Human poo converted to clean fuel in Kenya, HIV positive people living 10 years longer, and more.

The World Health Minute Over 1 million tuberculosis patients lack adequate nutrition in India Ebola outbreak in DRCFile photo: PTI
news Public Health Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 19:23

The World Health Minute brings you top health stories from around the world.

Preparedness, surveillance and response

  • An outbreak of Ebola has been confirmed in Bas-Uele Province (northern DRC)

The DRC Minister of Health, Dr Oly Illunga Kalenga, told the World Health Organization about an outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Likati health district more than 1300KMs from Kinshasa in the northern DRC, following confirmation of the disease by the National Biomedical Research Institute. Since April 22 there have been 9 suspected EVD cases reported including 3 deaths in the Likati health district, a 33.3% death rate according to a WHO official assessment ( 12/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 12/05/17)

  • More swine flu cases in 2017 than entire last year, but death rate is lowest ever

There have been more swine flu cases and deaths in the first four months of 2017 in India than all of 2016. The number of cases year-on-year is five-fold higher than last year. There have been 8,648 confirmed cases and 345 deaths up to May 7th, compared to 1,786 cases and 265 deaths last year, according to the health ministry. Tamil Nadu accounts for close to one-third of the total swine flu cases and Maharashtra accounted for more than half the deaths nationwide. Gujarat is the worst hit state with one in four persons diagnosed with H1N1 dying ( 14/05/17)

  • Ebola returns and Central Africa’s virus hunters are ready

MSF is sending 14 people to meet a 10-person team from the DRC’s Health Ministry. A cargo plane carrying 16 tons of medical and logistical supplies is on the way from Kinshasa to meet them. On the ground the MSF team will start administering care, potentially building a clinic. They may work with locals to do triage and surveillance, along with representatives from the World Health Organization. Bas-Uele is rural and poorly mapped so MSF want to crowdsource a mapping project. That way they won’t miss a lot of villages some people just don’t know about ( 12/05/17)

  • Yemen declares a state of emergency in Sanaa over the cholera outbreak â€“ 115 dead says ICRC

Officials in the Yemeni capital Sanaa declared a state of emergency, after an outbreak of cholera which has killed dozens of people. Yemen’s health ministry called on humanitarian organizations and other aid donors around the world to help it deal with the epidemic and avert an unprecedented disaster. The health system, severely degraded by more than two years of war that has displaced millions, cannot cope, the state news agency Saba said ( 14/05/17) ( 14/05/17)

  • Another rise in the number of yellow fever deaths in Brazil to 259

Health authorities in Brazil announced 259 people have died from yellow fever since last December. They said another 47 cases are being investigated and a further 115 cases have been rejected as having been caused by yellow fever. Yellow fever has been detected in 115 districts of Brazil, with the largest clusters of cases located in the Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo states, in the south east region of the country. Health bulletins say there are 3,175 possible cases of yellow fever across the country, 1787 cases have been discarded, 756 cases confirmed and a further 622 cases are awaiting conclusive results ( 12/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17)

Health systems

  • Global cyberattack slows but experts see risks of fresh strikes

A global cyberattack has hit more than 1-5 of all UK hospitals, forced a European carmaker to halt some production lines, struck schools in China and hospitals in Indonesia. Capitalising on spying tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, the assault infected tens of thousands of computers in 104 countries, with Britain’s health system suffering the worst known disruption ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 13/05/17)

  • More women and children dying in Venezuela as the economy collapses

Venezuela’s collapsing economy is taking a toll on its population’s health, with more children and women dying and various diseases skyrocketing amid persistent shortages of everything from medicine to drinking water. The country recorded 756 cases of maternal deaths in 2016, up 66% from the previous year according to data from the ministry of health. Infant deaths rose 30% to 11,466 cases in 2016 from 8,812 deaths the previous year ( 11/05/17)

  • Migrants fleeing Central America face near-certain violence, charity says

MSF said that almost all of the estimated 500,000 migrants who travel into Mexico each year, fleeing poverty and danger in Central America, are victims of violence along their journey. Medical care, treatment for sexual violence and mental health services along the route are limited or non-existent, the report said ( 11/05/17)

