Congo Ebola outbreak poses high regional risk, says WHO

GENEVA/GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – An Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is likely spread over tens of kilometers (miles) and poses a high regional risk given its proximity to borders, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.

An ambulance from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) drives through a street in the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

Four people have tested positive for Ebola in and around Mangina, a town of about 60,000 people in North Kivu province, 100 km (62 miles) from the Ugandan border, the health ministry said. Another 20 people died from unidentified hemorrhagic fevers in the area, mostly in the second half of July.

News of the outbreak emerged just days after a previous outbreak on the other side of the Central African country that killed 33 people was declared over.

“It would appear that the risk, as we can surmise for DRC, is high. For the region it’s high given the proximity to borders, particularly Uganda,” said WHO’s emergency response chief Peter Salama.

“We’re talking about a few health areas mostly in one health zone. So we are talking about tens of kilometers but I stress that this is very preliminary information at this stage.”

Ebola is believed to be transported long distances by bats and can find its way into bush meat sold at local markets and eaten. Once present in humans, it causes hemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids. Over 11,300 people died of an epidemic in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

This is the vast, forested central African country’s 10th outbreak since 1976, when the virus was discovered near Congo’s Ebola river in the north. That is more than twice as many epidemics as any other country.

The response to Congo’s previous outbreak was considered a success despite the 33 deaths, as the use of a vaccine made by Merck helped contain the virus even when it reached a busy port city with transport links to the capital Kinshasa.

But this new outbreak poses new challenges. Eastern Congo is a tinderbox of conflicts over land and ethnicity stoked by decades of on-off war and this could hamper efforts to contain the virus.

An ambulance drives through a street in the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

About 1,000 civilians have been killed by armed groups and government soldiers around Beni since 2014, and the wider region of North Kivu holds over 1 million displaced people.

It may also be impossible to use a vaccine this time if the Ebola strain is different to the Zaire strain that the Merck vaccine protects against, Salama said. If it turns out to be the Sudan or Bundibugyo strain, “we may not have any vaccine options”, he told Reuters at WHO’s Geneva headquarters.

“FAST AS POSSIBLE”

Officials in Mangina rushed on Thursday to educate people about the risks of spreading the virus in a town that one local nurse told Reuters had no ambulance service.

Agents were deployed to warn people about the need for strict hygiene and the local radio station passed on messages to listeners about how to act, a local journalist said by phone.

Governor Julien Paluku of the North Kivu province talks to Congo’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga as they lead an anti-Ebola delegation to arrive in the town of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

“There is a great panic among the local population following the appearance of the Ebola epidemic,” said one local nurse by phone, who asked not to be named.

The hospital where she works has already seen three people die recently of hemorrhagic fever. They are awaiting help from the Red Cross to bury the bodies properly, she said.

Meanwhile neighboring Uganda has set up screening at the land border and at its Entebbe international airport.

“Ebola is highly infectious so we have put in place measures,” Uganda’s Junior Health Minister Sarah Achieng Opendi told Reuters by telephone.

An international delegation including officials from the United Nations, the World Bank and the WHO has arrived in Beni, 30 km from Mangina.

“The response is already in place,” David Gressly, U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Congo, told journalists in Beni. “We (the U.N. mission) will offer logistical support and if needed security support. We are all … here to see how we can organize this as fast as possible.”

Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Writing by Edward McAllister and Tim Cocks, editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, William Maclean

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Sex problems among middle-aged Canadians common

Researchers found nearly 40 per cent of women and almost 30 per cent of men between the ages of 40 and 59 face challenges in their sex lives. Based on a first-ever national survey of 2,400 people, the study found low desire, vaginal dryness and difficulty achieving orgasm to be common challenges facing women. Low desire and erectile and ejaculation problems are the common challenges facing men.
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Congo declares new Ebola outbreak in eastern province

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Four people have tested positive for Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo just days after another outbreak that killed 33 people in the northwest was declared over, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo

Twenty people have already died from hemorrhagic fevers in and around Mangina, a densely populated town about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of the city of Beni and 100 km from the Ugandan border, the ministry said in its statement, without saying when the deaths occurred.

A team of 12 experts from Congo’s health ministry will arrive in Beni on Thursday to set up a mobile lab, the ministry said. The World Health Organization has started moving staff and supplies to the area, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet.

They head to a region where deep security problems could complicate efforts to contain the virus. About 1,000 civilians have been killed since 2014 in fighting between rival militia groups around Beni, and the wider region of North Kivu holds over 1 million displaced people. It is also an area with strong trade with neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

The ministry said no evidence linked this outbreak with the last one, which began in April and occurred over 2,500 km (1,553 miles) away in northwestern Congo.

But the latest flare-up is a reminder of how elusive the virus can be, especially in the teeming equatorial forests of Congo where it finds a natural home.

