WHO warns of soaring rates of measles in Europe

admin   •   February 22, 2018   •   4132

FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan holds the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 during a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of soaring rates of measles in Europe.

The cases increased four-fold, with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths.

Fifteen European region countries, including the UK, had large outbreaks. Measles cases were highest in Romania, Italy, and Ukraine. The UK saw 282 cases in 2017.

The UK recently achieved WHO’s measles elimination status, meaning that for the past few years the number of cases has been low enough to stop the disease circulating around the country.

The overall risk of measles to the UK population is low, but WHO warns that due to ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe, cases in unimmunized individuals and limited onward spread can occur. — Reuters

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WHO calls for “40 seconds of action” on World Mental Health Day

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 8, 2019

Every 40-seconds someone loses their life to suicide.

READ: Are suicidal thoughts contagious?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the public to allot “40 seconds of action” for World Mental Health Day on October 10.

The WHO said they aim to increase awareness on the significance of suicide as a global public health problem and what else can be done to prevent suicide.

The organization has provided steps and ways on how everyone can participate in the 40 seconds of action.

Some of the ideas provided by the WHO include:

  • If you are struggling, take 40 seconds to kickstart a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling.
  • If you work in media, highlight the 40-second statistic in interviews, articles, and blog posts.
  • If you are an employer or manager, take 40 seconds to formulate a positive message of support to your employees about resources available to them in the workplace or local community in times of mental distress.

“Everyone can take part in whichever way makes the most sense. Your activity may be private, for example, initiating a conversation with someone you are worried about or sharing a message of hope with someone who is struggling; or it may be public, for example posting a video message for local or national authorities about action you would like them to take on this issue,” the WHO said.—AAC

WHO, UNICEF express concern over polio outbreak in PHL, call for urgent action

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.

READ: Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

“We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur,” WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.

“It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.

The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.

This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.

Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.

But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”

“Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus.”

“It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines… As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.

Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.

The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.

They also echoed the DOH’s call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.

“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”

The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.

The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.

If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.

“In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis,” they said.

The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.

They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.

The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government’s response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.

The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

South Korea detects first African swine fever outbreak

Marje Pelayo   •   September 17, 2019

South Korea has raised its animal disease alert to the highest level after its first outbreak of deadly African swine fever at a pig farm in Paju, a town near the border with North Korea, its agriculture ministry said on Tuesday (September 17).

The case in South Korea was reported less than four months after the neighbouring North reported its first outbreak in late May.

Kim Hyeon-soo, South Korea’s agriculture minister, told a news briefing on Tuesday that in addition to raising the alert level, nearly 4,000 hogs would be culled to prevent the spread of the virus.

“It is officially confirmed on the African swine fever breakout in the country (South Korea) on September 17, 2019. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs immediately raised an alert level of Africa swine fever to the highest as soon as it was confirmed,” the minister said.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will make all efforts to stop the spread of the African swine fever through swift disinfection measures,” he added.

African swine fever is highly contagious and fatal to swine herds. It occurs among pigs and wild boars, transmitted by ticks and direct contact between animals. Currently there is no vaccine against the disease, but it does not affect humans. – REUTERS

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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