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Also In Global Health News: Monkeypox In Congo; Indonesian Volcano; Latrines In Cambodia; Maternal Health In India

Monkeypox Prevalence Surges In Smallpox ‘Vaccine Naive’ In Congo

The New York Times reports on monkeypox cases, which are “surging in tropical Africa.” Researchers found that “monkeypox was 20 times as common” in nine rural Congolese districts as it was 30 years ago, the newspaper writes, citing a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (McNeil, 8/30). After the eradication of smallpox in 1979 and the end of the smallpox vaccination program “new generations of people who were ‘vaccine naive’ were exposed to the monkeypox virus the Democratic Republic of Congo over time, and the number of people who became infected gradually increased. But the increase went unnoticed because the nation has little or no health infrastructure and thus no way to monitor the spread of such diseases,” according to a UCLA press release (Wheeler, 8/30).  

Researchers studied 760 “laboratory confirmed cases” of monkeypox over two years starting in 2005. The average incidence in the Congo regions was “14.42 cases per 10,000 people, compared with an incidence of 0.72 cases per 10,000 determined by the WHO in the early 1980s,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Most of the reported cases have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “but recent outbreaks have also been reported in the neighboring Republic of the Congo and Sudan” (Maugh, 8/30).

Indonesians Displaced After Volcano Need Medical Care, According To Aid Wokers 

“Many of the 30,000 people evacuated after the eruption of Mount Sinabung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to government emergency centres need urgent medical care, aid workers say,” IRIN reports. Displaced people are suffering from diarrhea and respiratory problems, according to Irsal, a coordinator for the Indonesian Red Cross, which has distributed 8,500 masks to protect against the volcano’s fumes. Ignacio Leon-Garcia of the U.N.’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “At this point, the situation looks under control,” adding, “We have been in contact with local and central government and no international assistance has been requested” (8/30).

VOA News Reports On Efforts To Increase Numbers Of Households With Latrines In Cambodia

VOA News reports on efforts underway in Cambodia to increase the public’s access to latrines and awareness of sanitation strategies. The department of rural health at the Ministry of Rural Development, together with assistance from international donors, hopes “to provide 30 percent of rural homes, or 720,000 households, with latrines by 2015 – up from half a million now,” the news service writes. The article notes how the Ministry of Rural Development teamed up with agricultural development charity IDE Cambodia – a group credited with the creation of a low-cost toilet, known as the EZ latrine. “The cost – about $35 dollars, compared with up to $200 if a family tries to buy supplies and build a latrine using traditional methods,” the news service writes. “IDE has begun a pilot program to help the poorest buy a latrine. Families pool one dollar a month, and each month the agent builds another latrine,” VOA News adds (Carmichael, 8/30).

Indian Government Aims To Reduce Infant, Maternal Mortality

The Indian government is training doctors and deploying female health workers to “reduce infant and maternal mortality rates,” Bernama reports. The government will also provide sanitary napkins to adolescent girls and contraceptives. Speaking at a “maternal health conference” in India, the country’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad “called upon the conference to debate on this issue and find ways on ‘how best we can provide adolescent friendly health services,’” according to the news service. Azad also spoke about the “increased incidence of teenage pregnancy” in relation to infant and maternal mortality rates (8/30). According to the Times of India, the “health ministry has now rolled out a Maternal Death Audits at the community as well as the facility level to better quantify the magnitude of the problem” (Sinha, 8/31).