W.H.O Says DRC Ebola Outbreak Not A ‘Global’ Emergency

File Photo: Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo. / AFP

 

The World Health Organization (W.H.O) said Friday that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo does not qualify as an international threat, despite the spread of the virus to neighbouring Uganda carried by an infected family.

The closely-watched decision followed advice from WHO’s emergency committee, which only meets to review the world’s most severe outbreaks.

The head of the UN health agency Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is in DRC reviewing the Ebola response, said he accepted the committee’s advice.

“Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasise that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency,” Tedros told reporters.

He also appealed for more funds to combat the ongoing Ebola flare-up, which has recorded more than 2,000 cases, including over 1,400 deaths, since it emerged in eastern DRC in August.

Friday’s emergency committee meeting was prompted by confirmation this week of Ebola deaths in a western Uganda region that borders DRC.

Rare Declaration

The W.H.O panel has used the label “public health emergency of international concern” only four times previously.

Those included the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009, the spread of poliovirus in 2014, the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and the surge of the Zika virus in 2016.

This is the third time the WHO panel has considered — but held off — making the emergency call for this DRC outbreak, which has been concentrated in the restive provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.

The head of the committee, Preben Aavitsland, told reporters in Geneva that current Ebola crisis was “an extraordinary event, with risk of international spread, (but) the ongoing response would not be enhanced” by an emergency declaration.

Uganda Cases Confirmed

The Uganda cases stem from a Congolese woman, married to a Ugandan, who travelled with her mother, three children and their nanny to DRC to care for her ill father, who later died of Ebola.

WHO said 12 members of the family who attended the burial in Congo were placed in isolation in the DRC, but six “escaped and crossed over to Uganda” on June 9.

The next day, a five-year-old boy was admitted to hospital in Bwera, a border town, vomiting blood before he died. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward.

His three-year-old brother was also confirmed to have Ebola, as was their grandmother, who died late Wednesday.

Speaking from western Uganda’s Kasese district, a senior Red Cross official told AFP that “the biggest challenge” was ensuring robust monitoring along the porous border with DRC.

“People are continuing to come into the country and not passing through the areas where screening is taking place because screening has been instituted along certain points of entry but not all the points,” said Josephine Okwera, the director of health and social services for the Ugandan Red Cross.

Restive Region

Health officials had initially hoped that they could contain the outbreak with help from a new vaccine, which has now been given to more than 130,000 people in DRC.

But chronic violence and militia activity in the affected eastern DRC provinces, as well as hostility to medical teams among some in the region have hampered the response.

WHO has also accused political leaders in Ituri and North Kivu of manipulating the Ebola issue to turn people against health workers.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

The current outbreak is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.

Over 50 Palestinians Died In 2017 Awaiting Israeli Medical Permits – WHO

More than 50 Palestinians died waiting for Israeli visas to travel for medical treatment last year, with only around half of all applications granted, new figures showed Tuesday.

A total of 54 Palestinians died awaiting permits in 2017, the World Health Organization said, in what rights activists called an overly bureaucratic system which deprives Palestinians of their right to healthcare.

The WHO said it did not have a directly comparable figure for 2016, but Al Mezan Center for Human Rights said it had recorded only a couple per annum in previous years.

Israel argues rigorous checks are necessary for security reasons for those coming from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave ruled by its Islamist enemy Hamas.

Gazans require Israeli permits to leave the enclave and travel to Jerusalem or the West Bank for treatment which the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognised Palestinian government, pays for.

High-quality medical care for conditions such as cancer is not possible in Gaza, largely due to a shortage of facilities and Israel’s restrictions on imports of key medical technology it argues could be seized by Hamas for military purposes.

Of more than 25,000 applications to travel for treatment in 2017, only 54 percent were granted in time for their appointments.
This was down from 62 percent the year before and 92 percent as recently as 2012, the WHO said.

“There is a worrying decline in the approval rate for patients to exit Gaza, with 2017 the lowest rate since WHO began monitoring this in 2008,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, head of WHO offices in the Palestinian territories.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Al Mezan, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Medical Aid for Palestinians and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel called on Israel to ease restrictions.

Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine head for HRW, said they had seen “wider and wider” use of security justification to reject or delay permits for Palestinians.

