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South Sudan Hoping To Mark Three Years Without Recording Polio Case

“South Sudan officials are hopeful the country will soon be declared polio-free,” if the nation can go another four months without recording a polio case, VOA News reports. “Before 2008, the area that is now South Sudan had been considered free of polio,” but “[t]hat year the country was re-infected through an imported strain that originated in Nigeria,” the news service writes. The country has not recorded a new case in more than 32 months, Abdi Aden Mohamed, head of the WHO in South Sudan, said, adding, “We are very cautious in the sense of there are a number of countries surrounding South Sudan that cases might be here and there,” according to VOA. Volunteers working to vaccinate every child under the age of six recently concluded the country’s 24th immunization campaign since polio reappeared in the nation, the news service notes (Green, 3/30).

New York Times Examines Global Response To Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

The New York Times examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing that while “[m]any health officials consider the cholera response ‘pretty remarkable,’ as John Vertefeuille, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Haiti, said … [o]thers … believe the bar for success was set too low and more lives could have been saved.” The newspaper continues, “[A]s the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate.”

IPS Reports On Research Study Examining Knowledge, Beliefs Of Cervical Cancer Among Argentinian Women

Inter Press Service reports on a research study conducted in Argentina that “explored women’s knowledge and beliefs about cervical cancer, in the provinces with the highest mortality from this highly preventable form of cancer, to design more effective policies.” The news service writes, “Although there are now effective tools to prevent cervical cancer, and vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) is free and mandatory for 11-year-old girls, the death rate from cervical cancer is not declining in Argentina, and the geographical distribution of the burden is extremely unequal.”

Pakistan’s Draft Bill That Would Punish Parents For Not Vaccinating Children ‘Misses The Mark’

“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.

Cholera Vaccination Campaign Still Stalled In Haiti, NPR Reports

A planned mass cholera vaccination project in Haiti continues to be “bogged down in bureaucratic red tape,” as spring rains begin and the number of cholera cases starts to rise, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. The Haitian medical group GHESKIO and international health organization Partners In Health are organizing the vaccination campaign, which “is awaiting approval from a national ethics committee, which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental,” according to the news service, which notes the “WHO last November approved the dollar-a-dose vaccine that’s ready to be used in Haiti.”

Insecurity Threatening Success Of West, Central African Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign

Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).

Blog Posts Comment On World TB Day

Several blog posts recently commented on the upcoming World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24. “Despite a clear legislative mandate, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) has consistently failed to live up to the goals of” the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a landmark legislation passed by Congress in 2008, John Fawcett, legislative director for RESULTS, writes in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. He continues, “Current GHI TB treatment goals are less than 60 percent of what was mandated in the Lantos-Hyde Act,” and concludes, “As the final authorized fiscal year of the Lantos-Hyde Act is debated, there’s still time to embrace its mandate: a bold effort to confront the world’s leading curable infectious killer” (Mazzotta, 3/22). “As people across the globe celebrate World TB Day this week, several groups are highlighting the fact that the current tools to prevent, test, and treat tuberculosis (TB) are greatly outdated,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog. She commends GHTC members for their efforts to develop new technologies (3/22).

Lancet Editorial Calls For TB Control, Elimination Efforts To Be On G20 Agenda

In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”

MSF Warns MDR-TB Is More Widespread Than Previously Thought

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).