News Pouch: 4 October 2017





FACTBOX-New war on cholera aims to consign killer disease to history books
The World Health Organization and other agencies will launch an ambitious plan on Wednesday to slash cholera deaths by 90 percent by 2030 and eventually consign the disease to the history books.



OIE reports on ongoing outbreaks

WHO: Situation updates - Avian influenza - 13 Sept


WHO Global Influenza Updates - 4 October  Biweekly global influenza update has been posted today on the WHO influenza web site:

The latest FluNet summary of lab-confirmed data from GISRS is also available at

FAO: H7N9 situation - update - 20 Sept
FAO - H5N8 HPAI Global situation update - 13 Sept


How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health

Mass death changed how we think about illness, and government’s role in treating it

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal wave the Spanish flu, and many things changed in the wake of it. One of the most profound revolutions took place in the domain of public health.

The world was a very different place in the first decades of the 20th century. Notably, there was no real joined-up thinking when it came to healthcare. Throughout the industrialized world, most doctors either worked for themselves or were funded by charities or religious institutions, and many people had no access to them at all.



Ghana hosts post-Ebola workshop

A post-Ebola workshop on improving disease monitoring capacities and early warning systems in West Africa has opened in Accra with a call on countries to strengthen systems of prevention and early detection of emerging public health threats.




How should further research on #MERS-CoV be addressed?

This week, more than 130 experts from 33 countries gathered at a

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organization, FAO meeting to share their knowledge and accelerate the response to this global public health threat. Read more here:


Mass Casualty Incidents and the Overlap Between Trauma Systems and Hospital Disaster Preparedness (Bifurcated Needle)
The horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017 has resulted in nearly 60 deaths and more than 500 injuries at the time of this writing. The injured have been transported to a number of hospitals around Las Vegas and have overwhelmed some of the hospitals closest to the scene. A number of the injured are in critical condition and hence the death toll is likely to rise. Among other issues, this tragedy illustrates the overlap between trauma systems and hospital disaster preparedness. Go to article

UN Focuses Post-Disaster Efforts in the Caribbean on Early Warning, Preparedness
In the wake of the multiple disasters brought by the month of September, UN agencies have centered their efforts around improving early warning systems, meteorological and hydrological services, disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and risk reduction.

Wave exercise – NEAMWave 17: Tsunami exercise to be conducted for the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea

Organizer: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
Date: 31 Oct - 04 Nov 2017



Scientists with World Weather Attribution (WWA), using a combination of observed temperature data and climate models, have concluded that human-caused climate change made the record-breaking 2017 summer temperatures in the Euro-Mediterranean region at least 10 times more likely

Texas Official After Harvey: The ‘Red Cross Was Not There’
The Red Cross’ anemic response to Hurricane Harvey left officials in several Texas counties seething, emails obtained by ProPublica show. In some cases, the Red Cross simply failed to show up as it promised it would.

Draft U.N. blacklist names Saudi coalition for killing children in Yemen

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 (Reuters) -
A confidential draft United Nations blacklist seen by Reuters on Tuesday names a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition for killing and maiming children in Yemen, though it notes that the alliance has put in place measures to improve child protection.

In an effort to dampen controversy surrounding the annual children and armed conflict report, the draft blacklist - contained in an annex to the full report - is split into "listed parties that have put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children" and those which have not.

"In Yemen, the coalition's actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and, as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016," according to a draft explanation of the blacklist seen by Reuters.

World's biggest slum population poses risk for East Asia - report

East Asia and the Pacific, home to the world's largest slum population of 250 million people, need to invest more in urban planning to reduce risks like flooding and conflict, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

The rapidly urbanising region is also the most disaster-stricken in the world, it said, with many residents living in poor-quality housing on flood-prone land with limited access to basic services, it said.

