“Haiti has seen a steady decline in the number of cholera cases, as the Caribbean nation settles into its dry season, humanitarian groups said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “The seasonal decline in the number of cholera cases is consistent with the findings of a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.” According to the report, health officials are recording about 300 cases nationwide per day, compared with 500 cases one month ago, and the mortality rate has dropped or leveled in nearly all of Haiti’s 10 departments, the AP notes (Daniel, 12/20).
“Philippine authorities are warning of the spread of diseases in cramped evacuation centers, days after flash floods hit the southern Philippines and claimed more than a thousand lives,” ABC/Asia Pacific News reports, noting that flooding also has affected the country’s northern provinces, displacing at least 50,000 people (Escalante, 12/20). Tropical Storm Washi “hit the main southern island of Mindanao over the weekend, bringing heavy rains, flash floods and overflowing rivers that swept whole coastal villages away,” forcing 44,000 people to evacuate the area, Agence France-Presse/Inquirer News writes (Celis, 12/21). Officials say hundreds of thousands of people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and the U.N. has stepped up its efforts in the area, the U.N. News Centre reports (12/20).
The Canadian government-funded non-profit Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “have invested around $32 million in the discovery and development of new and improved diagnostic tools to help health workers in developing countries, with the aim of speeding up treatment and saving lives,” IRIN reports (12/16). “Innovative point-of-care diagnostic tools such as a piece of woven fabric which can test blood or urine for disease and a simple, easy to use test for diagnosing diarrheal disease which is the biggest killer of developing world children under the age of five are some of the projects which are receiving funding,” according to a Grand Challenges press release (.pdf) (12/16).
The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle examines what it will take for the WHO to reach its new target of reducing malaria deaths to near zero by the end of 2015 and how “[s]ome experts questioned if WHO should be setting such lofty goals, especially at a time of declining funding.”
“With a needle puncture on your finger and a drop of blood, the magic of modern science can give you a rapid HIV test in seconds, and so, knowing your status, you are better able to negotiate the rocky road of surviving HIV where timely detection is key,” Farai Sevenzo, a columnist and filmmaker, writes in this BBC News opinion piece, part of a series from African journalists. “But human nature is not so straightforward and despite hundreds of rapid HIV test centers in many capitals, the knee-jerk response is not to want to know,” he continues, adding, “It is this attitude which may account for the continuing high rates of infection.”
In this Africa.com opinion piece, Ana Ruth Luis, medical director of the Southern Africa Strategic Business Unit at Chevron Africa and Latin America Ex in Angola, discusses what she calls “the important role Chevron has in driving down the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Africa.” She writes, “Chevron was able to drop new infections to zero among our employees and their babies by educating our employees, establishing a culture of voluntary, confidential testing and treatment, addressing stigma and discrimination in the workplace, and providing comprehensive medical care for expectant mothers.”
A team of Canadian researchers has “created a portable device that uses a computer chip with software capable of analyzing blood tests outside the lab … that could make it easier, faster and cheaper to track the progression of HIV in patients living in the developing world,” Postmedia News/Vancouver Sun reports. According to the news service, “The team’s portable cell analyzer makes it possible for health care workers to monitor HIV patients in remote areas by testing their blood on the spot and receiving results within minutes, [University of Toronto lead researcher Rakesh] Nayyar explained.”
After experiencing a decline in the number of new HIV infections in the 1990s, Uganda’s “HIV [incidence] rate is creeping back up again. New infections are increasing, and the sense of urgency has vanished,” the Globe and Mail reports, adding that the country “has become an early warning signal to the rest of the world: If the fight against AIDS fades into complacency and neglect, the disease can roar back again.” The article discusses how complacency among the general population, as well as government policies of Uganda and the U.S., “have contributed to the rise in HIV infections here, analysts say” (York, 12/9).
“A group of health organizations [on Wednesday] launched a new international consortium to better prepare the clinical research community to respond to the next pandemic or other emerging health threat,” CIDRAP News reports (Schnirring, 12/7). “The International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC) is a global collaboration of over 20 hospital-based clinical research networks … aimed at ensuring the clinical researchers have in place the necessary open access protocols and data-sharing processes and have considered the ethical issues that will allow them to respond to rapidly emerging diseases with epidemic or pandemic potential, such as the recent pandemic H1N1 influenza and SARS outbreaks and potentially other rapidly emerging public health threats,” according to a Wellcome Trust press release.
The Guardian profiles Biosense Technologies, an Indian startup company, and its first product, the “world’s first needle-free anemia scanner,” called ToucHb, which will be launched in February. “Anemia, or abnormally low hemoglobin in the blood, affects more than half of children under five and pregnant women in the developing world, according to the [WHO],” and it is a leading cause of maternal mortality because of postpartum hemorrhage, according to the newspaper.