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Ebola outbreak ‘not global emergency yet’

The World Health Organization says the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not ye..

The World Health Organization says the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not yet a global health emergency.

The Ebola outbreak is the second biggest in history – infecting 1,206 people and killing 764. It shows no sign of being contained soon.

Efforts by healthcare workers have been hampered by conflict and rebel attacks.

And experts have warned it will be "very difficult to bring it under control".

But Prof Robert Steffen, chairman of the WHO's emergency committee on Ebola, said declaring an emergency would not change anything on the ground.

He said: "It does not mean we can lean back and relax.

"Funds are now needed to avoid a public health emergency of international concern."

The World Health Organization said it had received only half the money it needed to tackle the disease.

The outbreak started in August 2018 and is still contained within two provinces in DRC – North Kivu and Ituri.

However, the WHO has warned a "rising number of security incidents" has been making it hard to monitor the spread of the virus, vaccinate people and contact anyone who has been in contact with an Ebola patient.

Cases have been increasing in recent weeks and the WHO says the risk of the virus spreading to neighbouring countries is "very high".

It says the risk of the virus spreading globally is low.

What is Ebola?

  • Ebola is a virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat.
  • It progresses to vomiting, diarrhoea and both internal and external bleeding.
  • People are infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.
  • Patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.

Most Ebola outbreaks are over quickly and affect small numbers of people.

Only once before has there been an outbreak that was still expanding – and with such a high number of cases – more than eight months after it began.

That was the epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 which killed 11,310 people.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome charity, said: "The teams in DRC need all our support and resources, including finance, healthcare workers, enhanced security and infrastructure, as well as more international political support.

"This epidemic is at a very dangerous phase in an incredibly difficult environment, and we urgently need the response to evolve to help stop Ebola spreading and save lives."

Unlike the West Africa outbreak, a vaccine has been available which is being used to protect people at risk – iRead More – Source

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‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts ..

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is "exhilarating".

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

How does it work?

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

This results in synthesised speech coming out of a "virtual vocal tract".

Why do it like that?

You might think it would be easier to scour the brain for the pattern of electrical signals that code for each word.

However, attempts to do so have only had limited success. (more…)

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Measles: Half a million UK children missed jab

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 20..

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 2017, an analysis by children's charity Unicef reveals.

It comes as NHS chief Simon Stevens warned measles cases had almost quadrupled in England in just one year and urged families to get the vaccine.

He said people rejecting vaccines was a "growing public health time bomb".

Globally, the report shows, 169 million children were not given a first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.

'Alarming'

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications – including infections of the lungs and brain – and is sometimes fatal.

Health experts say children should have two doses of the vaccine to fully protect against the disease.

But, according to Unicef, a mixture of complacency, misinformation, scepticism about immunisations, and a lack of access to jabs has led to inadequate vaccination rates globally.

The report shows that between 2010 and 2017:

  • The US topped the list for the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries, with 2,593,000 missing the first dose of the vaccine
  • The comparable figure for France was 600,000
  • The UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period
  • In Nigeria, four million children under one did not get the first dose of the vaccine

Figures for the second dose of the measles vaccine "were even more alarming", Unicef said.

It found 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had not introduced a second dose, putting more than 17 million infants a year at a greater risk of getting measles as a child. (more…)

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No sedentary screen time for babies, WHO says

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new Worl..

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new World Health Organization guidelines.

Sedentary screen time, including computer games, should not happen before a child is two, the WHO says.

The limit for two- to four-year-olds is an hour a day and less is better.

The UK has no plans to update its own advice on screen use, which sets no time limits, although it says children should avoid screens before bedtime.

The UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health insists there is little evidence screen use for children is harmful in itself.

The new WHO advice focuses on passive viewing – youngsters being placed in front of a TV or computer screen or handed a tablet or mobile phone for entertainment – and is aimed at tackling child inactivity, a leading risk factor for global mortality and obesity-related ill health.

It is the first time the WHO has made recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five.

As well as warning against passive screen time, it says babies should not spend longer than an hour at a time strapped into a buggy, car seat or sling.

The guidelines will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow on Sunday.

The advice

For babies: (more…)

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