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Pneumonia & Flu

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With Lessons Learned From Smallpox Eradication Efforts, Investment In Vaccines, Goal Of Ending Preventable Child Deaths Achievable

In this Baltimore Sun opinion piece, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Myron Levine, the Grollman Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discuss the successful eradication of smallpox last century and write that “the same can now be done for diarrhea and pneumonia.” They continue, “Eradicating smallpox taught us new ways to gather disease data, empower local leaders, create incentive programs, set up delivery chains and drive innovation,” but “the most important lesson was not to fear big, ambitious global health goals.”

Bushmeat Blamed For Ebola Outbreak In DRC

“Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s north-eastern Orientale Province are urging the population to desist from activities that could put them at risk of contracting the Ebola virus, including contact with infected individuals and the consumption of bushmeat,” IRIN reports. “‘Ebola virus is an animal disease … people in some parts of our country rely on bushmeat for their livelihood … and don’t care to avoid eating meat they’ve got from dead animals that they often find in the bush,’ said Mondoge Vitale, head of disease control at WHO’s Kinshasa office,” according to the news service. “The health ministry has established national- and district-level taskforces and is working with partners, including the [non-governmental organization] Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO,” the news service notes, adding, “At least 10 people in the province had died from suspected Ebola by 20 August, according to the [WHO],the news service writes. (8/23).

DR Congo Reports Ebola Outbreak Near Uganda Border

“Nine people have died in an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Felix Kabangue said on Saturday,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/18). “Congolese health officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) Friday, according to a WHO Global Alert and Response (GAR),” Examiner.com adds (Herriman, 8/17). “The outbreak is in Isiro, a busy town in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Oriental province, which shares a border with Uganda, but the strain of the deadly disease is different to the one that killed 16 there last month, [Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] said,” Reuters writes (8/18).

Researchers, Experts Debate Publication Of H5N1 Research Amid Updated Studies

“As researchers from both sides of the debate over two controversial H5N1 studies weighed in [Tuesday] on full publication versus a more cautionary approach, two U.S. journals” — the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and its sister publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases — “said they are developing policies to address any future such instances,” CIDRAP News writes. “We are developing policies that address these issues on a case-by-case basis, so that freedom of scientific expression can be maintained without sacrificing individual safety or national security,” JID Editor Martin Hirsch wrote in an editorial, the news service notes, adding, “He also introduced three new JID perspective pieces that discuss the difficult issues” (Schnirring, 3/28).

Scientific Research Is Crucial To Preventing, Controlling, Eradicating Infectious Diseases

The debate about two studies showing that, with few genetic mutations, H5N1 bird flu strains could become more easily transmissible among ferrets, a laboratory model for humans, “has become a debate about the role of science in society. Two questions should be addressed here: should this type of research be conducted at all; and if so, should all data generated by this research be published?” Ab Osterhaus, head of the Institute of Virology, at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, writes in a Guardian opinion piece. A team from Erasmus conducted one of the two studies, he notes.

New SARS-Like Virus Not Spread Easily, WHO Reports

“A new strain of a potentially deadly virus related to SARS, which has killed one man in Saudi Arabia and left a Qatari man critically ill in London, does not appear to spread easily from person to person, the World Health Organization says,” according to the New York Times (Santora, 9/29). “To ensure an appropriate and effective identification and investigation of patients who may be infected with the virus, without overburdening health care systems with unnecessary testing, WHO issued a revised interim case definition Saturday on its website,” Xinhua reports (9/30). “On Saturday, the health organization, which was rushing to develop a diagnostic test, said that doctors should test for the virus only if the patient is severely ill,” the New York Times states (9/29). “But [the agency] added anyone who has been in direct contact with a confirmed case and who has any fever or respiratory symptoms should also be tested,” Reuters notes (Kelland, 9/29).

CDC Report Outlines International Influenza Activities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released a 268-page annual report that “profiles a wide range of CDC influenza-related projects around the world, from flu surveillance in Indonesia to vaccine effectiveness studies in El Salvador and epidemiology training in Ghana,” CIDRAP News reports. The report also “describes the CDC’s collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO), outlines projects it supports in about 40 countries, … describes specific studies undertaken in many of those countries,” “lists international training conferences it has sponsored, and describes the CDC program for sharing diagnostic test kits and reagents,” the news service writes. “Over the past six years the [international] program has undergone remarkable growth and has expanded to provide support to over 40 countries, all WHO regional offices and WHO headquarters,” the report notes, according to CIDRAP. “The report, covering 2011, is the third annual account of the agency’s global flu activities, which have expanded greatly in the past decade,” the news service adds (Roos, 10/30).

U.S. Panel May Re-Evaluate Bird Flu Research After Scientists Present New Data About Risks To Humans

Speaking at the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research meeting in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Ron Fouchier, the leader of the team at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands that genetically altered the bird flu virus, making it transmissible between ferrets and “touching off public fears of a pandemic, said … that the virus he created was neither as contagious nor as dangerous as people had been led to believe …, prompt[ing] the United States government to ask that the experiments be re-evaluated by a government advisory panel that recommended in December that certain details of the work be kept secret and not published,” the New York Times reports (Grady, 2/29).

Pakistan To Become First South Asian Country To Introduce Pneumococcal Vaccine

“Pakistan is set to become the first country in south Asia to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to protect children against pneumonia, one of the biggest killers of children under five in the developing world,” the Guardian reports, noting, “The program is due to be announced by the country’s prime minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, on Tuesday, signaling clear political commitment from the Pakistani government in rolling out the vaccine.” The country’s expanded program on immunization (EPI) is introducing the vaccine in conjunction with the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF, and WHO, the newspaper adds. “In Pakistan, more than 423,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, and almost one in five of these deaths is due to pneumonia,” according to the Guardian, which notes, “The new pneumococcal vaccine is expected to prevent a significant proportion of pneumonia cases, and has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives” (Tran, 10/9).

Public-Private Partnership Will Promote Handwashing To Help Reduce Child Mortality In Africa

Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”

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