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U.S. identifies 109 cases of severe hepatitis, including 5 deaths, in children

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2022)

U.S. health officials on Friday said they are investigating 109 cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children, including five reported deaths, updating a nationwide alert issued in April for doctors to be on the lookout for such cases of the liver disease.

The cases have been identified over the past seven months in 25 states and territories, Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a conference call.

Fourteen of the children required liver transplants.

Butler said around half of the 109 children diagnosed with hepatitis were also infected with a type of adenovirus, a virus that causes the common cold, but the agency is still investigating the exact cause of the illness.

Hepatitis linked to this type of adenovirus has almost exclusively been associated with immunocompromised children, but many of the cases first reported to the CDC did not have immunocompromising conditions, Butler said.

He said the “vast majority” of the identified children were not eligible for COVID vaccination, which “appears to be unrelated to these cases.”

The CDC is investigating whether COVID infection may be playing a role, as well as exposure to other pathogens, medications and animals.

Compared to pre-pandemic rates, the agency said it has not seen an overall increase in the incidence of severe hepatitis in children, which remains rare.

The update follows investigations in the United States and Europe of clusters of hepatitis in young children.

The World Health Organization earlier this week said it had received reports of at least 228 probable cases from 20 countries with over 50 additional cases under investigation.

The CDC said it is working with counterparts in Europe to understand the cause of the infections that can cause liver damage and lead to liver failure.

Health

UAE sets up field hospital to treat Afghan earthquake victims

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(Last Updated On: July 4, 2022)

The United Arab Emirates has set up a 1,000-square meter field hospital in Paktika province to help treat injured earth-quake victims. 

The deadly 6.1-magnitude earthquake last month killed over 1,000 people, injured at least another 2,000 and destroyed or damaged more than 10,000 houses. 

The field hospital was sent by the UAE as part of a wide-ranging relief aid package that has been delivered to Afghanistan since the earthquake struck last month.

The field hospital includes 75 beds, 20 oxygen cylinders and two operating theaters and will contribute to a rapid medical response unit for those injured who require urgent medical assistance, UAE media reported Monday.

Eisa Aldhaheri, UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan, said: “Establishing the field hospital comes as part of the UAE’s efforts to respond to challenges and provide rapid medical intervention and life-saving treatment to those in difficult-to-reach areas most affected by the earthquake.”

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EU provides extra $41 million for polio vaccines, child protection in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2022)

The European Union announced this week that it will provide an additional $26 million for polio vaccines and another $15.6 million for child protection in Afghanistan. 

According to a statement issued by the EU, the funding for child protection will specifically be aimed at caring for migrant children at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. 

As Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, children across the country face violence and other threats to their safety, forcing them to make desperate decisions in order to survive, the EU’s statement read. 

Many children and young people feel forced into labor, and some choose to take the risky journey out of Afghanistan. Last year, 88 percent of households had at least one child working outside the home under difficult conditions, the EU stated.

“The dangerous journey for children across borders, especially when traversed alone, places these migrant children at risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse,” says Andreas von Brandt, EU Ambassador to Afghanistan. 

“That is why the EU is contributing an additional €15 million to UNICEF, to help identify boys and girls returning to Afghanistan who need help, and children at risk of migration, and give them options other than migration or labor.”

This money, provided as a continuation of EU support since 2018, will allow UNICEF to:

Provide psychosocial support to 18,000 unaccompanied minors, trace their families, ensure they are reunified and support them to reintegrate into their communities.

Provide vocational training, small business start-up or apprenticeships for 7,500 children and 500 adults.

Provide cash-based assistance to over 4,600 households most in need.

Reach out to over 230,000 community members to discuss the dangers of child migration and how it can be prevented or addressed.

Reach out to 140,000 men and women on preventing gender-based violence.

In addition, EU has contributed a combined $26 million to UNICEF and the World Health Organization to support polio vaccination campaigns across the country, especially at borders where children may be transiting.

“Afghanistan is one of the two remaining polio endemic countries in the world, and transmission often occurs when children move from Afghanistan to Pakistan and back, causing them to miss their regular vaccination appointments,” says Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. 

“These funds will allow UNICEF and WHO to strengthen polio vaccination efforts to ensure all children in the country, and those crossing transit points, are vaccinated against polio.”

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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.

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