Tamil Nadu not granting licenses to private hospitals to screen Zika virus, epidemics are reappearing in Syria, and more.

The World Health Minute Swine Flu strikes Hyderabad Novartis sued over bird flu trials File photo: PTI
news Public Health Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - 17:19

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

  • WHO warns of cholera risk at annual haj, praises Saudi preparedness

A cholera epidemic in Yemen, which has infected more than 332,000 people, could spread during the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in September, although Saudi authorities are well prepared, the World Health Organization said. The pilgrimage draws 2-4 million Muslims every year, including 1.5-2 million foreigners, raising the risk from diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika virus and meningococcal disease as well as cholera (reuters.com: 14/07/17) (geo.tv: 14/07/17)

  • UN Suspending Plan for Cholera Vaccination in Yemen

The United Nations said that it was suspending plans for a cholera vaccination campaign in Yemen — reversing a decision made a month ago — because the disease’s rampant spread and the ravages of war there would make such an effort ineffective. Plans for preventive vaccination were being “set aside” as obstacles in delivering vaccines in the middle of a conflict that has crippled the country’s health system are too great, and in addition, aid workers would be hampered accessing some areas threatened by the contagious disease (nytimes.com: 11/07/17

  • Venezuela is at the eye of a storm of preventable and once eradicated diseases

Venezuela has become the focus of outbreaks of new diseases once believed to be eradicated in the country, and others, which were very treatable, such as TB, malaria, Chagas disease, dengue and diphtheria. Now, due to the decay of its public health system which has all but broken down because of political turmoil, the breakdown of all disease prevention vaccination programmes is just a symptom of this full-scale collapse (el-carabobeno.com: 10/07/17)

  • Extinguished Epidemics Reappear in Syria

Epidemics are gradually reappearing in Syria as part of a reality that has started to impose itself in zones that are not controlled by the Syrian regime, especially in the northern and eastern regions which have witnessed a series of fights amid the total absence of local and civil authorities. Poliomyelitis is now rampant in Deir ez-Zor, with 58 cases up to the start of June. Displaced Raqqa civilians in nearby camps, especially Tuwayhina, are seeing a resurgence of cholera, leishmanial and measles (enabbaladi.net: 03/07/17)

  • Hyderabad: Alarm as swine flu comes to town

A 55-year-old man from Mahboobnagar has contracted swine flu and was rushed to Gandhi Hospital for treatment. Doctors at Gandhi Hospital said that the patient does not have any other co-morbid conditions and is undergoing treatment. Superintendent of Gandhi Hospital, Dr Shravan Kumar explained, “As the temperatures have come down the virus is active again and is affecting those whose immune systems are low” (deccanchronicle.com: 12/07/17)

Health systems

  • Swedish aid agency to halt funds for supporters of U.S. anti-abortion 'gag rule'

Sweden's international aid agency is set to halt funding for sexual and reproductive health programs of organizations which acquiesce in President Donald Trump's ban on federal funding for foreign groups providing abortions or abortion support. Sweden's international aid agency Sida said that funding agreements for sexual and reproductive issues with organizations which go along with the U.S. presidential order could be cancelled and support phased out (reuters.com: 11/07/17)

  • Britain to hold inquiry into contaminated blood scandal which killed 2,400

Britain will hold a public inquiry into contaminated blood supplied to patients in the National Health Service which killed at least 2,400 people. During the 1970s and 1980s, blood products supplied to the NHS were contaminated with viruses such as HIV or hepatitis C and infected thousands of people with haemophilia or other disorders. A report by lawmakers in 2015 said the Department of Health estimated that more than 30,000 people might have been infected with hepatitis C between 1970 and 1991 when Britain imported some blood products from the United States but just 6,000 had been identified. A further 1,500 were infected with HIV between 1978 and 1985 (reuters.com: 11/07/17) (bloomberg.com: 11/07/17) (bbc.co.uk: 14/07/17) (cnn.com: 11/07/17)

  • Cuts to Medicaid could worsen U.S. opioid crisis, governors warn

Proposals by U.S. Senate Republicans to phase out the expansion of the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income Americans could hurt state efforts to fight the country's opioid drug addiction crisis, governors warned. Democratic and Republican governors warned that many residents of their states were relying on Medicaid to get treatment for opioid addiction, which grips an estimated 3 million Americans and killed 33,000 people in the United States in 2015 (reuters.com: 13/07/17)

