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Old Vaccine brings New Hope to India in Fight against Leprosy, says a declaration by WHO

India's decision to conduct new trials on the world’s first leprosy vaccine is eliciting hope it will help eliminate the dreaded disease from the country

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Nurses are dressing а wound on leprosy patient Gopal Bag, following amputation of his leg, at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA

October 1, 2016: India’s decision to conduct new trials on the world’s first leprosy vaccine is eliciting hope it will help eliminate the dreaded disease from the country.

Following a declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO), India has been officially counted as a leprosy-free country since 2005, meaning less than one person in 10,000 people is afflicted with the disease. Many experts, however, say the true rate of infection is much higher, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world’s new cases.

Indian authorities recently announced they would soon roll out an advanced field implementation trial of the vaccine Mycobacterium Indicus Pranii, or MIP.

Leprosy patient Gopal Bag, 62, sits with his amputated right leg at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. Bag now has claw hands and toes as a result of the infection having gone untreated for years.VOA
Leprosy patient Gopal Bag, 62, sits with his amputated right leg at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. Bag now has claw hands and toes as a result of the infection having gone untreated for years.VOA

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“In the early field trials of the MIP, the vaccine’s protective efficacy was found to be quite encouraging, with 68.6 percent of people being protected for four years and 59 percent being protected for eight years.

This vaccine also expedites cure rates to people already infected with the disease,” said Dr. Utpal Sengupta, a leading New Delhi-based leprosy researcher, who has worked in the field for more than four decades. “It has the ability to bolster India’s new campaign, which aims to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem by 2020.”

Field trial to start soon-

"There was no awareness about the disease when I got the infection. Now I know, if I took the treatment early I would have not faced this amputation or any disfigurement," Bag said. VOA
“There was no awareness about the disease when I got the infection. Now I know, if I took the treatment early I would have not faced this amputation or any disfigurement,” Bag said. VOA

The soon-to-be-launched field trial in five high-endemic districts of Bihar and Gujarat will be administered to people with leprosy and those in close physical contact to them, in combination with the common anti-leprosy drug Rifampicin.

In a statement, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, which is working with the government on the rollout of the MIP trial, said the government has embarked on a “multi-pronged attack” on leprosy.

He added the campaign will increase “active case detection,” saying it could be the key to eliminating the disease, “hopefully in the next five to 10 years.”

India still hotbed
Modern medical advancements have largely diminished the impact of leprosy, mostly eliminating the disease globally but India still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases.

Pointing to the last available data released in 2013, when India had more than 135,000 new cases, experts warn that new infections are rising.
In the 1980s, Indian researcher Gursaran Prasad Talwar developed the MIP vaccine at India’s National Institute of Immunology.

In 2005, the results of a field trial in northern India were found to be extremely promising, but with the WHO declaring India leprosy-free that year, the MIP soon went out of focus.

An amputated leg, claw toes and claw hands of leprosy patient Gopal Bag are seen at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata. VOA
An amputated leg, claw toes and claw hands of leprosy patient Gopal Bag are seen at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata. VOA

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Infections rise after WHO declaration
Some believe the 2005 WHO declaration ended up triggering a rise in the number of new cases.

“Before India was declared leprosy-free, in the country there was a dedicated system to detect the leprosy cases and provide medical care to them. But, after 2005, when the leprosy treatment was integrated into the general health care services, the process of active case search was abandoned,” said Dr. Helen Roberts, superintendent of the Leprosy Mission Trust India Hospital.

“Since the designated system for leprosy virtually became dysfunctional after 2005, the cases of new infections in the country have gone up and cases remaining untreated for years, we have seen a rise in physical disabilities.”

A leprosy patient, who has undergone corrective surgery of his claw toes, is recuperating at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA
A leprosy patient, who has undergone corrective surgery of his claw toes, is recuperating at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA

Need for awareness campaign
Dr. Jerry Joshua, a surgeon at the Leprosy Mission Trust India, said that a strong awareness campaign is needed to help detect the infections early and get them treated.

“Early detection actually hinges upon getting people to know what the disease is all about. It’s about spreading the knowledge about the disease and the knowledge that leprosy should be detected early. People should know what are the signs and symptoms of leprosy, what are dangerous symptoms and what are the disease’s early signs and symptoms,” Joshua told VOA.

Experts agree that many private doctors and clinics do not provide data on leprosy patients to the health authorities, so the true figure on infections does not show up in statistics.

A worker is designing special shoes for leprosy patients at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA
A worker is designing special shoes for leprosy patients at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA

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Stigma suppressing real numbers
“Fearing stigma, which is attached to the disease, many leprosy patients maintain secrecy about their infection in India,” Subhash Chandra Ghosh, who runs a leprosy care NGO in a leprosy-endemic area of West Bengal’s West Midnapur district, told VOA.

“They avoid visiting government-run other special leprosy care hospitals where, they fear, the information of their infection would become public. They choose to go to private clinics and fall off the radar of the health authorities,” Ghosh said.

A worker is designing a prosthetic leg for a leprosy patient at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA
A worker is designing a prosthetic leg for a leprosy patient at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital, Kolkata, Sept. 20 2016. VOA

“The actual number of leprosy infections in India could be in fact three or four times higher than the figures provided by the authorities. Unless the government take some solid strategic steps to uncover this hidden leprosy population, fight to eliminate leprosy will be an uphill task.” (VOA)

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Experts Say Measles Victims Dropped Below 100,000 in 2016

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Measles Victims Dropped
Foriza Begum, background, a newly arrived Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar, reacts to her daughter Nosmin Fatima's scream as she receives a vaccination to prevent measles and rubella at a makeshift medical center in Teknaf, Bangladesh. VOA
  • Latest reports of WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the rate of deaths from measles has dropped.
  • As per experts, a number of people who died from measles in 2016 were about 90,000, compared to 550,000 in 2000.

The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the rate of deaths from measles has dropped 84 percent since the beginning of a global vaccination campaign in 2000.

Experts say the number of people who died from the disease in 2016 was about 90,000, compared to more than 550,000 deaths in 2000. This marks the first time that worldwide measles deaths have fallen to less than 100,000 per year.

Robert Linkins, of the Measles and Rubella Initiative at the CDC, said in a statement that “saving an average of 1.3 million lives per year through vaccine is an incredible achievement and makes a world free of measles seem possible, even probable, in our lifetime.”

Since 2000, some 5.5 billion doses of measles vaccine have been administered to children through routine immunization services and mass vaccination campaigns. The disease is contagious through air particles and can spread quickly. The disease kills more people every year than any other vaccine-preventable disease.

But the WHO says the world is still far from reaching regional measles elimination goals. Since 2009, officials have managed to deliver a first dose of the vaccine to 85 percent of the babies who need it, but there has been no improvement in that rate in eight years. And only 64 percent of the affected population has gotten the second dose, which comes when a child is four or five years old.

The WHO says “far too many children” — about 20.8 million — have not had their first vaccine dose. Most of those children live in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The disease puts children at risk of developing complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea, encephalitis, and blindness.(VOA)

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Do You Know Which is the Unhealthiest Country in the World?

Are you living in the most unhealthy country in the world?

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Unhealthiest country in the world
Did you think you were living in one of the world's healthiest country? Think again! VOA

Geneva, September 28, 2017 : Do you know which is the unhealthiest country in the world? If you think it is some region from the African continent, you are mistaken.

According to a new study by Clinic Compare, the Czech Republic has been recognized as the unhealthiest country in the world.

Drawing upon data gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO), CIA World Factbook and the World Lung Association, 179 countries around the world were assessed on three key factors,

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Prevalence of obesity

The study thus revealed the most unhealthy country in the world – Czech Republic, and highlighted the need for citizens to change their lifestyle in order to combat life-threatening illnesses and maintain and enjoy a healthy life.

