German kindergartens must report parents for refusing vaccine advice under new law, dengue fear in flood-hit Sri Lanka, and more.

The World Health Minute All-India chemists strike on May 30 Alzheimers deaths in US rise by 54All India Chemists and Druggists Association strike; PTI
news Public Health Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 13:36

The World Health Minute brings you a global round up of stories on women and children, access to healthcare, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health.

Preparedness, surveillance and response

  • Zika hit India in January, government kept silent

Almost six months after three cases of the deadly Zika virus were reported from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the World Health Organization has finally made the information public. The Indian health ministry is yet to comment on the issue and there are questions as to why was only one case acknowledged in an answer to parliament given by the government on March 17th when they were aware of at least three cases at that point (dnaindia.com: 27/05/17) (scroll.in: 27/05/17) (reuters.com: 27/05/17) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 28/05/17)

  • Congo’s Ebola outbreak threatens the Central African Republic after violence forces thousands across the border

An Ebola outbreak in the DRC could spread to the neighbouring CAR, where militia violence has forced thousands of people to flee across the border, the World Health Organization said. Recent attacks by militias in the CAR border town of Bangassou have driven about 2,750 people into Bas-Uele, raising the risk that the Ebola outbreak could spread across the border, a WHO representative said. WHO is worried as these refugees are now close to the epicentre of the ebola outbreak(reuters.com: 25/05/17)

  • Sri Lanka's deadly floods could worsen dengue crisis: NGO

Save the Children said that the devastating floods in Sri Lanka could exacerbate the dengue crisis there. The NGO said its teams were assessing the humanitarian needs and were ready to respond, including by distributing hygiene items to prevent the spread of disease, supporting damaged schools to allow them re-open, distributing safe drinking water and providing psychosocial support to children (xinhuanet.com: 28/05/17)

  • Honduras – cases of dengue top 1,800 for the first quarter of 2017

Overall there have been 2,200 cases of dengue, zika and chikungunya in the first part of 2017. The numbers are dramatically down for zika and chikungunya on last year, where chikungunya registered tens of thousands of cases but has only seen 200 so far this year. Only dengue has increased and remains stubbornly high this year (elheraldo.hn: 26/05/17)

  • Minnesota’s measles outbreak about to exceed total 2016 U.S. cases

Somali-American children in Minnesota had a vaccination rate of 92% in 2004, higher than the state average, but that has dropped to 42% leaving the children vulnerable to the disease. Health officials say there have been 8,250 exposures in day care centres, schools, hospitals and clinics. There are 68 confirmed cases, most of them unvaccinated preschool children. A significant number were hospitalised. Last year the U.S. had 70 cases in total (washingtonpost.com: 26/05/17)  (twincities.com: 26/05/17)

Health systems

  • Health ministry employees to get salaries after 11 months

The Pakistan Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has finally issued a notification to ensure the release of 11-month pending salaries of the employees of the ministry. All the employees associated with the National Aid Control Programme have not been paid their salary since June of last year (pakistantoday.com.pk: 28/05/17)

  • Cutting HIV and Aids treatment costs in South Africa

About 15% of India’s pharmaceutical exports arrive in Africa and in South Africa. The availability of generic antiretrovirals from India has led to a significant drop in the cost of treatment for millions of people with HIV or Aids. The BBC’s Taurai Maduma reports on Africa Business Report for the BBC World Service (bbc.co.uk: 26/05/17)

  • All-India chemists’ strike on May 30th

On May 30th, chemists across India will go on a strike in protest against strict regulations on sale of medicines and their declining margins. The All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists said they were forced to resort to strikes after their representations to the government went unheeded and that they object to e-pharmacies, which they say can lead to circulation of counterfeit drugs (newsbytesapp.com: 27/05/17) (india.com: 27/05/17) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 27/05/17)

  • Wrong to say India’s drug quality is substandard – Health Minister JP Nadda

The News Minute interviews Indian Health Minister, JP Nadda, with India having taken a tough stand supporting the delinking of research costs and the accessibility of medicines, he is asked about what India to make affordable medicines a reality (thenewsminute.com: 26/05/17)

  • WHO – medicine should not be priced at the value of a life

WHO assistant director general, Marie-Paule Kieny, urged people to moved away from the notion of value-based pricing and towards fair pricing, telling WHA delegates the WHO is beginning to work on this. She says the discussion is moving on this through pricing on vaccines to other medical products and to try to get to grips with the basics of pricing, which may not necessarily be low if it can be shown it is expensive to produce. Similarly, the notion of delinking the price from the costs of R&D is a further issue, push funding for research being one way to counteract this (ip-watch.org: 26/05/17)