  • Pill-Popping Is a Business Worth Watching for Japan's Drugmakers

Medication adherence is seen as an impediment to health as well as sales in Japan, and companies including Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Eisai are working with technology firms on compliance-boosting solutions. The strategy aligns with a worldwide drive for efficiency as drug makers try to defend their profits from the cost-cuts sought by budget-strained health systems. In Japan, where an aging population has caused medical expenses to balloon, helping patients take medications as prescribed by their doctor may spur sales in a drug market predicted to expand at half the global pace over the next five years (bloomberg.com: 10/07/17)

  • Novartis sued by bird flu guinea pig

In 2007, Novartis engaged a company based in Germany and Poland to test a vaccine. This company did so in a clinic in the Polish city of Grudziadz. The subjects – homeless and poor people – were reportedly paid around CHF2 ($2) to be tested on what they thought was a vaccine for normal flu. Although no deaths have been directly proved as a result of the trial, the director of a homeless centre in Grudziadz told a Polish paper that in 2007 there were 21 deaths in the centre, compared with the average of about eight. Now, one of the subjects, Grzegorz S., has launched a civil suit against Novartis (swissinfo.ch: 13/07/17) (thelocal.ch: 14/07/17)

Communicable diseases

  • How Did Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever Pop Up In Spain?

In 2016, two cases cropped up in Spain. Up to a third of patients die, usually within two weeks of contracting the disease. There's no vaccine. This was the first time the disease had shown up in Western Europe in two people who had not travelled to an area where the fever is endemic. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers speculate that the ticks carrying the virus sneaked into Europe by latching on to migrating birds from Morocco or imported livestock (npr.org: 13/07/17)

  • Malaria genome study reveals savvy, finely tuned parasite

In a detailed study analysing more than half the genes in the genome of the parasite that cause malaria - Plasmodium - researchers found that two thirds of those genes are essential for survival. This is the largest proportion of essential genes found in any organism studied to date, they said. Importantly for researchers trying to develop vaccines and drugs against the disease, the scientists discovered that the parasite often disposes of genes that produce proteins that give its presence away to its host's immune system. This allows malaria to swiftly change its appearance to the human immune system and hence build up resistance to a vaccine, posing problems for the development of effective shots (reuters.com: 13/07/17)

  • Tamil Nadu not granting licence to private hospitals to screen the Zika virus

A health department official told The New Indian Express that some private hospitals had contacted them for a licence to screen Zika virus but the official said that if the license is granted, some private hospitals might misuse it to fleece patients. As per protocol, patients with complaints of fever and fatigue are to be tested for diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, malaria, jaundice, typhoid and leptospirosis. If doctors observe symptoms similar to dengue or chikungunya but tests are negative, blood samples are sent for the Zika test (thenewsminute.com: 12/07/17)

  • Meningitis shot also offers some defence against gonorrhoea, study finds

Researchers studying a mass vaccination campaign against meningitis have found a surprising side effect - the shots also offered moderate protection against gonorrhoea. The findings, published in The Lancet medical journal, mark the first time an immunization has shown any protection against gonorrhoea and point to new avenues in the search for a gonorrhoea vaccine, scientists said (reuters.com: 11/07/17) (ggg.at: 12/07/17)

  • Emerging infectious diseases, One Health and India

Researchers writing in the journal Nature analysed associations between 754 mammals and 586 viruses to understand what determines viral richness, diversity and zoonotic potential. Bats were found to harbour the highest numbers of zoonotic viruses and are also a major reservoir for coronaviruses. These include the SARS virus that emerged in China in 2002, spread to 27 countries and killed 774 people and the MERS coronavirus that caused 640 deaths. The transmission of infectious disease requires contact, the probability increasing with population density. With 1.34 billion people, 512 million livestock and 729 million poultry, the density and rates of human–animal, animal–animal and human–human contacts are high in India (thehindu.com: 15/07/17)

Non communicable diseases

  • Cause of kidney disease in Narsinghpur still a mystery

Since 2010, hundreds of people in Badamba and Narsighpur blocks have lost their lives due to kidney diseases while a thousand others are suffering from acute renal problem in the region, but the reason behind the outbreak of the disease still remains a mystery. Since 2013, over 900 kidney patients have been traced out in Narsinghpur alone. However, the administration is yet to do any survey to find out the exact number of patients suffering from kidney disease in the region (timesofindia.indiatimes.com: 14/07/17)