  • The Health Care Bill’s insults to women

The New York Times Editorial Board attacks the planned GOP Health Care Bill as being discriminatory to women. It lists many examples to back up its case: stripping funding from planned parenthood, eliminating essential services such as mammograms, birth control and prenatal and maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs may be ‘optional’ at a state-by-state level and Medicaid is slashed by $880bn. Almost half of all births in the USA are covered by Medicaid, and 75% of all publicly funded family planning services ( 12/05/17)

  • Roche versus Indian Pharma – the battle for a cheaper cancer drug

On April 25, the Competition Commission of India released an order opening an investigation against Roche for blocking the entry of biosimilar versions of Trastuzumab, globally sold under the brand name Herceptin. The CCI’s 36-page order notes that prima facie it appears that Roche used its dominant position to influence regulators and medical professionals against prescribing the biosimilar versions of Trastuzumab manufactured by several Indian drug makers, including Biocon and Mylan. The two companies complained that Roche’s anti-competitive measures ranged from suing the Indian regulator for granting approval to manufacture biosimilars to selectively using the court’s observations to ‘intimidate’ doctors, chemists and state hospitals ( 14/05/17)

Communicable diseases

  • New hepatitis C infections reach 15 year high

Preliminary surveillance data released by the CDC shows that the number of reported hepatitis C virus cases has almost tripled in number from 2011-15 reaching a 15 year high. The CDC attributes the rising numbers among younger individuals primarily to injection drug use related to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the USA. However, younger individuals are not the most affected by HCV, Baby Boomers are ( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 11/05/17)

  • More than 1m tuberculosis patients lack adequate nutrition

Undernutrition increases the severity of TB, reduces a patients’ speed of recovery, and increases their chances of suffering side effects from the medicine, and the likelihood of their becoming one of the 480,000 Indian lives that TB claims each year( 13/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 13/05/17)

  • Ebola vaccine could get first real-world test in emerging outbreak

An outbreak of Ebola in the DRC was confirmed by the World Health Organization on 12th May. Now health officials are considering whether to deploy an experimental Ebola vaccine against the outbreak, for the first time since the WHO gave its preliminary approval in April. The aid group MSF is discussing a potential vaccination campaign with the Congolese government, an MSF spokesperson says. This would require the approval of the WHO, which has not yet decided whether to call on the approved experimental vaccine or others in development ( 12/05/17)

  • In Chhattisgarh HIV-positive women are giving birth to healthy babies

During 2016-17 multi-medicine treatment was administered on the 219 pregnant women who had been found to be HIV positive. Anti-retroviral medicines were provided and the pregnancies monitored through public sector hospitals. After delivery 213 of the 219 women gave birth to healthy babies ( 14/05/17) ( 14/05/17)

  • People with HIV are living 10 years longer

More people are living longer lives with HIV, according to a new report published in the Lancet HIV that includes data from more than 88,000 people from 18 countries. People who contracted the virus in recent years are living 10 years longer than people who were infected in the mid-1990s. The report indicates the introduction of anti-HIV drugs beginning in the early 1990s has played a large role in helping people live longer with HIV ( 10/05/17) ( 13/05/17)

Non communicable diseases

  • Chronic illness in children linked to mental health issues later

A recent report analysed 37 medical studies to find a link between chronic childhood physical illnesses, including asthma, cancer, chronic renal failure, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, epilepsy and arthritis and emotional problems later in life. Researchers found that all the children reviewed who had experienced chronic conditions in childhood were at an increased risk of developing depression or anxiety and emotional problems that continued throughout adulthood( 12/05/17) ( 13/05/17) ( 12/05/17)

  • Calls for expanded dialysis facilities at affordable cost

Bangladesh medical experts discussed the high costs kidney patients have to pay for haemodialysis and how for many unable to afford it, impaired kidneys is a death sentence, a silent killer. The number of kidney patients in the country is now estimated at 20m and 15,000 to 20,000 of them experience renal failure every year. At least 70% of these patients with renal impairment need dialysis therapy for their survival ( 12/05/17)

  • Smoking only in social situations may still be tied to heart problems

So-called social smokers who only light up on special occasions may have some of the same risks for heart disease as people with a daily cigarette habit, a new U.S. study suggests. Compared with non-smokers, social smokers were more than twice as likely to have high-blood pressure and 53% more likely to have elevated cholesterol than non-smokers. So that worked out at about the same percentage risk as those who were current smokers ( 11/05/17)

  • Umbrella coverage for all: Here’s why India must focus on universal health insurance coverage

