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WHO’s Chan Urges New Approach To Preventing, Fighting NCDs At Executive Board Meeting

“Countries need to change their current mindset to successfully tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said [Monday], adding that governments will need to explore new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases, which have quickly become one of the most pressing issues in public health,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/16). “In an opening speech to the annual WHO Executive Board meeting, Director-General Margaret Chan … urged the 34-member board to tackle the root causes of non-communicable diseases,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 1/16).

HHS Secretary Sebelius Helps India Mark One Year Since Last Recorded Polio Case

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “administered polio vaccination drops to children in New Delhi on Friday as India marked one year since its last case of the crippling disease,” the Associated Press reports (1/13). The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that “[o]fficials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] say U.S. funding and experience were key to beating back the disease,” but “[t]he news comes as federal funding for global health programs now faces sharp cuts from Tea Party lawmakers and others worried about the deficit” (Pecquet, 1/12). “­Globally, the U.S. government has provided $2 billion for the polio eradication campaign, Rotary International has raised about $1 billion from its members, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion,” and the CDC “weighed in with crucial expertise,” the Washington Post writes (Denyer, 1/12).

Despite One Year Without Polio Cases, Threat of Disease Still Looms In India

T. Jacob John, a former professor of clinical virology an the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, who has served on several Global and National Committees on Immunization and Polio Eradication, writes in this opinion piece in India’s Hindu, “While one year has passed without polio caused by natural poliovirus, we can claim complete eradication only after we ensure the absence of wild and vaccine polioviruses in the population.” He provides a brief history of polio eradication efforts, globally and in India, and continues, “For certification of eradication, two more years should pass without any case of wild virus polio. … We must continue working as if we still have poliovirus lurking somewhere, only to show up when least expected” (1/8).

Wildlife Products Smuggled Into U.S. Pose Potential Human Health Risk, Study Suggests

“In a new study published on Tuesday in the journal PLoS One, scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the EcoHealth Alliance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other institutions reported on the first effort to identify new viruses in wildlife products that had been smuggled illegally into the U.S.,” TIME’s “Ecocentric” blog reports (Walsh, 1/11). According to BBC News, retroviruses and herpesviruses were identified in meats confiscated at U.S. airports, “some of them isolated from remains of endangered monkey species,” and the “authors say better surveillance measures are needed to ensure this trade does not result in the emergence of new disease outbreaks in humans” (1/11).

Reaching WHO PMTCT Goal In Zimbabwe

Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).

TB Screening, Treatment Program Working To Decrease Caseload In Kenya

Al Jazeera examines how “[a] series of public-health campaigns, including more aggressive screening, have been credited with a drop in tuberculosis [TB] cases in Kenya” in this video report. “The screening and treatment program, regarded as one of the best in the developing world, is credited with taking the rate of TB infections in the East African country from a high of 116,000 in 2006 to 106,000 last year,” but not without “an economic and political price,” the news service reports. “For TB screening and treatment programs to be effective, supply chains for drugs and equipment and proper training for staff and administrative back-up must be in place,” Al Jazeera reports (Greste, 1/9).

Social Media Faster Than Traditional Sources In Tracking Cholera In Haiti, Study Says

“Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti …, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH),” an AJTMH press release states. “The study is the first to demonstrate the use of data from ‘informal’ media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting, and shows that these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics,” the press release adds (1/9).

Aid Group Tracks Down Likely First Case In Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak

“A mentally ill man who bathed in and drank from a contaminated river most likely was the first person to be infected” with cholera in the outbreak that began in Haiti in October 2010, researchers from Partners in Health said in a study published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/9). “‘This patient’s case is the first in the community’s collective memory to have had symptoms that are recognizable, in retrospect, to be those of cholera,’ according to the study,” CNN’s “The Chart” notes, adding, “There is no lab method to confirm that this was the first patient to start the epidemic, wrote the authors” (Park, 1/9).

Cases Of Totally Drug-Resistant TB Reported In India

“For the first time in India, 12 people have been detected with totally drug-resistant lung tuberculosis (TDR-TB), a condition in which patients do not respond to any TB medication” and for which the mortality rate is 100 percent, the Hindustan Times reports. “Doctors treating these patients say the absolute resistance is a result of the patients being prescribed wrong antibiotics,” the newspaper reports (1/7). “While Iran first reported TDR-TB cases three years ago, India seems to be only the second country to report this deadly form of the disease,” the Times of India notes (Iyer, 1/7).

WHO Confirms Bird Flu Cases In Egypt, China

The WHO on Thursday “announced the deaths of two men from H5N1 avian influenza, one from Egypt and another from China whose death was reported earlier in the media,” CIDRAP News reports. Both men are suspected to have contracted the virus from avian sources, although an investigation into the man from China’s exposure to the virus is ongoing, according to news service. “The two infections and deaths push the WHO global H5N1 count to 576 cases and 339 deaths. According to WHO records, the number of H5N1 cases and deaths reported in 2011 so far are modestly higher than 2010 (60 cases versus 48, and 33 deaths versus 24),” CIDRAP writes (Schnirring, 1/5).