Sunday December 15, 2019

WHO Warns of Serious Consequences of Measles Infections Globally

The World Health Organization warns of serious consequences if nations do not take immediate action to stop the escalation

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WHO, Measles, Infections
FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, March 20, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization warns of serious consequences if nations do not take immediate action to stop the escalation of measles infections, which have reached alarming new heights.

Nearly 365,000 cases of measles have been reported globally so far this year, the highest number since 2006.  The World Health Organization says that is almost three times as many cases than at the same time last year.  And, with four more months left in 2019, it warns more bad news is in store.

The WHO said measles is increasing in all regions of the world, with the exception of the Americas.  WHO Director of the Department of Immunization Vaccines and Biologicals Kate O’Brien said the world is backsliding and is not on track to eliminate the dangerous, but largely preventable disease by 2020.

“We are absolutely backsliding on the measles situation and that is extremely worrying for, certainly the health of children,” O’Brien said.  “Absolutely the health as well of adolescents and adults as I mentioned … And, it also signals that there is a complacency in some way about our immunization systems.”

WHO, Measles, Infections
A Venezuelan girl cries while receiving a measles vaccine at an immigration processing office on the Rumichaca bridge, after crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador, June 13, 2019. VOA

A European regional report finds four countries, Albania, Czech Republic, Greece and Britain have lost their measles elimination status.  However, Austria and Switzerland attained elimination status, having interrupted transmission of the disease for at least 36 months.

O’Brien said children are not getting vaccinated against the disease for a variety of reasons.  She told VOA it sometimes is physically difficult for parents to go to a clinic to have their child vaccinated.  She said vaccine hesitancy and complacency, as well as misinformation about the safety of vaccines play a role.

“We do see in high income countries to some degree there are small, well-defined communities that have religious or ethnic or social beliefs where a community as a whole is declining vaccines,” O’Brien said.

On the other hand, O’Brien notes in countries of conflict and other fragile settings, getting and delivering life-saving vaccines to the populations is often very difficult.

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She said she is very concerned about the politicization of vaccines. She said vaccines have no role in political conflict and should never be used in this way. (VOA)

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Reduction in Air Pollution May Increase Life-Expectancy: Study

Findings of a Research indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution

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Fortunately, reducing air Pollution can result in prompt and substantial health gains. Pixabay

Reductions in Air Pollution yielded fast and dramatic impacts on health-outcomes, as well as decreases in all-cause morbidity, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, reviewed interventions that have reduced air pollution at its source. It looked for outcomes and time to achieve those outcomes in several settings, finding that the improvements in health were striking.

Starting at week one of a ban on smoking in Ireland, for example, there was a 13 per cent drop in all-cause mortality, a 26 per cent reduction in ischemic heart disease, a 32 per cent reduction in stroke, and a 38 per cent reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Interestingly, the greatest benefits in that case occurred among non-smokers.

“We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive,” said lead author Dean Schraufnagel from the American Thoracic Society in the US.

“Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately,” Schraufnagel added.

Pollution
Reductions in Air Pollution yielded fast and dramatic impacts on health-outcomes, as well as decreases in all-cause morbidity, a new study suggests. Pixabay

According to the researchers, In the US a 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah resulted in reducing hospitalisations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma by half.

School absenteeism decreased by 40 per cent, and daily mortality fell by 16 per cent for every 100 µg/m3 PM10 (a pollutant) decrease.

Women who were pregnant during the mill closing were less likely to have premature births.

A 17-day ‘transportation strategy,’ in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1996 Olympic Games involved closing parts of the city to help athletes make it to their events on time, but also greatly decreased air pollution.

In the following four weeks, children’s visits for asthma to clinics dropped by more than 40 per cent and trips to emergency departments by 11 per cent. Hospitalizations for asthma decreased by 19 per cent.

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Findings of the Study indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately. Wikimedia Commons

Similarly, when China imposed factory and travel restrictions for the Beijing Olympics, lung function improved within two months, with fewer asthma-related physician visits and less cardiovascular mortality.

“Fortunately, reducing air pollution can result in prompt and substantial health gains. Sweeping policies affecting a whole country can reduce all-cause mortality within weeks,” Schraufnagel said.

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Local programmes, such as reducing traffic, have also promptly improved many health measures, said the study. (IANS)