“It is not based on security but based on a political strategy to isolate Hamas that uses the people of Gaza as collateral in that calculus,” he told AFP.

No Answer

Five-year-old Aya Abu Mutlaq, from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, was born with severe brain deficiencies.

Her parents say she died after three appointments in an east Jerusalem hospital were missed.

“We repeated the same process three times, but her condition deteriorated and she died 10 days after the date of the (final) appointment,” her father Ghaleb told AFP.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008.

Last year a cancer patient was caught smuggling explosives for Hamas through the Erez crossing, allegedly after being duped into taking a container.

“Hamas operates every day to take advantage of the civilian measures that the state of Israel promotes,” said a statement from COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for coordination of such permits.

But rights groups argue the knock-on effect is collective punishment of two million people effectively trapped in Gaza. The border with Egypt has also largely been sealed in recent years.

Faten Ahmed, a 25-year-old mother of two, died of brain cancer in August 2017. She had once been given a permit to travel to east Jerusalem for treatment but then returned to Gaza as agreed.

She applied for a new permit to continue treatment but did not hear back in time for her appointment and eventually died, her mother-in-law Nima told AFP.

“We submitted three new requests to cross … and return to hospital and complete her series of treatments, but we didn’t get any response.”

Uganda Marburg Virus Outbreak Is Contained – WHO

Uganda has contained an outbreak of the Ebola-like Marburg virus weeks after it emerged, the World Health Organization said Friday, praising improved response systems since the disastrous West African Ebola epidemic.

Three people died in the outbreak declared on October 17, which was the first in Uganda for three years.

Marburg virus is one of the most deadly known pathogens. Like Ebola, it is a haemorrhagic fever — it causes severe bleeding, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. It has a 21-day incubation period.

Uganda alerted WHO within 24 hours of the outbreak emerging, the UN health agency said in a statement.

A rapid response team was deployed to the eastern Kween district near the Kenyan border, while $623,000 (530,000 euros) of WHO funds were released immediately for the response led by Uganda and Kenya with international support on the ground.

“The response to the Marburg virus disease outbreak demonstrates how early alert and response, community engagement, strong surveillance and coordinated efforts can stop an outbreak in its tracks before it ravages communities,” WHO’s emergencies director Peter Salama said in a statement.

Breakdowns in WHO’s early alert system were massively criticised following the 2013 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed thousands.

Health experts said WHO’s failure to sound an early alarm intensified the Ebola crisis and raised doubt about the agency’s long-term credibility.

WHO has since made a strong push to intensify its rapid response to potentially significant outbreaks, notably in African countries with weaker public health infrastructure.

AFP

W.H.O Tells Farmers To Stop Using Antibiotics On Healthy Animals

courtesy: thesagenews.com

The World Health Organization (W.H.O) has urged farmers on Tuesday to stop using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals because the practice fuels dangerous drug-resistant superbug infections in people.

Describing a lack of effective antibiotics for humans as “a security threat” on a par with “a sudden and deadly disease outbreak”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “strong and sustained action across all sectors” was vital to turn back the tide of resistance and “keep the world safe”.

The WHO “strongly recommends an overall reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, including complete restriction of these antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosis,” the United Nations agency said in a statement.

Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of so-called superbugs — multi-drug-resistant infections that can evade the medicines designed to kill them.

According to the WHO’s statement, in some countries, around 80 percent of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector. They are largely used in healthy animals to stop them getting sick and to speed up their growth.

The WHO said such use should be halted completely. In sick animals, it added, wherever possible, tests should first be conducted to determine the most effective and prudent antibiotic to treat their specific infection.

Some countries have already taken action to reduce the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. The European Union has since 2006 banned the use of the drugs for growth promotion.

Consumers are also driving a demand for meat raised without routine use of antibiotics, with some major food chains adopting ‘antibiotic-free’ policies for meat supplies.

The WHO said alternatives to using antibiotics for disease prevention in animals include improving hygiene and farming practices, and making better use of vaccines.

W.H.O Commends FG Over Emergency Responses In Northeast

The World Health Organization (W.H.O) has expressed satisfaction over the Federal Government’s health emergency responses in the northeast, describing the conditions in the region as that which has transited from emergency to a development phase.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, after her visit to Borno State, the W.H.O regional director for Africa, Mrs Matshidiso Moeti, urged the government to leverage on the progress made and mobilize development partners to rebuild the health system in the northeast.

