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Scientists say Asian strain of zika virus has mutated, your wallpaper could be making you sick, and more.

The World Health Minute Keralas rubber plantations a breeding ground for mosquitoes monkey malaria cases in humans riseRubber plantation in Kerala; By Kerala Tourism, via Wikimedia Commons
news Public Health Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 16:33

The World Health Minute (WHM) provides quick access to global public health news. It’s "news you can use” to inform investment, advocacy, development and implementation decisions.

Preparedness, surveillance and response

  • Yemen Now Faces 'The Worst Cholera Outbreak In The World,' U.N. Says

Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, and Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, say that "more than 1,300 people have died — one quarter of them children — and the death toll is expected to rise." They suspect that is because Yemen now has upwards of 200,000 cases to grapple with, and that number is growing quickly — by a rate of roughly 5,000 cases a day. "And geographically, it is expanding," Mohamed El Montassir Hussein, Yemen director for the International Rescue Committee, told NPR's Jason Beaubien earlier this month (npr.org: 24/06/17) (aljazeera.com: 24/06/17)(bbc.co.uk: 24/06/17) (voanews.com: 24/06/17) (xinhuanet.com: 25/06/17) (reuters.com: 22/06/17)

  • Dealing with increasing cases of monkey malaria in humans

There are increasing reports of monkey malaria, most of which are due to P. knowlesi, and which has established itself as the fifth Plasmodium species that infects humans. It has not been determined whether P. knowlesi is naturally transmitted from one human to another by the mosquito, without the natural intermediate host (monkeys). As such, P. knowlesi is still considered a zoonotic infection. There were 4,553 and 204 cases reported from Sabah and Sarawak, and Peninsular Malaysia from 2004 to 2016 respectively. The infection has also been reported in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and China with 465, 37, 33, six, five, three, one and one cases respectively (star2.com: 25/06/17)

  • The UN owes Haiti relief from cholera epidemic it introduced

Seven years after its soldiers sparked the world’s worst cholera epidemic in Haiti, the United Nations is finally preparing to close its MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission there. When MINUSTAH soldiers discharged contaminated waste into the Artibonite River in 2010, sparking a massive cholera outbreak, the U.N. denied its role in the tragedy, in defiance of overwhelming evidence and the organization’s own obligations. While the U.N. ignored cholera’s victims, at least 10,000 Haitians died from the disease (though the U.N. has reported that the number may be three times as high). Today, cholera continues to wreak havoc on the people of Haiti, and the crisis has weakened the organization’s credibility as a human rights defender (miamiherald.com: 21/06/17) (reuters.com: 24/06/17)

  • First Chikungunya-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes found in Brazil

While more than 13,000 cases of Chikungunya viral disease were reported in Brazil in 2015, scientists had never before detected the virus in a captured mosquito in this country. Now, researchers have identified a mosquito -- caught in the Brazilian city of Aracaju -- that's naturally infected with the East-Central-South-African (ECSA) genotype of Chikungunya. Four strains of mosquitoes were captured, with Culex quinquefasciatus the most common, making up 78.2%, and Ae. aegypti making up 20.2% of the mosquitoes. One female Aedes aegypti mosquito was identified as carrying CHIKV and when the genome was sequenced, it was found to be the ECSA genotype (sciencedaily.com: 22/06/17)

  • How rubber plantations are exacerbating the dengue outbreak in one north Kerala area

Many residents of Koorachundu, in Kozhikode district in north Kerala, have been affected with fever in the last three months. Media reports suggest that about 12,000 residents have been infected with some kind of viral fever in the panchayat, which has a total population of 17,000. The microcosm of the Koorachundu panchayat reflects the falling health standards across Kerala. Reports suggest cups used to collect latex from where rubber trees were grown are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Another is the fact coconut farmers have not cleaned the crown of palm trees and the fibrous stalks remain a good habitat for mosquitoes (scroll.in: 22/06/17)

Health systems

  • Over 100 Million Nigerians Cannot Afford Treatment In Public Hospitals – Dogara

Over 67 percent of Nigerians, which amounts to over a hundred million poor families, cannot afford to pay hospital bills for treatment of illnesses such as malaria in public health facilities, Speaker Yakubu Dogara has disclosed. He added that if Nigeria is to achieve its national health objective of providing health for all, a situation where poor and vulnerable families in Nigeria do not have access to basic health services must be addressed by extending the coverage of national health insurance to them (naijanews.com: 24/06/17) (dailypost.ng: 22/06/17) (thecable.ng: 22/06/17) (ynaija.com: 22/06/17)

  • MSF urges Modi to withstand US pressure to change India's IP laws

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has urged India to withstand U.S. pressure to change its drug regulatory and patent system as it could result in millions of people in the U.S. and around the world losing their lifeline of affordable medicines. It said that as an international medical humanitarian organization, MSF relies on affordable generic medicines produced in India to run its medical programs in more than 60 countries. MSF urged Modi to stand strong and protect India's role as the "pharmacy of the developing world" (businesstoday.in: 23/06/17)

