Tuesday October 23, 2018

WHO Calls for stepped up action to Eliminate Hepatitis B and C by 2030

The World Health Organisation is calling for the elimination of the public health threat by reducing new infections by 90 percent and death by 65 percent by 2030

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WHO Hepatitis campaign
World Health Organization poster for Hepatitis Campaign. VOA
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  • The World Health Organization is calling for stepped up action to eliminate Hepatitis B and C by 2030
  • WHO reports viral Hepatitis B and C affected 325 million people and caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015
  • Officials say it can be done if countries show the political will and invest in available tools to rid the world of the ailment

Geneva, July 29, 2017: On the eve of World Hepatitis Day, the World Health Organization is calling for W. It says the goal can be reached by scaling up diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the diseases, which can cause death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

WHO reports viral Hepatitis B and C affected 325 million people and caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, and is calling for the elimination of the public health threat by reducing new infections by 90 percent and death by 65 percent by 2030.

Officials say it can be done if countries show the political will and invest in available tools to rid the world of the ailment. They say the epidemic of Hepatitis B, which mainly affects the African and Western Pacific regions, can be prevented by vaccinating infants against the disease.

Also read40 Million Death Per Year Due to Non Communicable Disease : WHO

In regard to Hepatitis C, the director of the WHO Department of HIV Global Hepatitis Program, Gottfried Hirnschall, says there has been a sea change in the treatment of this disease. He tells VOA until four years ago no good treatment existed for Hepatitis C, which kills nearly 400,000 people annually.

“Then we saw the revolution. New drugs came on the market that are really fantastic drugs,” Hirnschall noted. “They have very limited side effects. You only have to take them for three months and 95 percent of people are cured. And, even those who are not cured in the first round, we now have even alternatives that we can provide to those.”

Hirnschall notes the revolutionary kickoff of the new drugs was hampered by the huge $84,000 cost for the three-month course of treatment. But he says the cost in developing countries now has dropped to between $260 and $280.

A survey of 28 countries, representing about 70 percent of the global hepatitis burden, finds efforts to eliminate hepatitis are gathering speed. It says nearly all the countries have set up high-level elimination committees and more than half are allocating money to move the process forward. (VOA)

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A New Virus Typhus Rises In Los Angeles

Officials in Los Angeles say they are working toward housing for the county’s 53,000 homeless residents to relieve conditions that help give rise to typhus and other diseases.

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coal miner,Typhus
Retired coal miner James Marcum, who has black lung disease, takes a pulmonary function test at the Stone Mountain Health Center in St. Charles, Virginia, U.S., May 18, 2018. (VOA)

Typhus, a bacterial infection that is sometimes life threatening, is on the rise in Los Angeles and several other U.S. cities. Public health officials say homelessness is making the problem worse and that the disease, which is associated with poverty and poor sanitation, is making a comeback in the United States.

Los Angeles County has seen 64 cases of typhus this year, compared with 53 at the same point last year and double the typical number, with a six-case cluster among the homeless in L.A. this year. Two cities in the county that have separate counts are also seeing higher numbers: Long Beach with 13 cases, up from five last year, and Pasadena with 20, a more than three-fold increase from 2017.

At a clinic in the L.A. neighborhood called Skid Row, Dr. Lisa Abdishoo of Los Angeles Christian Health Centers is on the lookout for symptoms.

“It’s a nonspecific fever,” she said, “body aches, sometimes a headache, sometimes a rash.”

This kind of typhus is spread by fleas on rats, opossums, or even pets and is known as murine typhus, from the Latin word for “mouse.”

The risk is higher when people live on the streets in proximity to garbage, but the disease seems to be spreading through the Southern United States.

Not the typhus of WWI

“It’s never been considered a very common disease,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, “but we seem to see it more frequently. And it seems to be extending across from Southern California all along the Mexican border into southeastern Texas and then into the Gulf Coast in Florida.”

 

Typhus
A homeless man sits at his street-side tent along Interstate 110 along downtown Los Angeles’ skyline, May 10, 2018. Thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County.. VOA

 

Texas had 519 cases last year, said spokeswoman Lara Anton of the Texas Department of State Health Services. That’s more than three times the number in 2010, with clusters in Houston and Galveston. No figures for this year have been released.

This is a separate disease from typhoid fever and is not the epidemic form of typhus that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in war time. That type, called epidemic typhus, is carried by body lice and often spreads in conflict zones. It led to millions of deaths in World War I alone.

Flea-borne typhus, the kind seen in California and Texas, is serious but often clears up on its own and responds to an antibiotic, Abdishoo said.

Typhus
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the Baylor College of Tropical Medicine, shows Associated Press journalists areas of Houston’s 5th Ward that may be at high risk for mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Zika virus in Houston.. VOA

“It seems to get better a little faster if you have the treatment,” she said. “But there are cases where people have had more severe complications — it’s rare, but getting meningitis, and even death,” she cautioned.

Migration, urbanization, climate change

The reason for increased typhus numbers is uncertain, but it may be linked to migration, urbanization and climate change, said Hotez, the disease specialist. In some parts of the world, typhus is still linked to war and instability, “in the conflict zones in the Middle East, in North Africa, Central Asia, East Africa, Venezuela, for instance with the political instability there,” he said.

Murine typhus is one of several diseases on the rise in the southern United States, Hotez said.

Typhus
People line up on Skid Row in Los Angeles to receive food, water, clothing and other basic necessities from Humanitarian Day Muslim volunteers.. VOA

“Others include dengue, now emerging in southern Texas and Florida, the Zika virus infection, Chikungunya. We have a huge problem with West Nile virus,” he added, and Chagas disease, a condition usually seen in Latin America.

A report in May from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that such “vector-borne” diseases, transmitted by ticks, fleas or mosquitoes, more than doubled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.

Hotez says they are on the rise in many industrial nations with crowded cities and pockets of poverty.

Also Read: A Full Guide To Public Health Disease Hepatitis

Skid Row physician Abdishoo says flea-borne typhus is still uncommon on the streets of Los Angeles, but “it has us all on high alert for this illness that we don’t necessarily think too much about. We want to be vigilant,” she added, “when you see a communicable disease on the rise.”

Officials in Los Angeles say they are working toward housing for the county’s 53,000 homeless residents to relieve conditions that help give rise to typhus and other diseases. Voters approved funding in 2016 and 2017 to finance the efforts. (VOA)