Communicable diseases

  • German kindergartens must report parents for refusing vaccine advice under new law

Germany will pass a law next week obliging kindergartens to inform the authorities if parents fail to provide evidence they have received advice from their doctor on vaccinating their children, the health ministry said. Parents refusing the advice risk fines of up to 2,500 Euros under the law expected to come into force on June 1st. Vaccination rules are being tightened across Europe, where a decline in immunization has caused a spike in diseases such as measles, chicken pox and mumps, according to the ECDC (reuters.com: 26/05/17)

  • Governments must invest in pre-exposure prophylaxis to end HIV/AIDS

PrEP is an additional anti-retroviral medication tool which can be used to prevent the acquisition of HIV infection by uninfected people, particularly those that are at substantial risk of infection. Among the most vulnerable groups are women and young girls, gay and bisexual men, commercial sex workers and those that are in violent relationships and street kids. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of infection by up to 92%, Southern African News calls for governments to work with aid agencies to make PrEP affordable for those who need it most (southernafrican.news: 26/05/17)

  • British Army’s ability to fight undermined by rampant STDs

Nearly one in ten British troops have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, new figures reveal. Almost 12,000 troops of an armed force strength of 140,000 have been diagnosed with one form of STD or another in the last five years, highlighting widespread infections caused by unprotected sex within the armed forces (ibtimes.co.uk: 28/05/17)

Software to help stop the spread of TB

The Indian Embassy to Cambodia has given a $50,000 grant to a project to help control the spread of tuberculosis in the kingdom. The money is to develop software which will be able to track the intake of TB medication and generate alerts if a patient misses a dose. It is hoped to reduce treatment delay by 3.4 times. It will also improve data accuracy and increase case detection (khmertimeskh.com: 29/05/17)

  • AIDS charity in Jeddah is on the verge of collapse; 600 families are under threat

The Saudi Charity Association for AIDS Patients (SCAAP) in Jeddah is struggling with its finances as many benefactors have abandoned the charitable organization.  This has curtailed the charity’s operations and only a small number of people now benefit from its food baskets programme (saudigazette.com.sa: 29/05/17)

Non communicable diseases

  • U.S. Alzheimer’s deaths jump 54%; many increasingly dying at home

US deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose by more than 50% from 1999 to 2014, and rates are expected to continue to rise, reflecting the nation’s aging population and increasing life expectancy, American researchers said. In addition, a larger proportion of people with Alzheimer’s are dying at home rather than a medical facility, according to the report released by the U.S. CDC. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 3.6% of all deaths in 2014, the report said (reuters.com: 25/05/17) (uk.news.yahoo.com: 26/05/17) (wtkr.com: 27/05/17)

  • The global alcohol business is expanding in Africa and that’s bad news for health

The alcohol industry is under pressure and needs to develop new sources of growth and profit; developed world markets are close to saturation so expansion into developing economies is the new play with the $103bn merger between SAB Miller and AB InBev a good reference point. As a result, exposure to alcohol in African countries is expected to increase in the next few years and with it come alcohol-related health and social problems (qz.com: 25/05/17)

  • Move to check kidney disease in Cuttack

Following 391 deaths due to renal failure in the last 11 years, the Odisha state government has swung into action to prevent people falling prey to kidney ailments in Narasinghpur and Badama blocks of Cuttack district. According to health department statistics, 1,187 people in 163 villages have been affected by kidney disease since 2006, while 366 have succumbed to it, 821 are undergoing treatment. The health minister said three dialysis machines will be provided and three semi-auto analysers to test blood and urine of suspected patients would be made available (newindianepxress.com: 26/05/17)

  • Walking linked to improved brain function

A moderate intensity walking regime may reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment that are linked to poor blood vessel health in the brain, a small study suggests. Participants in a small study with vascular dementia who walked three hours per week for six months had improved reaction times and other signs of improved brain function, the Canadian research team reported (reuters.com: 26/05/17)

  • How tobacco, death and taxes are intrinsically linked

Tobacco is killing millions of people every year, the Hindustan Times says ‘it is time to connect the dots, improve law enforcement and wean both tobacco cultivators and users away from the product.’  India banned food from being served in smoking areas in all restaurants. Minors will not be allowed in smoking zones, which now need to carry a clear Dante-like warning at the door declaring those entering the fumy room risk health and life. There’s a need for raised taxes and then upgraded regulation and enforcement to crack down on potential smuggling, plus cessation services for smokers(hindustantimes.com: 27/05/17)

