World Health Organization: Gonorrhea becoming harder to treat

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is making Gonorrhea harder and sometimes impossible to treat.

The sexually transmitted disease can cause infertility if untreated and affects an estimated 78 million people each year.

According to the WHO, data from 77 countries, shows the disease has developed resistance to some antibiotics and an increasing number of countries are finding that the infection can become completely untreatable.

Some health experts say the disease is evolving and becoming resistant because of the other bacteria that can cause it.

Every time doctors use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.

Right now in the United States, the current class of antibiotics is working but experts say it's only a matter of time before they become ineffective too.

"And to prevent that, or to get a head of that I should say, we have studies out and we are looking at it in ongoing surveillance of the resistance and research,” said Clinical Services Nurse Manager Vonda Pabon.

According to the CDC, North Carolina ranks at the top of the 50 states for the rate of STD cases per 100,000 people and is ranked number three when it comes to Gonorrhea.



New Director-General Begins Work at WHO

The World Health Organization’s new director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, began his five-year term Saturday.

The former Ethiopian health and foreign minister is the first African chosen to head the organization.

Tedros, who goes by his first name, won the office by a clear majority, defeating British and Pakistani candidates in May in the first WHO election decided by member countries.

He is facing a slew of challenges as he takes the helm of the sprawling organization with a funding shortfall of approximately $2.2 billion that is
responsible for improving health care around the world.

After his election, he said the concept of health as a human right would be at the heart of whatever he does at WHO.

“Half of our population does not have access to health care.” He said that could and should be remedied through universal health care coverage, which would address the issue of health as a human right and act as a spur to development.

“All roads should lead to universal health coverage and it should be the center of gravity of our movement,” he said.

Tedros has said one of his first orders of business would be to strengthen WHO’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies because “epidemics can strike at any time” and the WHO must be prepared.

Tedros is taking over the reins of the organization from Margaret Chan of China who led WHO for nearly ten years.

Credit : Voice of America (VOA)


WHO: United States Among Least Polluting Nations on the Planet

Despite recent attempts to paint the United States as a major global polluter, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. is among the cleanest nations on the planet.
In the most recent WHO report on air pollution, the United States was listed as one of the countries with the cleanest air in the world, significantly cleaner in fact than the air in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Austria and France.

While France and other G7 countries lamented the U.S. exit from the Paris climate accord, America’s air is already cleaner than that of any other country in the G7, except Canada with its scant population.

Following standard practice, the WHO measures air pollution by the mean annual concentration of fine suspended particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter. These are the particles that cause diseases of all sorts and are responsible for most deaths by air pollution.

According to the WHO, exposure to particulate matter increases the risk of acute lower respiratory infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

The report, which analyzed the “annual median concentration of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) for both urban population and rural and urban population” found that the United States was one of the most pollution-free nations in the world.

The annual mean concentrations of particulate matter in the air range from less than 10 to over 100 µg/m3, the report states. At the very low end of the spectrum, the United States has a concentration of just 8, while China has a concentration more than seven times higher at 59, India at 66, Egypt at 101 and Saudi Arabia with the worst air pollution at 127.

“The mean annual concentration of fine suspended particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter is a common measure of air pollution,” the WHO states.

The WHO report is corroborated by a series of other such studies on air and water pollution.

In a recent list of the 25 cleanest cities in the world, the only country to boast three cities among the cleanest on the planet was the United States of America, with Chicago coming in second place, Honolulu coming in fourth, and Portland, OR, coming in sixteenth. Unsurprisingly, no cities from China, Russia or India made the list at all.

Similarly, another list of the 15 most polluted cities in the world featured three cities from China, three cities from Saudi Arabia, and a whopping seven cities from India. No U.S. city made the list.

A third list, ranking the ten cleanest and ten most polluted cities in the world, placed two U.S. cities on the list of cleanest cities on the planet. The list of the most polluted cities in the world was led by two cities from China followed by two more cities from India. Two Russian cities also made the list. Again, no U.S. cities were found here.

With such relatively clean air throughout America, how can even reputable news agencies like Reuters continue spreading the well-worn lie that the United States is one of the “biggest polluters” in the world?

