#WHO; #AccessToSafeBlood; #AccessToSelfBloodProducts; #ImproveBloodTransfusion;
Geneva, Feb 27 (Canadian-Media): The World Health Organization (WHO)’s new action plan to speed up universal access to safe blood and blood products pulls together existing recommendations and recommends new improved ways of working. It’s the start of a four-year collaborative effort to improve blood transfusion and blood-based therapies in all countries, WHO media reports said.
Image credit: Facebook
Safe blood saves lives in all sorts of circumstances, not least in emergency and epidemic settings. Blood transfusion and blood products are critical for birth delivery for both the mother and baby; the survival and quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening conditions such as haemophilia, thalassemia, immune deficiency and cancer; treating severe injuries and carrying out medical and surgical procedures.
But progress in blood safety and availability has been slow in many parts of the world, placing patients’ safety at risk and putting undue pressure on health workers. Progress is also mostly restricted to developed countries. Out of the approximate 118 million blood donations collected globally, 42% are collected in high-income countries, home to 16 % of the world’s population. And one out of four low-income countries do not test all donated blood, while 54% of countries do not have surveillance systems to securitise the supply chain from blood donor to patient.
Challenges include: slow implementation of national blood policies and weak blood regulatory systems; insufficient number of voluntary blood donors (who are considered the safest donors); poor quality management of screening tests, blood grouping and compatibility testing; inappropriate clinical use of blood; insufficient national funding for blood safety.
To address these, WHO has set out six key objectives for all countries and in particular those with weak blood systems:
The Organization looks forward to working with partners worldwide to implement the plan, improve blood supply particularly in the low and middle-income countries where this is so urgently needed, and save lives. The plan will run from 2020-2024.
#CDC; #UnitedStates; #Coronovirus; #CoronavirusSpread; #CommunityLevelSpread; #PreparationForPandemic
New York, Feb 25 (Canadian-Media): A warning was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday that the novel coronavirus that has sparked outbreaks around the world is expected to begin spreading at a community level in the United States, media reports said.
CDC is the national health protection agency of United States of America (U.S.) which works around the clock to protect America from health and safety threats, both foreign and domestic and increases the health security of the U.S..
CDC. Image credit: Twitter
Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said that coronavirus that had hit the countries, had spread rapidly to community levels and wants to make sure the American public is prepared.
“As more and more countries experience community spread, successful containment at our borders becomes harder and harder,” she said
She urged American businesses and families to start preparing for the possibility of a bigger outbreak, recommended telecommuting opportunities for business employees, and expansion of telehealth in the US hospitals.
“Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” Messonnier said, adding that she talked to her children about the issue Tuesday morning. “While I didn’t think they were at risk right now, we as a family ought to be preparing for significant disruption to our lives.”
Data on measures that could be used to stem the spread of the virus is being evaluated by CDC, said Messonnier, including school closures and other social distancing strategies, voluntary home quarantines, and surface cleaning methods.
The study of these strategies by the CDC is based on data from past flu outbreaks, but its recommendations for the new virus would be tailored.
#SouthKorea; #HighestAlert; #Coronavirus;
South Korea, Feb 23 (Canadian-Media): It was said by Moon Jae-in, South Korea's president Sunday that he has put South Korea on its highest alert for infectious diseases and ordered officials to take appropriate steps to fight viral outbreak that has infected more than 600 people in the country, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter
169 more cases of the new coronavirus were announced by South Korea, bringing the country's total to 602.
In the meantime, South Korea's new school year for kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools has been put off 'by one week and will start on March 9, Moon's education minister, Yoo Eun-hae, said later Sunday.
"We shouldn't be bound by regulations and hesitate to take unprecedented, powerful measures," said Moon.
Most of the South Korean cases reported were from Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city, which has become the biggest cluster of viral infections in South Korea, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The soar of coronavirus infections has resulted in shut down of all its 1,100 local churches and other facilities.
There was also a concern that there might be a massive increase in the number of those infected in the city because authorities were launching intensive examinations of church members with virus-related symptoms.
Meanwhile, Israel turned back a South Korean airliner, due to fear and tensions over the fast-spreading outbreak, allowed only 11 Israelis aboard the plane to enter the country.
#SouthKorea; #Coronavirus; #ShincheonjiChurchOfJesus;
South Korea, Feb 21 (Canadian-Media): Number of newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in South Korea has doubled in just 24 hours, to a total of 204 cases, with majority from the southeastern city of Daegu and the followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter
The escalating anxiety and public fear was alleviated by Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo's words at a televised briefing on Friday where he expressed confidence in medical personnel's ability to treat the infected.
Seventy percent of South Korea's confirmed cases are followers of Shincheonji.
Roughly 1,000 of its members are being tracked down by Health officials.
Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo is under quarantine. Dozens of confirmed patients are workers of the hospital or have visited the hospital.
Residents of Daegu, South Korea’s fourth largest city, with 2.5 million have been advised to stay home and wear masks even when they're indoors. Shops restaurants, public parks and other offices have been shut down.
Restriction have been enforced on all 600,000 enlisted troops in South Korea’s military from leaving for vacation or meeting outside visitors.
But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of cases were manageable and hoped that South Korea will do everything to contain this outbreak at this early stage. The new cases were mostly linked to known, existing clusters of infections, he said.
With intensification of climate and commercial threats WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission presses for radical rethink on child health
#WHO; #UNICEF; #TheLancet; #ChildrenHealth; #ChildrenFuture; #ChildrenEnvironment
Geneva, Feb 21 (Canadian-Media): No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, finds a landmark report released Feb 19 by a Commission convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world, WHO media reports said.
Protection of Children's health. Image credit: Twitter
The report, A Future for the World’s Children?, finds that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children.
“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission, Helen Clark. “It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.
“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today but protect the world they will inherit in the future,” she added.
Intensifying climate change threatens every child’s future
The report includes a new global index of 180 countries, comparing performance on child flourishing, including measures of child survival and well-being, such as health, education, and nutrition; sustainability, with a proxy for greenhouse gas emissions, and equity, or income gaps. [Top & Bottom 10 countries; Full Global Index on pp. 35-38] 
According to the report, while the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, excessive carbon emissions – disproportionately from wealthier countries – threaten the future of all children. If global warming exceeds 4°C by the year 2100 in line with current projections, this would lead to devastating health consequences for children, due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue, and malnutrition.
The index shows that children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds. However, when authors took per capita CO2 emissions into account, the top countries trail behind: Norway ranked 156, the Republic of Korea 166, and the Netherlands 160. Each of the three emits 210% more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target. The United States of America (USA), Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the ten worst emitters.
“More than 2 billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts, and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said Minister Awa Coll-Seck from Senegal, Co-Chair of the Commission. “While some of the poorest countries have among the lowest CO2 emissions, many are exposed to the harshest impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Promoting better conditions today for children to survive and thrive nationally does not have to come at the cost of eroding children’s futures globally.”
The only countries on track to beat CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly (within the top 70) on child flourishing measures are: Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Viet Nam.
Harmful commercial marketing preys on children – with childhood obesity increasing 11-fold
The report also highlights the distinct threat posed to children from harmful marketing. Evidence suggests that children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, while youth exposure to vaping (e-cigarettes) advertisements increased by more than 250% in the USA over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.
Professor Anthony Costello, one of the Commission’s authors, said: “Industry self-regulation has failed. Studies in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA – among many others – have shown that self-regulation has not hampered commercial ability to advertise to children. For example, despite industry signing up to self-regulation in Australia, children and adolescent viewers were still exposed to 51 million alcohol ads during just one year of televised football, cricket and rugby. And the reality could be much worse still: we have few facts and figures about the huge expansion of social media advertising and algorithms aimed at our children.”
Children’s exposure to commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages is associated with purchase of unhealthy foods and overweight and obesity, linking predatory marketing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity. The number of obese children and adolescents increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 – an 11-fold increase, with dire individual and societal costs.
A manifesto for immediate action on child and adolescent health
To protect children, the independent Commission authors call for a new global movement driven by and for children. Specific recommendations include:
Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet family of journals, said: “The opportunity is great. The evidence is available. The tools are at hand. From heads-of-state to local government, from UN leaders to children themselves, this Commission calls for the birth of a new era for child and adolescent health. It will take courage and commitment to deliver. It is the supreme test of our generation.”
“From the climate crisis to obesity and harmful commercial marketing, children around the world are having to contend with threats that were unimaginable just a few generations ago,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “It is time for a rethink on child health, one which places children at the top of every government’s development agenda and puts their well-being above all considerations.”
“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are, too often, failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization said. “This must be a wakeup call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children.”
Repatriation of passengers from Japan's cruise ship progresses with a significant drop in China's coronavirus outbreak
#CoronavirusDeclineInChina; DropInDeaths; #Repatriation; #DiamondPrincessShip; #Japan
China, Feb 20 (Canadian-Media): A significant drop in Coronavirus to 349 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, down from 1,693 a day earlier and lowest since Jan 25, and decrease in death toll from 132 to 108 has been reported by China media reports said.
Repatriation of hundreds of passengers off a cruise ship in Japan took place on Wednesday after being quarantined on the ship for more than two weeks.
Passengers being repatriated from Diamond Cruise Ship. Image credit: Twitter
While 47 of the 256 Canadians on board the liner are infected, Canada's chartered carrying the healthy Canadians is expected to fly out of Japan on Thursday and land in Trenton, Ont., to be transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., for 14 more days of quarantine.
