A Vaccine Against Pneumonia And Meningitis Saves Million Children

"far too many deaths , about 900 every day, are still being caused by these two infections."

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A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012.
A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012. VOA

A vaccine against bacterial pneumonia and another against meningitis have saved 1.45 million children’s lives this century, according to a new study.

The diseases the vaccines prevent are now concentrated in a handful of countries where the medications are not yet widely available or were only recently introduced, the research says.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children worldwide. The bacteria targeted by the shots, Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), are major causes of pneumonia and also cause meningitis. Together, the two bacteria claimed nearly 1.1 million lives in 2000, before the vaccines were widely available, according to the World Health Organization.

Vaccines against the bacteria are not new, but funding to provide them in low-income countries only became available recently.

A baby with parents
A baby with parents, Pixabay

To estimate their impact, the researchers started with country-by-country data from the WHO on pneumonia and meningitis cases and deaths, as well as vaccine coverage estimates. They factored in data from dozens of clinical studies on infections caused by the two bacteria to create estimates of illness and death from the diseases in 2000 and 2015.

They found deaths from Hib fell by 90 percent in 2015, saving an estimated 1.2 million lives since 2000. Pneumococcus deaths fell by just over half, accounting for approximately 250,000 lives saved.

The research appears in the journal The Lancet Global Health.

“What was interesting was to see the rate at which some of these deaths have been prevented in the last several years,” said lead author Brian Wahl at Johns Hopkins University, “largely due to the availability of funding for these vaccines in countries with some of the highest burdens [of disease].”

The study estimates that 95 percent of the reduction in pneumococcal deaths occurred after 2010, when 52 low- and middle-income countries began receiving funding from Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to introduce the vaccine into their national immunization programs.

“The good news is that the numbers are moving in the right direction,” wrote Cynthia Whitney at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an accompanying editorial.

Pneumonia in child
Pneumonia in child, flickr

However, Whitney added, “far too many deaths — about 900 every day — are still being caused by these two infections.”

She notes that more than 40 percent of the world’s children live in countries where pneumococcal vaccine is not a routine childhood immunization.

Many of the countries with the largest number of deaths from these two bacteria have recently introduced the vaccines, but coverage is uneven.

India, Nigeria, China and South Sudan had the highest rates of death from Hib, the study says. All but China have introduced the vaccine in the past few years.

Half of the world’s pneumococcal deaths occurred in just four countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan. All have recently introduced the vaccine, though in India it is a routine immunization in only three states.

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Lowering the global burden of these diseases will depend on improving coverage in these countries, the study says. (VOA)

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Risk of COVID-19 Virus Infections by Touching Surfaces Relatively Lower: Reports

Risk of getting infected in other ways such by touching surfaces and objects may be relatively lower

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COVID
COVID risk from touching surfaces and objects may be relatively lower, suggests new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Pixabay

While the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people, the risk of getting infected in other ways such by touching surfaces and objects may be relatively lower, suggests new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

This, however, does not mean that people should stop washing their hands frequently.

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus,” the CDC said.

Knowledge about how long the virus survives on surfaces is still evolving.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier found that viable coronavirus could live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for three days and it can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

Barely a couple of weeks after this finding, a CDC report said that genetic material from coronavirus was found on surfaces of Japan’s Diamond Princess cruise ship 17 days after passengers disembarked.

coronavirus
Is the concept of COVID spread from surfaces a myth? Researches say not much. Pixabay

However, neither of these studies confirmed that coronavirus spread easily on surfaces, according to a report in USA Today on Thursday. The CDC in its guidance also said that the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low at this point of time.

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But it warned that the COVID-19 virus is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. “Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious,” the CDC said. (IANS)

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Youngsters With Mild or Moderate Mental Distress at High Suicide Risk: Researchers

Young people with even mild mental distress can become suicidal

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distress
Measures to reduce suicide risk in youngsters should focus on the whole population, not just those who are most unwell. Pixabay

The vast majority of young people who self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts appear to have only mild or moderate mental distress, according to researchers.