Rather than follow the time-tested practice used by the World Health Organization, which measures levels of disease-causing pollutants that get into people’s lungs, some have played a shell game, swapping a new measure of “pollution” based solely on emissions of carbon dioxide.

The problem with this ploy is that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and it is dishonest to say it is. CO2 is colorless, odorless and completely non-toxic. Plants depend on it to live and grow, and human beings draw some into their lungs with every breath they take to no ill effect whatsoever.

Growers regularly pump CO2 into greenhouses, raising levels to three times that of the natural environment, to produce stronger, greener, healthier plants.

Current levels of carbon dioxide concentration in the environment are substantially lower than they have been during earlier periods in the planet’s history. Without human intervention, the concentration of CO2 has climbed as high as 7,000 parts per million (ppm) in prior eras, whereas at present the concentration is just over 400 ppm.

Some experts, such as UN climate scientist Dr. Indur Goklany, have defended rising CO2 levels as a good thing for humanity. Goklany has argued that the rising level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere “is currently net beneficial for both humanity and the biosphere generally.”

“The benefits are real, whereas the costs of warming are uncertain,” he said.

While the United States must remain vigilant to keep the level of real, dangerous pollutants to a minimum, it may take some consolation in the fact that among G7 nations, it has the cleanest air of all.


World Health Organization Deploys New Technology For Ebola Fight

"I'm doubtful that the pigs actually carry Ebola, but we have to test them, " says epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, who has been consulted by the Institute of National Biomedical Research in Kinshasa about the potential link, Science reported.

Although when the corpse was tested it was free of Ebola virus.

The country's public health officials had reported at least 43 cases of suspected Ebola and four deaths.

Makur Koriom, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, said a team of health officials would be dispatched to all border areas of South Sudan shares with DR Congo to conduct surveillance and health education among communities in Western Equatoria state.

"The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this objective, " Yokouidé Allarangar, WHO representative in the DRC, said in a statement earlier this month. This is resulting in early identification of suspect cases detected in the affected zone.

On Tuesday that the corpse of a young man was flown in onboard a Kenya Airways flight and quarantined by the Port Health Services (PHS) to ascertain if the death of the deceased was caused by the Ebola virus, since the DRC is now facing another outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever.

South Sudan suffered Ebola outbreak in 2004 after World Health Organization reported 20 cases including 5 deaths from Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) in Yambio County which borders DR Congo.

One of the technologies being used to detect Ebola in DRC is GeneXpert, which was primarily developed to detect cases of tuberculosis, but has been adapted to enable rapid testing of many pathogens - HIV, malaria, STIs, and Ebola.

However, the commissioner said as soon as the dead body was brought in from DRC, the officials of Port Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and the Lagos State Ministry of Health investigated the cause of death of the remains and took samples for laboratory investigation.

Nigeria has been on the alert since the recent outbreak in DRC Congo.

"In the field, OraQuick can test blood or saliva samples for Ebola in just half an hour", the United Nations health agency said. Health authorities in this country are recognized throughout the African region and the world as experts in responding to outbreaks of this disease.


Have a Tax Rate That Disincentivises Cigarette Smuggling: Farmers' Body

New Delhi: Farmers' body FAIFA on Monday asked the government to have a taxation policy that disincentivises cigarette smuggling in India, ahead of a crucial meeting of the GST Council later this week.

The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA), a non-profit organisation representing farmers across states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat, said cigarette smuggling has hit tobacco farmers supplying to legitimate manufacturers in India.

It urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley "to protect the interests of Indian FCV tobacco farmers through balanced and uniform taxation under GST".

"We appeal to the government to have a taxation policy that disincentivises cigarette smuggling in India," FAIFA General Secretary Murali Babu said in a statement.

He further said GST is an opportunity for the government to ensure illicit trade is eradicated from the country by removing distortions and address tobacco taxation in India.

It will bring back lost livelihood opportunities of the tobacco farmers, he added.

FAIFA said a steep increase in excise duty in the recent past has led to growth of smuggling of cigarettes in India due to the high tax arbitrage.