Promoting health through the life course

  • Why ‘gig health’ matters

Those who make their living in the gig economy, generally working for app-based platforms that match consumer needs with workers who can fulfil them are regarded as being in precarious or contingent employment. Now attention is turning to the health and wellbeing of this fast growing workforce, which numbers about 1.3m in the UK. A recent Italian study indicated those on temporary contracts are more likely to use prescription medication for mental health conditions like depression. Gig workers are not generally eligible for sick pay or compensation from injury. Low pay, low support, high demand mean long hours to make a basic income stoking future physical and mental health issues (ft.com: 25/05/17)

  • U.S. gives up its attempt to prevent listing gender equality as a human right

Leaders from the G7-countries will sign a statement that includes a reference to human rights when defining gender equality, a big diplomatic victory for Canada. Ivanka Trump is said to have played a significant role in helping leaders to shift Donald Trump from an opponent to support the proposition (buzzfeed.com: 26/05/17)

  • Violence in central Congo leaves 400,000 children prey to deadly malnutrition - UN

Spiralling violence in the central Democratic Republic of the Congo has disrupted farming and shut down health centres, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to life-threatening malnutrition, UNICEF said. An insurrection in the Greater Kasai region has left hundreds dead and uprooted more than 1m people since last July, the UN warned of a dramatically deteriorating situation (trust.org: 24/05/17)

  • Rural water access: why should countries follow Paraguay’s lead?

With more than 94% of the rural population able to access safe water, nations across Latin America and beyond should consider learning from Paraguay’s success story. Paraguay moved its sanitation and water agency to the auspices of the health department. It set up model community-led boards run by volunteers in the more remote rural areas to manage water and sanitation. They recover the maintenance and operating costs through setting water tariffs and repay a portion of capital costs used to build the initial infrastructure back to the treasury (theguardian.com: 26/05/17)

  • Gay rights in China get a fillip from Taiwan same-sex marriage ruling

Taiwan’s decision giving same-sex couple the right to marry has proven to be a shot in the arm for the gay rights movement in Asia, but even so, it is still likely to be many years before China approves similar measures, amid deep-rooted opposition in some quarters. Wednesday’s ruling may prompt legal action by activists in places like Thailand, home to Southeast Asia’s most vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities to travel a similar path (reuters.com: 26/05/17)

WHO elections

  • Stakes and opportunities high for new head of World Health Organization

Executive Director of Malaria No More UK, James Whiting, calls on Tedros Adhanom to “seize the once in a lifetime opportunity to end malaria within a generation.” He says that there is a malaria game plan to build on the gains made and to stop malaria regaining ground; now WHO needs to lead the drive to finish off malaria for good (huffingtonpost.co.uk: 25/05/17)

  • The top job, a tough job

“All roads leads to universal coverage. This will be my central priority” newly elected WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom told World Health Assembly members. He also promised to respond to future global emergencies “rapidly and effectively” (thehindu.com: 28/05/17)

  • The WHO has a new chief. Will India now find its voice at the global health organization

Tedros’ election is both an opportunity and a challenge for India. India is in the position of being able to offer pivotal leadership for the Global South, promoting its interests; access to medicines by addressing trade and intellectual property barriers, pressing for technology transfer and capacity building and measures that curb the interest of multinational corporations from the North in industries related to medicines, food and beverages, alcohol and tobacco (scroll.in: 26/05/17)

  • A conversation with Laurie Garrett about the road ahead for the WHO

Humanosphere interviewed senior fellow for global health at the Council of Foreign Relations, Laurie Garrett, about how the underfunded and over strapped World Health Organization adapts to the changes and challenges it faces (humanosphere: 26/05/17) (cfr.org: 25/05/17) (indepthnews.net: 26/05/17)

  • WHO wants to tap Malaysia’s medical expertise, says Health DG

The Malaysian health director Dr Abdullah said on his Facebook page that newly elected WHO director general Tedros Adhanom was particularly fascinated with the progress of Malaysia’s work on Hepatitis C curative treatment in collaboration with Drug for Neglected Diseases initiatives. He said WHO is looking into harnessing out expertise on this unique model of the research ecosystem in Malaysia to bring down the cost of medicine.

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