The World Health Organization is scrambling to deliver enough yellow fever vaccine to cities in central Africa. An epidemic is burning through the populations of non-immune people in the urban centres. The potentially lethal disease is spread by mosquitoes. The Aedes adgypti is the species that is the vector.
Conditions in the rapidly growing urban centres in Africa make for easy mosquito breeding. The close proximity of non-immune people in often poor conditions make for the potential for rapidly spreading epidemics.
The potentially lethal disease is completely preventable with a one-time vaccination. The vaccine has not been a top priority for quite some time. Only four facilities are producing the vaccination and it takes a year and a half to complete the process. Currently about 6 million doses are available world wide.
The outbreak in Kinshasa, DRC, needs 16 million doses to quell the epidemic. The current epidemic started in Angola. The oil exporting country had cut back on public sanitation projects due to the drop in oil revenues which set up a perfect mosquito breeding scenario. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in very small amounts of still water that will hatch into disease carriers.
The disease was initially misdiagnosed as food poisoning which allowed it to spread unchecked. When it was correctly identified, a series of mistakes like improper refrigeration, no syringes to administer the vaccine and what still has the health workers mystified, one million doses gone missing. Because mosquitoes don’t respect political boundaries it has now spread to the centre of the continent.
Kinshasa is trying to cope with the epidemic coupled with lack of vaccine by spraying insecticide over any surfaces that may harbour A. Egypti. They are also doing a garbage sweep to try to reduce the number of breeding sites.
The spread of yellow fever and the apparent fumbling of the initial outbreak has WHO worried. Cases have popped up in Kenya but also in China which houses A. Aegypti. In fact any country that can support that breed of mosquito is vulnerable to the disease if it enters the insect population there.
A aegypti mosquito are now distributed to every continent.
The Washington Post
If you needed another reason to get the kids off the couch and outside, this is it. The rates of near sightedness are reaching epidemic proportions and poised to get worse.
About 90% of youngsters in East Asia have blurry distance vision. S. Korea has even higher rates. While glasses can help most youngsters, some children will suffer serious vision problems – cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and blindness. Blindness is expected to hit about 10% of those with myopia.
The US and Europe rates are better but still worrisome.
The rates are getting worse and getting worse quickly.
Evidence is starting to accrue that the modern life style is accelerating these changes. Children spend increasingly long periods inside buildings. Evidence is mounting that points to the sunshine that children are exposed to affects the growth of the eyeball, keeping it closer to the ideal shape. Bright indoor lighting just isn’t strong enough to accomplish this.
Researchers in Singapore have run some promising experiments with atropine eye drops. Low doses of the medication seem to help slow the development of myopia.
Currently about 1.45 billion have myopia. By 2050 over 4 billion are expected to have the condition. Aside from the human suffering, the loss of productivity and cost of looking after failing eyesight is expected to continue to increase. According to WHO figures for 2007, the cost of lost production world-wide was $US 268.8 billion.
There is no convincing evidence that close work damages the eyesight. It is the lack of bright sunshine that seems to cause the problem.
Sidney Morning Herald
It was the first time that the disease had been identified in the west. It has surfaced previously in Zaire and South Sudan.
The virus named Ebola was named after a small river in central Africa. The animal reservoir of the disease has not been identified conclusively but evidence is accumulating that points to bats.
The epidemic has cost the three countries hardest hit by the disease, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone dearly. Lost investor confidence and loss of tourist dollars have affected their economies. People could not conduct business normally or farm. Many children were orphaned in the epidemic and the countries are also hard pressed to provide care for the young. Some of the survivors of Ebola have ongoing health problems that will require life-long care.
In addition to the immediate economic and social impacts on these countries, the loss of highly trained health care providers will continue to have an impact on people’s health.
WHO Press Release
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