Illegal cigarette trade is more than 20 per cent of the cigarette industry in India, making the country the 4th largest and fastest growing illicit market in the world, it claimed.

It has resulted in revenue losses of approximately Rs 9,200 crore and is growing annually, it added.
A shift in consumption to smuggled cigarettes has affected Indian tobacco farmers adversely as the illegal cigarettes do not use Indian tobacco, FAIFA said.

The demand of the farmers' body comes ahead of the meeting of the all-powerful GST Council to be held in Srinagar on May 18-19, where it is expected to give final nod to four rules and also fix GST rates for major commodities and services.

The four rules pertain to how input tax credit is to be calculated and claimed, valuation of supply of goods and services, method for intimation for opting for composition levy and transitional rules.


Ageing is “a good thing” for the world – World Health Organisation

Ageing on the whole is “a good thing” for the world, and governments should not see it as a “threat”, Dr Paul Ong, Technical Officer, Innovation for Healthy Ageing at the World Health Organisation, tells GovInsider.

Ong believes that there’s a need to shift current perceptions of ageing as a burden to society – being old is, in fact, a sign of “successful development,” he says. “It means that a majority of people are now living to a much older age.”

“Fertility rates have dropped because our babies are now surviving, rather than families having lots and lots of babies to ensure that they have a few children who make it to adulthood,” Ong continues. “We now have this opportunity to enjoy the life that I think all human beings deserve.”

Shifting perceptions of ageing

With a 2015 report on ageing and health, WHO wants to encourage governments to tackle ageism in three ways. First, they must reorient the language surrounding ageing. “Shifting the language from viewing ageing as essentially a cost to society to something that needs investing in, is one of the key actions you need to take.”

Secondly, governments need to reorient healthcare systems to be more age-friendly, with greater focus on chronic disease management. Ong notes that in the early development stage of societies, contemporary healthcare systems were developed to treat individual diseases and acute medical episodes. As populations age, chronic illnesses become the norm, and this presents a challenge for the healthcare systems of today.

“We know from studies in Sweden and Australia that by the time people are 70 or 75, nearing 80, they will have multiple chronic illnesses,” shares Ong. “Tackling chronic illnesses just simply as individual diseases, trying to cure these things – and many of them are not exactly curable – it’s not the most useful approach.”

Governments then need to adopt an approach where they can best manage these “baskets” of chronic conditions, enabling the elderly to be active as much as possible. “Just because I have arthritic pain does not mean that going to the church, temple or mosque is not important me.”

Age-inclusive environments for the future

Finally, governments need to look beyond encouraging the population to embrace healthy ageing – it is time that the environments the elderly live in also reflect age inclusivity. In European cities like Geneva, trams and buses have steps that can be lowered, and the city boasts ramps and walkways that enable wheelchair-bound citizens to get around. “In Japan, even the ancient castles and monuments have lifts so that older people basically can enjoy these icons of cultural heritage,” Ong says.

Age-inclusive design, he adds, is not just about older people – it’s also about “encouraging important technology” that will compel both creative and economic growth, and spur new industries in the future. “In the same way that a self-driving car is a very interesting piece of technology, it is actually good for older people, and potentially a very important part of age-friendly technology and environments,” Ong notes.

For all of these key factors to come together, governments must remember that ageing is a “multi-sectorial” issue, Ong notes. After all, environments are made up of multiple sectors, whether that be sanitation or transportation, agriculture, and governments will need to look at how these intersect together so that they can best design environments for the elderly.

“Like any other person, older people need to have decent nutrition, live in sanitary environments, and get around – just that specifically in each of these areas, they have more challenges that need to be attended to,” Ong concludes.

Soon, the future could very well bring driverless cars and specially-equipped trams that make our cities a little bit friendlier for the silver generation.


Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to take part in WHO malaria vaccine pilot programme

Brazzaville, 24 April 2017 - The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced today that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot implementation programme that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.
The injectable vaccine, RTS,S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. RTS,S will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.

“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 percent reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children aged 5 – 17 months old during Phase III testing can be replicated in real-life. Specifically, the pilot programme will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use.

