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Cell Phones Prove Useful In Tracking Disease Outbreaks

When a cholera outbreak began months after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, health workers used cell phones to help track the movements of people leaving the epicenter, allowing them “to alert medics to go where infected people might carry the disease,” according to a report published on Tuesday in PLoS Medicine, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “The second wave of cases did appear exactly in the areas where most of the population was moving to … out of the cholera zone,” public health specialist Richard Garfield of Columbia University said, the blog notes. Health officials also used the phones to send health advice to Haitians over voice mail or text messaging, according to the blog (Joyce, 8/31).

Cholera Strain Associated With Latest Pandemic Originated In Bangladesh, Researchers Report

“A cholera pandemic that has swept poor countries in three waves over nearly four decades has been traced to a bacterial strain that first emerged in Bangladesh, scientists reported on Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The new probe, published in the British journal Nature, points to the likely role of modern travel in transmitting the bacteria — and the importance of the Gulf of Bengal as a ‘reservoir,’ or source from which the germ can always be transmitted,” AFP writes (8/24).

FAO Holds Second Emergency Meeting On Famine; WHO Warns Of Cholera Spread; Turkish PM Visits Mogadishu

For the second time in one month, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an emergency meeting on Thursday in Rome “to take stock of the humanitarian disaster” in the Horn of Africa, the Guardian reports (Tran, 8/18). The officials “called for a twin-pronged approach to tackle the food crisis, stressing immediate relief and the strengthening of the resilience of affected communities to enable them to cope with future shocks in the drought-prone region,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/18).

Nearly 6,000 Dead In Haitian Cholera Outbreak, Health Ministry Says

“The number of cholera fatalities in Haiti has risen to just short of 6,000, the health ministry said Sunday,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. “By 31 July, 5,968 had died with 10 more people succumbing every day, the ministry said,” and “[m]ore than 420,000 people have been infected since the outbreak started in October and another 600 cases are registered daily,” the news agency notes.

Disease Outbreaks, Looting Hampering Relief Efforts In Somalia Famine

“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).

IRIN Examines Access To Water And Sanitation In Zambia

IRIN examines access to water and sanitation in Zambia, where “only 58 percent of Zambians have access to adequate sanitation and 13 percent lack any kind of toilet,” according to a 2008 study by the local non-governmental organization Water and Sanitation Forum.

Economist Examines Cholera, Possible Solutions To Mitigate Disease

The Economist in its current issue examines cholera, including the disease’s history, current outbreaks, and research into vaccines and sanitation. “Not all human waste has the deadly bacterium; but all of it is dangerous and better disposal of feces would go a huge way to stopping cholera and other deadly intestinal diseases,” the magazine writes (7/30).

Cholera In Congo Has Killed 279, Infected More Than 4,000 People

“A UNICEF official says a cholera outbreak in Congo has killed 279 people and infected more than 4,000 others in the last four months,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/27). According to the VOA’s “Breaking News” blog, “[a] cholera outbreak has been declared in four provinces with northeastern Orientale province showing the most cases.” The WHO last week expressed concern that the disease could spread along the Congo River, according to the blog (7/27).

Haitian Cholera Epidemic Worsening With Start Of Rainy Season

According to the Haitian government, more than 5,800 people have died of cholera since the epidemic began in October, and health care workers have seen an increase in cases “[w]ith the rainy season now in progress,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Gaestel, 7/24).