New UNAIDS chief, Ebola drugs, others dominate health stories last week

Vaccination used to illustrate the story
Vaccination used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: SundiataPost]

Science and health recorded major feats last week with the success of new drugs for the treatment of two deadly diseases – Ebola and Tuberculosis. Two new trial drugs passed the test for Ebola treatment while there was a breakthrough in treatment for drug-resistant TB.

Also, UNAIDS appointed a new executive secretary, Winnie Byanyima

PREMIUM TIMES brings you a roundup of some of the major health stories in the news last week.

Meningitis: Over 26 million children at risk in Nigeria

The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) said 26.7 million children aged between one to seven years face the risk of meningitis in 25 Nigerian states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

An official of the agency, Adetunji Adeoye, stated this on Friday in Akure, the Ondo State capital, at the flag-off of the introduction of meningitis vaccination (Men A) into routine immunisation given to nine months old.

Mr Adeoye said vaccines are the only way to prevent serious disease like meningitis, adding that Men A vaccine would protect children against the disease.

WHO, others want global action against tuberculosis

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Nearly one year after the first United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, world leaders have been called upon to implement immediate action on their commitments towards eradicating the disease globally.

This call was made by the Stop TB Partnership, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Health Organization in a press statement on the Global Funds website.

To curtail the menace of the disease, heads of states and government, last year October, at a Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Fight against Tuberculosis for 2018-2022, drew up some targets and financial commitments to fighting the disease.

Ebola: NCAA demands vigilance from airlines

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has directed all operators, especially airlines operating regional and international flights into the country, to exercise a high level of vigilance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier declared the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in line with International Health Regulations.

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The directive which has since been sent to all airline operators was signed by NCAA Director-General, Muhtar Usman.

Burundi launches Ebola vaccination campaign

Burundi Ministry of Public Health and AIDS Control on Tuesday kicked off the vaccination campaign for frontline staff against the Ebola virus disease. The campaign started at the Gatumba entry point at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The campaign is part of Burundi’s preparation for a possible case of Ebola. The campaign will be implemented under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health and AIDS Control, with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO). GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, is providing financial support for the exercise.

Burundi has received doses of the Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) to provide protection against the Zairian strain of the virus, which is currently affecting the DRC.

Ekiti govt. shuts five illegal hospitals

No fewer than five hospitals were on Thursday shut by the Ekiti State Government for operating illegally.

The Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, announced the closure during an unscheduled visit of the Medical Anti Quackery Committee set up by the state government to the hospitals.

She said that the state government would not tolerate quackery in medical practice in the state and would deal decisively with anyone caught in the act.

WHO approves two highly effective Ebola drugs

Two new treatments have offered a dash of hope in the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The World Health Organisation committee in charge of monitoring the efficacy and safety of the therapeutics recommended moving forward with REGN-EB3 or mAb114, after preliminary data from close to 500 patients showed that those who received these drugs had much higher chances of survival than those given ZMapp and remdesivir.

Responders are hopeful the positive results will encourage more people to go to treatment centres and seek early care. Many patients continue to stay in their communities, exposing more people to the virus and delaying their treatment, said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, during a telebriefing on Monday.

UNAIDS gets new executive director

Winnie Byanyima has been appointed as the new executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations body announced last week.

Ms Byanyima was the only woman shortlisted for the UNAIDS leadership position and was chosen over four other candidates: Chris Beyrer, Salim Abdool Karim, Bernard Haufiku, and Sani Aliyu.

Ms Byanyima has a tough to-do list which includes tackling some serious internal governance issues at the embattled U.N. body, whose leadership and organisational culture were put under the spotlight after a damning report in December 2018 described how the agency’s leaders failed to prevent and respond to harassment allegations.

There are also external challenges, with recent data showing an increase in new HIV infections in several countries and declining donor support for the AIDS response.

New drug for multidrug-resistant pulmonary TB

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved an anti-tuberculosis drug, called pretomanid, to treat patients suffering from extensively drug-resistant, treatment-intolerant, or treatment non-responsive multidrug-resistant pulmonary TB.

Treatment for these cases has typically involved multiple daily drugs and injections for over a year, a lengthy regimen that can be too complex and toxic for patients.

Global health advocates are hopeful the simplified regimen — which consists of only three drugs and a shorter treatment length of six months — could improve cure rates.

Yellow Fever: Ebonyi to conduct mass immunisation of residents

Following a recent outbreak of Yellow Fever in Ebonyi State, the state government on Monday said it will soon begin mass immunisation campaign against the disease in the 13 local government areas of the state.

It said the programme will be implemented in conjunction with all United Nations agencies and other partners.

The outbreak in the state began July 15 and with some deaths recorded.

The immunisation exercises will target residents of the state between the ages of 9 months and 44 years.

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