  • A decade under siege: Gaza health sector nears collapse

As the two million Palestinian residents of Gaza enter their 11th year under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, the many daily hardships they face are having an increasingly adverse effect on physical and mental health, particularly for the most vulnerable.  Given the current local and international political landscape, conditions seem likely to deteriorate further, compounding adverse conditions for health and pushing a basic and fragile health system ever closer to collapse(aljazeera.com: 25/06/17)

  • India Fares Miserably in Providing Quality Healthcare Access to Its Citizens

India ranks last amongst all the BRICS nations in quality and access to healthcare, and 178th out of 195 countries worldwide. It even does poorly even compared to all of its neighbours, bar Pakistan. The second largest and the fastest growing economy in the region, India saw its gap widening by 5.5 points, 1.4 points less than Pakistan, in 1990-2015, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of the Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index published in The Lancet (thewire.in: 25/06/17)

  • President Trump, Meet This 2-Year-Old

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof looks at the consequences of President Trump’s proposed cuts to international aid on a visit to Liberia where he meets a small child sick with malaria and who has suffered the consequences of counterfeit medicine firsthand. He also learns about the horrors of 14 year old girls attempting to self-abort and causing themselves untold damage as the price of healthcare and access to it, were beyond them (nytimes.com: 24/06/17)

Communicable diseases

  • Ebola virus burial teams may have 'saved thousands of lives'

New research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease. A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic. Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak. The study used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme (bbc.co.uk: 22/06/17) (medicalexpress.com: 22/06/17)

  • Asian strain of zika virus has mutated: Scientists

In a cause for concern, the Asian strain of zika virus has mutated, the scientists have confirmed. According to Hyderabad doctors, zika virus has been most possibly present in the country for decades, but due to lack of diagnostic facilities at the local level, the disease has gone undetected. Now that the WHO has confirmed the presence of zika virus in Hyderabad, they warn that a strong surveillance is needed to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly in the backdrop of research reports that the Asian strain of zika has mutated. "We have not yet developed widely accessible tests for zika infection. We may, at times miss out the coinfection due to low index of suspicion and poor availability of diagnostic tests," experts warned (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 23/06/17)

  • Malaria ‘epidemic’ looms as mosquitoes defy insecticides

According to a study, genetic analysis of mosquito populations in Africa shows that recent success in controlling malaria through treated bed nets has led to widespread insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. Previous research indicates there are four classes of insecticides recommended for malaria control of which only pyrethroid was approved for use on LLIN. It has been shown that the loss of this insecticide’s effectiveness will lead to increase in preventable deaths, particularly in the most vulnerable groups, hence the need to maintain the effectiveness of LLIN in an era of growing resistance (guardian.ng: 24/06/17)

  • Newly discovered antibiotic could help treat drug-resistant tuberculosis

A newly discovered antibiotic, produced by bacteria from a cystic fibrosis patient, could be used to treat cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The team discovered that one particular species, Burkholderia gladioli, which was isolated from the sputum of a child with cystic fibrosis, produces a new antibiotic they called gladiolin. This compound is similar in structure to another antibiotic that has been investigated for its ability to jam bacterial cell machinery, but gladiolin is much more stable and could therefore potentially be a better drug candidate. Further lab testing also showed that this antibiotic blocked the growth of four drug-resistant TB strains (news-medical.net: 24/06/17)

  • 'Remarkable' drop in new HIV cases among men

For the first time, new diagnoses of HIV have fallen among men who have sex with men in England, according to data from Public Health England. They have decreased from 2,060 in 2014-15 to 1,700 in 2015-16, while in London there was an even steeper drop. PHE said increased testing, fast treatment with HIV therapy and the use of preventative drug Prep have all contributed to the trend (bbc.co.uk: 22/06/17) (guardian.com: 22/06/17) (thetimes.co.uk: 23/06/17)

Non communicable diseases

  • New ethical lapses alleged in controversial India cervical cancer screening trial

A long-debated study aimed at validating a low-cost way to screen for cervical cancer in India has come under fire again, based on new evidence of ethical lapses contained in documents obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Critics of the 18-year trial said that U.S.-funded Indian researchers used ineffective screening that endangered thousands of poor women in Mumbai. They were told the test could help prevent cancer, but far fewer pre-cancerous lesions were found than expected, suggesting that some lesions were missed — possibly leading to an unknown number of deaths. The trial should have been stopped years earlier for another reason, critics said: Other research had already shown that the screening method worked when properly applied, making it unethical to use an unscreened control group (statnews.com: 23/06/17)

  • Novo Nordisk says obesity drug helps up to 13.8 percent weight loss in phase 2 trial

