Monday December 16, 2019

WHO Voicing Concern about Growing Risk of Congo’s Ebola Spreading to Neighboring Countries

Fears that the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Congo's nine neighboring countries are growing with the death

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WHO, Congo, Ebola
A health worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance at a Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 18, 2019. VOA

As the Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo enters its second year, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are voicing concern about the growing risk of the virus spreading to neighboring countries.

Fears that the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Congo’s nine neighboring countries are growing with the death of the second person confirmed to have had the disease in Goma, a city of more than one million people. Goma, the capital of conflict-ridden North Kivu province, borders Rwanda and DRC’s gateway to the rest of the world.

Uganda has had three imported cases of Ebola. While it has successfully contained the spread of the disease, WHO experts warn of the potential dangers should the virus enter South Sudan, which is a particularly vulnerable, unstable country.

This is the 10th Ebola outbreak over the past four decades in the DRC. The executive director of WHO Emergencies, Michael Ryan, finds this current one presents unprecedented challenges.

WHO, Congo, Ebola
As the Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo enters its second year, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are voicing concern. Pixabay

Ryan notes previous outbreaks were generally small, self-contained, and often confined to remote rural areas. This has changed. He says factors such as a conflict, forced migration, unsafe health facilities, and disease amplification are increasing the risks from emerging diseases.

“So, the risk of an individual disease emerging may not change,” he said. “But, the impacts of those emergencies are changing. In that sense it is a new normal and we need to be ready…About 80 percent of our high-impact epidemic responses are in fragile, conflict-affected, and vulnerable countries. So, about 30 countries around the world represent around 80 percent of these high-impact epidemics.”

Ryan says African countries need international assistance to help them strengthen their fragile health systems. Without this aid, he warns, Congo and other nations will have great difficulty in tackling future outbreaks of Ebola and other emerging diseases.

The World Health Organization has deployed more than 700 international experts in the field. The U.N. agency says it is scaling up Ebola preparation measures in the neighboring countries, especially Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda, which are most at risk.

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It says frontline health workers are being vaccinated against the disease, more Ebola treatment centers are being set up, and more than 3,000 health workers are screening people for the virus at major points of entry. (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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Pollution
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.

WHO
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)