U.S. Warns Health Officials To Be Alert For Deadly New virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

So far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the CDC’s analysis, the infections in Britain started with a 60-year-old man who had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and developed a respiratory illness on January 24, 2013. Samples from the man showed he was infected with both the new virus and with H1N1, or swine flu.

This man subsequently passed the infection to two members of his household: a male with an underlying illness who became ill on February 6 and subsequently died; and a healthy adult female in his household who developed a respiratory illness on February 5, but who did not need to be hospitalized and has recovered.

The CDC said people who develop a severe acute lower respiratory illness within 10 days of returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines.

The health agency said doctors should be watchful of patients who develop an unexplained respiratory infection within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries. The CDC has set up a special website with updates on the infections at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ncv/ .

Symptoms of infection with this new virus include severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organisation has issued travel restrictions related to the virus.

WHO to assist Nigeria on post flooding health management

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to help Nigeria deal with the health challenges that have trailed the recent flooding in different states of the country.

Director of the Emergency Risk Management and humanitarian response section of WHO, Dr Brennan Richard said there is need to assess and jointly tackle the immediate, medium and long term health impacts of the flooding to avoid crises in the future.

Rising from a meeting with the director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Sani Sidi, Dr Richard said a thorough assessment is on-going and the results will be utilized in rendering the needed assistance to Nigerians that have been affected.

NEMA as well declared its preparedness to undertake the task urgently.

Meanwhile, NEMA’s DG has made clear the urgent need to equip emergency response organisations in the country more adequately, especially now that disaster challenges are on the rise in the country.

Alhaji Sidi made this known during the handover of a mobile intensive care unit ambulance to the Nigerian Red Cross society, where he noted that “Nigeria more than ever before needs effective management of disasters by all first response agencies.”

He said timely and critical emergency response can only happen with adequate equipment and strong collaboration, the sort which the Nigeria Red Cross society pledges to give with the appropriate support and equipment.

Polio Eradication: Expert scores Nigeria low on fighting scourge

The global Polio Eradication Initiative at the World Health Organisation says Nigeria is not on track to achieve eradication of polio despite the adequate tools and capacity to reverse the rising trends.

An official of the global body, Doctor Bruce Aylward made the observation at the expert review committee meeting on polio eradication and routine immunization in Abuja.

Doctor Alyward said if a country such as India is able to implement basic workable strategies towards total eradication, then Nigeria can achieve total eradication of the menace by 2013.

Nigeria is the worst hit polio nation — WHO

The World Health Organisation has identified Nigeria as the country with the highest figure of poliomyelitis cases.

The World Health Organisation Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. David Okello, disclosed this in Lagos on Saturday, at the installation ceremony of the new District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, Dr. Kamoru Omotosho, for 2012-2013.

Okello, who  noted that Nigeria was ranked alongside two other countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are still grappling with the problem.

According to him,  “Indeed Nigeria is now the largest contributor of global polio burden -nearly 60 per cent. Nigeria is also the only country in the world to have all three types of polio virus — Type 1, Type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived Type 2 viruses.”

He explained that the transmission of the disease in Nigeria poses a real threat to the global polio eradication effort.

Giving further statistics, he stated that of the 49 cases reported in the country currently, “two-thirds are from four particular sanctuaries — the northern states of Borno, Kano, Sokoto and Zamfara.”

He, however, commended the concerted efforts of Rotarians worldwide at eradicating the disease as well as committing their expertise and resources to improving the welfare of communities.

 

Diesel exhaust fumes cause lung cancer – WHO

Diesel engine fumes can cause lung cancer and belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas, World Health Organisation (WHO) experts said on Tuesday.

In an announcement that caused concern in the auto industry, the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, reclassified diesel exhausts from its group 2A of probable carcinogens to its group 1 of substances that have definite links to cancer.

The experts, who said their decision was unanimous and based on “compelling” scientific evidence, urged people worldwide to reduce their exposure to diesel fumes as much as possible.

“The working group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer and also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer,” IARC said in a statement.

The decision was the result of a week-long meeting of independent experts who assessed the latest scientific evidence on the cancer-causing potential of diesel and gasoline exhausts.

It puts diesel exhaust fumes in the same risk category as a number of other noxious substances including asbestos, arsenic, mustard gas, alcohol and tobacco.

Christopher Portier, chairman of the IARC working group, said the group’s conclusion “was unanimous, that diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans”.

“Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide,” he said in a statement.

PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE

Diesel cars are mainly popular in western Europe, where tax advantages have boosted technological advances and demand.

Outside of Europe and India, diesel engines are almost entirely confined to commercial vehicles – mostly because of the fuel’s greater efficiency. German carmakers are trying to raise awareness of the fuel in the United States, where the long distances travelled on highways suit diesel engines.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said it was surprised by the WHO announcement and the industry would “have to study the findings in all their details”.

“The latest diesel technology is really very clean,” said spokeswoman Sigrid de Vries, adding the industry had been working on technologies to address health concerns.

Sean McAlinden, an analyst with the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, said about 2 to 2.5 percent of light vehicles in the United States had diesel engines, but that was expected to rise to 8.5 percent by 2020.

IARC said large populations all over the world are exposed to diesel exhaust every day.

“People are exposed not only to motor vehicle exhausts but also to exhausts from other diesel engines…(such as diesel trains and ships) and from power generators,” it said.

IARC’s director Christopher Wild said that against this background, Tuesday’s conclusion “sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted”.

“This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted,” he said in a statement.

DIESEL HAS CLEANED UP

For about 20 years, diesel engine exhaust was defined by IARC as probably carcinogenic to humans – group 2A – but an IARC advisory group has repeatedly recommended diesel engine exhaust as a high priority for re-evaluation since 1998.

The auto industry had argued diesel fumes should be given a less high-risk rating to reflect tighter emissions standards.

Reacting to the decision, Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Washington-based Diesel Technology Forum said diesel engine and equipment makers, fuel refiners and emissions control technology makers have invested billions of dollars in research into technologies and strategies to reduce emissions.

The health charity Cancer Research UK welcomed the IARC move and said the evidence of harmful health effects of diesel had been accumulating for many years. But it added that “the overall number of lung cancers caused by diesel fumes is likely to be a fraction of those caused by smoking tobacco.”

Cancer killed 7.6 million people worldwide in 2008, the most recent year for which the WHO has full data. Lung cancer was the most deadly type, accounting for 18 percent of cancer deaths.

IARC said it had considered recent advances in diesel technology which had cut levels of particulates and chemicals in exhaust fumes, particularly in developed economies, but said it was not yet clear how these might translate into health effects.

“Research into this question is needed,” it said. “In addition, existing fuels and vehicles without these modifications will take many years to be replaced, particularly in less developed countries, where regulatory measures are currently also less stringent.”

IARC said gasoline exhaust fumes should be classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, a finding that was unchanged from its previous assessment in 1989.

REUTERS