The World Health Organization (WHO) has reached out to 16 African nations to provide support for preparedness and response to a listeriosis outbreak that started in South Africa in 2017 but is now threatening other countries on the continent.
The 16 countries are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nearly 200 South Africans have died since January 2017 as a result of contaminated ready-to-eat meat products that are widely consumed in South Africa and may also have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community (SADC)
South African health authorities recently declared the source of the outbreak as a factory in Polokwane, South Africa. This prompted a national and international recall of the food products. However, in light of the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the challenges relating to large scale nationwide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur.
Namibia has reported one confirmed case of listeriosis, a man who was admitted to hospital in early March. An investigation is ongoing to determine whether the case is connected to the outbreak in South Africa.
WHO’s Health Emergencies programme, the Global Outbreak alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) are working with the 16 priority countries to improve their ability to prepare for, detect and respond to potential outbreaks.
Immediate steps will include increasing awareness on listeriosis, enhancing active surveillance and laboratory diagnosis, ensuring readiness of Rapid Response Teams, and strengthening coordination and contingency planning. Experts have been deployed to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland to support these efforts.
“This outbreak is a wake up call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The Ministry of Health in Uganda in mid-March, 2018 warned Ugandans against consuming imported meat products mainly imported from South Africa in a bid to avoid the spread of the disease to the Country. No case of Listeriosis has been reported in Uganda as of 22nd March, 2018.
The link between the contaminated products, the producing company and strains of Listeria isolated from the patients was made by the use of whole genome sequencing of isolated strains of the Listeria bacteria. WHO is supporting further genome sequencing to determine which cases are linked to this on-going outbreak.
In March, South Africa hosted a meeting of SADC health ministers to address regional preparedness and response to listeriosis. Ministers committed to regional collaboration, exchanging information and strengthening national food safety systems in line with international standards.
WHO does not currently recommend any trade related measures in relation to the current outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa, other than the recall of products identified as sources of infection.
Countries are encouraged to pay more attention to common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli and Listeria, to notify WHO of listeriosis outbreaks in line with the International Health Regulations (2005), and to make use of WHO guidelines to strengthen surveillance of and response to the foodborne disease.
- Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
- Listeria monocytogenesare widely distributed in nature. They can be found in soil, water, vegetation and the faeces of some animals and can contaminate foods.
- High risk foods include deli meat and ready-to-eat meat products (such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats and sausages), soft cheeses and cold smoked fishery products.
- Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, such as people with immuno-compromised status due to HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis and should avoid high risk foods.
- Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease.
Source: World Health Organisation
Additional Reporting by Cliff Abenaitwe
Traditionally, rainfall was celebrated because it is believed to be a blessing from the creator. For farmers, it should be celebrated much more since over 85 percent of farmers in Uganda depend on it for agriculture. Even in urban areas, rainfall would mean life to urban farms and gardens, more rain water – hence a saving on the water bills and much more.
However, the situation has over the years been changing from good to bad and now it is worse. Rain is now more cursed than cherished in both urban and rural areas. What a pity!
A modern saying in Uganda goes that ‘Water is life when you are not staying in Bwaise’. Bwaise is one of the suburbs of Uganda’s Capital City- Kampala that is prone to floods.
What used to be a Bwaise problem however is now in many other urban areas.
In March 2018 alone- Mbarara, Rukiga (Muhanga town) and Kabale towns among others saw the worst floods in their recent past and this is a sign of what has gone wrong over the years and what is likely to come.
In rural Uganda, the writing has for long been over the wall. The rate of environmental degradation has been growing to alarming levels presently. Hill slope forest cover has been decreasing daily, the hill slopes are poorly cultivated, bush burning has persisted while the wetlands in the low lying areas have been encroached on for agricultural practices- making mudslides, soil erosion and subsequent flooding inevitable. These floods for many years have been far in rural areas, away from the public limelight and wide mass media coverage.
However, now that the ‘flood spirits’ have invaded the urban areas, where mass media coverage is high, it is now time to wake up to the mess that has befallen our areas.