WHO recommendations and RTS,S

RTS,S was developed by GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase III clinical trial. The trial was conducted between 2009 and 2014 through a partnership involving GSK, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and a network of African research sites in seven African countries—including Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

RTS,S is also the first malaria vaccine to have obtained a positive scientific opinion from a stringent medicines regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approved RTS,S in July 2015.

In October 2015, two independent WHO advisory groups, comprised of the world’s foremost experts on vaccines and malaria, recommended pilot implementation of RTS,S in three to five settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The recommendation came from the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC), following a joint review of all available evidence on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The World Health Organization formally adopted the recommendation in January 2016.

Pilot implementation

The three countries were selected to participate in the pilot based on the following criteria: high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs); well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes, a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs, and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial. Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots. High malaria burden areas will be prioritized, as this is where the benefit of the vaccine is predicted to be highest. Information garnered from the pilot will help to inform later decisions about potential wider use of the vaccine.

The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through the routine national immunization programmes. WHO is working with the three countries to facilitate regulatory authorization of the vaccine for use in the pilots through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (AVAREF). Regulatory support will also include measures to enable the appropriate safety monitoring of the vaccine and rigorous evaluation for eventual large scale use.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID, are partnering to provide US$49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme (2017-2020) which will be complemented by in-kind contributions from WHO and GSK.

Global tobacco death toll still climbing


The percentage of men and women who use tobacco every day has dropped in most nations since 1990, but the total number of smokers and tobacco-related deaths has increased, a consortium of researchers reported Thursday.

Mortality could rise even further as major tobacco companies aggressively target new markets, especially in the developing world, they warned in a major study, published in the medical journal The Lancet.

One in four men and one in 20 women smoked daily in 2015, according to the Global Burden of Diseases report, compiled by hundreds of scientists.


That was a significant drop compared to 25 years earlier, when one in three men and one in 12 women lit up every day.

But the number of deaths attributed to tobacco — which topped 6.4 million in 2015 — went up by 4.7 per cent over the same period due to the expanding world population, the report found.

"Sadly, all those deaths were preventable," senior author Emmanuela Gakidou from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington told AFP.

"The deaths of all the people who will die next year and the year after that, and so on, are also preventable."

More than 930 million people smoked daily in 2015, compared to 870 million in 1990 — a seven per cent jump.

Smoking causes one in 10 deaths worldwide, half of them in just four countries: China, India, the United States and Russia.

Together with Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Japan, Brazil, and Germany, they account for fully two-thirds of global tobacco use.

"Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability" after high blood pressure, Gakidou said.

Some countries have seen sharp reductions in smoking driven by some combination of higher taxes, education campaigns, package warnings and programmes to help people kick the nicotine habit.

Brazil was among the leaders over the 25-year period examined, with the percentage of daily smokers dropping from 29 to 12 per cent among men, and from 19 to eight per cent among women.

But Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines — where 47, 38 and 35 per cent of men smoke, respectively — saw no change from 1990 to 2015.

In Russia — where tobacco control policies were not put into place until 2014 — the percentage of women who smoke climbed by more than four per cent over the same period.

Similar trends are emerging in much of Africa, the authors cautioned.

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the number of men and women smoking in sub-Saharan Africa will go up 50 per cent by 2025, compared to 2010 levels.

"Future mortality in low- and middle-income countries is likely to be huge," John Britton from the University of Nottingham's UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies wrote in a comment, also in The Lancet.

Responsibility for the global tobacco epidemic lies mainly with a handful of multinational companies based in rich countries, he said.

"The modern tobacco industry profits from enslaving children and young people in poor countries into a lifelong addiction, and ultimately taking their lives for profit," he told AFP.

The global response — including a 180-nation "tobacco control" treaty inked in 2005 — has focused mostly on users and not the supply, he added.

The WHO has noted that "tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturers".

It is estimated that half of daily smokers will die prematurely due to their tobacco habit unless they quit.

Failure to stop the epidemic means that "scarce resources will be used to treat tobacco-caused problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease," Gakidou said.