“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General of emergency preparedness and response said in a statement.

“This is an active conflict zone. The major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population.”

This is the central African country’s 10th outbreak since 1976, when the virus was discovered near the eponymous river in the north. That is more than twice as many as any other country.

Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats and can turn up in bush meat sold at food markets throughout Congo. Once present in humans, it causes hemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

An outbreak concentrated in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea killed at least 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016.

Congolese and international health officials were credited with responding rapidly to the last outbreak, including by deploying an experimental vaccine manufactured by Merck given to over 3,000 people.

That and aggressive tracing of people who had come into contact with Ebola patients helped contain the virus’ spread after it reached a large river port city.

The WHO said that it still had staff and equipment in place from the last outbreak, which will help in this latest response.

“Ebola is a constant threat in DRC. What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again,” WHO head Ghebreyesus said.

“We will fight this one as we did the last.”

Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Aaron Ross and Edward McAllister; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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WHO moving staff and supplies to Congo’s new Ebola zone

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization has started moving staff and supplies to the area of Democratic Republic of Congo affected by a new Ebola outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet on Wednesday.

A logo is pictured on the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“Ebola is a constant threat in DRC. What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again,” Tedros said.

“We will fight this one as we did the last,” he said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Preventing pneumonia is easy

Did you know that about 1 million Americans go to the hospital with pneumonia every year? Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by pneumococcal disease, which can also cause blood infections and meningitis. The bacteria that causes pneumococcal disease spreads by direct person-to-person contact. There’s a vaccine to help prevent pneumonia, but only 67% of adults 65 and over have ever gotten it.

Medicare can help protect you from pneumococcal infections. The pneumococcal shot is the best way to help prevent these infections. Medicare Part B covers the shot and a second shot one year after you got the first shot.

You may be at a higher risk for these infections if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have a chronic illness (like asthma, diabetes, or lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease)
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system (like HIV, AIDS, or cancer)
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • Have cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Smoke tobacco

Learn more about Medicare-covered vaccines by watching our video. Protect yourself from pneumonia—get your pneumococcal shot today.

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Vitamin D supplementation could significantly improve quality of life for RA patients

August 1, 2018

Scientists have discovered that in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, lower levels of vitamin D are associated with increased disease severity. Their findings, announced today at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, indicate that vitamin D supplementation could significantly improve quality of life for RA patients.

While there is no cure for RA-;an autoimmune disease that affects more than 1.3 million Americans-;treatment with powerful therapies such as biologic or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs can lead to remission of symptoms. However, research shows that within a year of achieving remission, half of RA patients relapse. This can be due to patients tapering or stopping medication to reduce negative side effects, as well as the fact that some individuals develop antibodies that inhibit biologic drugs in particular. A more effective and sustainable treatment is therefore needed so that more RA patients can benefit from long-lasting remission. Vitamin D could potentially fill this role, as it is a critical modulator of immune activity and earlier findings have suggested that RA could be tied to vitamin D deficiency. No previous studies, however, have assessed how vitamin D levels impact the clinical course of this condition.

This led a research group helmed by Tomas De Haro Muñoz, MD, of Hospital Universitario Campus de la Salud in Spain, to investigate the relationship between vitamin D levels and the severity of RA symptoms. They measured levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D)-;a marker of vitamin D status-;in blood samples from 78 patients with RA and 41 healthy controls. The researchers also recorded whether the RA patients had active disease or were in remission.

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Statistical analysis of 25(OH)D measurements showed that, overall, the RA patients had low 25(OH)D concentrations compared to healthy individuals, with only 33% of RA patients displaying adequate vitamin D levels. Notably, 25(OH)D levels were even lower in patients who had active disease and displayed more severe symptoms, such as a higher number of painful and inflamed joints, compared to patients in remission. These findings suggest that targeting vitamin D deficiency could potentially be key to helping patients achieve and maintain RA remission.

“According to the results obtained, we have observed that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the activity of [RA],” said Jose Luis Garcia de Veas Silva, PhD, a coauthor of this study. “Patients with active disease had lower levels of vitamin D than those with disease in remission. Our results indicate that vitamin D supplementation should be considered in the treatment of patients with RA.”

Source:

https://www.aacc.org/media/press-release-archive/2018/07-jul/vitamin-d-could-alleviate-rheumatoid-arthritis-symptoms-70th-aacc-annual-scientific-meeting

Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Research News | Medical Condition News

Tags: Antibodies, Arthritis, Autoimmune Disease, Blood, Cancer, CRISPR, Diagnostics, Drugs, Genetic, Hospital, Laboratory, Mass Spectrometry, Molecular Diagnostics, Nucleic Acid, Research, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spectrometry, Vaccine, Vitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin D Deficiency

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