According to the Aaarogya Bharat Report, the Indian non-communicable disease burden is exploding and it is estimated it will cost the country $6.2tr by 2030. Early detection and management of such diseases is essential to keeping a lid on any potential exploding health costs. The writer says the country needs to focus on preventative and primary care through greater public spending and broader engagement with stakeholders such as technology, media, schools and food companies( 12/05/17)

  • New strains of rice may help fight China’s diabetes scourge

Bloomberg features the story of the international research project which is seeking to improve the nutritional value of rice, in particular, trying to develop a new strain of rice which would avoid raising blood-sugar. The rationale behind the development is that diabetes risks affecting up to 151m people in China by 2040 and food that can combat some of the causes of raised blood sugar through bio-fortification can only be beneficial in terms of health ( 11/05/17)

Promoting health through the life course

  • For women, baby aspirin may reduce risk of breast cancer

Researchers studied data on 57,164 women, mostly in their early 60s, who had no history of cancer. About 23% of them took a low dose aspirin. About 11% of them took a full strength aspirin and 10% took a COX-2 inhibitor or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug each week. Over seven years 1,457 women got breast cancer and those taking low-dose aspirin were 16% less likely to develop any type of breast cancer ( 13/05/17)

  • Finding inspiration in clean water and decent toilets

WaterAid CEO Barbara Frost is retiring and she recalls her time as head of the organization and talks about several examples where the intervention of the NGO has made a significant material difference to people’s lives in the developing world ( 12/05/17)

  • Abortion pill group’s Facebook page deleted over promoting ‘drug use’ (offline for 48 hours now back)

Facebook censored the page of an organization that helps women obtain abortion pills, citing its policy against ‘the promotion or encouragement of drug use.’ Women on Web, which is based in Amsterdam, helps connect women with doctors who can provide abortion pills if they live in countries where abortion is restricted. It is a sister organization to Women on Waves, which provides abortions and other reproductive services on a ship in international waters ( 11/05/17) ( 11/05/17) ( 12/05/17) ( 12/05/17)

  • Zambia’s poorest farmers risk becoming squatters on their own land – UN expert

Zambia’s smallholder farmers could be made squatters on their own land as the country opens up to farming multinationals in an effort to boost its economy, a UN expert said. Hilal Elever, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said Zambia’s ambition to develop its commercial farming sector to become Southern Africa’s food basket risks worsening extreme rural poverty as farmers may face eviction to make way. Such plans need to place the social and economic impact on people at the centre and not just focus on short term profitability and economic growth (reuters: 12/05/17)

  • Human poo transformed into clean fuel for Kenya’s urban poor

Reuters writes about an initiative being run by the Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company which is recycling human waste collected from pit latrines and septic tanks (the raw material for its briquettes). In its processes it removes impurities and smell along with harmful pathogens during the carbonisation process and adds molasses for a sweet aroma. The briquettes burn longer with less smoke compared to firewood and charcoal. With only 27% of the local residents connected to the town’s sewage system the scheme is a more sustainable way to dispose of large quantities of human waste. It is attracting interest from neighbouring counties and countries such as Rwanda ( 12/05/17)

WHO elections

  • Nurse leadership vital for World Health Organization

With more than 20m nurses and midwives making up almost half of the global health workforce, Dr David Nabarro, candidate for Director-General of the World Health Organization, has pledged his support for increasing nursing leadership at WHO ( 12/05/17)

  • The World Health Organization – why everyone should care – Dr David Nabarro

Dr Nabarro, candidate to lead the World Health Organization, makes a case for why WHO is particularly important for everyone lives, explains his background, and highlights what he believes are reasons he would make a suitable Director General for the World Health Organization ( 13/05/17)

  • Longest, biggest World Health Assembly ever set to open with election, budget topping the agenda

IP-Watch reports on the press conference given by director general of the WHO Department of Governing Bodies, Timothy Armstrong, in which he explains the new election process for the next Director General, spells out why Taiwan has not received an official invite and how the World Health Assembly is to be structured ( 12/05/17)

  • Taking the fight to cancer, other diseases essential

Jordanian Princess Dina Mired writes about the work of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation and includes a strong recommendation of support for Sania Nishtar’s candidacy to become the next Director General of the UN World Health Organization ( 13/05/17)

  • WHO 70th Assembly votes on a new chief and tackles Zika crisis

An article simply highlighting the vote will take place next week and that several candidates are involved (

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