“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).
Health Officials Working To Identify Respiratory Illness Responsible For Deaths Of More Than 60 Cambodian Children
WHO and Cambodian health officials are investigating “the source of an unidentified illness” — characterized by high fevers, severe respiratory problems, “and in some cases neurological symptoms” — that has killed more than 60 children in the country since April, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Hensley, 7/5). “The undiagnosed syndrome has been reported in 67 hospital patients since April, 66 of whom have died, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman, in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh today,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “It’s unlikely influenza is the cause, she said” (Gale, 7/6). To date, only one of the children admitted to hospital has survived the unknown disease, the Wall Street Journal notes.
“On Thursday (Dec. 14), [Nigeria] signed five grant agreements with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” with some of the money going “to provide for antiretroviral therapy treatment and prevention services, particularly on mother-to-child HIV transmission,” Devex’s “The Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total $335 million, $265 million will go toward HIV/AIDS activities, while $70 million will be used for TB initiatives, the blog notes (Ravelo, 12/14). “For Nigeria, [the] grant agreements address a tremendous need: Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV in the world and only 30 percent of people requiring HIV treatment are receiving antiretroviral therapy,” a Global Fund press release states (12/13).
As part of its continuing coverage of malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog features a story on counterfeit anti-malarial drugs, which “are among the most popular drugs to fake.” According to the blog, “[T]hese faux pharmaceuticals are particularly dangerous because malaria can kill a person in a matter of days,” and, if the drugs contain only a small amount of the real drug, they can contribute to the development of drug-resistant malaria parasites. “And that appears to be happening now in Southeast Asia with one of the most powerful anti-malarials, artemisinin,” the blog writes (Beaubien, 12/19).
A study led by World Bank economist Jishnu Das and published in Health Affairs on Monday examines the quality of primary care delivered by private and public health care providers in rural and urban India, a World Bank press release notes. The study found many providers do not have medical degrees; the quality of medical training is low; and less than half of providers provide correct diagnoses, according to the press release, which says the results show an “urgent need” to carefully measure the quality of care. “The study could help policymakers make evidence-based decisions,” the press release notes, adding, “In November, the government announced a five-year plan to triple health spending and improve the quality of health services” (12/3).
“Global efforts to combat malaria are under threat from new strains of drug-resistant malaria, which are cropping up in Southeast Asia,” particularly in Cambodia, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Thailand and Vietnam, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “Although the resistance is still limited to Southeast Asia, WHO officials worry that it could spill out of the region,” the blog notes. “Shots” includes a video report from NPR correspondent Jason Beaubien on efforts to properly treat the disease in Thailand (Beaubien/De La Cruz, 12/18).