Tuesday November 12, 2019

WHO Investigates Reason for Mass HIV Outbreak in Pakistan

Initial investigations indicated the infections were not intentional

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Police say the infections were most likely caused by reusing syringes. (illustrative photo) RFERL

A World Health Organization (WHO) team has begun investigating an HIV outbreak in an impoverished district of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan.

Sikandar Memom, director of the Sindh Province HIV/AIDS program, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on May 31 that the WHO team will be looking for the cause of the outbreak in the Ratho Dhero part of Laraka District, where hundreds of new HIV-positive cases – mostly children – have been discovered in the past few weeks.

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FILE – A Pakistani paramedic takes a blood sample from a girl for a HIV test at a state-run hospital in Rato Dero in the district of Larkana of the southern Sindh province, May 9, 2019. VOA

Memon said his department had tested 25,000 people for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, since late April and found 725 infected people, including 590 children.

ALSO READ: Pakistan Trying to Fight with it’s Biggest HIV Outbreak

Larkana District Police Senior Superintendent Masood Bangash told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the infections were most likely caused by reusing syringes.

He said one doctor had been arrested and charged with reusing syringes, adding that more doctors were likely involved in the outbreak. Initial investigations indicated the infections were not intentional, Bangash said. (RFERL)

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

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But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

Also Read- One in Five People in Conflict-Affected Areas Live with Mental Health Condition

Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)