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Five Reasons to Care About Global Health
Caring about global health isn’t limited to providing mosquito nets and vaccines. It is an expansive endeavor that attempts to deal with illnesses resulting from natural disasters, war and poverty. With this in mind, here are five reasons to care about global health.

 

  • Food Borne Illness: The development of international agricultural trade combined with the misuse of antimicrobials has increased the risk of foodbourne illness outbreaks from microbial contamination, chemicals, toxins and undiscovered diseases.

 

  • Global Economy: Disease outbreaks strain economies monetarily, but also weaken individual workers’ ability to support their families or contribute to society. The biggest hit to many countries affected by disease outbreak is a loss of tourism and consumer confidence. The cost to treat many diseases on such a large scale is astronomical compared to the preventative costs.

 

  • Drug Resistance: With new diseases appearing at a rate of one or more per year, known viruses and diseases are becoming increasingly drug resistant, elevating the likelihood of outbreaks. Diseases that were once considered treatable, like tuberculosis, are now becoming drug resistant.

 

  • Outbreaks: Transmittable diseases are making their way across oceans via airplane passengers and mosquitoes. Examples include the SARS epidemic in 2003, the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in 2009 and, most recently, the spread of the Ebola virus in 2014.

 

  • Bioterrorism: Both accidental and deliberate outbreaks, whether malicious or simply negligent, pose severe threats globally. Examples include toxic chemical accidents, radionuclear accidents, environmental disasters and intentional release of toxic agents like anthrax and other bioterrorist actions.

There are many more reasons to care about global health in such an interconnected society as is present today. Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the World Health Organization are working to achieve global health security. Investing in global initiatives that increase the probability of early detection and control of communicable diseases can ensure a healthy global economy.

Rebekah Korn
Photo: Flickr

Containing the Ebola OutbreakIn addressing the progress made in containing the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) argues that, since July 2014, “unparalleled progress has been made in establishing systems and tools that allowed rapid response.”

From the first report of this outbreak on Mar. 23, 2014, this disease became a devastating epidemic, which led to nearly 25,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

According to the U.N. Foundation blog, “the past year of battling Ebola has exposed troubling weakness, both in the health systems of the affected countries and in the international community’s ability to respond to the health crises of this nature.”

However, this period has also shown the world both the power and potential of a coordinated, global response. WHO and its partners are now in phase three of the Ebola response, from August 2015 to mid-year 2016.

At the climax of the Ebola outbreak, it is reported that more than 800 new cases of Ebola were being reported on a weekly basis. However, in the past year, the number of reported cases has fallen in countries like Liberia — the country that has seen more Ebola deaths than any other nation.

On the ground level, WHO continues to deploy technical experts in the three most affected countries and engage not only in response but in early recovery and survivor support efforts.

A collaboration between WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has led to about 4,000 technical experts as well as Ebola vaccination teams being deployed on the ground in more than 70 field sites in the three most affected countries.

Furthermore, WHO highlights that 45 laboratories have been installed since the start of the Ebola outbreak with WHO and the Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens Laboratory Network (EDPLN) supporting 29 of them. All of these laboratories have tested more than 200,000 patient samples.

The Ebola outbreak has shaken the world and caused many deaths. However, thanks to the diligence, dedication and support from volunteers, medical teams, scientists, researchers and many others who have made fighting this epidemic a mission, much progress has been made in containing the Ebola outbreak.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: WHO, UN Foundation Blog
Photo: Flickr

Fever Outbreak
Delhi, the capital of India, is going through the largest case of dengue fever in five years. There have been more than 1,800 cases of dengue fever recorded in 2015. Nearly 200 more patients were diagnosed with dengue fever than the 1,695 patients in 2010.

Proper treatment reduces the mortality rate of dengue fever to 1 percent, however there is more than a 20 percent mortality rate for untreated dengue fever. Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

There are nearly 25 million people residing in New Delhi and the high population has caused an overflow in hospitals. Although government hospitals are not permitted to refuse dengue patients, the influx of patients has proven to be too much for the public health system to handle.

Patients are sharing beds and queues for dengue fever screenings are out the door. The government has had to issue a temporary three-month registration to 48 new private hospitals and nursing homes to accommodate the overwhelming increase of patients.

It is in this kind of crisis that a strong public healthcare system is shown to be of value. The World Health Organization recommends that there by at least five hospital beds for every 1,000 people but Delhi has a little more than half the number of recommended beds.

With one of the lowest rates of government spending on healthcare, only roughly 1 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product goes toward public healthcare. Private hospitals are catered to the middle and high class, leaving the public government hospitals overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded.

More than ten people have died from the dengue fever outbreak in Delhi. It is hoped that this recent outbreak will cause for serious reorder of the healthcare system.

Iona Brannon

Sources: BBC, CNN, NDTV, WHO, World Bank
Photo: Live Mint

Meningitis-Epidemic-in-Niger
On June 2, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 8,234 cases of meningitis with 545 deaths in Niger. It is not the numbers that are alarming because it is the meningitis season in Africa, and Niger is in the meningitis belt.  But this season, the outbreak in Niger is unusually alarming for five major reasons.

