Posts

Enteric and Diarrheal DiseasesEnteric and diarrheal diseases affect 1.7 billion children around the world every year killing over 500,000 children under five annually. The most common enteric and diarrheal diseases are rotavirus, cholera, shigella and typhoid.

Types of Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a highly transmittable disease and is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children. The disease affects millions of individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in over 215,000 cases. The disease most often transfers via consumption of fecal matter, which can occur when individuals do not have access to proper handwashing and sanitation facilities. The Rotavirus vaccine can help prevent rotavirus. It is effective in preventing severe rotavirus in 90 percent of cases and the WHO has recommended it for use. Typically, children that are two to six months old receive two to three doses of the vaccine. Individuals who do not receive this vaccine and contract rotavirus (or cholera, typhoid, or shigella) most often receive treatment with either zinc supplementation or rehydration therapy or both. Zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of diarrhea in an individual while oral rehydration therapy can help rehydrate an individual that has become dehydrated due to diarrhea.

Cholera: Cholera is another diarrheal illness that individuals can contract by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects roughly three million individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in nearly 145,000 cases. Furthermore, there have been recent outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Guinea. Like rotavirus, a specialized vaccine can prevent cholera as well as sound sanitation techniques. Individuals older than six receive the vaccine in two doses while younger individuals receive three doses.

Typhoid: Like rotavirus and cholera, typhoid is transmitted through fecal contamination. It affects 22 million people annually and is the cause of death in roughly 200,000 cases per year. Before recently, no one had developed a vaccine to treat typhoid; however, in 2018, the WHO approved a vaccine called Typbar TCV. Scientists from Bharat Biotech International, a biotechnology company based in Hyderabad, India, developed the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received the vaccine and it has played a key role in stemming a recent typhoid breakout in Pakistan.

Shigella: The last major form of an enteric/diarrheal disease is shigella. Over 165 million individuals contract shigella every year (causing one million deaths), in large part due to the fact that there is no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because of this, much of the effort that has been given to prevent Shigella recently (as well as rotavirus, cholera and typhoid) have focused on ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation in areas that are at risk for fecal contamination. Listed below are some promising solutions to improve hygiene and sanitation in developing countries around the world.

Solutions to Reduce Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Janicki Omni Processor (JOP): The Janicki Omni Processor is an innovative solution that can help turn waste into clean drinking water. To do so, wet waste enters the JOP which dries and burns the waste in a controlled fashion. The JOP filters and condenses the resulting steam from the burning process, distilling the water. This water then receives treatment in order to meet clean drinking water standards. The JOP is environmentally friendly (the entire process is self-sustainable) and, through heavy funding from NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is a cheap and efficient way to provide clean water to communities throughout the developing world.

Nano Membrane Toilet: The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution with regards to sanitation practices throughout the developing world. The toilet is sustainable and requires no water or electricity to function. It works like this: after an individual uses it, the toilet utilizes a waterless flushing system to separate the urine from the feces. The feces are then chopped up into small bits and placed into a combustion chamber. After roughly a week, the feces will turn into a substance similar to ash and people can safely deposit it in the trash. The water, meanwhile, enters a separate tank to purify. The purified water then enters a tank at the front of the toilet for the purpose of outdoor irrigation and cleaning. The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution to help reduce feces contamination because it does not require water to function and is easily implementable in many communities around the world.

Hand Washing: Hand washing isn’t a new technology, but it can go a long way towards preventing a multitude of enteric and diarrheal diseases. Research indicates that diarrheal deaths could decrease by as much as 50 percent if the prevalence of handwashing increased around the globe. NGOs such as The Global Handwashing Partnership and World Vision have done great work in recent years to lead handwashing programs in developing nations and increase awareness about the importance of handwashing.

Looking Ahead

The prevention and treatment of individuals with rotavirus, cholera, typhoid and shigella are some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years. The transmittable nature of these diseases makes them difficult to eradicate, and people cannot fix many of the reasons that they are prevalent (lack of sanitation, poor water quality, etc.) overnight. Continued investments from governments and NGOs around the world in promising technologies like the Janicki Omni Processor and the Nano Membrane Toilet are a step in the right direction towards the prevention of enteric and diarrheal diseases in individuals around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pexels


An Indian company has created a new rotavirus vaccine that could save more than 500 children a day. Rotavirus, a diarrheal disease and the leading cause of death for children under five, kills 200,000 children each year, especially the Middle East and Africa.

Rotavirus causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea. A more serious potential symptom is dehydration. This contagious virus is spread through the fecal matter, and basic handwashing helps prevent infection.

Doctors Without Borders tested the new vaccine in Niger, and it had an effectiveness rate of about 66 percent. The vaccine is in the process of becoming approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccine, currently in use in India, can be used worldwide once approved. The WHO recommended in 2009 that all nations around the world have a vaccination program for rotavirus.

Rotavirus affects both children and adults in developed and developing countries. However, there are more strains of the rotavirus in developing countries. This makes it more difficult for children in developing countries to build immunity to the virus.

Created in 2006, the two vaccines most commonly used in the U.S. for rotavirus are Rotrix and Roteq. Rotrix is given to children at two and four months of age, while Roteq is used for children at two, four and six months. Medical professionals strongly recommend that children get the vaccination by the time they are eight months old.

The new vaccine, more cost-effective than current Rotavirus vaccines on the market, doesn’t require refrigeration for months. These two benefits make the vaccine especially effective in villages in developing countries, where access to electricity or refrigeration may be unavailable.

