is wise for citizens to be aware of the evolving situation regarding the virus. Here are ten things to know about the virus:

  1. Most human infections from avian influenza viruses (including Asian H7N9) have occurred after close contact with infected birds, whether alive or dead, and/or exposure to environments that have been contaminated by the virus (e.g. live poultry markets).
  2. A person can most commonly contract the virus from touching their eyes, nose or mouth after coming into contact with the feces or mucus of infected birds. Poultry infected with the H7N9 virus typically do not show nor experience any signs or symptoms that demonstrate illness.
  3. On the onset, symptoms of infection start with a high fever and cough. Within a matter of days, several health complications may start to surface. Most cases of death due to Asian H7N9 progressed to very serious illnesses such as severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock and multi-organ failure, leading to death.
  4. To date, there is no strong evidence for person-to-person spread of the virus. Cases that were reported where the virus appeared to have been transferred from person to person occurred in small clusters (around seven percent of cases). Such cases were also classified as likely limited, non-sustained person-to-person infection, meaning that the virus was only passed down from the animal host to a caretaker and a close contact of that person.
  5. Victims of Asian H7N9 stretch from all age groups and genders, but most cases confirmed by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) involve middle-aged men from the ages of 45 to 50.
  6. Almost all infections occurred because of contact or exposure to the virus, with the exception of a 33-year-old female from Wenshan, Yunnan province in China, who local authorities said had no apparent exposure or had no close contact with infected poultry.
  7. Most cases were said to have transpired in Eastern China, but cases have also been reported in Northwestern China, as well as in other countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Canada. The majority of cases reported in countries outside of China occurred among people who had traveled to mainland China before becoming ill.
  8. At the moment, Asian H7N9 has not been detected in the United States. However, in March 2017, federal animal health officials confirmed that a highly pathogenic H7N9 avian flu outbreak struck two farms in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The outbreak occurred at two commercial breeder flocks within three kilometers away from each other, one of them containing around 55,000 birds. However, the H7N9 virus that afflicted this American livestock was not related to Asian H7N9, as all gene segments from genetic tests conducted related the former to North American wild bird lineages.
  9. The current risk to public health is low; however, the pandemic potential of the virus is alarming, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) rated Asian H7N9 as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic and potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.
  10. There is currently no publicly available vaccine to protect against the H7N9 virus. However, there are medicines available to treat illnesses associated with the virus. The CDC recommends oral oseltamivir (Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (Relenza) and intravenous peramivir (Rapivab) for treatment of H7N9 virus infection.

The WHO advises travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live poultry markets and to refrain from entering areas where poultry is slaughtered whenever possible. It also reminds tourists in these areas to constantly wash their hands with soap and water and to follow good food and hygiene practices.

Bella Suansing

Photo: Google


Vibrio cholera is the type of bacteria that causes cholera, a diarrheal illness with symptoms that do not often appear in those suffering infection. Sometimes, the disease is more severe than others, which is why it is important to learn about it. Here are 10 facts about cholera:

  1. It can take up to five days for an infected individual to display symptoms, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera can be fatal within a few hours of infection.
  2. Cholera was originally found in the Ganges delta in India during the 19th century.
  3. There have been six pandemics in which cholera spread to each continent.
  4. Warm and salty coastal waters are very conducive to growth of cholera.
  5. Cholera is transmitted through contaminated water, so impoverished and crisis-ridden areas are the highest risks for outbreak, according to the WHO.
  6. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 3-5 million cases of cholera each year and over 100,000 annual fatalities resulting from infection.
  7. The CDC estimates that one in 10 infected individuals will become severely ill with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps.
  8. Good hygiene practices, like boiling water or drinking only bottled water and proper hand washing can help prevent cholera infection.
  9. There is an oral vaccine that is not routinely recommended. There are two others, but they are not available in the U.S. at this time.
  10. Treatment focuses on replacing fluids lost through diarrhea. According to the CDC, when treatment is given properly in a timely manner, less than one percent of patients die.

 

These 10 facts about cholera show that preventative measures that can be taken to reduce chances of infection. They also enumerate the symptoms to look out. The CDC is currently investigating outbreaks to learn more about cholera, and the U.S. Agency for International Development provides countries with water and sanitation supplies to help prevent spread. The above facts can shed some light on what these organizations are doing to combat cholera and why what they are doing is important.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr


Hungary, which is located in Central Europe between Romania and Austria, has seen promising trends in the health and wellbeing of its people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated life expectancy in Hungary was 76 years of age as of 2014. At the turn of the 21st century, it was just over 70 years. In addition, the European Commission (EC) and WHO reported other health improvements, including a decrease in infant mortality, suicide and self-harm. Incidences of AIDS, cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as these diseases’ death rates, also showed a decline. However, when compared to 10 other European countries, the data showed higher death rates for both HIV and AIDS in Hungary.

The government is taking an active role in the prevention and treatment of these three major diseases in Hungary, according to the WHO. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is still very common. Another issue raised by the EC is that of confidential STD testing. Up until 1996, an individual wanting to be tested for HIV was required to reveal their identity, along with the names of their previous sexual partners, who were then tested for the disease. In 1997, the government reformed procedures, creating a two-step process that is still used today. A first test does not require people to reveal their identities, but if a second, confirmational test is necessary, that information must be disclosed. As the EC points out, people likely avoid testing since there is no way to have it done anonymously.

After the government dismantled the National AIDS Committee in 2000, people with HIV/AIDS could only seek help from one hospital in Budapest: Saint Lazlo Hospital. The EC notes that patients receive good care, but with just one venue for treatment, HIV/AIDS cannot be treated nationwide. In addition, many doctors remain unknowledgeable about the major diseases in Hungary, and dentists often refuse to treat patients with HIV/AIDS.

There is good news. According to the EC, the Hungarian government is working to end discrimination against infected individuals. They are also working to create educational programs that work towards the prevention and development of new and improved treatment options, such as importing medication that has not been previously accessible.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr