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Tuberculosis A Vicious Epidemic: Deputy UN Chief

The WHO released its annual TB report. It found cases in all countries and among all age groups.

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A relative adjusts the oxygen mask of a tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day in Hyderabad, India. VOA
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Tuberculosis (TB) is a vicious epidemic that is drastically underfunded. That was the takeaway message from the first high-level meeting focused on the infectious disease at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Amina Mohammad, U.N. deputy secretary-general, said the disease is fueled by poverty, inequality, migration and conflict, and that an additional $13 billion per year is needed to get the disease under control.

Last year, tuberculosis killed more people than any other communicable disease — more than 1.3 million men, women and children.

The World Health Organization estimates that the 10 million people who become newly infected each year live mostly in poor countries with limited access to health care.

TB
The Bacteria that causes Tuberculosis

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, told the assembly that partnership is vital to end the disease. He said the WHO is committed to working with every country, partner and community to get the job done.

The WHO plans to lead U.N. efforts to support governments and other partners in order to drive a faster response to TB.

Most people can be cured with a six-month treatment program. But as world leaders told the assembly, medication is expensive, and the stigma associated with TB interferes with getting people screened and treated.

Nandita Venkatesan, a young woman from India, told the assembly about the toll the disease has taken on her life. She got TB more than once, including a drug-resistant variety. She said it robbed her of eight years of her life while she was being treated. One of the medications she took to help cure TB robbed her of her hearing.

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Amina Mohammad, U.N. deputy secretary-general, said the disease is fueled by poverty, inequality, migration and conflict, Pixabay

Venkatesan said getting cured involved hospital stays, six surgeries and negative reactions to at least one drug used to cure her.

Also Read: Statistics of Babies Born With Syphilis Dobles Since 2013

Just days before the high-level meeting, the WHO released its annual TB report. It found cases in all countries and among all age groups. It also found that two-thirds of the cases were in eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria.

The meeting ended with the adoption of a declaration intended to strengthen action and investments for ending TB and saving millions of lives. (VOA)

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The Young Miracle: Baby In Congo Suffering From Ebola Recovers

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances "unforgiving."

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- In this photograph taken Dec. 3, 2018, and released by UNICEF, an Ebola survivor cares for one-week-old Benedicte who was infected at birth with the Ebola virus by her mother, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

They call her the “young miracle.” A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center just six days after birth has now recovered from the virus.

Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.

The ministry late Thursday tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open in yawn or squall, surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.

The baby’s mother, who had Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry said.

The infant was discharged Wednesday from the treatment center in Beni. “She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,” the ministry said.

 

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Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient, inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

 

Experts have reported high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, which Congo’s health ministry says has 515 cases, 467 of them confirmed, including 255 confirmed deaths.

 

The tiny survivor is named Benedicte. In video footage shared by UNICEF, she is shown in an isolated treatment area, cradled in the arms of health workers in protective gear or cuddled by Ebola survivors, called “nounous,” who can go without certain gear such as masks. The survivors are crucial with their reassuring presence, the health ministry said.

“This is my first child,” her father, Thomas, said. “I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.” He gazed at his baby daughter through the clear protective plastic.

Infected children

Children now account for more than one-third of all cases in this outbreak, UNICEF said earlier this week. One in 10 Ebola cases is in a child under 5 years old, it said, and children who contract the hemorrhagic fever are at greater risk of dying than adults.

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A health care worker carries a cross next to a coffin with a baby suspected of dying of Ebola in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 13, 2018. VOA

While Ebola typically infects adults, as they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.

Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission might happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents. Ebola is typically spread by infected bodily fluids.

The World Health Organization also has noted that health centers have been identified as a source of Ebola transmission in this outbreak, with injections of medications “a notable cause.”

Dangerous conditions

So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni “to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated” there, it said.

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Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the 10th in Congo, is like no other as they face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.

Also Read: Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances “unforgiving.”

And now, Congo is set to hold a presidential election Dec. 23, with unrest already brewing. (VOA)