Tag Archives: Health

SAHEL: Meningitis – The Role of Climate Change

Researchers are analysing dust from the Sahel to study its role in the spread of bacterial meningitis in this region hardest hit by the debilitating and often fatal disease.

Study of the link between climate and infectious diseases is increasingly important as environmental changes appear to be pushing the so-called meningitis belt – from Ethiopia to Senegal – southwards, experts say.

Researchers with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University, which looks at how climate information can be incorporated into preventive measures or early warning systems, are collecting dust samples in Ghana, Niger and Senegal in the study’s initial phase.

In the meningitis belt meningococcal meningitis outbreaks come with the dry season and taper off with the first rains, and dust has long been seen as contributing to the spread. Experts say mineral dust could be irritating membranes making people vulnerable to infection, or in other ways favour the spread of the bacteria.

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Health: World’s Biggest Child-Killer

An estimated 700,000 deaths could be averted by 2015 with the widespread use of a vaccine against pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases that are the world’s biggest child-killer.

More than half a million children younger than five die from pneumococcal disease every year, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). It accounts for 18 percent of child deaths in developing countries.An estimated 700,000 deaths could be averted by 2015 with the widespread use of a vaccine against pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases that are the world’s biggest child-killer.

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South Africa : ARV Drug Myth

Media in South Africa recently erupted into a frenzy of coverage of an allegedly new illegal drug, ‘whoonga’, said to contain life-prolonging antiretrovirals (ARVs), but experts say the drug is actually an old foe, heroin, and does not include ARVs.

The South African AIDS lobby group, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), has expressed concern that misreporting in the media may fuel a craze of its own and put HIV patients and ARV drug stocks in jeopardy.

Traditionally, the term ‘whoonga’ in South Africa referred to low grade heroin, which was often mixed with substances like rat poison and detergent to increase its volume prior to sale. Recent media reports have alleged that ‘whoonga’ now contains crushed ARVs and that the use of the combination of heroin and HIV treatment is widespread among the country’s townships, particularly those surrounding the port city of Durban in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province.

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AFGHANISTAN: Winter Health Crisis

Tens of thousands of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan are vulnerable to cold-related diseases but have little or no access to health services, according to aid agencies.

Over 350,000 IDPs, including about 155,000 people displaced by conflict since November 2009, are living in camps and informal settlements in different parts of the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says.

Afghanistan is described as the “the most dangerous place to be born” given its notorious child mortality ratio (165 per 1,000 live birth),  and pneumonia accounts for about 25 percent of the deaths, according to WHO.

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