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News Outlets Examine International Efforts To Contain H1N1

A WHO official on Tuesday backed the Afghan government’s decision to declare H1N1 (swine flu) a health emergency, forcing the closure of all schools in the country for three weeks in an effort to contain the virus, IRIN reports. H1N1 has reportedly infected over 300 people, resulting in two deaths.

Experts Respond To PLoS Editorial Comparing Chagas Disease To HIV/AIDS

“Chagas disease, a parasitic infection spread to humans by insects, is not the new HIV/AIDS of the Americas, according to infectious disease experts who called the comparison,” made in an editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week, “‘unrealistic’ and ‘unfortunate,’” ABC News’ “Medical Unit” blog reports. “Rick Tarleton, president of the Chagas Disease Foundation, said the diseases have little in common beyond disproportionately affecting poor people,” the blog notes (Moisse, 6/1).

Number Of Suspected Ebola Cases In Uganda Rises To 36; Outbreak Has Killed 14

The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).

Uganda Ebola Virus Outbreak Under Control, WHO Says

The Ebola virus outbreak that began last month in Uganda is under control, with health agencies having isolated the 176 people who had even slight contact with people who have contracted the virus, Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told reporters on Friday in the capital, Kampala, the Associated Press/NPR reports. At least 16 Ugandans have died of the disease in the most recent outbreak, the news service notes. Doctors were slow to recognize the disease because most patients showed atypical symptoms, the AP adds (8/6).

Narcotic Drug Use Should Be Treated As Illness, U.N. Drug Office Director Says

“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy” to fight drug demand, supply and trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said Monday at the opening session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, United Press International reports. Fedotov added, “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system,” according to UPI (3/12). “He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/12).

Misconception That Syphilis Has ‘Disappeared’ Presents Major Impediment To Preventing Infant Deaths

In this Globe and Mail opinion piece, columnist Andre Picard examines the efforts of a new group, the Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership — which includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save The Children, the CDC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the WHO — to “make screening for syphilis a routine part of pregnancy care with the goal of eliminating congenital syphilis.” Picard writes, “According to the World Health Organization, some 2.1 million women with syphilis give birth every year,” and notes, “Almost 70 percent of their babies are stillborn, and many of the rest suffer from low birth weight (putting them at great risk for a host of illnesses), hearing loss, vision loss and facial deformities.”

South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,’” the AP writes.

AIDS Survey Preliminary Data Show Stagnation In Uganda’s HIV Prevalence, Need For Improved Prevention Strategies, Experts Say

A preliminary report on the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health, shows the country’s “HIV prevalence rate [has] stagnated over the last 10 years, [and] the number of people infected with HIV has risen from 1.8 million people to 2.3 million today,” the Observer writes. “Health experts at the launch of the preliminary report said this is not only worrying for a poor country like Uganda, but also shows that the billions of dollars sunk into prevention are not reaping any results, as people continue to get infected,” the newspaper writes.