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Pandemic Awareness in the WorldPandemics are a looming, dangerous situation that many in the world think about at some point in their life. According to the Washington Post, “Outbreaks of life-threatening infectious diseases are spreading faster and with more unpredictability than ever.” Pandemics have swept the world countless times, but it seems that most countries do not have a set plan for dealing with these emergencies.

Due to the increasing possibility of another pandemic, the World Bank has been bringing countries together to simulate pandemics and create pandemic awareness. As it turns out, the Ebola crisis prompted these actions by governments and intergovernmental bodies. Even though it is impossible to predict the next virus or pandemic, it is still key that countries and governments are ready to address them.

A simulation was run by the World Bank in October 2017 and people from any and all sectors that would be affected by or involved in a pandemic were invited. The simulation addressed the need to relay information to people quickly and accurately. Tourism is a reason why some countries will wait to announce their health emergency, but the simulation stressed that governments should not hold back information. Situations that arise are all a part of the pandemic awareness of a state. The simulation went over the costs and benefits of certain procedures for dealing with outbreaks and stressed coordination between sectors in order to better solve the problem.

It is also important to note that the United States is a significant actor in the area of global health. A recent report mentions that the unclear future of the United States’ involvement in helping fight pandemics is not a good sign for preparing the world for pandemics.

This is a change from the previous administration under Barack Obama. The Obama administration had been vocal and active about global health concerns, but the Trump administration has not made global health a priority or a focus.

The Trump administration has not given much concern to the issue of pandemics, and has failed to reach out to others to get collaboration going, according to the Washington Post. One could say that the United States is among the countries that are not prepared for a pandemic.

While no country is completely prepared for a pandemic at this time, it is still extremely important for countries to continue doing simulations and training themselves to be ready for emergencies such as these. International organizations like the World Bank and the WHO must continue with simulation and education programs to get countries prepared for pandemics, as well as promote pandemic awareness, that can impact not just one country, but the world as a whole.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr


The threat of XDR-TB has recently caused great concern. This disease has been reported in 117 countries and is the deadliest strain of tuberculosis (TB). It is highly drug-resistant and is immune to many antibiotics. It is resistant to four standard treatments for tuberculosis. Because of this, treatment options for XDR-TB are less effective, more expensive and have more adverse side effects. The medication used to treat the disease is taken for up to two years and can cause permanent deafness, nerve damage, vomiting and rashes. The disease itself affects the lungs, causes chest pain and the coughing of blood.

The threat of XDR-TB transmission is the highest among individuals infected with HIV. In 2006, 52 out of 53 patients with both HIV and XDR-TB were reported to have died, and most died soon after the diagnosis. Treatment is successful less than 40 percent of the time, and death rates are as high 80 percent.

Cases of XDR-TB have rapidly intensified in South Africa, and it was found to have extensively spread in KwaZulu-Natal. It has caused tremendous concern among authorities. Between 2002 and 2015, there was a tenfold increase in the disease’s prevalence in South Africa. The threat of XDR-TB has become a challenge for many hospitals and community settings, households and workplaces.

This disease spreads similarly to other forms of tuberculosis. When a person with TB sneezes, coughs, shouts or sings, bacteria to float in the air, which can spread the disease. It has also been diagnosed in persons who were previously taking medication for TB, and the anti-TB drugs were misused or mismanaged. However, nearly 70 percent cases are spread from person to person. In a study of 404 patients with XDR-TB, an analysis showed that 69 percent of the cases were transmitted from person to person.

Efforts need to be directed towards identifying and implementing new interventions to prevent the transmission of XDR-TB in hospitals and community settings. Separation of people with suspected TB from other patients, more rapid diagnosis, and more effective medication is required for the disease. National governments need to plan interventions to prevent the threat of XDR-TB from spreading and to ensure supplies of medication are more readily available.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

Infectious DiseasesContagious and infectious diseases are not only a global health threat but an economic one as well.