ALSO READ Live Healthy Lifestyle with these Diet Hacks

World’s most unhealthy countries

 

1. Czech Republic
2. Russia
3. Slovenia
4. Belarus
5. Slovakia
6. Hungary
7. Croatia
8. Poland
9. Luxembourg
10. Lithuania and the United States

 

As per the examination, the residents of Czech Republic positioned as the world’s greatest liquor consumers, with every individual expending 13.7 liters of liquor for each annum (around 1.5 shots per day). They additionally ranked eleventh on the list of the highest tobacco customers.

This comes as a surprise as poverty-stricken countries of Africa were instead found to be among the healthiest countries in the world.

According to the research, Eastern Europe emerged as the unhealthiest region in the world, occupying nine out of the best 10 top spots in the list.

41 per cent of the population in Samoa was further revealed to have a BMI over 30, making Oceania the world’s fattest region. Also included in the top 10 list of the fattest regions were Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

Healthiest Country in the World

The findings revealed that the healthiest country was Afghanistan with merely 2.7 per cent of the population having a BMI over 30. This places the country on the world’s second lowest rate of obesity.

It was further revealed that the citizens of Afghanistan consume the least recorded quantity of alcohol and smoke 83 cigarettes a year. This can be largely attributed to the nation’s laws that forbid the possession and consumption of alcohol.

The research placed Guinea as the second healthiest country, closely followed by Niger and Nepal.

ALSO READ WHO says Millions of People are Dying Pre-mature Deaths Due to Non-Communicable Diseases

World’s healthiest countries

 

1. Afghanistan

2. Guinea

3. Niger

4. Nepal

5. DR Congo

6. Eritrea

7. Malawi

8. Somalia

9. Mozambique

10. Ethiopia

 

Eight Countries from Africa made it to the list of the healthiest countries in the world, which comes as a pleasant surprise for all.

According to a WHO report released in mid-September, it was revealed that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardio-vascular diseases are an increasing cause of premature deaths all around the world, taking as many as 30 million lives annually.

These diseases cause self-inflicted damage and trace their roots to individual lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol consumption, drugs and unhealthy or unbalanced diet.

The new findings put greater pressure on the countries that have made it to the list of unhealthy countries, thereby urging them to undertake stronger measures.

 

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‘Don’t Sensationalize or Glamorize Suicide’ Asserts WHO ; Says Media Can Play a Significant Role in Preventing Suicides

WHO scientists assert that journalists can help overcome this taboo by encouraging people to seek help and to speak openly about their distress

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Suicide
A makeshift memorial for actor Robin Wlliiams is shown outside a home which was used in the filming of the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire", Aug. 15, 2014, in San Francisco. Authorities said Williams committed suicide. (VOA)

Geneva, September 11, 2017 : The World Health Organization reports about 800,000 people commit suicide every year. To mark this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), WHO is stressing the important role the media can play in stopping people from taking their own lives.

Worldwide, every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. The World Health Organization reports for every suicide, 20 others, mainly young people, attempt to take their own lives. WHO says suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds.

It finds most suicides, more than 78 percent, occur in low-and middle-income countries and risk factors include mental disorders, particularly depression and anxiety resulting from alcohol use.

WHO cites growing evidence that the media can play a significant role in preventing suicide by reporting responsibly on these tragedies.

Scientist in WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, Alexandra Fleischmann tells VOA people are often reluctant to talk about suicide because of the stigma attached. She says journalists can help to overcome this taboo by encouraging people to seek help and to speak openly about their distress.

“It is also important to stress that the encouragement to work with the media and not just to talk about the don’ts. Don’t put it in the headlines,” she said. “Don’t put the picture of the person who died. Don’t sensationalize it. Don’t glamorize it.”

WHO warns irresponsible reporting of this sort often can trigger copycat suicides or increase the risk.

The UN health agency reports the most common methods of suicide are self-poisoning with pesticide and firearms. It says many of these deaths could be prevented by restricting access to these means. (VOA)