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Top 10 Global Health Achievements Of 2011

In this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of PSI, outlines 10 “milestones for the global health community” that occurred in 2011. Among the achievements, Hofmann says governments avoided making major cuts to foreign aid budgets despite a global economic downturn; studies supported “treatment as prevention” as an HIV prevention strategy; the number of malaria cases and deaths worldwide continued to decline; research showed a promising vaccine candidate to prevent malaria among children; and more women gained access to long-acting, reversible contraceptives. Hofmann also lists advances in social franchising; maternal health; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; pneumonia prevention and treatment; and sanitation, hygiene and access to clean water (12/29).

Mexico Sees Spike In Swine Flu After Two Years Of Low Transmission

“There have been 1,623 cases of all strains of flu in Mexico recorded so far for January, 90 percent of them H1N1 [swine flu],” compared to “about 1,000 flu cases in Mexico during all of last year,” of which roughly 250 cases were swine flu, Health Secretary Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg told reporters on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The news service notes, “Despite the spike, the number of cases is well within a normal flu season for Mexico, which can see from 5,000 to 11,000 incidents of all strains,” Woldenberg said. “The low appearance of the H1N1 virus the past two years is one reason it’s drawing so much media attention in Mexico,” the AP writes, adding, “Public nervousness about H1N1 has been high since the first outbreak in spring 2009, when the virus initially appeared to have a high mortality rate and Mexican authorities closed restaurants, schools, museums, libraries, and theaters to stop its spread” (2/1).

Additional Discussion Needed Before Final Decision Made On Publication Of Bird Flu Studies

Attendees of a recent WHO meeting that discussed the possible publication in the journals Nature and Science of two studies that modified H5N1 bird flu strains to show the virus could be more easily transmissible among humans decided publication of redacted versions would be ineffective and that “a system for distributing the full paper only to selected individuals would be impossible to set up on any relevant timescale,” a Nature editorial states. Participants also learned “not only does the mammalian transmissibility threat seem greater than previously thought, but also that current avian viruses have some of the mutations identified in the new work,” according to the editorial.

WHO Convening Meeting In One Week To Explore Opinions Surrounding H5N1 Bird Flu Research

NPR’s health blog “Shots” previews an upcoming WHO-convened meeting to discuss the recent news that two research teams have created H5N1 bird flu strains that are easily transmissible among ferrets, which are used as lab models for humans. Fears that terrorists possibly could use the information prompted the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity in December to request the scientists redact some information prior to publishing their study results and investigators in January to institute a 60-day moratorium on bird flu research, the blog notes.

Recent Releases In Global Health

Several blogs, publications examine the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit: The MDGs serve a dual purpose “helping the poor countries to fight poverty and the rich countries to preserve a sense of social solidarity,” writes Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute in a post on the Guardian’s…

WHO Releases H1N1 Emergency Committee Roster

Five of the fifteen experts advising the WHO on H1N1 (swine flu) had ties to the pharmaceutical industry, “including for flu vaccine research,” according to the Emergency Committee members’ list released by the agency Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

ASEAN Representatives Participate In Week-Long Exercise Aimed At Improving Region’s Pandemic Response

A group of experts from Southeast Asia gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Monday for the start of a week-long exercise to help bolster “the capabilities of [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] ASEAN member states, both individually and collectively, to prepare for and respond to a severe pandemic with potentially devastating effects on the region,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/17).

Also In Global Health News: IDUs In Kenya; Haiti Recovery; Pandemic Preparedness; Somalia Hunger; HIV In Mozambique; Strengthening Immune System Against HIV

Kenya Drafts Policy To Address HIV In IDUs In Kenya, “[i]ntravenous drug users (IDUs) have been largely ignored by the government’s HIV programmes on the basis that drug-taking is illegal, but a new policy is being drafted with the aim of reducing HIV transmission among this high-risk group,” IRIN/PlusNews reports.…

News Outlets Look At How H1N1 Will Inform WHO’s Future Outbreak Response

Following the WHO’s decision on Tuesday to declare the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic over, several news outlets reviewed the emergence of the virus around the world, exploring how some of the lessons learned from H1N1 could assist the WHO’s handling of future outbreaks.