Wednesday July 17, 2019

WHO Warns A Rise In The Number Of Measles Cases

They also warn the spread of falsehoods and misinformation.

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Measles, WHO
A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns a spike in the number of measles cases globally is putting hard won progress toward the elimination of this highly contagious, deadly disease at risk.

Measles immunizations have saved more than 21 million lives globally since 2000. But, unveiling a new report, the World Health Organization says multiple outbreaks of this killer disease since 2016 have caused an estimated 110,000 deaths in all regions of the globe.

In addition, WHO’s director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, Martin Friede, says there has been a very worrying jump of more than 30 percent in reported measles cases worldwide.

Measles, WHO
Two sick children wait for treatment after being admitTed to a hospital in Agats, Asmat District, after the government dispatched military and medical personnel to the remote region of Papua to combat malnutrition and measles, Indonesia. VOA

“We are seeing sustained measles transmission in countries that had previously not seen measles transmission for many years. So, the countries had eliminated measles, but it has now been re-established in the country. This is very worrying. This suggests that we are actually regressing in certain cases,” Friede said.

The report finds the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean region, and Europe have experienced the greatest surges in cases, with the western Pacific the only region where the number of cases has fallen.

But, it notes the biggest increases continue to be in areas with low immunization coverage where measles is endemic. For instance, the report finds a two-fold rise in cases of the disease in Africa.

Measles, WHO
A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb.26, 2015. VOA

Health officials attribute the growth of measles cases to a sense of complacency, especially in industrialized countries where the disease has not been seen for many years.

Also Read: Europe Suffers From A Severe Measles Outbreak

They also warn the spread of falsehoods and misinformation, such as the debunked link between measles vaccinations and autism, discourages many parents from immunizing their children against the disease. (VOA)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola, Violence, WHO
Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

Also Read- Americans Arrive in Canada Seeking Affordable Prices for Insulin

Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)