Healthcare is a crucial issue for Africa: every year, according to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), hundreds of thousands of people in the African continent die due to infectious diseases.
During epidemics, pandemics, natural or environmental disasters, the problem of communication is one of the primary issues to deal with, and scientists and stakeholders know this well. It is a two-sided issue: communicating risk without creating any alarms, and an effective communication between persons who manage emergencies.
As every year, the winter season is synonymous of influenza viruses causing health problems and significant economic losses for public and private companies. One small, but not negligible, percentage will incur in complications and, potentially, there will also be an increase in mortality for new-borns and elderly patients, caused by the same virus. The vaccine against the seasonal influenza virus strain protects with an effectiveness estimated between 75 and 80 percent – therefore quite good – but not complete.
From bats to horses, from insects to chimpanzees, a lot of deadly viruses originated in an animal host. In his last book, Spillover, the American science writer David Quammen tells the stories of some of these viruses. We reached him at the Festival della Scienza in Genoa, where he was going to present the book, and asked him some questions.
It is known that a virus like Ebola finds an ideal breeding ground of infection in weak healthcare systems. However, the fear of a large-scale European contagion is spreading. Although it is true that Ebola is really frightening, it is equally true that a comparison between a country such as Italy and countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is at least difficult to maintain. Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV, low rates of vaccinations: the African ecosystem in which Ebola has developed is crippled, and the majority of its inhabitants are highly exposed to infections. How much crippled?
In the globalised environment, the interconnection and interdependence of economies enable pathogens to spread in unprecedented ways and extents. Human to human transmission (close encounters of the first kind) occur with pathogens that are well adapted to the human host, and spread between countries and continents. In a similar way, pathogens spreading between animals (close encounters of the second kind) spread not only within a farm, but also between different farms, due to trade, or live animals or vector movement, in a transboundary manner.
Each outbreak has some lessons to teach to those involved in health crisis management, especially in terms of risk communication. In fact, any infectious disease can become much more dangerous when supported by wrong or missing information. On the one hand, misinformation can spread far and fast, especially online, often crossing geographic borders before local organisations have ramped up their response to an outbreak. On the other hand, the lack of proper information about, for instance, how people get infected, may slow down efforts to contain the diffusion of the disease.
Can social media be used as a way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases? Such a question is certainly on the agenda right now, with the Ebola outbreak currently raging in West Africa and having already claimed the life of 887 people out of 1,603 cases since this March.
A future without effective antibiotics for some infections is possible. Only 70 years ago, penicillin discovery have changed infectious diseases treatment, reducing deaths and illness. However, the high microbial adaptability has appeared few years later drug discovery: already in his Nobel Prize speech in 1945, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, warned that bacteria could become resistant to these remarkable substances. Between 1940 and 1990, 29 classes of antibiotics with different mechanisms of action have been discovered and designed.
Through the years and the development of pharmacology, Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing public health threat of broad concern to countries. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced a global report on surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in collaboration with Member States.
In a review on the New England Journal of Medicine, Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine and chair of an international committee requested by the World Health Organization (WHO), analyzed the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, giving particular attention to the function of the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) and the performance of the WHO.
Africa is not the most rapidly growing HIV epidemic region: it is Eastern Europe. Out of a total 2.2 millions people living with HIV in Europe, more than 60% of them are living in the East. Before 2002 this figure was stable, but in just seven years it has increased by two thirds.
A deep understanding of the relation between genetic mutations and immune system response of the attacked organism is vital for the development of effective vaccinations for specific variations of the influenza virus.
The formulation of a theory that associates immunological response to phylogenetic evolution of the virus stands on the definition of a genetic distance – calculated between aminoacid sequences – able to quantify antigenic diversity among the corresponding pathogens.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recently released a technical report in support of the Council Recommendation on seasonal influenza vaccination that the European Union (EU) Council adopted in December 2009.
Everything started at the beginning of September in San Francisco, at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, when Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, took the floor to speak about her work. A work that ground its roots during the 2009 flu pandemic, when people who got a flu shot for the 2008-09 winter seemed to be more likely to get infected with the pandemic virus than people who hadn't received a flu shot. Dr.
NAIROBI, KENYA (5 July 2012) - A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an “unlucky” 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Prof. Hans Bärlocher left the hospital after a long working day. Outside the building, he took a deep breath of fresh Spring air; then, he smelled his right hand. Yes, it had the faint, but typical copper smell. This reassured him that he had not pick up any germs when going through the series of doors to leave the clinic. All the doors in his hospital had recently been refitted with door handles and push plates of antimicrobial copper.