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Malawi cholera outbreak death toll rises above 1,000



(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

Malawi’s cholera outbreak has claimed more than 1,000 lives, according to the country’s health minister, who warned that some cultural beliefs and hostility toward health workers were slowing efforts to curb infections, AP reported.

Cholera had killed 1,002 people as of Tuesday, while 1,115 people were hospitalized from the outbreak that started in March 2022, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said. It’s the country’s worst outbreak of the waterborne illness in two decades.

The country of 20 million people recorded 12 deaths from 626 new cases in 24 hours, she said.

Frustration and suspicion over the rising cases resulted in weekend violence. Angry villagers beat up health workers and damaged a facility at the Nandumbo Health Centre in the Southern Region’s Balaka district.

Residents accused health workers of denying them an opportunity to conduct dignified burials. They forced some health workers to vacate the facility, stoned a cholera isolation ward and forced the discharge of 22 cholera patients.

Esnath Suwedi, vice-chairperson of the Nandumbo area’s development committee, a traditional local authority, said people thought the health workers were acting “mysteriously.”

Suwedi said residents alleged the workers were using contaminated syringes to inject people. The Balaka district is one of the worst affected areas, recording 46 deaths from 1,450 cases in the outbreak.

Cultural burial rites are also becoming a source of contention, Chiponda, the health minister, said during a daily briefing Tuesday.

“For example, people who are dying of or who have died from cholera may be washed by family members, who then prepare funeral feasts for family and friends held very soon after death. Outbreaks of cholera commonly follow these feasts,” the minister said.


New evidence shows origin of COVID could have been raccoon dogs



(Last Updated On: March 18, 2023)

Scientists have uncovered new genetic evidence from the market in Wuhan, China, where COVID cases were first detected in late 2019.

Scientific America reports the findings add support to an animal origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

These findings were presented to an advisory group convened by the World Health Organization earlier this week.

Florence Débarre, an evolutionary biologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research discovered genetic sequences of the virus that researchers in China – led by George Gao, former head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – had uploaded to a public genomic database called GISAID.

According to Scientific America, the sequences were subsequently taken down but not before several other researchers from different countries downloaded and analyzed them.

Samples containing viral RNA, which had been collected at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in early 2020, also contained genetic material from raccoon dogs – a foxlike animal sold at the market – as well as other animals.

The virus sparked a global pandemic that has killed nearly seven million people, and debate has raged over whether it was caused by a natural spillover from wildlife to humans or a lab leak from a facility studying coronaviruses in Wuhan.

The new evidence does not directly prove that COVID jumped into humans from infected raccoon dogs, but it adds to a growing body of evidence in favor of a spillover from animals, Scientific America reported.

“These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer,” said the World Health Organization’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a news briefing on Friday.

The scientists who are analyzing the data are currently preparing a report on their findings, which they hope to release in the coming days.

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IEA’s health minister on six-day visit to Qatar



(Last Updated On: March 16, 2023)

The Minister of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Dr. Qalandar Ebad left Kabul on Thursday for a six-day visit to Qatar.

Leading a high-ranking IEA delegation, Ebad will meet with Qatari officials to discuss the coordination of health services with Qatar; building capacity for Afghan doctors; and discussing cooperation and investment in the field of health care in Afghanistan, the ministry said.

The ministry added that Ebad will also visit a number of health care facilities in Qatar while in the Gulf country.

The Ministry of Public Health is trying to raise the level of knowledge and expertise of Afghan doctors so that Afghans will no longer need to go abroad for treatment.

Ebad had previously said that nothing has been done in the health sector in the past twenty years.

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Health ministry launches polio vaccination campaign



(Last Updated On: March 13, 2023)

The Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in collaboration with international partners, launched its first national polio vaccination campaign for 2023 on Monday.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, “the first National Immunization Days (NIDs) for polio eradication for 2023” aims to vaccinate more than 9.4 million children under the age of five against polio.

Vitamin A will also be administered to all children from 6-59 months of age to improve their immunity, the ministry said.

“The leadership of the Ministry of Public Health is strongly committed to eradicating polio from Afghanistan,” said Dr. Qalandar Ebad, the Minister of Public Health.

“The recent progress made in this regard is encouraging. Right now Afghanistan is much closer to polio eradication. Together we can eradicate polio from Afghanistan,” he said.

“The support of all Afghans, including parents, community leaders, ethnic elders, and religious leaders, is critical to eradicate polio and we want them to take part in the fight against polio to save Afghan children from permanent paralysis,” Ebad added.

Poliovirus infection can cause permanent paralysis or even death in affected children.

This year, to date, no polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan. Last year, there were two cases – one in Paktika and one in Kunar.

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