Every year from December to June, the meningitis belt, which consists of 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that extend from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, is hit by more meningitis cases than anywhere else in the world. This meningitis epidemic is due to Nesisseria meningococus serotype C. Until this meningitis season, serotype C was a type of meningitis common in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The other major serotypes associated with this deadly disease are A, B, C, Y, and W-135. It is type A that has been ravaging Africa for over 100 years.

According to WHO,  this is the largest outbreak of serotype C recorded in any country in Africa’s meningitis belt. It has affected 13 districts in Niger. Sixty-five percent of the cases are located in 4 out of 5 districts in the capital city, Niamey.

There are four conditions in the meningitis belt that make it ripe for recurrent meningitis epidemics in general: the drought and dust storms, impoverished living conditions/overcrowded housing, large population displacements and the immunological susceptibility of the population.

While the outbreak started slowly, it is now spreading quickly across the region. The number of cases has tripled during the first two weeks of May—near the end of the meningitis season. Doctors Without Borders reported that 350 meningitis patients a day were admitted to the hospital in Niamey during the first two weeks of May. Patients had to be discharged early and continue their treatment plan at home in order to make room for incoming cases. Doctors Without Borders also had to add an additional medical team.

Because serotype C meningitis has never been a major threat in Africa, efforts have been focused on eradicating epidemics of serotype A. From 2010 to January 2015, over 217 million people in 15 African countries had been vaccinated with MenAfriVac. MenAfriVac is a new vaccine developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project coordinated by WHO and PATH to be affordable and effective in Africa. It has long lasting effects and has been so successful that serogroup A epidemics are expected to be eliminated from this region, according to WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Record published on March 27, 2015.

Because this is the first large outbreak of serotype C in the meningitis belt, there has not been enough vaccine available to fight it. The vaccine is also not affordable for the people and the governments in Africa. The vaccine that prevents serotype C meningitis is often combined with vaccines that prevent the other types of meningitis producing a multivalent polysaccharide vaccine. It is available in the U.S., Canada and Europe, where type C has been most prevalent. Furthermore, due to the success of MedAfriVac, the need for the multivalent polysaccharide vaccine has diminished and has only been used in emergencies—not for prevention.

Although WHO and the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control requested 1.5 million doses of multivalent polysaccharide vaccine and 1.5 million doses of MenAfriVac to prepare for the 2015 meningitis season, one manufacturer had production problems and could not completely fill the request. Fortunately, GlaxoSmithKline in Britain, Instituto Finley in Cuba and BioManguinhos in Brazil provided most of the requested amount of the polysaccharide vaccine. WHO and ICG continue to stockpile the vaccine to combat future outbreaks in Africa’s meningitis belt.

This current meningitis epidemic in Niger peaked after the first few weeks in May, and by May 21 about 100 patients a day instead of 350 patients a day were being admitted to the hospital according to Doctors Without Borders. The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund has requested to extend its operation by six weeks to June 30 in order to reach 71,000 more beneficiaries in eight new districts.

– Janet Quinn

Sources: WHO—Africa, CDC, Doctors Without Borders, Relief Web, Reuters, WHO, WHO, WHO, Outbreak News Today
Photo: Doctors Without Borders

ebola
The stigma of having contracted the Ebola virus has created public health and development issues for regions most deeply stricken by the virus. Doctors and patients alike who fought the virus have now become public educators to doubly continue the fight against Ebola and the accompanying stigma.

In the media, those who contracted Ebola have been portrayed as guilty of the disease, as if it were their decision. Guilt and blame have surrounded the mass fear of Ebola.

It takes an immense amount of strength to survive Ebola and to move back into a life that has drastically changed. For some survivors, this means returning to an empty home or even discovering that they are homeless. The stigma of surviving Ebola comes at a cost. This cost is termed “Post-Ebola Syndrome.” This syndrome is the mental and physical effect of surviving the disease and returning to society. In many cases, this has developed into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Some survivors have been removed from their homes because of the fear that they are not fully cleared of the virus. Certificates are issued to patients in clinics and hospitals who survive the disease, but these certificates are not enough for some fearful community members. There have been reports where those who are known to have contracted Ebola have been removed from buses. Also, communities have ostracized health workers who treat Ebola victims.

Doctors and patients who survive play a critical role in treatment, clinical assistance and public awareness. Survivors are able to provide their antibodies to help other patients fight the disease. Also, doctors who return to the field are able to provide their insight on treating the disease. Doctors and patients alike show to the public and other patients that while Ebola is deadly, it is not a guaranteed death sentence. Survivors represent the importance of seeking clinical treatment and monitoring.

In order to fight the stigma, some medical organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, accompany survivors when they return home. Doctors Without Borders volunteers educate the community on Ebola and explain that those who survive have a very low chance of transmitting the disease to others. They answer any questions that the community has in hopes of encouraging others to spread awareness and accept members of their community. In addition, a Doctors Without Borders treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia, is run by seven doctors who all once had Ebola. This makes patients hopeful for themselves and encourages a greater understanding of the disease.

The Ebola virus cases have significantly decreased from 600 weekly cases in November, to 30 weekly cases in April. While even one case is a critical concern, public efforts to re-integrate those formerly living with the disease are also important for communities.

– Courteney Leinonen

Sources: Action Aid, BBC, Doctors without Borders 1, Doctors Without Borders 2, Doctors Without Borders 3, Doctors Without Borders 4
Photo: Flickr