More than 300 United States passengers were flown to air bases in California and Texas this week.
Around 180 Australian evacuees from the ship who had landed in Darwin will be undergo the second 14-day quarantine period in a camp facility near the northern Australian city.
Around half of the passengers and crew being Japanese, were free to go home once cleared to leave.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined near Tokyo since Feb. 3, initially with about 3,700 people aboard just months before Japan is due to host the Olympics.
United Kingdom, Feb 18 (Canadian-Media): Eating a Mediterranean diet for a year boosts the types of gut bacteria linked to 'healthy' ageing, while reducing those associated with harmful inflammation in older people, indicates a five-country study, published online in the journal Gut, https://medicalxpress.com/news reports said.
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain
As ageing is associated with deteriorating bodily functions and increasing inflammation, both of which herald the onset of frailty, this diet might act on gut bacteria in such a way as to help curb the advance of physical frailty and cognitive decline in older age, suggest the researchers.
Previous research suggests that a poor/restrictive diet, which is common among older people, particularly those in long term residential care, reduces the range and types of bacteria (microbiome) found in the gut and helps to speed up the onset of frailty.
The researchers therefore wanted to see if a Mediterranean diet might maintain the microbiome in older people's guts, and promote the retention or even proliferation of bacteria associated with 'healthy' ageing.
They analysed the gut microbiome of 612 people aged 65 to 79, before and after 12 months of either eating their usual diet (n = 289) or a Mediterranean diet (n = 323), rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish and low in red meat and saturated fats, and specially tailored to older people (NU-AGE diet).
The participants, who were either frail (n=28), on the verge of frailty (n=151), or not frail (n=433) at the beginning of the study, lived in five different countries: France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and the UK.
Sticking to the Mediterranean diet for 12 months was associated with beneficial changes to the gut microbiome.
It was associated with stemming the loss of bacterial diversity; an increase in the types of bacteria previously associated with several indicators of reduced frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength, and improved brain function, such as memory; and with reduced production of potentially harmful inflammatory chemicals.
More detailed analysis revealed that the microbiome changes were associated with an increase in bacteria known to produce beneficial short chain fatty acids and a decrease in bacteria involved in producing particular bile acids, overproduction of which are linked to a heightened risk of bowel cancer, insulin resistance, fatty liver and cell damage.
What's more, the bacteria that proliferated in response to the Mediterranean diet acted as 'keystone' species, meaning they were critical for a stable 'gut ecosystem,' pushing out those microbes associated with indicators of frailty.
The changes were largely driven by an increase in dietary fibre and associated vitamins and minerals—specifically, C, B6, B9, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
The findings were independent of the person's age or weight (body mass index), both of which influence the make-up of the microbiome.
And while there were some differences in the make-up of a person's gut microbiome, depending on country of origin to start with, the response to the Mediterranean diet after 12 months was similar and consistent, irrespective of nationality.
The study findings can't establish a causative role for the microbiome in health, added to which some of the implications are inferred rather than directly measured, say the researchers.
"The interplay of diet, microbiome and host health is a complex phenomenon influenced by several factors," they emphasise.
"While the results of this study shed light on some of the rules of this three-way interplay, several factors such as age, body mass index, disease status and initial dietary patterns may play a key role in determining the extent of success of these interactions," they explain.
Older people may have dental problems and/or difficulty swallowing, so it may be impractical for them to eat a Mediterranean diet, they add. But the beneficial bacteria implicated in healthy ageing found in this study might yet prove useful therapeutic agents to ward off frailty, they suggest.
#UN; #UNHealth; #WHO; #Pakistan; #polioVaccine
Karachi (Pakistan), Feb 18 (Canadian-Media): In one of the last bastions of polio on the planet, millions of children are being given a fighting chance against the paralyzing and potentially fatal disease, UN reports said.
A 13-day-old baby receives the polio vaccine in Gadab town, Karachi Sindh Province, Pakistan.
Image credit: UNICEF/Asad Zaidi
While there is no cure for polio, vaccination can protect a child for life, and the campaign this month aims to reach more than 39 million children.
“Polio is one of the few diseases we can eradicate in the world in the next few years. This is a priority of the United Nations and I am extremely happy to see it is a clear priority for the Government of Pakistan,” said Mr. Guterres.
“My appeal to all leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, is to fully support the Government of Pakistan and other governments around the world to make sure that we will be able to fully eradicate polio.”
Misconceptions and mistrust Along with Afghanistan, Pakistan is the only place in the world with wild poliovirus transmission, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, the country saw a resurgence of polio, with 144 cases; up from 12 in 2018. So far this year, there have been 17.
