FRIDAY, Feb. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The United States is in the grip of a tough flu season, no doubt.
It might seem as if every other person you know has fallen prey to influenza. Actually, though, health experts say this flu season is pretty much on par with other severe seasons.
Here's what else they have to say:
How bad is the current flu season?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it moderately severe, although it resembles the 2014-2015 season, which wound up being characterized as a high-severity season. To date, the flu has been labeled widespread in 49 states, and 48 states have reported either high or moderate flu activity, along with New York City, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
"This is a bad flu season," said Dr. Robert Raspa, a practicing family physician in Jacksonville, Fla. "There will be times when you have three or four people in the office at the same time who test positive for flu," he explained.
"That doesn't mean it's Armageddon or anything," Raspa added. "But it is a bad season and people really should take the usual precautions."
The most recently reported rate of hospitalizations for flu is 51.4 per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. However, this season 9.7 percent of all deaths have been attributed to flu and pneumonia — which is above the CDC's threshold for an epidemic of 7.2 percent.
Why is this season so bad?
About two-thirds of confirmed flu cases in the United States have been caused by the H3N2 strain, the most dangerous of the four most common seasonal flu strains.
According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, "The season has been dominated by the H3N2 influenza A strain and, as is true of prior seasons dominated by this strain, severity is increased."
This is the 50th anniversary of H3N2's first emergence, which occurred in Hong Kong in 1968, according to the CDC. That should mean that many people have been exposed to the virus and thus would have some partial immunity to it.
However, H3N2 remains very adapted to humans and incredibly effective at evading the human immune system, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the CDC's Influenza Division.
Is this year's flu vaccine working?
Statistics released Thursday out of Canada suggest this season's vaccine is just 17 percent effective againt the H3N2 strain. Meanwhile, U.S. estimates of flu shot effectiveness are yet to come.
A big problem with H3N2 is that it's tough to create effective vaccines against it.
Vaccines typically are grown in eggs. But, H3N2 is so human-adapted that the virus ends up changing when grown in eggs, Jernigan said. That means it doesn't closely resemble the H3N2 circulating among people, he explained, and these changes could be affecting vaccine effectiveness.
You still should get a flu shot, however, because it can blunt the impact of the virus even if you do wind up sick, Raspa and Adalja said.
"The vaccine, while it may not prevent one from developing flu, can prevent some of the downstream consequences of severe influenza — such as hospitalization, need for ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation, death, and even ear infections," Adalja said.
What about drug treatment once you get the flu?
Antiviral flu medications like Tamiflu, Relenza and Rapivab also remain quite effective against all circulating strains of flu. According to the CDC, only the H1N1 strain appears to be developing any resistance.
Dr. Sandra Fryhofer is an internist in Atlanta and the American College of Physicians' liaison to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. She said she is prescribing flu antivirals in advance to her sickest patients — those who are elderly, on chemotherapy, or suffering with immune system problems, heart or lung disease, or diabetes.
"I'm recommending they have Tamiflu at home so if they get sick they can call me and we can decide whether they should take it," Fryhofer said.
These antivirals are effective if taken soon after infection sets in, within the first day or two. "If you get a shaking chill and a cough, you should get a prescription as soon as possible," Raspa said.
Shortages of these drugs may occur. In a statement issued Thursday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the agency is "hearing from some health care providers that there are spot shortages of some antivirals used to treat the flu and flu tests." But he added that, right now, "there is no nationwide shortage of these products."
How many people have gotten the flu?
About 7.1 percent of all Americans who have gone to see a doctor this season have had flu-like illness, the CDC reported. In 2009, during a worldwide pandemic of H1N1, the rate peaked at 7.7 percent.
Are lots of people dying from the flu?
Although the 9.7 percent death rate attributed to the flu is above the CDC's epidemic threshold, it has not reached the peaks seen in 2012-2013 and 2014-2015, the agency said.
The number of pediatric deaths is tracking well below those years, however. About 53 children have died from flu so far this season, compared with a total of 110 in 2016-2017, 92 in 2015-2016 and 148 in 2014-2015.
Keep in mind that the CDC estimates that the flu season is about halfway done. Flu seasons typically last about 16 weeks; this season has reached 11 weeks and counting.
In recent seasons, the overall U.S. death toll from the flu has ranged from a low of 12,000 in 2011-2012 to a high of 56,000 in 2012-2013, the CDC noted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the flu.
Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care
Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, t..
Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.
When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.
“When she collapsed, a friend called me,” he explains. “By the time I arrived she was already unconscious. I decided to take her to the health center and luckily someone who had a motorcycle helped me. Because of the violence many people who are sick wait at home and die. Everyone is afraid of taking the road to the health center in Barsalogho.”
Across Burkina Faso, the rising insecurity has forced over a hundred health centers to close, or to limit their work. Half a million people now have little or no access to health care. Dedicated health workers, among them Dr Bertrand Dibli in Barsalogho, are struggling to meet the needs, and to stay safe themselves.
