Following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne yellow fever virus in Cameroon that has infected at least 23 people and killed at least seven people, U.N. and local officials are working to vaccinate “1.2 million people considered at high risk of contracting yellow fever, which has no cure,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Provision (YF-ICG) — which includes WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — and the public-private partnership known as the GAVI Alliance are funding the vaccination campaign,” the news service writes. In Ghana, YF-ICG is working with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to plan a vaccination campaign after at least three cases of yellow fever have been reported in the north of the country, the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3).
“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
“Poor-quality emergency immunization campaigns and low routine polio immunization coverage are helping the polio virus to spread in Chad, with 132 cases reported in 2011 — five times the number in 2010,” IRIN reports. “More commitment is needed across the board, especially from local health authorities, to try to get immunizations right, say aid agencies,” the news service adds.
“More than two million people in Sudan’s Darfur region will be vaccinated against a rare yellow fever outbreak suspected of killing 107 people since late September, health officials said on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse/France 24 reports (11/13). In a joint statement, the WHO and the Sudanese Ministry of Health said the mosquito-borne disease has spread throughout the western territory, which “has been plagued by conflict since rebels took up arms in 2003,” Reuters notes (Dziadosz, 11/13). The International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision, a WHO partnership with vaccine manufacturers, will provide the vaccines, according to VOA News (Lipin, 11/13). Anshu Banerjee of the WHO office in Sudan “said that while no yellow fever cases have been found outside Darfur, the WHO is planning a risk assessment in the next two weeks on the assumption that all areas in Sudan may be at risk of infection,” the Associated Press reports. “The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people in 32 countries in Africa are at risk of yellow fever infection,” the news service notes (Fick, 11/13).
The Washington Post reports on polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[O]verall trends in Pakistan, where nearly 30 million children have been vaccinated in recent years, are encouraging.” The newspaper writes, “Last year’s cases numbered 198 nationwide,” adding, “This year’s tally is 54.” However, “the intractability of other social ills, including insurgency, poverty, illiteracy and inadequate sanitation, have conspired to ensure that the country remains years away from meeting its goal of polio eradication by the dawn of 2013,” the newspaper notes. The Washington Post discusses a number of challenges to vaccination efforts, such as a Taliban ban on vaccinations and fear among some parents that “the drops contain religiously proscribed (‘non-halal’) ingredients or are part of a Western plot to spread infertility and limit Muslim population growth.” The newspaper adds, “One key to reducing outbreaks, U.N. health workers say, is to educate parents” (Leiby, 11/16).
“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).
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).
“Health efforts are close to wiping out polio, but two significant challenges remain: money and the operational logistics of getting the vaccine to people who need it,” CNN writes in an article examining “how far we’ve come with polio and what’s left to be done.” The news service provides statistics of polio infection globally and a history of polio in the U.S., and compares polio eradication efforts to those of other diseases. “The World Health Organization has an action plan for the next 18 months that could very well lead to eradication, says Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for polio efforts at the organization,” the news service writes and highlights a number of challenges moving forward (Landau, 7/30).
Noting “the total clinic-level cost of providing a year’s worth of antiretroviral drugs … ha[s] dropped” in some countries, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, discusses “disagreement over the effectiveness of the global AIDS response” in this Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece. Kenny highlights a debate that took place last week on the sidelines of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that “focused on the question: should we use resources for antiretrovirals at a cost (including overhead) of perhaps $350 per patient per life year saved if we could use those resources to provide a course of drugs to cure victims of tuberculosis at a cost of $5 to $50 per life year, or of extending childhood immunizations at the cost of $2 to $20 per life year?” He writes, “Simply, millions of people are dying unnecessarily, for lack of $350 a year or less. It may be those who don’t get AIDS treatment, or those that don’t get other treatments because the available money is being used to buy antiretrovirals.” He continues, “If anything could open treasury accounts in the rich world to provide a larger flow of resources to global health, perhaps it is to get policymakers in those countries to think through these gut wrenching decisions that limited funding (and lack of funding flexibility) forces doctors and ministers and activists alike to make every day” (7/27).
“A cure for AIDS remains a distant prospect but a host of drug treatments and other advances have fueled fresh hope that new [HIV] infections may someday be halted for good,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Strategies for ending the 30-year AIDS epidemic through advances in treatment, testing and prevention are high on the agenda of” the XIX International AIDS Conference, “when it returns to the United States next week after two decades,” according to the news agency (Sheridan, 7/14). “Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence,” Reuters writes in an article examining AIDS vaccine research. “New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention — through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment — promise to cut that rate even more,” the news service states (Steenhuysen, 7/15).