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A regional health organization says it needs millions of dollars to prevent the mosquito-borne Zika virus from spreading across the Americas. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said on Wednesday that the health body needed an estimated $8.5 million to help member states respond to the virus which is rapidly spreading through the region. "We are mobilizing resources and estimate that we'll need $8.5 million to adequately help our members respond to this," Etienne told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of regional health ministers in Uruguay. Elsewhere in her remarks, Etienne said fumigation had limited effectiveness as a means to wipe out mosquito populations. Fumigation is a method of pest control that completely fills an area with gaseous pesticides to suffocate or poison the pests within. 

PAHO, which was founded in December 1902, serves as an international public health agency working to improve health and living standards of the people of the Americas. Back on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the virus following recommendations from UN experts and criticism over the lack of response to the virus. WHO has warned that the virus is "spreading explosively" in South and North America and could infect as much as 4 million people in the Americas this year. Cases of Zika virus have so far been reported in more than 30 countries.

The Zika virus is suspected to cause serious birth defects. It is linked to microcephaly, a condition in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads and undeveloped brains. Zika virus was first isolated from a monkey in Zika Forest, Uganda, in 1947. Brazil has been the country hardest hit by the outbreak. In Brazil, three people were reported dead due to the Zika virus in November 2015. Media reports say several people in the United States have also been diagnosed with the virus over the past few days. There is currently no specific treatment for the virus and no way to prevent it other than avoiding mosquito bites. The affected countries are reportedly doing their best to eliminate the breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which bite all day long.

The Zika virus linked to a microcephaly outbreak in Latin America could spread to Africa and Asia, with the world's highest birth rates, the World Health Organization warned as it launched a global response unit against the new emergency.

The WHO on Monday declared an international public health emergency due to Zika's link to thousands of recent birth defects in Brazil.

"We've now set up a global response unit which brings together all people across WHO, in headquarters, in the regions, to deal with a formal response using all the lessons we've learned from the Ebola crisis," said Anthony Costello, WHO director for maternal, child and adolescent health.

"The reason it's a global concern is that we are worried that this could also spread back to other areas of the world where the population may not be immune," he told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

"And we know that the mosquitos that carry Zika virus - if that association is confirmed - are present ... through Africa, parts of southern Europe and many parts of Asia, particularly South Asia..."

Costello added the WHO was drafting "good guidelines" for pregnant women and mustering experts to work on a definition of microcephaly including a standardised measurement of baby heads.

"We believe the association is guilty until proven innocent," he said, referring to the connection drawn in Brazil between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads.

"Mass community engagement" in areas with the mosquitos and their breeding grounds, and rapid development of diagnostic tools are essential to curbing the virus, as a vaccine may be years away, said Costello, a paediatrician.

 

 

The Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) has called for more global effort in the fight against the epidemic. During a Monday meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the African First Ladies stressed that more resources are required to prevent new HIV infections among children and to broaden access to testing services. Addressing the meeting, Michel Sidibé, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that ending the AIDS outbreak by 2030 is possible if the right decisions are made now. 

“We need your leadership now more than ever to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by protecting our girls, by ensuring that young women and girls have access to reproductive health services and rights, and by ending violence against women and girls,” Sidibé noted. Lordina Mahama, the OAFLA president and the First Lady of Ghana, urged the participants to join hands against the disease. “Let us use our voices to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic among children and improve the sexual health and rights of adolescents.”

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is no longer a death sentence. With the appropriate medical treatment, an early diagnosis of HIV can lead to the individual living a healthy and normal life. People successfully treated with the potentially deadly disease are also less likely to transmit it. According to the World Health Organization, some 37 million people are living with the viral infection worldwide, out of which about 26 million are in Africa. Scholars around the globe have launched various initiatives to raise people’s awareness of the disease and help end the plague. American economist Emily Fair Oster said in a speech that “people are going to have an incentive to avoid AIDS on their own” if the living conditions in Africa improve. “If people have no incentive to avoid AIDS on their own, even if they know everything about the disease, they still may not change their behavior,” she said.

Midwives from ten training schools nationwide will soon be introduced to the E-Learning technology commonly called “Midwife zone.” The E-learning platform according to health officials is out to increase competence and thereby improve infant and maternal health in the country given that over 700 women out of 100,000 lost their lives during child delivery with 61 per a thousand for infant mortality in Cameroon. 

The E-learning platform which is an initiative of the Public Health Ministry in partnership with the United Nation’s Population Fund and the German Society for International Cooperation GIZ was explained at a Meeting in Yaounde presided by the Minister of Public Health Andre Mama Fouda.