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk said a phase 2 trial for its big hope in tackling obesity, an improved GLP-1 drug called semaglutide, showed a weight loss of up to 13.8 percent in people with severe conditions. The clinical trial, which lasted a year and included 957 people, resulted in a weight loss up to 17.8 kg after 52 weeks of treatment with semaglutide from a mean baseline weight of around 111 kg and a body mass index of around 39, Novo said. That corresponded to an estimated weight loss of 13.8 percent compared to the 2.3 percent achieved by diet, exercise and placebo alone (reuters.com: 23/06/17)

  • Racism tied to worse asthma symptoms for black youth

African-American children and young adults with a hard-to-treat type of asthma may have a more difficult time keeping symptoms in check when they have experienced racial discrimination, a recent study suggests. Researchers asked 576 black youth in the U.S. with asthma whether they had been hassled, made to feel inferior or prevented from doing something because of their race, ethnicity, color or language in situations at school, in medical settings or at restaurants and stores. Roughly half of them reported experiencing some form of discrimination at some point in their lives. When they had not experienced these forms of discrimination, the children and young adults were almost twice as likely to have well-controlled asthma than when they had, researchers report in the journal PLoS One (reuters.com: 22/06/17)

  • More blood but no victory as Philippine drug war marks its first year

President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs has resulted in thousands of deaths, yet the street price of crystal methamphetamine in Manila has fallen and surveys show Filipinos are as anxious as ever about crime. Most victims of Duterte’s war are small-time users and dealers, while the masterminds behind the lucrative drug trade are largely unknown and at large, say critics of Duterte's ruthless methods. If the strategy was working the laws of economics suggest the price of crystal meth should be rising as less supply hits the streets. But the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency's own data suggests it has become even cheaper in Manila (trust.org: 25/06/17)

  • Soft drink makers back product reformulation as ‘healthier’ than taxation

Governments can steer consumers towards healthier choices by supporting the reformulation of food ingredients, rather than imposing “discriminatory” taxes, according to the soft drinks industry. Product reformulation is in fact encouraged at European level. “One area which we are addressing at EU level is food reformulation to encourage reductions of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods,” said European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety  Vytenis Andriukaitis recently. Last week, the EU’s 28 health ministers backed national initiatives aimed at reformulating foods in order to reduce levels of salt, saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, added sugar and energy density, given the role they play in the development of non-communicable diseases and weight problems (euractiv.com: 23/06/17) (ucsf.edu: 22/06/17)

Promoting health through the life course

  • Facebook's WhatsApp is so huge in India that one app reached 9 million users without spending a dime

According to Mary Meeker's annual internet trends report, WhatsApp is the most popular Android app in India. With over 200 million users in India, WhatsApp is how digital health start-up 1mg went viral, even without founder Prashant Tandon having to spend any money promoting it. Since its launch in 2015, more than 9 million people have downloaded his app, which helps users research prescription drugs and find the lowest prices (cnbc.com: 25/06/17)

  • From floods to disease, disaster risk rising in surging African cities

Disaster risks are arguably rising faster in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else, said Arabella Fraser, a risk and resilience researcher at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).  That's in part the result of surging urban populations, a quickening pace of climate-related problems - such as flooding and drought - and an inability to beat back those risks because of poverty, poor data, lack of training and badly run government, she said. One thing that can help is ensuring that efforts to build urban resilience are not just short-term, donor-funded projects but are based on community demand and then built into city plans, often with innovative funding (trust.org: 22/06/17)

  • Feeling sick at home? The wallpaper in your room might be the reason

Toxins produced by fungus growing on the wallpapers in our home can contaminate the air and be easily inhaled, leading to "sick building syndrome," a new study has found. Mycotoxins can be inhaled and should be investigated as parameters of indoor air quality, especially in homes with visible fungal contamination. The impetus for the study was the dearth of data on the health risk from mycotoxins produced by fungi growing indoors (economictimes.indiatimes.com: 24/06/17)

  • Tanzanian leader reaffirms ban on pregnant girls attending state schools

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has rejected activists' calls for the government to allow pregnant students to attend state schools, saying it was immoral for young girls to be sexually active. Tanzania's ban on pregnant girls attending state primary and secondary schools dates back to 1961, when the country secured its independence from Britain, though it does not extend to private schools. Activists have stepped up calls in recent years for the ban to be scrapped, saying expelled teenagers face widespread stigma, the possibility of being forced into early marriage and the challenge of providing for themselves and their babies (trust.org: 23/06/17)

  • Chained to health ministry, Peruvians protest mining pollution

Parents of sick children who live near one of Peru's oldest mining pits camped out in front of the health ministry in Lima for an eighth day on Thursday, demanding help to deal with the impact of decades of mining pollution. Dozens of residents of Simon Bolivar, a district in the city of Cerro de Pasco in the Peruvian Andes, travelled to Lima to press the government to declare a health emergency and build a regional hospital specializing in exposure to heavy metals. More than 40 percent of the area's children who were tested in a 2012 study had dangerously high levels of lead in their blood, according to a screening of some 2,700 children by regional health authorities (reuters.com: 23/06/17)

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