Did you know that rabies kills more than 60,000 people each year? About half of all victims are children. This year on World Rabies Day, September 28, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) declared their promise to eliminate human rabies, a neglected tropical disease.
Rabies is a viral disease, spread from animals to humans through saliva. The most deaths from rabies occur in Africa and Asia, with the majority of cases transmitted by dogs. But rabies is preventable! Education and awareness, animal and human vaccinations, and community surveillance are some strategies for prevention and elimination. With lots of attention on the usual global health priority areas, it’s nice to see these three international organizations coming together to raise awareness and fight a neglected tropical disease.
Read their statement and watch this short video for more information.
Guinea-worm disease, or dracunculiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) with no vaccine or medication for treatment. The disease is caused by a parasitic worm known as the Guinea-worm and is transmitted through contaminated drinking water. Guinea-worm disease is the first parasitic disease set for eradication and this short World Health Organization (WHO) video shows the progress of eradication efforts to date.
When someone drinks water from a source contaminated with water fleas that carry the Guinea-worm larvae, the larvae are released in the stomach and pass into the body cavity. Over the course of 10-14 months, the larvae mature and turn into worms. At this point, a painful blister forms on the outside of the body (usually on the lower legs and feet) as the female worms try to exit the body. The blister causes an intense burning sensation which often leads people to submerge their legs/feet in water for relief. While the blister is submerged, the female worm comes out and releases thousands of larvae into the water, thus contaminating the water and completing the cycle of infection.
I find it amazing that Guinea-worm disease is on the verge of eradication because in this case, eradication has nearly been achieved through preventive measures alone. From health education and increased detection to water filtration and water treatment, the prevention efforts put forth have decreased the number of reported cases from 1,797 in 2010 to just 90 between January and June 2013.
This is a great accomplishment for the global health community. Congratulations to the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carter Center, UNICEF and all others supporting the eradication of Guinea-worm disease!
- A paper published in Science by a research group at the University of Maryland demonstrates that a fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, can be used to combat the malarial parasite inside the mosquito. Another promising study suggests that a compound produced by a seaweed in Fiji could be used to combat malaria.
- A new study has shown that that Internet kiosks providing information on prenatal and postnatal care have helped reduce infant, child, and maternal mortality rates in rural India.
- A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health last year found that the poorest third of the world’s population account for only 4% of surgeries worldwide, and that over two million people in low-income countries have no access to life-saving surgery.
- The first phase trials of the HIV vaccine developed in India were completed with no side effects reported. Meanwhile, a three-year research trial on a vaginal anti-HIV gel has been launched in Rwanda.
- The Trachoma Atlas, an open-access resource on the geographical distribution of trachoma, was launched by a team of collaborators from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the International Trachoma Initiative at The Task Force for Global Health, and the Carter Center. It is funded by a generous donation from (you guessed it!) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The European Solutions Enterprise for Neglected Diseases (euSEND), a new initiative, based in the Netherlands, was launched to aid in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. The organization’s goal is to “take the role of matchmaker” to facilitate partnerships in research for NTD treatments and vaccines.
- Swaziland has a large-scale circumcision drive in an attempt to lower HIV rates.
- Cash-transfer programs as a means of assisting the poor are beginning to gain attention and popularity from development and economic professionals. Mexico’s and Brazil’s have captured particular attention and are credited with poverty reduction and GDP growth.
- The first methadone maintenance program in sub-Saharan Africa recently opened in a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Heroin use is a growing problem in port cities, where the drug passes through en route from Afghanistan to Europe.
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Tagged Amanda Glassman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, bird flu, Brazil, Cambodia, Carnival, Carter Center, cash-transfer programs, cholera, circumcision, Dar es Salaam, domestic violence, European Solutions Enterprise for Neglected Diseases, euSEND, Ghana, Global Health News, H5N1, Haiti, heroin, HIV vaccine, HIV/AIDS, IAEA, India, Indonesia, International Trachoma Initiative, kidney transplant, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, malaria, Margaret Chan, methadone clinic, Mexico, Michelle Bachelet, Netherlands, NTDs, Rwanda, South Korea, surgery, Swaziland, Tanzania, trachoma, Trachoma Atlas, UN Women, United Network for Organ Sharing, vaginal anti-HIV gel, WHO, Yukiya Amano
I started off my morning with two unpleasant experiences: a burnt cup of coffee from my hotel’s breakfast buffet and a session on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Please don’t misunderstand me – the session, hosted by Dr. Hélène Carabin, was very interesting, but pictures of the clinical manifestations of those worms will make even the sturdiest of young professionals’ skin crawl. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about onchocerciasis, or river blindness (did you know that those worms can live for 14 years in the body?); helminthes; baglisascariasis, or raccoon roundworm (in Brooklyn, of all places); neurocysticercosis, and trachoma. These diseases have rightly earned their designation as NTDs – they are inexpensive and easy to treat and prevent, yet most people have never heard of most of them. (Alanna Shaikh has a theory that giving them more descriptive and graphic names will attract attention to them – you can read her proposed naming scheme here.)
Next up was a session hosted by Dr. Elvira Beracochea on aid accountability and effectiveness. There were several very insightful talks and an interesting discussion (Dr. Beracochea always likes to involve the audience, which can be fun). After a lunch of Vietnamese fast food, I attended a session on child survival and child health, to which I was invited by Ms. Beth Charpentier (Ms. Katherine Robsky’s colleague from Global Health Access Program). While I believe that maternal and child health is very important (and I am thrilled that it is enjoying so much attention from Secretary Clinton and other development advocates), I am not very familiar with that area, so I learned a lot.
Finally, I attended the “Careers in Global Health” panel that is organized by Dr. Carabin every year. There was a very useful presentation on the key knowledge areas and skills that currently global health leaders identified as crucial to the incoming workforce. Ms. Carol Dabbs provided some practical information on the different points of entry with USAID, and then Dr. Eckhard Kleinau told his incredible story of breaking into global health after finishing his residency (he and his wife sold everything they owned and drove to Burkina Faso – from Germany! – in a VW van). If you would like any of this information, please contact me by e-mail at jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com.
Finally, the section held its closing business meeting at 6. After committee updates, Dr. Miriam Labbok was recognized for her hard work as section chair for the past two years. I personally will always remember her as a very welcoming face when I attended the annual meeting for the first time last year as a CDC fellow – she encouraged us “newbies” to jump right in.
Tomorrow’s Global Health Luncheon promises to be a real treat (though I probably will not be able to attend – I will have to navigate public transportation back to the airport). The malaria session is always well-attended, however, and it is in the morning – so hopefully I will see you there!