The arrival of fast food has triggered the latest health epidemic to hit developing countries. As doctors begin the fightback against morbid obesity, Bénédicte Desrus travels round Africa photographing people living with the condition, while Ian Birrell reveals why South Africa now faces its biggest challenge since HIV.
Photograph: Benedicte Desrus
Photograph: Bénédicte Desrus
It’s only a matter of time, some researchers are warning, before isolated cases of Ebola start turning up in developed nations, as well as hitherto-unaffected African countries.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more people than all previous outbreaks combined, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. The official count ;includes about 3,600 cases and 1,800 deaths across four countries.
Meanwhile, the authors of a new analysis say many countries — including the U.S. — should gear up to recognize, isolate and treat imported cases of Ebola.
The probability of seeing at least one imported case of Ebola in the U.S. is as high as 18 percent by late September, researchers reported Tuesday in the journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks. That’s compared with less than 5 percent right now.
These predictions are based on the flow of airline passengers from West Africa and the difficulty of preventing an infected passenger from boarding a flight.
As with any such analysis, there’s some uncertainty. The range of a probable U.S. importation of Ebola by Sept. 22 runs from 1 percent to 18 percent. But with time — and a continuing intense outbreak in West Africa — importation is almost inevitable, the researchers told NPR.
"What is happening in West Africa is going to get here. We can’t escape that at this point," says physicist Alessandro Vespignani, the senior author on the study, who analyzes the spread of infectious diseases at Northeastern University.
Image: Air traffic connections from West Africa to the rest of the world: While Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone don’t have many flights outside the region, Nigeria is well-connected to Europe and the U.S. (PLOS Currents: Outbreaks)
SKILLZ Street (SS) is an all-girls soccer-based programme developed by Grassroot Soccer (GRS) that combines HIV educational activities, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) knowledge, and soccer. SS also partners with the Thuthuzela Care Center (TCC) for medical and social services.
"The future of humanity is increasingly African."
That’s the prediction in a new UNICEF report, which estimates that by the end of this century, 40 percent of the world’s people will be African – up from 15 percent now. The continent’s population currently sits at roughly 1.2 billion but will soar to more than 4 billion by 2100. Nearly a billion will live in Nigeria alone.
In a report released Wednesday, UNICEF projected the growth of Africa’s child population within the next century. And the numbers are staggering.
An estimated 1.8 billion births will take place in Africa in the next 35 years, the authors predict. By 2050, Africa will have almost a billion children under 18, making up nearly 40 percent of kids worldwide.
Lead author David Anthony tells NPR’s Melissa Block on All Things Considered that even the researchers were surprised by the findings. “[We] knew that the world’s population was swinging toward Africa,” he says. “But there have been new estimates released by the U.N. population division … that shows an even stronger swing than we have anticipated.”
Fertility rates have fallen in Africa but remain high compared to the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the number of women of reproductive age has grown enormously and is set to more than double in the next 35 years.
Image: With high fertility rates among woman and slowing child mortality, Africa’s population will swell to more than 4 billion by the end of this century. (Courtesy of UNICEF)
(MONROVIA, Liberia) — One of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, officials said Sunday, and an American physician was being treated for the deadly virus, highlighting the risks facing health workers trying to combat an outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in West Africa — the largest ever recorded.
A second American, a missionary working in the Liberian capital, was also taken ill and was being treated in isolation there, said the pastor of a North Carolina church that sponsored her work.
Dr. Samuel Brisbane, a top Liberian health official, was treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, when he fell ill. He died Saturday, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister. A Ugandan doctor died earlier this month.
The American physician, 33-year-old Dr. Kent Brantly, was in Liberia helping to respond to the outbreak that has killed 129 people nationwide when he fell ill, according to the North Carolina-based medical charity, Samaritan’s Purse.
He was receiving intensive medical care in a Monrovia hospital and was in stable condition, according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Melissa Strickland.
“We are hopeful, but he is certainly not out of the woods yet,” she said.Early treatment improves a patient’s chances of survival, and Brantly recognized his own symptoms and began receiving care immediately, Strickland said.
There’s growing concern in West Africa about the spread of the Ebola virus that has killed hundreds of people. Health ministers have formed a regional response, but fear and a lack of knowledge about Ebola threaten their efforts.
Liberian musicians are joining the campaign, taking to song to educate people about the Ebola virus. Their tune is called "Ebola in Town," and warns people to beware of close contact with those who fall ill. The song warns, “Don’t touch your friend.”
Almost 850 cases have been recorded to date.
Ebola is highly contagious through contact with bodily fluids like blood, vomit or saliva. And it’s generally fatal. But there is a chance for survival if infected people can get medical attention.
West African government health officials have agreed to a coordinated strategy, aware that a contagious disease will cross borders as people travel for commerce or work. But their effort is hampered by fear and ignorance about the disease.
For example, families sometimes hide relatives with Ebola rather than take them for treatment. They fear the panic and ostracism that the disease may provoke from others nearby.
That’s why Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is warning her country that anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients will be prosecuted.
"Here, we’re talking about a deadly disease — a disease that can kill people. And we’re obliged to also protect the lives of people," Sirleaf said. "There’s a law that says they must do that. And if they don’t, then there are penalties."
West Africa Is ‘Overwhelmed’ By Ebola
People are hiding from health care workers. New cases are turning up in unexpected places. At funerals, family members don’t always follow the advice not to touch the body of the deceased, which may still harbor the deadly virus.
These are a few of the signs that, in the words of public health specialist Armand Sprecher of , the Ebola outbreak that began in West Africa in February is “not under control yet.”
The first cases were in Guinea, but the virus has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The death toll has risen to 330, making this the deadliest Ebola outbreak since the disease was first detected in 1976. The staff of Doctors Without Borders is “overwhelmed” by the need to set up new isolation wards and track down people who may be infected, Sprecher told NPR’s Jason Beaubien.
In past outbreaks, there have been what are called “satellite cases,” where the disease appears in different locations. But “not nearly as many as we’ve seen in this outbreak,” says Sprecher. That may be because people move around a lot in West Africa.
(From Shots—Health News from NPR)