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)
People trying to grow food and support their families on the shores of Lake Malawi are not only causing serious environmental problems, they’re also causing a surge in a debilitating disease.
Thriving towns along the lake are changing the ecosystem in ways that are allowing a parasitic worm to flourish, researchers reported last week in the journal Trends in Parasitology.
The intestinal disease, called schistosomiasis, won’t kill you, but it can make you pretty sick with a fever, cough and muscle aches. Schistosomiasis comes from flatworm parasites that burrow into people’s skin usually when they’re bathing in warm, shallow water. Kids who get infected repeatedly can develop malnutrition and learning difficulties.
"In some villages around Lake Malawi up to 70 percent of the people and 95 percent of schoolchildren are infected [with schistosomiasis]", says Bert Van Bocxlaer, a postdoctoral researcher with the Smithsonian Institution and Ghent University in Belgium.
About the size of New Jersey, Lake Malawi is a huge source of water, electricity and food for people in Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. Over the past 30 years, the number of people living around the lake has more than doubled to about 14 million. Agricultural output has risen dramatically.
Many things that people have done to try to make their own lives better have made the schistosomiasis situation worse, Van Bocxlaer and his colleagues found. Migration, intense fishing, and planting larger and larger tracts of land have all led to the proliferation of the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis.
Photo: A Malawian fishermen cleans fish on the shore of Lake Malawi near Salima in 2008. About the size of New Jersey, Lake Malawi is one of the most biologically diverse lakes in the world. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)
Are African women more susceptible to acquiring HIV because of genital schistosomiasis?
(From The New York Times)
If you turn on a radio in Zimbabwe these days, it won’t be long before you hear a public service spot featuring the voice of a deejay who goes by the name “Napster the Radio Master.”
Napster tells his audience that just before he got married he decided to get circumcised “so that my wife would find me clean and desirable.” He also notes that he later found out that circumcision helps protect women from contracting cervical cancer — adding, “Well, that was just the cherry on top!”
The ad is a centerpiece of an unprecedented campaign in Africa over the past several years to promote circumcision as a way to prevent HIV. This week researchers announced that the program has reached a remarkable milestone: Six million men and teenagers were convinced.
But the goal is to get 14 million more to sign up by 2016, and even at the current pace, public health officials are not on track to achieve that number. So they believe they need to change their message. That’s why Napster doesn’t mention the words HIV or AIDS in his radio spot.
he drive to circumcise men kicked off in 14 African countries after studies demonstrated that getting circumcised reduces a man’s chances of contracting HIV by 60 percent. (Removing the foreskin creates a less hospitable environment for the virus.)
Health officials then ran the numbers. They determined that if 80 percent of teenage and adult men in 14 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa — where circumcision is not commonly practiced — were to get “the cut” by 2016, there would be 3.4 million fewer new infections through 2025.
At first just stating the purpose of the campaign seemed sufficient. But for a lot of men, the downsides of going under the knife just don’t seem worth the benefit.
Photographer Kevin McElvaney documents Agbogbloshie, a former wetland in Accra, Ghana, which is home to the world’s largest e-waste dumping site.
Boys and young men smash devices to get to the metals, especially copper. Injuries, such as burns, untreated wounds, eye damage, lung and back problems, go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. Most workers die from cancer in their 20s. More photos
This infographic for our new AIDS report shows why it’s time to stop saying the phrase “AIDS in Africa.” African countries have made widely divergent progress toward the beginning of the end of AIDS, and a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling AIDS on the continent does not make sense.
Armed conflict and war are making it tough for the world to wipe out the polio virus — once and for all.
Polio has re-emerged in war-torn Syria after more than a decade, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday.
Over in the Horn of Africa, an outbreak has ballooned into more than 190 cases. The outbreak’s epicenter is Somalia, where fighting and violence have kept vaccinators from reaching hundreds of thousands of kids in the past few years.
A recent visit to the Somali-Ethiopian border highlights just how easily the virus can move silently around rural areas — and eventually find kids who aren’t vaccinated.
So far Ethiopia has reported only six cases of polio compared to 174 in Somalia. But the landlocked country shares a thousand-mile border with Somalia. Most of it’s unmarked and uncontrolled. Goat, sheep and camel herders move back and forth across the arid plains between the two countries seeking fresh pastures for their animals.
At the border town of Wajaale, a frayed, knotted rope strung across the road marks the international boundary. The rope is ignored by just about everyone. Young men step over it. Vendors with wheelbarrows full of vegetables scoot under it.
Top photo: Men demonstrate how open the Somali-Ethiopian border is in the town of Wajaale. A simple rope marks the international boundary.
Bottom photo: Ethiopia is trying to immunize 13 million kids with the oral polio vaccine to prevent the virus from spreading into the country from Somalia. But the mass vaccination campaigns are putting a huge burden on an already strained national health system.
Photos by Jason Beaubien/NPR
The first African clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against hookworm is planned for next year.
While rarely fatal, hookworm infestations are a serious problem for 600 million of the world’s poor, especially for children going barefoot. By constantly draining their victims’ blood, the worms cause anemia, stunted growth and learning problems, and leave children too weak to go to school. When they infest pregnant women, both mother and fetus are weakened.
The worms enter through the feet and ride the bloodstream to exit in the lungs, where they are coughed up and then swallowed into the intestines. Once there, two sets of teeth help them attach and suck blood. They grow to half an inch long.
Dr. Peter J. Hotez, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, explained that the vaccine creates antibodies not against the parasites themselves but against two enzymes found in the worm’s own gut — one that detoxifies the iron in its blood diet, and another that digests blood proteins. Without those enzymes the worm slowly dies.
The trial will start on a few adults in Gabon, and children will eventually be enrolled. Even if all goes well, the trial could take at least five years. But Dr. Hotez noted that he began work on the vaccine as a graduate student at Rockefeller University 30 years ago “and I’ve been working on it my whole life.”
(From The New York Times)
Calling all creative health leaders across Africa: We’re looking for health and development pioneers working on innovative projects tackling some of the most important issues affecting our world: Maternal & Child Health; HIV/AIDs & Reproductive Health; and TB & Malaria.
Submit your project between now and October 15 to the Africa Edition of the GOOD Maker Pioneers of Health Challenge. Up to five winners with the most innovative solutions will join us for the GOOD Pioneers of Health Exchange, a four day collaboratory in Cape Town, South Africa from December 10 through 13. Powered by GOOD and Name Your Hood, the Exchange will be an opportunity to share and accelerate exciting solutions in health with fellow innovators, prominent health leaders, government officials and other nonprofit organizations.
Whether you’re a designer or engineer, community health worker or passionate advocate, we want to hear about your insights for some of the most pressing health challenges affecting the world. We know that often the best solutions are collaborative and have surprising origins, so share your unique perspective and together, let’s help move the world forward in South Africa.
To read complete rules and and submit, send us your submission here before October 15 noon PDT and you could win a chance to join us in Cape Town.
Follow this challenge on Twitter at @GOODMkr and #PioneersOfHealth. Want to learn more about GOOD Maker? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, sign up for our email list, or check out past and current funding opportunities.