She, however, advised the Federal Government to step up its responses to malarial as it remains a major killer disease in Nigeria.

Zika No Longer Constitutes International Emergency- W.H.O

Zika, w.h.oThe World Health Organization (W.H.O), has declared that the Zika virus and related neurological complications, no longer constitute an international emergency.

However, the agency says it would continue to work on the outbreak through a “robust” programme, as the virus still represents “a significant and an enduring public health challenge”.

In February, W.H.O Director-General, Margaret Chan, had called it an “extraordinary event”, while declaring a public health emergency.

Carried by mosquitoes, the Zika virus can cause the rare birth defect, Microcephaly, (where babies are born with abnormally small heads and restricted brain development) and other neurological disorders in infants and adults.

It has spread to more than 60 countries and territories since the current outbreak was identified in 2015, in Brazil.

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff had said “as long as the mosquito keeps reproducing, each and every one of us is losing the battle against the mosquito”.

“We have to mobilize so we do not lose this battle.”

Health officials in affected countries had advised women to avoid pregnancy – in some cases, for up to two years.

Here are a few things you might need to know about the virus

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (aegypti and Ae albopictus)
  • These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
  • In most people, symptoms of the virus are mild, including fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye. In fact, 80% of those infected never know they have the disease.

River Blindness: Medical Experts Conduct Vaccination In Kaduna

kaduna healthcare A vaccination campaign has begun in Kaduna state to stop the further spread of river blindness across some communities.

Men, women and children trooped out to know their health status as the medical experts came to conduct the tests.

New cases of the disease were recently recorded in Iri, Ugwan Fada, Ungwan Makama, Robo and Ugwan Aku Communities and the Director, Onchocerciasis Research, NITR, Augustine Igwe, said that the tests were being carried out to know if there was still transmission of the disease.

The level of casualties recorded in the Kaduna state has been described as alarming but a resident revealed that the problem has been largely compounded by the absence of basic social amenities such as clean water.

River blindness is a tropical eye and skin disease transmitted by black flies which breed in fast flowing rivers.

One of the medical personnel at the vaccination campaign also explained that several clinical manifestations may occur such as yellow and dark patches on the leg, visual impairment, or total blindness at the worst.

A 2015 report from the World Health Organization (W.H.O) showed the intensity of efforts that have been put in place to combat the disease.

It also showed that more than 99% of the infected people live in 31 African countries. And although the disease had been well managed to a large extent, some communities still battle with it.

Angola Yellow Fever Outbreak, Still A Serious Issue – W.H.O

yellow feverIn the on-going battle against the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo (DRC), the World Health Organization says although it is currently not a public health emergency of international concern, it however remains a very serious issue.

According to the W.H.O, About 6,000 people in Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo may be infected with yellow fever, six times the number of confirmed cases, but no new infections have been found since July 12; what the organisation describes as an “extremely positive” trend.

However, it was said that the looming rainy season has raised fears of further spread of the worst outbreak in decades of the mosquito-borne hemorrhagic virus.

The outbreak which has killed roughly 400 people since December, now appears to have improved.

With the vaccination of about 7.7 million people this month, in a major campaign in the “high-risk” Congo capital of Kinshasa, along with 1.5 million in other parts of the country, the situation seems to be under control.

Campaigns have depleted the global stockpile of six million yellow fever vaccine doses twice this year already, which the W.H.O says is unprecedented.

 

WHO De-lists Nigeria From Polio Endemic Countries

PolioThe World Health Organisation has removed Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries.


The Regional Director of W.H.O, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who is in Nigeria, broke the news to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja on Monday.

He urged the Nigerian government to sustain the efforts ahead of the 2017 target when Nigeria is expected to be declared polio-free.

Dr Moeti, who had been earlier received by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Linus Awute, along with the W.H.O delegation, also warned against complacency already displayed in some states in their efforts toward eradicating polio and other communicable diseases.

President Muhamadu Buhari expressed his satisfaction on the current polio status and vowed to maintain the status in order to meet up with the 2017 target.

Nigeria has successfully interrupted polio transmission in the last 14 months.

If the records are sustained till 2017, Nigeria will be completely certified as a polio-free country.

Three years without cases are required before a country can be declared polio-free.