Measures to reduce suicide risk in young people should focus on the whole population, not just those who are most distressed, depressed or anxious, said Cambridge University researchers during Mental Health Awareness week.

“It appears that self-harm and suicidal thinking among young people dramatically increases well within the normal or non-clinical range of mental distress,” said study senior author Peter Jones from Cambridge University in the UK.

The findings, published in the BMJ Open, show that public policy strategies to reduce suicide should support better mental health for all young people, not only those who are most unwell.

hopelessness distress
Youngsters who self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts appear to have only mild or moderate mental distress. Pixabay

Previous studies have suggested that a broad range of mental health problems like depression anxiety, and low self-esteem can be measured together as levels of common mental distress (CMD).

In the current study, the research team used a series of questionnaires to analyse common mental distress in two large groups of young people between the ages of 14 and 24.

They also collected self-reported data on suicidal thinking and non-suicidal self-injury, both predictive markers for increased risk of suicide.

CMD scores increase in three significant increments above the population average: mild mental distress, followed by moderate, and finally severe distress and beyond – which often manifests as a diagnosable mental health disorder.

The findings showed that those with severe mental distress came out highest for risk of suicide.

distress
The findings showed that those with severe mental distress came out highest for risk of suicide. Pixabay

However, the majority of all participants experiencing suicidal thoughts or self-harming – 78 per cent and 76 per cent respectively in the first sample, 66 per cent and 71 per cent in the second-ranked as having either mild or moderate levels of mental distress.

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“It is well known that for many physical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, small improvements in the risks of the overall population translate into more lives saved, rather than focusing only on those at extremely high risk,” said Jones.

“This is called the ‘prevention paradox’, and we believe our study is the first evidence that mental health could be viewed in the same way. We need both public health and a clinical approach to suicide risk,” the researchers noted.

Meanwhile, a recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that COVID-19 pandemic may cause serious physical and mental health problems. (IANS)

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Commute to Work by Walking, Cycling Instead of Car to Reduce Early Death Risk

Driving to work may increase risk of early death

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person death
Cycling your way to work may reduce risk of early death. Pixabay

People who walk, cycle and travel by train to work are at reduced risk of early death or illness compared with those who commute by car, according to a new study.

For the findings, published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, the researchers conducted a study on more than 300,000 commuters in England and Wales. They used census data to track the same people for up to 25 years, between 1991-2016. The researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge in the UK, suggest increased walking and cycling post-lockdown may reduce deaths from heart disease and cancer.

“As large numbers of people begin to return to work as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, it is a good time for everyone to rethink their transport choices,” said study researcher Dr Richard Patterson from the University of Cambridge.

train death
People travel by train to work are at reduced risk of early death or illness. Pixabay

The research team found that compared with those who drove, those who cycled to work had a 20 per cent reduced rate of early death, 24 per cent reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease during the study period, a 16 per cent reduced rate of death from cancer, and an 11 per cent reduced rate of a cancer diagnosis.

Walking to work was associated with a seven per cent reduced rate in cancer diagnosis, compared to driving. The team explain that associations between walking and other outcomes, such as rates of death from cancer and heart disease, were less certain.

One potential reason for this is people who walk to work are, on average, in less affluent occupations than people who drive to work, and more likely to have underlying health conditions which could not be fully accounted for.

car death
The study shows that those who drove had a 20 per cent increased rate of early death compared to those who cycled to work. Pixabay

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The research also revealed that compared with those who drove to work, rail commuters had a 10 per cent reduced rate of early death, a 20 per cent reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 12 per cent reduced rate of cancer diagnosis.

This is likely due to them walking or cycling to transit points, although rail commuters also tend to be more affluent and less likely to have other underlying conditions.”With severe and prolonged limits in public transport capacity likely, switching to private car use would be disastrous for our health and the environment,” Patterson said.”Encouraging more people to walk and cycle will help limit the longer-term consequences of the pandemic,” Patterson wrote. (IANS)