Much talk has for years centred on the rate of environmental degradation in rural areas but this phenomenon is real in urban areas. The biggest portion of wetlands in urban areas have been degraded mainly for human settlement and many forests have been degazetted. This is dangerous for our urban areas. To make matters worse, our urban areas have no adequate planning for drainage channels as well poorly planned human settlements.
In many of the big urban areas, the damage has already been done and little can be done to lessen the flooding cases- but still something can be done and must be done immediately. All buildings should have a rain water harvesting system or plan in place. This would ultimately lessen the amount of water from the roofs to the surface. Also, urban drainage channels must be opened and maintained. We cannot afford a situation where rain water finds its way to wherever it wants. Our urban areas must have more trees planted and more green belts while all buildings must be on plan and the approval of such plans must be based on technical guidance not corrupt tendencies. For the growing towns, this is the time to have the necessary plans in place to mitigate future problems like this. If such floods are not lessened, loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of transport and business as well as spread of water-borne diseases will continue in Uganda.
In a nutshell, urban and rural floods are a sign of something gone wrong. We must take them as a warning of more danger to come and a springboard to action. In Uganda, we are found of calling government to act but in this case, government alone cannot do much. We all must join hands to protect the environment and promote sustainable urban growth.
Seeing people smoking in a music video or a movie is a common scene not only in Uganda but globally. These scenes make smoking look fancy and this has far reaching consequences on the people especially the youth who look at musicians and movie stars as role models.
Health activists involved in tobacco control are concerned by this trend and want an end to it.
Andrew Kwizera, the Technical Resource Person in charge of the East African region for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids- a global Organisation on Tobacco Control says that many celebrities show scenes of smoking in music videos and films yet many are seen as role models to the youth. “Many young people who follow these stars have adopted smoking. This is setting a bad image to these innocent young people”, Kwizera observes adding that as a result of smoking, young people have been exposed to various tobacco related diseases which are hard and expensive to treat.
Statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that the average age of debutant smokers is 12-14 years globally.
According to Richard Baguma Tinkasimire, the coordinator Uganda Health Communication Alliance- one of the organizations at the forefront of tobacco control campaign in Uganda, young people are easily lured into smoking mainly by peer pressure and copying those they look at as role models. “Parents, leaders and celebrities must set a good example to the young generation and make children pick the best practices from them. Acts like smoking or tobacco consumption in any form should be discouraged”, he explains.
As part of the efforts to promote a smoking free generation, health activists in Uganda have adopted the use of musicians and other celebrities in the tobacco control campaigns.
Sophie Gombya- a household name in Uganda’s music industry is one of the Tobacco control ambassadors. “It’s true we have a big following, we have power to influence behavior directly or indirectly. As musicians and celebrities must be aware that what we do and show impacts on our followers.
We must therefore be mindful not to encourage bad habits like smoking among the people especially the youth who follow and adore us”, the vibrant Gombya explains.
Apart from Gombya, the Tobacco control fraternity has also used people like the Uganda National Netball Team- the ‘She Cranes’ to rally people against Tobacco- a move that Baguma says is paying off.
The Legal Framework
Uganda is a signatory of to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 13 (4a) prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions.
Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act of 2015 also bans promotion and advertising of tobacco products, open display of tobacco products and selling of tobacco products to minors among others.
Whether showing of smoking scenes in movies and music videos is deliberate to lure people into this act, it is a clear breach of the law and the reality is- it ought to stop.
According to Kokulinda Lutgard, the head of Tanzania Tobacco Control Alliance, musicians and other celebrities have a huge impact on their following and can play a great role in Tobacco control but also everyone has a character to play in this campaign.
The Global Tobacco Burden
According to health experts, Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year worldwide with more than 6 million of those deaths as a result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
The most worrying fact is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest and alarming.
Over the years, significant strides have been made in Tobacco Control but this is more in developed countries than in the developing world.
