The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
According to a new report (.pdf) released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Kuala Lumpur, many tuberculosis (TB) programs “under-diagnose, under-treat or completely leave children with TB out, despite the increase in pediatric TB, and rising numbers of children who are infected with drug-resistant forms of TB strains,” PlusNews reports. The report, based on “data collected over three years from over 2,000 children with TB in 13 MSF projects across six countries,” found that diagnosis of children using the most commonly used TB test is inaccurate and pediatric TB drug formulations and treatment guidelines are inadequate, the news service notes. MSF called for the development of new TB tests that do not require sputum samples or laboratory infrastructure and “urged WHO to provide clear guidance to drug manufacturers on needed fixed-dose combinations of first-line drugs to support implementation of the new WHO-recommended dosages,” PlusNews writes (11/16).
After President Barack Obama’s re-election on Tuesday, the following blog posts addressed possible foreign policy priorities during the next administration.
“A yellow fever outbreak in Sudan’s Darfur region has killed 67 people so far,” and “the number of cases has more than doubled since the start of the epidemic last month,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report “stated that the outbreak has now affected 17 localities in central, south, west and north Darfur, with 194 cases reported — a significant increase from the 84 initial cases reported at the start of the outbreak,” according to the news service (11/7). “WHO announced in the report a plan of action to counter the spread of the disease, including a vaccination campaign and training of medical cadres,” the Sudan Tribune writes. The Ministry of Health “said it needs four million vaccine units to counter the outbreak,” according to the newspaper (11/7). “The report’s recommendations also include strengthening disease surveillance in eastern Darfur, continuing laboratory testing of patients from newly affected localities, and finalizing a vaccination plan that identifies resources available as well as partners to implement it,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/7).
UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, said the goal of eventually ending the global AIDS epidemic “is more than merely visionary” and “is entirely feasible,” primarily because of “historic success” in scaling up HIV programs and improving access to antiretroviral drugs to treat and prevent HIV, Reuters reports (Kelland, 11/20). According to the report, “[t]wenty-five countries, many in hard-hit Africa, have at least halved new HIV infections in the past decade, with particular progress made toward protecting children from the deadly virus,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/20). “UNAIDS says that half the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children,” PlusNews writes. “But the epidemic is not over in any part of the world, and is gaining pace in some,” the news service continues, noting the number of new infections has increased in the Middle East and North Africa (11/20). The report “stresses that countries must dramatically ramp up both [prevention and treatment efforts] if the world hopes to meet the ambitious goals agreed upon last year at a special session of the United Nations,” ScienceInsider writes (Cohen, 11/20).
“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).
UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).
Enterovirus Blamed For Some Deaths Of Cambodian Children; Officials Continue To Investigate Mysterious Respiratory Illness
“Lab tests have confirmed that a virulent strain of hand, foot and mouth disease known as [enterovirus-71 (EV-71)] is to blame for some of the 59 cases [of mysterious illness among children in Cambodia] reviewed since April, including 52 deaths, according to a joint statement from the World Health Organization and Cambodian Health Ministry,” the Associated Press reports, noting that “[t]he numbers were lowered from the initial report of 62 cases” (Mason/Cheang, 7/9). “EV-71 is common in Asia, but Nima Asgari, a public health specialist for the WHO in Cambodia, told AFP he believed it had not been seen in this country before,” according to Agence France-Presse. “Asgari said identification of the strain was an important first step but stressed more tests were needed to learn if the deceased children also suffered from other viruses,” and Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng “said an investigation into the illness was ongoing,” the news service notes (7/9).
In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on the first U.S. National Strategy for Biosurveillance, issued by the White House “to quickly detect a range of global health and security hazards.” According to the article, “the Defense Department has a running start in implementing the new plan, a senior defense official said,” and “many of the activities described in the strategy are ongoing at DOD.” “So much of what we’re doing is integrating the efforts and working hard on the overlap between global security and global health, in what [President Barack Obama] refers to as global health security,” said Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, the news service writes (Pellerin, 8/22).
In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).