In Pakistan, nearly one-third of children aged 12 to 23 months miss out on basic vaccines, either because they live in hard-to-reach areas, or due to misconceptions about the importance of immunization.
Veteran vaccinator Farzana Shakeel has been pelted with stones, shouted at, and even threatened during anti-polio vaccination campaigns in Karachi.
“To this day, many people in my community think that vaccines are a conspiracy to prevent them from having more children, or to harm them in some way,” she said.
Going-door-to-door to save lives While at the kindergarten, the UN chief vaccinated three children against polio.
He also met with frontline workers from the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, a 265,000-strong force that goes door-to-door during vaccination campaigns to ensure as many children as possible are protected against the disease.
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which manages the procurement and distribution of over 1 billion doses of polio vaccines worldwide each year, supports the programme in Pakistan, including through leading in vaccine supply and strengthening partnerships with local communities to build trust in vaccines.
More than 60 per cent of the programme’s workers are women, and they are critical to rallying support from parents, caregivers and communities.
Vaccination points also are set up at railway stations, bus stops and other transit points nationwide, targeting children who are travelling or on the move, with some 1.7 million vaccinated in 2018.
Immunization activities and other measures are further coordinated with a similar programme in neighbouring Afghanistan, given the frequent population movements between the two countries.
Pakistan’s polio eradication programme currently is re-strategizing its operations and approach to better respond to increased transmission of the virus, according to the WHO Representative in the country.
Dr. Palitha Malipala said this includes incorporating high-level commitment to polio eradication across the political sector and ensuring that health workers are not targeted.
“We will continue to support the Government of Pakistan, who spearhead this initiative in country, to overcome the challenges of the last year and put in place robust measures to ensure a polio-free world for future generations,” he said.
#AmericanEvacuees; #Japan'sCruiseShip; #14InfectedPpassengers
Tokyo, Feb 17 (Canadian-Media): In spite of fact that the passengers of the Japan's cruise ship were told that only those not infected with the coronavirus would board the chartered flights to the United States, 14 of them were infected with coronavirus, media reports said.
Japan's Cruise Ship. Image credit: Twitter
The test results of these 14 passengers being positive became known to the airport authorities at the time these passengers were loaded into the buses to be dispatched to the airport.
Upon learning this fact, U.S. health authorities allowed the boarding of these passengers as they did not show any symptoms, but were were moved into a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft, where they were isolated and monitored.
But as the infected passengers arrived in the U.S., confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. nearly doubled, to 29.
#WHO; #Coronavirus; #MunichSecurityConference
Geneva, Feb 16 (Canadian-Media): The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday cautioned against panic over COVID-19 but also urged governments to step up their efforts to prepare for the virus, saying “it’s impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take,” UN news reports said.
Emergency room nurses wear face masks at Second People's Hospital of Shenzhen in China. Image credit: Man Yi
As the number of coronavirus cases reportedly passed 60,000, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told foreign policy and security experts gathered for the Munich Security Conference that the UN agency was encouraged that there has not yet been widespread community transmission of the virus, now named COVID-19, outside of China.
WHO was also encouraged that “the global research community has come together to identify and accelerate the most urgent research needs for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines”, and that a team of international experts is now on the ground in China, working closely with Chinese counterparts to understand the outbreak, and to inform the next steps in the global response.
The virus emerged in central China in late December and the latest figures show it has infected more than 63,000 people and has killed some 1,300 patients, mostly in China. The WHO has classified COVID-19 a global health threat.
“The steps China has taken to contain the outbreak at its source appear to have bought to the world time,” Mr. Tedros said.
But ‘we don’t know how much time’
The WHO chief said the agency's encouragement was tempered by several key concerns, including, the rising number of cases in China, particularly the number of health workers that have been infected; the lack of urgency in funding the response from the international community; the levels of rumours and misinformation hampering the response; and the potential havoc the virus could wreak in countries with weaker health systems.
“The outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19 underscore once again the vital importance for all countries to invest in preparedness and not panic,” said Mr. Tedros, recalling that two years ago, WHO and the World Bank founded the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent body to assess the state of the world’s readiness for a pandemic.
He said that last year, the board had published its first report, which concluded the world remains badly prepared.
“For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. We throw money at an outbreak, and when it’s over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one...This is frankly difficult to understand, and dangerously short-sighted,” warned Mr. Tedros.
Next steps: scale up response, counter ‘infodemic’
Mr. Tedros outlined key requests of the international community on the way forward:
“We have a choice. Can we come together to face a common and dangerous enemy? Or will we allow fear, suspicion and irrationality to distract and divide us?” the WHO chief asked.
He said that in our fractured and divided world, health was one of the few areas in which international cooperation offered the opportunity for countries to work together for a common cause.
“This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours. This is a time for solidarity, not stigma,” Mr. Tedros concluded.