A 2017 report by WHO on “Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies” reveal that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63 percent of the world’s population are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15 percent of the world’s population were covered.
Uganda has an estimated 1.3 Million smokers- according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report of 2013 with each smoker spending an average of 20, 730 Shillings (about 6 USD) on manufactured cigarettes per month.
Survival rates for children who get kidney transplants have improved significantly over the last half-century, a new study finds.
“The outlook for infants and children with end-stage kidney disease was once dismal, with poor survival rates after transplant. There has been great progress in pediatric kidney transplantation, and now the patient survival rate is almost 100 percent,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Srinath Chinnakotla.
Chinnakotla is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where the study was done.
Since 2002, 97 percent of children who had kidney transplants at the hospital were alive a year later. That compares to 85 percent 40 to 50 years ago, the study showed. Read More..
This is absolutely good news and light at the end of the tunnel. With this break-through, more children will survive kidney transplant and this is a strong foundation for further improvements in the entire health system. However, as we celebrate this good news, it is equally important to think about thousands if not millions of disadvantaged children who desperately need a kidney transplant but cannot be saved either because of the poor economic nature of their families or lack of such services in major health facilities nearby.
Comment by: Cliff Abenaitwe
Blood pressure and fluid retention improve in those counseled by dietitians, small study shows
Encouraging people with kidney disease to reduce their salt intake may help improve blood pressure and cut excess fluid retention, at least for a while, a new study suggests.
Study participants lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number)
by almost 11 points, on average, on a salt-restricted diet versus their usual diet. They also flushed out a liter of water (about one-quart) from their bodies, on average, by slashing salt in their diets, researchers said.
Having high blood pressure and retaining excess salt and water in the body stresses the heart and blood vessels, explained lead author Dr. Rajiv Saran of the University of Michigan.
For kidney disease patients, high blood pressure (or “hypertension”) and excess fluid in the body can be a toxic combination. “They die predominantly of cardiovascular disease,” said Saran, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology in the nephrology division.
Yet doctors rarely have time or make time to counsel each patient about salt-restricted diets, he said.
Saran and co-investigators wondered whether having trained dietitians talk to patients with chronic kidney disease by phone or in person about ways to lower daily sodium intake would make a difference. Read More
Low back pain affects millions of people in the United States, and the condition is one of the most common reasons for people missing work. New guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend noninvasive ways of treating nonradicular low back pain.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
report that approximately 31 million U.S. individuals experience low back pain at one point during their lives. The ACA also note that low back pain is the leading cause of disability across the world, as well as one of the most popular reasons why people miss work.
The condition accounts for a large proportion of all doctor visits in the U.S., and almost 25 percent of the entire adult population in the U.S. has experienced at least one day of low back pain in the past 3 months.
The fight against Polio has been boosted by a new grant from Rotary International- the largest group of committed volunteering men and women committed to serve and change the world.
Rotary has announced $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, bringing the humanitarian service organization’s contribution to $140 million since January 2016.
Nearly half of the funds Rotary announced January 2017 ($16.15 million) will support the emergency response campaigns in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and Central African Republic). Four cases of polio were detected in Nigeria in 2016, which had previously not seen a case since July 2014.
With these cases, funding is needed to support rapid response plans in Nigeria and surrounding countries to stop the outbreak.
While significant strides have been made against the paralyzing disease, with just 35 cases reported in 2016, polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas, and conflict zones. To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is needed.
In addition to supporting the response in the Lake Chad Basin region, funding has been allocated to support polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan ($7.15 million), Pakistan ($4.2 million), Somalia ($4.64 million), and South Sudan ($2.19 million). A final grant in the amount of $666,845 will support technical assistance in UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office.
Rotary has contributed more than $1.6 billion, including matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio immunization program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 35 confirmed in 2016, and no cases in 2017 so far.
What is Polio?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.
The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.
Key Facts about Polio
- Polio (poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under 5 years of age.
- 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
- Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 74 reported cases in 2015. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.
- As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
- In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects over 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas.