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African officials say spread of Monkeypox is already an emergency

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

Health authorities in Africa say they are treating the expanding monkeypox outbreak there as an emergency and are calling on rich countries to share the world’s limited supply of vaccines in an effort to avoid the glaring equity problems seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monkeypox has been affecting people in parts of central and west Africa for decades, but the lack of laboratory diagnosis and weak surveillance means many cases are going undetected across the continent, The Associated Press reported. 

To date, countries in Africa have reported more than 1,800 suspected cases so far this year including more than 70 deaths, but only 109 have been lab-confirmed.

“This particular outbreak for us means an emergency,” said Ahmed Ogwell, the acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control. 

“We want to be able to address monkeypox as an emergency now so that it does not cause more pain and suffering,” he said.

Last week, WHO said its emergency committee concluded that the expanding monkeypox outbreak was worrying, but did not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency. The UN health agency said it would reconsider its decision if the disease continued spreading across more borders, showed signs of increased severity, or began infecting vulnerable groups like pregnant women and children, AP reported.

Globally, more than 5,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 51 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of those cases are in Europe. No deaths beyond Africa have been reported.

Within Africa, WHO said monkeypox has spread to countries where it hasn’t previously been seen, including South Africa, Ghana and Morocco. But more than 90 percent of the continent’s infections are in Congo and Nigeria, according to WHO’s Africa director, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso.

Health

Pakistani doctors treat 3,764 Afghan patients at free eye clinic in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

A team of Pakistani ophthalmologists examined a total of 3,764 Afghan patients at a four-day free eye clinic at Noor Hospital in Kabul this past week.

The free clinic was organized by an 11-member team of Pakistani doctors in collaboration with the Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum, Al Khidmat Foundation, and Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

The Pakistani doctors performed a total of 516 surgeries. These included 482 cataract surgeries, 22 oculoplastic surgeries and 12 vitreoretinal surgeries.

Dr. Zahir Gul Zadran, head of Noor Hospital, thanked the organizers for their support and said: “These doctors have also brought medical equipment to this hospital for the treatment of patients, the value of which is about Rs 2.4 million lakhs ($10 million).

Zadran said this was the second time that these doctors visited Noor Hospital to treat Afghan patients.

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New Langya virus infects 35 people in China

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2022)

A new virus, which can be transmitted to humans from animals, has infected 35 people in Shandong and Henan provinces, according to a study by scientists from China, Singapore and Australia published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

So far, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The Henipavirus (also called Langya henipavirus or LayV) was first detected in late 2018 but was only formally identified by scientists last week, the Guardian reported.

It was discovered  thanks to an early detection system for feverish people with a recent history of exposure to animals, Bloomberg reported.

The virus was found after throat swabs were taken from the patients who were mostly farmers.

The virus is entirely novel, meaning it has not infected humans before.

But two viruses from the same family had been identified previously – the Hendra virus and Nipah virus. Both can cause severe and sometimes fatal illnesses. There are no vaccines or treatments, The Sun reported.

So far, the cases have not been fatal or very serious, so there is no need for panic, said Professor Wang Linfa from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore who was involved in the study.

He added that it is still a cause for alarm as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when they infect humans.

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Italy kicks off vaccination campaign against monkeypox

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

Italy launched its vaccination campaign against monkeypox on Monday, as case numbers increased at a time when health authorities are reporting vaccine shortages worldwide, Reuters reported.

Italy has reported 545 cases of monkeypox, according to the health ministry. Its vaccination campaign started more than a month after other countries that have seen higher numbers of cases, including the United States, Britain and Spain.

The first doses will be given at the Spallanzani hospital in Rome, the hospital said in a statement.

The vaccine used will be Jynneos (MVA-BN), a smallpox vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic and approved by the European Medicines Agency for protection against monkeypox, the hospital said.

On Thursday, vaccinations will also begin in Italy’s financial capital, Milan.

Monkeypox is spread chiefly by close contact, causes pus-filled sores and flu-like symptoms, and is rarely fatal. There have now been 26,500 cases worldwide outside the countries where it usually spreads, according to a Reuters tracker.

In July, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”, its highest alert level.

The first case in Italy was recorded on May 20, 2022. There are no current plans for mass vaccinations.

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