It will be new for most students, but officials say competent experts are available to give them the necessary tools as they look forward to train 250 midwives from each region come July 2015. During the training, they will be given tools such as laptops androit phones for the training. These tools will be used to download useful and rare information on midwivery so the network of midwives nationwide can benefit.

More than 100 people have been quarantined in Sierra Leone after coming in contact with a woman who died of Ebola last week, highlighting the potential for the disease to spread, just as the deadliest outbreak on record appeared to be over. The World Health Organization (WHO) last week declared that "all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa" after Liberia joined Sierra Leone and Guinea in going six weeks with no reported new cases of Ebola. At the same time, it warned of possible flare-ups as survivors can carry the virus for months. 

Just after the WHO announcement on Thursday, tests revealed that Mariatu Jalloh, a 22-year-old student, died of Ebola on Jan. 12. Her death has concerned health experts because authorities failed to follow basic protocols, according to a health report. The report stated that she lived in a house with 22 people while she was unwell. Five people were involved in washing her corpse, a practice that is considered one of the chief modes of Ebola transmission. The Ministry of Health and the Office of National Security said in a joint statement that 109 people have so far been quarantined, 28 of whom were high-risk cases. "An active case investigation continues in the four districts where the young woman was known to have traveled," the statement said.

The source of the transmission remains unclear, though in late December the woman traveled near to the border with Guinea, one of the country's last Ebola hot spots before it was declared Ebola-free on Nov. 7. The case is a blow for Sierra Leone which, alongside Guinea and Liberia, has borne the brunt of a two-year epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people.

A day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared West Africa Ebola-free, Sierra Leone recorded a new Ebola death. WHO had said such flare-ups were to be expected.

Researchers have been tracing the movements of Ebola's latest victim. The 22-year-old woman had actually died of Ebola. The woman, who was a student in Port Loko, travelled to Bamoi Luma, an area close the border with Guinea in late December. On her way back home to Tonkili District, she was reported to have had diarrhea and was vomiting. On January 8, 2016, she went to seek medical care at a local hospital. A health worker did take a blood sample, but it is unclear whether she was tested for Ebola. The disease went undetected. Four days later, she died.

The woman is said to have lived with about 22 other people and so far 27 people have been identified for monitoring. Sierra Leonean authorities, however, said that they are able to deal with this new case. They have dispatched a team to the affected area to track down any contacts the woman might have had. Certain areas will be quarantined, Francis Langoba Kellie, spokesman for the Office of National Security, told a local radio program.

'Our brothers and sisters died of Ebola'

Sierra Leoneans were disappointed by the news of the latest Ebola case. "Having gone through the recent horror of this Ebola menace, we hope things will be put in place for it not to happen again," a Osman Kamara, a Freetown resident told DW. "Our brothers and sisters died of Ebola. We pray to God that it will be the end of it," Willam Jessie Siafa, another resident said.

The two-year-long health crisis that hit the region had brought everything to a standstill. The travel restrictions and lockdowns had crippled the economy, schools in Sierra Leone were closed for nine months and the health system was heavily overburdened. "After WHO declared West Africa free from Ebola, our hearts are so saddened because it has come back, as if it is going to jeopardize the business in the country," businessman Moses Abata told DW. Peter Lahai, a student in Freetown also expressed fears that his education might once again suffer under a new outbreak.

Some Sierra Leoneans were more skeptical and voiced doubts over the emergence of the new case. They just want to take our minds off other things, one resident told DW's reporter Murtala Kamara. But, Kamara said, the awareness for Ebola however does exist. "When people feel sick, they rush to the hospital and seek medical care." The fear that had prevailed amongst Sierra Leoneans during the Ebola crisis is no longer present, he added.

WHO: 'the job is still not done'

The news that the woman's body had tested positive came just hours after the WHO had declared all three countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, Ebola-free. Rick Brennan, WHO director of emergency risk assessment and humanitarian response had predicted new flare-ups of the virus. "While this is an important milestone, the job is still not done," Brennan told reporters in Geneva on Thursday (14.01.2016).

The virus still exists in the bodies of some of the survivors. It can, for instance, survive for up to 12 months in male semen. Although the risk is very low, it is still there, Brennan explained.

Nevertheless, WHO‘s Ebola experts on Thursday said they were confident that the local health authorities were ready to handle any new cases. According to Brennan, all of the WHO's 70 field offices are still in place across the three countries to support the national health systems.

The fact that this latest case went unnoticed until after the woman's death although she sought medical advice, has left Sierra Leoneans skeptical. "We learnt that people were holding a small demonstration in front of that hospital," Kamara said. "They blame the medical workers in that hospital for failing to recognize that she had the disease."

(DW)

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Cameroon Concord  is an online publication covering and reporting on  local and world news, sports, entertainment, politics, business, and religious news. Serving Cameroonians .

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