“This is one of the few health centers that isnt closed,” he says. “We dont have enough equipment. And the insecurity has caused huge anxiety among health workers. Even coming here to Barsalogho is a huge challenge because the route is so dangerous.”
The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.
“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, its a vicious circle that is trapping the civilian population between armed groups.”
“We also see,” Mr Maurer added, “that it is not only the violence that is affecting the country, it is also under development, and climate change. Together with the violence that is obstructing the health services, its an accumulation of factors.”
And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.
“By the time they are able to get here, it is often too late” she says. “Sometimes we can help, but if they have already been ill a long time, it is difficult. We try to do what we can.” (more…)
World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC
WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the G..
WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.
The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.
The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.
“WHO is very grateful for the World Banks support, which fills a critical gap in our immediate needs for Ebola response efforts in DRC, and will enable the heroic workers on the frontlines of this fight to continue their lifesaving work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “We keenly await further funding from other partners to sustain the response through to the end of the year.”
The DRC government, working in collaboration with the World Bank, WHO, and other key partners, has finalized the Fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP4), which outlines the total resources needed for the DRC Ebola Crisis Response from July to December 2019. The financing announced today is part of the World Banks previously announced financial package of up to US$300 million and covers over half of SRP4s needs, with the remainder requiring additional funding from other donors and partners.
“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”
The Government of DRC requested US$30 million from the PEF Cash Window to be paid directly to WHO. The PEF Steering Body approved the request bringing the PEFs total contribution to fighting Ebola in DRC to US$61.4 million. The PEF is a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank; its Steering Body is co-chaired by the World Bank and WHO, and comprises donor country members from Japan, Germany and Australia. The quick and flexible financing it provides saves lives, by enabling governments and international responders to concentrate on fighting Ebola—not fundraising.
Borno State launches first Malaria Operational Plan, reawakens fight against malaria
Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nige..
Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nigeria, the Malaria Annual Operational Plan (MAOP) was developed and launched on 08 August 2019 with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Aligned to the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014 -2020), MAOP was developed through a broad-based stakeholders workshop involving malaria stakeholders, reviewed on different thematic areas and endorsed by the Commissioner for Health and Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health.
Speaking during the launch, the Borno state Malaria Programme Manager, Mr Mala Waziri described the MAOP as the first to be endorsed and disseminated in Borno State. “WHO has made us proud by supporting the first ever Malaria Operational Plan right from development, review, printing to dissemination.”
Dr Ibrahim Kida, the Ministerial Secretary Borno State Ministry of Health and Incident Manager of the state, described the launch as “an historic event as stakeholders across the health sector made commitments to use the document as an implementation guide for all malaria programs”. The plan was also described as an advocacy tool for planning domestic funds mobilization.
The MAOP has seven objectives among which are: provide at least 50% of targeted population with appropriate preventive measures by 2020; ensure that all persons with suspected malaria who seek care are tested with Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) or microscopy by 2020 and all persons with confirmed malaria seen in private or public health facilities receive prompt treatment with an effective anti-malarial drug by 2020.
The MAOP will further ensure that at least 50% of the population practice appropriate malaria prevention and management by 2020, ensuring timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in Borno State by 2020.
In addition, it seeks to ensure that all health facilities report on key malaria indicators routinely by 2020 and finally strengthen governance and coordination of all stakeholders for effective program implementation towards an A rating by 2020 on a standardized scorecard. These strategic objectives have specific targets and the MAOP takes into account the humanitarian response.
“Malaria remains a leading cause of poor health in Nigeria. According to the 2018 WHO Malaria Report, 53million cases are recorded annually in Nigeria, roughly 1 in 4 persons is infected with malaria contributing 25% of the global burden,” says Dr Nglass Ini Abasi, WHO Malaria Consultant for the North East.
“Furthermore, 81,640 deaths are recorded annually (9 deaths every hour), which accounts for 19% of global malaria deaths (1 in 5 global malaria deaths) and 45% malaria deaths in West Africa. The Nigeria Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) 2014-2020 has a goal to reduce malaria burden to pre-elimination levels and bring malaria-related mortality to zero and WHO is working assiduously with Government to ensure the burden is reduced accordingly.”
Results from WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) week 30 report from 223 sites, (including 32 IDP camps) show that malaria was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality accounting for 35% of cases and 46% of reported deaths. In addition, results from the Nigeria Humanitarian Response Strategy (NHRS 2019-2021) indicate 7.1million people are in dire need of healthcare and 6.2million are targeted for immediate attention.
Despite recent improvements, insecurity remains a challenge limiting access to the functional health facilities. Easily preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases account for the greatest proportion of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable population. Furthermore, Malaria is endemic in North East Nigeria and the transmission is perennial with a marked seasonal peak from July to November every year. (more…)
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