When Hurricane Maria Hit Puerto Rico, 'Everything Collapsed Simultaneously'
(H5N1) The statutory requirements and protocols of disaster management are complex. The Defense Department has authority to send some of its assets where it sees fit, and in the case of Hurricane Maria did not initially deploy as many ships, sailors and soldiers as it could have. But the Defense Department is supposed to support, and follow the guidance of, FEMA. FEMA, in turn, is supposed to support the local and state (and in this case, territory) government. Go to article

A Mapathon to Pinpoint Areas Hardest Hit in Puerto Rico
(New York Times) Satellite images of rural outposts and grooved mountainsides dominated the computer screens inside a room in Manhattan, where more than 60 volunteers sat. One woman huddled over her laptop, carefully watching a thick red square bloom from the pen tool as she traced over a building. The group had assembled on Friday at Columbia University's Butler Library, for a three-hour mapathon, a tech-based response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria ripped out entire buildings, roads and power sources, resulting in logistical chaos on the ground. Go to article

Global Health

Most countries lagging on 2030 health SDGs
Singapore leads 188 countries while Afghanistan comes in last in terms of meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Scientists warn that unless significant political and financial investments are made, many countries will not meet the health-related UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Fewer than five per cent of the countries were likely to meet targets on road deaths, childhood obesity, suicides and tuberculosis. However, over 60 per cent of the countries were on track to meet targets on malaria, child mortality and neonatal and maternal death rates, according to a study published this month (12 September) in The Lancet. (Read More)

WHO: Universal Health Coverage Can Be Achieved Through Domestic Resources
Investments in UHC would prevent 97 million premature deaths between now and the year 2030, and would increase life expectancy by up to 8.4 additional years in some countries.The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners discussed universal health coverage (UHC), including pandemic preparedness, during a high-level side event on UHC that took place on the margins of the 2017 session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) annual General Debate. A WHO report released the same day shows that countries are not yet on track to achieve the target of reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). (Read More)

Realizing Gandhi's dream - 80 years on, India still strives for perfect sanitation

Eighty years ago, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, writing of the India he envisioned and dedicated his life to building, mused that an ideal village would be one that enjoyed ‘perfect sanitation.’ 

It was no idle wish.  Gandhi had seen the harms caused by inadequate sanitation and hygiene.  He had seen the disease and subsequent malnourishment it causes, threatening the lives and wellbeing of millions of Indians, especially children and other vulnerable people.  He had also seen the impact of open-defecation on the safety and dignity of women and girls.  And he understood that these harms were not only hurting individuals – they were holding back India’s economic and social progress as well.

Today, as the nation and indeed, the world, celebrate Gandhi’s birthday, his dream of perfect sanitation for India may be closer to becoming a reality than ever before.  

 New WHO senior leadership team
3 October 2017
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced his senior leadership team. The new team includes former ministers of health, some of the world’s leading physicians, scientists and researchers, and programmatic experts in universal health coverage, health emergencies, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, climate and environmental health, and women’s, adolescents’ and children’s health.
Read the statement




Curb animal antibiotics to stop spread of resistance, say health experts

ROME, Oct 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Giving farm animals too many antibiotics can stoke resistance to the drugs, and despite countries taking measures to curb their use in agriculture, in populous nations such as China and India antibiotic use on farms is expected to soar.

Farming experts say action is needed - especially as global demand for meat rises - to curb drug resistance.

Infections resistant to antibiotics are the greatest threat to human health, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month, and by 2050 some 50 million people a year may be dying of drug resistant infections, according to a major review in 2015.



Preliminary Results of Models to Predict Areas in the Americas with Increased Likelihood of Zika Virus Transmission in 2017.
Numerous Zika virus vaccines are being developed. However, identifying sites to evaluate the efficacy of a Zika virus vaccine is challenging due to the general decrease in Zika virus activity. We compare results from three different modeling approaches to estimate areas that may have increased relative risk of Zika virus transmission during 2017. Go to article

How Real-time Sequencing of Viruses Can Help Halt Outbreaks of Infectious Disease
(The Conversation)
It's been ten years since bluetongue virus arrived in Britain for the very first time. With UK conditions mirroring those in Holland where the virus was already circulating, its arrival had been widely anticipated - a case of when, not if. BTV causes a disease called bluetongue in cattle and sheep (although it is mostly sheep that are affected). The clinical signs for bluetongue can range in severity, from little or no sign of disease through to death. Go to article

Do Pathogens Gain Virulence as Hosts Become More Resistant?
(The Scientist)
One of the most remarkable events in the history of infectious diseases began at the end of 1950. A smallpox-like virus that was being trialed as a biological control agent for the invasive rabbit populations in Australia escaped from test sites and caused an outbreak of unprecedented scale, speed, and carnage. Within just six months, it had spread up the river systems in four states and was decimating rabbit populations across a million square miles. "In places it was possible to drive for a day or more through country that had previously been swarming with rabbits and see only isolated survivors," one research team reported. Go to article