Lack of prevention for diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB), as well as emerging infectious diseases such as Dengue fever and West Nile virus (WNV) can have detrimental effects especially for those living in developing nations.

One major solution to battling infectious diseases is to stop the issue before it starts. According to renowned physicians and global health consultants, David Heymann and Osman Dar, prevention is the key to fighting infectious diseases, both economically and efficiently.

According to the CDC, 21.8 million children do not receive typical vaccines, leaving them susceptible to deadly, infectious diseases. Additionally, about 70 percent of these children reside in only ten countries, including India, Nigeria and Mexico.

Preventative measures, such as vaccinations, protect not just the current generation but also future generations from contracting the same diseases. Diseases such as smallpox have been completely eradicated thanks to vaccinations and other diseases such as polio are fading from existence due to immunizations as well.

In many developing nations, simple preventative measures such as daily hygiene, safe sex, clean water and immunizations are sometimes ignored or inaccessible, even within the healthcare system. In addition, millions of patients across the globe are affected by healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), much of which stems from lack of handwashing and basic hygienic practices.

Global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are establishing preventative care programs around the world, which includes WHO’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Unit.

IPC is a global WHO Service Delivery and Safety (SDS) Department meant to stress hand hygiene and other simple preventative measures between health care providers and their patients.

Ultimately, prevention is a strategy that saves millions of lives as well as millions of dollars and unlike simple multi-drug antidotes, which are expensive and often inaccessible, prevention saves future resources and generations.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Flickr

 

Solidarity Levy
The United Nations is urging countries to adopt a solidarity levy in order to help victims of war and natural disasters.

The recommendation comes with the news that $40 billion per year is now needed to help vulnerable populations. Climate change and prolonged regional armed conflicts have resulted in a $15 billion shortage in relief funding, the organization says.

“The stakes are sky high,” said U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. “More than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance worldwide. The financial burden is five times greater than a decade ago. Humanitarian action is now the U.N.’s costliest activity.”

In response, a U.N. panel on humanitarian financing has released recommendations on solutions to tackle the widening funding gap. In its report “Too Important to Fail,” the panel highlights, among others, two strategies: adopting a solidarity levy to broaden the humanitarian resource base and reducing the need for humanitarian intervention altogether.

A “solidarity levy,” the panel suggests, is a promising solution to the revenue shortage because it corrects an over-reliance on humanitarian donations. The levy is a tax voluntarily adopted by countries and applied to airline tickets, sporting tickets and other transactions.

The idea has been successful in the past. One such levy on airline tickets raised over $1.7 billion for UNITAID’s fight against HIV and malaria between 2006 and 2011.

The panel wants more countries to adopt this model to generate more predictable and reliable streams of income for humanitarian work. “The simple act of catching a plane turns passengers into contributors to the cause of saving lives—it is responsible travel on an enormous scale,” the report said.

However, one of the most meaningful ways to reduce the cost of humanitarian aid is to build resilience to conflict and disaster, the panel noted. Over 93 percent of people who live in extreme poverty also live in fragile countries.

The U.N. panel recommends using scarce development dollars in the most vulnerable countries first in order to build adequate infrastructure and emergency services. It also supports the existing recommendation to allocate more funds to the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund, which is used to foster political dialogue and strengthen national institutions. Taking these steps, the U.N. suggests, will mitigate the costliest emergency interventions.

In the meantime, more funding is needed to address current issues. With the World Humanitarian Summit set to take place in Istanbul in May of this year, the panel is hopeful that its report will encourage conversations about adopting a solidarity levy and the future of humanitarian financing.

Ron Minard

Sources: IB Times, UN 1, UN 2, World Humanitarian Summit

gates_foundation_fights_infectious_diseases
On April 1, 2014, The World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation pledged $240 million to fight “neglected” infectious diseases in Africa and other developing regions. The funds are in conjunction with a 2012 pledge from 13 pharmaceutical companies and the governments of the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom that promised monetary and medicinal donations to treat and possibly cure 10 of the most virulent parasitic and bacterial infections by the end of the decade.

Donated medicines will target rabies, leprosy, blinding trachoma, chagas disease, endemic treponematoses (yaws), onchocerciasis (river blindness), dracunculiasis (guinea worm), visceral leishmaniasis (the second highest parasitic killer after malaria), schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), and Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). The targeted diseases afflict one in six people globally.

When deciding which diseases on which to focus, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looked at the diseases’ scale and gravity, the burdens that the diseases exact on developing nations, and how great the chance is that the diseases could be managed or eradicated.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation will each donate $50 million and the World Bank will give $120 million.

This partnership between large donors and pharmaceutical companies is an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of the renewed effort to treat and eradicate neglected infectious diseases.

A large proportion of the donated money, $120 million, will be used to fight soil-transmitted helminthes, including hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. These intestinal worms are some of the most common afflictions for children in the developing world.

The partners aim to aggressively address these diseases through widespread drug administration, public health data collection, and vector control.

Administration of drugs will be facilitated by the mass donation of drugs from pharmaceutical companies and coordination efforts to treat multiple infections with similar methods. Data collection is critical, especially for traditionally neglected diseases, in order to know the prevalence of infection in humans and in the vectors that transmit it. Because the vectors that spread infectious diseases are costly and challenging to control, the partner organizations see potential in “cross-disease coordination” to maximize the impact of vector-control efforts.

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 1 billion people in the developing world contract infectious diseases that are often neglected and receive less funding from international donors.

These neglected infectious diseases can cause death, blindness, anemia, pregnancy complications, brain damage and stunting of children’s growth. Many of those afflicted suffer from more than one of these diseases simultaneously, which not only affects people’s health but also their ability to go to work or school, take care of their family and create their personal paths out of poverty.

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, asserts that partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that have donated large amounts of drugs have already led to “tremendous progress.”

Further, she states, “Together with the governments of endemic countries, we are fast approaching the goal of controlling or eliminating many of these ancient causes of human misery.”

– Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Science Report, Reuters, Gates Foundation
Photo: Science Report

polio_immunizations_developing_countries
Since 1979 the United States has been free of the disease that at one point crippled 35,000 people per year. Although Polio has now been stopped in the United States, several countries continue to suffer from the Polio virus. This infectious disease spreads rapidly to the spinal cord and can ultimately lead to paralysis. Unfortunately there is no cure for the disease but thanks to the Polio vaccination, its spread is better controlled. Many are unaware of what causes Polio so an overview including symptoms will be presented. 

“Polio” is short for Poliomyelitis which is caused by a virus that infects the nervous system. Though the virus is usually transmitted through person to person contact, 95% of those infected don’t have any symptoms. The virus tends to remain inside the human body, reaching the environment through either a fecal or oral route. Infection is rampant in areas that are extremely unsanitary and where children are exposed to the fecal material of other infected people. Since the Poliovirus enters humans, for the most part, through the mouth or nose, it is inclined to spread easily. Once in the throat, the virus multiplies until reaching the bloodstream, possibly even infecting the nervous system. Complications that arise from the virus include the following:

  • Pneumonia
  • Shock
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of intestinal function
  • Lack of movement
  • Muscle weakness

Several treatments in developing nations have been adopted to help counteract these symptoms including antibiotics for infections, painkillers for muscle pain, physical therapy and surgery for muscle complications. Additionally, the Polio immunization prevents the spread of the virus in over 90% of the population though cases in which the spinal cord and brain are not involved have a positive outlook from the start. This vaccination has proven to be extremely effective as illustrated through the fact that global immunization campaigns have diminished thousands of cases worldwide. Polio outbreaks are, however, still seen in Asia and Africa, but several organizations are continuing to campaign for vaccine accessibility.

Polio

Maybelline Martez

Sources: Centers for Disease Control, Mayo Clinic, NIH,
Photo: Foreign Policy