The new rotavirus vaccine will save many lives, especially once approved for widespread use.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Eritrea
Located in the Horn of Africa, the country of Eritrea is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti and has a population of about 5.6 million. Constant conflicts, the threat of war and severe droughts have transformed Eritrea into one of the poorest nations in Africa. Because the country has little money to spend on health care, many diseases in Eritrea remain a constant threat to travelers and citizens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals traveling to Eritrea are at risk of contracting typhoid, malaria, meningitis, rabies, yellow fever and hepatitis A and B. These diseases can be contracted through contaminated food and water, sexual contact, mosquito bites or non-sterile medical or cosmetic equipment. Many of them, however, are highly preventable through vaccination.

Diseases such as rotavirus are the leading causes of fatal diarrhea in children under five in Eritrea. In 2010, an estimated 1,201 children under five died from rotavirus.

The Zika virus is also a growing concern among Eritrea’s citizens. As in many countries, non-communicable diseases in Eritrea are steadily growing more prevalent. These diseases include cardiovascular diseases, malnourishment, hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and cancer.

However, it is also important to note that Eritrea’s government has made substantial progress in disease control and improving the overall health of its citizens. In 2000, as a member state of the United Nations, Eritrea adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals, committing to further development and human security. Since then, Eritrea has made tremendous strides in providing health care to its 5.6 million citizens.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that eight of Eritrea’s major vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a public health issue. Cost-effective vaccinations for diseases in Eritrea that still pose a concern, such as rotavirus, have also become available.

Public health concerns such as measles, maternal and neonatal tetanus in Eritrea have been reduced to less than 90 percent as of 1991. Eritrea has been certified as dracunculiasis-free and polio-free due to an increase in vaccinations. In addition to this, the country is seeing a steady decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with HIV infection rates in the population at less than 1 percent.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Solomon Islands Diarrhea Outbreak
The nation of Solomon Islands is facing a new and deadly threat after flooding destroyed delicate water infrastructure. The Solomon Islands diarrhea outbreak has already killed 18 people and threatens to claim more lives if measures are not taken soon.

Solomon Islands was decimated in early April by a series of destructive floods. The small nation, located north and east off the coast of Queensland, Australia, saw 60,000 of its residents made homeless by the storms—over 10 percent of its population.

The flood’s direct damage to human life was great enough, but two months later, outbreaks of diarrhea in late May and early June are extending the death toll. The rotavirus, a deadly and highly-contagious virus transmitted by vomit and fecal matter, has claimed victims in six of Solomon Islands’ ten provinces.

The virus is communicable by food, drink and, depending on the sick person’s hygiene, basic physical contact. Those who contract the virus show symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea within 1-3 days of infection.

Though upward of 20,000 children were vaccinated against the rotavirus following April’s flooding, the contamination of Solomon Islanders’ water supply was complete enough that over 1,000 cases of extreme diarrhea have been reported in the past two weeks. Most of the infected are young, and all 18 of the reported deaths have been children under the age of 5.

Rotavirus causes intense diarrhea, which in turn leads to severe dehydration. If untreated, this dehydration can kill. At a certain point, children simply stop drinking water despite their desperate need for it, and proper medical intervention is required to save a child’s life.

Fortunately, UNICEF is fighting the Solomon Islands diarrhea outbreak with two very basic tools: soap and information. The soap is distributed in the hardest-hit areas, and colorful, hand-shaped information cards are also given out. These cards not only emphasize the importance of hand-washing by their shape, but they also contain valuable tips for staying safe and healthy during the outbreak.

Instructions for preventing the spread of the rotavirus include washing hands for at least 10 seconds after using the toilet, before handling or eating food and after caring for or coming into contact with any infected individuals.

Health officials currently do not plan on bringing the rotavirus vaccine back to Solomon Islands. Instead, they predict that proper hygiene should be enough to put an end to the outbreak.

In the meantime, parents who notice signs of illness in their children are urged to bring them to a doctor right away. Doctors can provide a child with oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets, both of which help prevent dehydration and can reverse even severe cases.

However, this safety net may not be so reliable. Dorothy Wickham, correspondent for Radio New Zealand, reports that hospitals in Solomon Islands are becoming overburdened. Doctors may not be able to treat all of the children who are brought in, and epidemiologist Jennie Musto predicts the outbreak could last up to another month.

For now, both parents and aid groups are doing what they can to combat the outbreak and to keep their children safe.

– Patricia Mackey

Sources: World Vision, WHO, Australia Network News, 3 News, Radio New Zealand International, Pacific Scoop
Photo: Parade

rotavirus-vaccine
Rotavirus is a virus that inflames the stomach and intestines. Its main side effects are diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In children, it can lead to severe dehydration, and if left untreated, death. Before a vaccine was regularly administered to children starting in 2006, rotavirus was the cause of many hospital and emergency room visits.

Globally, rotavirus is responsible for about half a million deaths in children under the age of five. In areas without good sanitation, healthcare, and health education, the spread of such diseases and the lack of treatment are likely the reason the virus is still claiming so many young lives.

In India, rotavirus claims 100,000 lives every year. India’s Department of Biotechnology and the company Bharat Biotech have developed a new vaccine called RotaVac that effectively prevents the diarrhea, one of the strongest symptoms of rotavirus. If administered to children all over India, especially to those from low-to no-income families, it would prevent a viral infection that would otherwise have devastating results.

The group of researchers who developed the vaccine consisted of scientists from all over the world. Phase III of the clinical trial took place in three different locations in India. Not only did it prove effective, but Bharat Biotech has priced the vaccine at $1 USD, which is relatively affordable.

Along with the usual vaccines, it would be administered at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Awareness and taking preventive steps are two very effective ways to combat diseases such as this, especially in areas with lackluster healthcare.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Defeat DD, CDV
Photo: GAVI Alliance