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Also In Global Health News: Polio In Russia; Water Scarcity In Iraq; Global Fund Grant For Rwanda; South African Health Report; Mobile Phone Systems Prevent Fake Drug Purchases

Infant From Tajikistan Is Russia’s First Confirmed Polio Cases In 13 Years

“Russia has confirmed its first polio case in 13 years in an infant visiting from Tajikistan, but there is no immediate threat of a wider outbreak, the country’s main public health body [Rospotrebnadzor] said Friday,” Reuters reports. “All the necessary epidemiological measures have been taken. There is not currently any threat the disease will spread,” Lyubov Voropayeva, a spokesperson for the health agency, said, adding that a second infant from Tajikistan tested positive for the polio virus at a hospital in Moscow. But that baby had not developed the disease. According to the WHO, at least 12 people in Tajikistan have died from polio since January (Humphries, 5/14).

The WHO says a polio immunization campaign underway in Tajikistan should curb the outbreak, IRIN reports in an article examining the recent increase in polio cases in the country. “During the immunization campaign we are vaccinating all children under six, which is about 1.1 million children. We are sure that the result of these three rounds will be a decrease of infected cases,” said Cristiana Salvi, a spokesperson for WHO in Tajikistan. The second round of the immunization campaign begins Tuesday and is scheduled to run through May 22. A third round is scheduled for June (5/16).

Red Cross Report Highlights Water Scarcity In Iraq 

An International Committee of the Red Cross report, released on Friday, highlights the increasing scarcity of clean drinking water in Iraq, Environment News Service reports. “Across the country, the shrinking of the rivers is having serious consequences on the functioning of water treatment plants. In underground aquifers, the salt content of the water is increasing. This water is often unfit for human consumption or even for agricultural use. … In many places, the strain is further compounded by a lack of qualified engineers and staff able to maintain and repair water and sanitation facilities,” the news service writes (5/14).

Rwanda Gets $45M Global Fund Grant To Fight TB

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria awarded Rwanda a three-year $45 million grant for TB control in the country, New Times/ reports. “The grant agreement was signed last week between the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera and the WHO Representative, Dr. Jack Abdoulie, on behalf of the Global Fund,” the publication writes. Michel Gasana, head of the TB unit at TRAC Plus, said the funding would be used to support the National Tuberculosis Control Strategic Plan of 2010-2013. “It will contribute to reducing morbidity and mortality through increasing TB and Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR TB) case detection, maintaining high treatment success rate for TB and MDR-TB and decreasing TB and TB-HIV death rate,” he said (Nambi, 5/14).

Report Examines Maternal, Child Health In South Africa

A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report (.pdf), based on a 2008 household survey, found that 97 percent of women in South Africa use prenatal care services and 95 percent of births occur in a hospital or clinic with a trained medical professional, BusinessDay reports (Kahn, 5/14). According to the findings, HIV/AIDS “accounts for 35 percent of deaths in children under five” and is the largest contributor to maternal deaths, IRIN reports. The study, released on Thursday, also found that health care quality, immunization rates and infant feeding practices contribute to child and maternal health and mortality (5/13).

The HIV prevalence rate in 2008 among children up to 2 years of age was “2.1 percent, lower than the 3.3 percent average in the age group 0 to 4 years,” according to BuaNews. Olive Shisana, HSRC CEO, said the improvement is the result of the government’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi “welcomed the report,” and “said South Africa is among 10 countries with a high infant mortality rate, adding that while there are protocols in hospitals to save mothers and children, they were not being followed.” He added, “We remain committed to providing high quality antenatal services and are prioritising maternal and child care including monitoring systems that focus on addressing maternal mortality and perinatal deaths,” according to BuaNews (5/13).

Mobile Phone Systems Use Text Messaging To Verify Drug Authenticity

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports on two systems, tested in Ghana and Nigeria, which use mobile phones to verify codes on drug packaging in an effort to thwart the spread of counterfeit drugs in Africa. “Buyers will be able to text the code to a phone number on the package and get an immediate reply of ‘NO’ or ‘OK,’ with the drug’s name, expiration date, and other information,” the news service writes. The article explores the implications for the fight against malaria (Bennett, 5/13).

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