The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company is deploying its vast resources against international efforts to reduce smoking. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters reveal details of the secret operation. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use. In an internal document, the company says it supported the enactment of the treaty. But Philip Morris has come to view it as a “regulatory runaway train” driven by “anti-tobacco extremists” – a description contained in the document, a 2014 PowerPoint presentation (reuters.com: 13/07/17) (businessinsider.com: 13/07/17)   

  • T-cell cancer therapy holds promise, longer-term results await

A novel cell treatment that saved the life of 9-year-old Austin Schuetz was given the green light by U.S. regulatory advisers and doctors hope it can save the lives of more children with the most common type of childhood cancer.  An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend approval of Novartis AG’s tisagenlecleucel for treating B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children and young adults who relapsed or failed chemotherapy (reuters.com: 13/07/17) (reuters.com: 12/07/17)

  • Government to improve treatment of non-communicable diseases

One in every four adults in Uganda suffers from a non-communicable disease, according to a survey. With the increasing rate of NCDs in the country, the government has signed a deal with Novartis Access to increase patients’ access to treatment. The permanent secretary ministry of health, Dr. Diana Atwine said the first set of drugs includes valsartan, amlodipine for treatment of hypertension and heart failure, vildagliptin for diabetes and amoxicillin dispersible tablets for treatment of respiratory infections (newvision.co.ug: 10/07/17)

  • Caribbean Calls for Reducing Economic Burden of NCDs

Chronic NCDs make a significant contribution to mortality and morbidity in the Caribbean and continue to represent an economic burden for most of the region's countries. Addressing the latest meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris – who has responsibility for health in the organisation's Quasi-Cabinet – called for urgent action to reverse the situation. Citing the findings of a 2016 study on the economic dimensions of NCDs in Trinidad and Tobago, Harris noted that an estimated 5 percent of that country’s GDP is being lost through the impact of preventable diabetes, hypertension and cancer (indpethnews.net: 15/07/17)

Promoting health through the life course

  • Contraceptives are "one of the greatest anti-poverty innovations" - Melinda Gates

Contraceptives are "one of the greatest anti-poverty innovations the world has ever known", philanthropist Melinda Gates said, calling for family planning to be made a global priority. Access to birth control boosts economic productivity by freeing up women to work, and leads to smaller families with parents able to devote more resources to their children's health and education, Gates told an international summit in London on family planning. Financial commitments announced at the conference were expected to total at least $2.5 billion - of which $1.5 billion has been pledged by countries in Africa and Asia (reuters.com: 11/07/17) (trust.org: 11/07/17)

  • New MTV dramas in Egypt and India tackle female genital mutilation, sex work

American cable television channel MTV is launching drama series in Egypt and in India with storylines on female genital mutilation, child marriage and sex work with the aim of generating debate around issues often seen as taboo. Both series by the Viacom-owned youth entertainment broadcaster will feature soundtracks to appeal to young audiences and popular local actors who will be trained on the issues to help stimulate debates via social media. "We will be using gripping plots based on true stories from young people so that we can destigmatise issues, debunk unhelpful stereotypes and catalyse social change," said Georgia Arnold, head of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation  (trust.org: 13/07/17)

  • UN helps Syria's women farmers by treating their livestock

More than a million sheep, goats and cows have been treated for parasites in Syria to help resurrect the country's war-battered food production and shore up its female farmers, a U.N. agency said. The FAO said it had wrapped up a three-month, anti-parasite campaign, reaching 234,000 farmers in government and rebel-held areas in ten regions, including Homs, Aleppo and Hasakeh. The recipients were mostly women, who are traditionally responsible for livestock in rural Syria and who now make up more than 60 percent of the country's agricultural workforce (trust.org: 14/07/17)

  • Floods, reef loss and migration: Asia's future on a hotter planet

A new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) outlines the dramatic changes Asia-Pacific nations would face if measures to curb climate change and adapt to its effects are too slow and unambitious to keep global warming within agreed limits. Of the top 20 cities with the largest projected increase in annual flood losses between 2005 and 2050, 13 are in Asia (trust.org: 14/07/17)

  • Rains fail again in East Africa, hunger on the rise - U.N.

Rains have failed for a third consecutive season in East Africa, wilting crops, killing livestock and entrenching a long drought that has pushed millions into hunger, the United Nations said. Some 16 million people are in need of humanitarian aid across areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - 30 percent more than in late 2016 and their number expected to increase in the coming months, the U.N. food agency said (trust.org: 14/07/17)

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