The de-listing of Nigeria means that there are just two endemic countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan – where transmission of the paralysing virus has never been interrupted.

Polio is spread by poor sanitation and contaminated water which usually affects children.

The virus attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis – usually of the legs – within hours.

In September when the news of Nigeria’s de-listing broke, President Buhari called for continued vigilance to ensure that Nigeria maintains this new status.

He directed all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies involved in the Polio eradication effort, to remain proactively engaged and on guard against the re-emergence of the virus in Nigeria.

He assured the WHO and the global community that the Federal Government would ensure that immunisation and surveillance activities continue across Nigeria, to keep the country Polio-free.

Nigerian Ebola Volunteers To Liberia Return With Complaints

EbolaSome Nigerian volunteer health workers sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of Ebola have returned with complaints about poor welfare, neglect by the Federal Government and lack of quarantine before mixing with the public.

According to the volunteers, they were neither isolated from the public for 21 days as recommended by the W.H.O, nor were they paid their full allowances by the Nigerian Government and the African Union, the two principal bodies responsible for the exercise.

Beside these complaints against the government, the Centre for Disease Control is also accused of embezzling over 28 million naira during the fight against Ebola in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, officials of the centre have rejected the claims of financial misappropriation and poor welfare for volunteers.

According to its Director-General, Professor Abdulsalami Nasidi

, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control followed due process in handling the cases of the returnees.

The African Union appealed to Nigeria to send volunteers to help curb the spread of Ebola in the two countries who were still struggling with the spread of the disease after Nigeria was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization in October 2014.

The 185 volunteers spent six months on the assignment.

Lagos Targets Noise Pollution Control With ‘No Horn Day’

opeifaThe Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa has said that the purpose of observing the “Lagos No Horn Day” is to have a noise pollution free day in Lagos.

The Commissioner told Channels Television on Wednesday that the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease showed that Nigerians could achieve whatever they want to achieve.

“Ebola was contained in Lagos properly and if we can contain Ebola that is not in our individual control, how much more something that we bought with our money, to be used for our comfort, then we can do without it,” he said.

Speaking as a guest on Sunrise Daily, Mr Opeifa referred to honking as an environmental and health issue, explaining that the noise level in the transportation sector is about 90 decimal according to World Health Organisation he stressed that the Lagos “No Horn Day” campaign was aimed at solving a public health issue through a social intervention idea.

“If you have a public health issue and you use social intervention to solve it, you get a better result.”

The Commissioner also explained that to further ensure the achievement of the noise polution free day, the state government had created lanes for both motorists and pedestrians.

He emphasised that if people adhere to the signs by staying on their lanes honking would be less. “My administration is not afraid of taking a bold step or making mistake and that is because we would be accused for not making an effort,” the Commissioner for Transport said.

Mr Opeifa also said that accidents caused on the roads were sometimes due to human error, attributed to impatience. “Noise pollution causes the adrenaline level to rise, it makes one get aggressive and it also triggers loss of hearing capacity. If there is a need to honk, especially when it comes to saving a life, then it should be used.

The Commissioner noted that, “since the governor said it was looking at controlling the use of horn, his driver had not used the horn for a year now.

British National Contracts Ebola In Sierra Leone

Ebola virus diseaseA British national living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola Virus, the first Briton to fall victim to the deadly disease that has spread across the West African region since March, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the current Ebola epidemic – the world’s worst ever with 1,427 documented deaths – will likely take six to nine months to halt.

Some aid organisations, including medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, have warned that the outbreak, which began in Guinea before spreading to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, is now out of control.

The WHO conceded on Friday that the hiding of victims and the existence of “shadow zones” where medics cannot go had concealed the true scale of the epidemic.

Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, John Watson, confirmed a British national was among those suffering from Ebola and said medical experts were assessing the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure appropriate care was provided.

“The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low,” Watson said in a statement.

No further details about the British national were immediately available, and it was not known whether there were plans to evacuate the patient.

Ebola, which is passed on by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, strikes hardest at healthcare providers and caregivers who work closely with those infected. Dozens of local doctors and nurses have died from the virus in recent months.

Two American aid workers, who contracted Ebola in neighbouring Liberia and were then evacuated, recovered from the disease and were released from a hospital in the United States earlier this week.

Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centers, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread.