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Safeguarding our future: Protect communities from vaccine-preventable diseases

Safeguarding our future: Protect communities from vaccine-preventable diseases

AFRICAN Vaccination Week took place from 24 to 30 April, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) launched by the Department of Health which aims to provide life-saving vaccines to every child, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status. Since its inception, the EPI has made outstanding achievements, including eradicating smallpox in 1978 and the current drive to eradicate poliomyelitis. Through immunisation campaigns, there have been significant reductions in morbidity and mortality, particularly in children, due to vaccine-preventable diseases like tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis, influenza, measles, rubella, yellow fever, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping…
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Over 100 inmates die in DR Congo prisons since start of year

Over 100 inmates die in DR Congo prisons since start of year

More than 100 inmates have died so far this year in the Democratic Republic of Congo's underfunded and chronically overcrowded prisons, a U.N. human rights official said. The main cause of the deaths was contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, which spread easily in crowded facilities and require unavailable medical attention. Insufficient food also contributed, the official said. The U.N.'s Joint Humans Rights Office has so far confirmed 104 deaths in detention since the start of 2024, its director Patrice Vahard said. This compares to 222 prison deaths in 2023, he said in an interview. Most of the recorded deaths occurred…
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African scientists are working to pool data that decodes diseases – a giant step

African scientists are working to pool data that decodes diseases – a giant step

INFECTIOUS disease outbreaks in African countries are, unfortunately, all too common. Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Uganda; Marburg virus in Guinea or Equatorial Guinea; cholera in Malawi; malaria and tuberculosis are among them. These diseases do not respect human-made or porous borders. So it’s essential that scientists in Africa are able to generate and share critical data on the pathogens in time to inform public-health decisions. Authors ALAN CHRISTOFFELS, Director South African National Bioinformatics Institute, University of the Western Cape SOFONIAS KIFLE TESSEMA, Program Lead for Pathogen Genomics at the Africa CDC Genomic sequencing technologies are…
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TB kills 75,000 children in Africa every year: how this can stop

TB kills 75,000 children in Africa every year: how this can stop

TUBERCULOSIS (TB) is a preventable and curable disease. Half of the world’s 30 highest TB burden countries are in Africa. In many of these countries, TB is the leading cause of death across age groups, but especially among children. Globally, TB is the leading cause of death by any single infectious agent (above COVID-19 and HIV). Author GRAEME HODDINOTT, Socio-behavioural Scientist and Senior Researcher, Stellenbosch University The people most affected by TB are often the most socio-economically marginalised, with the fewest reserves to take them through the treatment journey. This is extremely challenging, with complex, often delayed diagnosis, many months…
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Like COVID, TB is a pandemic and must be treated as an emergency

Like COVID, TB is a pandemic and must be treated as an emergency

IN 1993, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared tuberculosis (TB) a global public health emergency. It urged nations to coordinate efforts to avert millions of deaths. Author RICHARD E. CHAISSON, Director, Center for Tuberculosis Research, Johns Hopkins University In January 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19, another airborne infectious disease, a public health emergency of international concern. The similarity between the global responses to these two pandemics ends there. The scientific, public health, medical, and pharmaceutical communities’ responses to COVID-19 in the past two years has been spectacular. Within two weeks of declaring COVID-19 a global emergency, the WHO had convened…
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First ever national survey shows the extent of South Africa’s TB problem

First ever national survey shows the extent of South Africa’s TB problem

SOUTH Africa’s long-awaited tuberculosis (TB) prevalence survey results were recently released. This is the first national prevalence survey of its kind for TB in South Africa. EMILY B. WONG, Assistant Professor, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) ALISON GRANT, Professor of International Health at LSHTM and Member of Faculty, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) TB prevalence surveys are difficult and expensive to do, and so are not carried out routinely, but have been done in many high burden countries following a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation in 2007. In the absence of prevalence survey data, TB estimates are based on the…
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TB treatments are notoriously hard to stick to: shorter regimens offer a breakthrough

TB treatments are notoriously hard to stick to: shorter regimens offer a breakthrough

TUBERCULOSIS (TB) is a major cause of illness and death around the world. In 2019, 10 million people fell ill with TB and close to 1.4 million people died. Most (95%) of the cases are in low- and middle-income countries. VIOLET CHIHOTA, Lead Senior Scientist, Aurum Institute It’s estimated that a quarter of the global population is infected with TB – that’s around 1.8 billion people. Most infected people have no symptoms and are not contagious. Most of them don’t even know they’re infected – their TB is latent. If left untreated, latent TB infection can progress to TB disease,…
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COVID-19 and HIV: so far it seems the outcome is not what was feared

COVID-19 and HIV: so far it seems the outcome is not what was feared

BURTRAM C. FIELDING, Professor and Director: Research Development, University of the Western Cape BASED on official figures – which may be somewhat under-reported – COVID-19 has not been as devastating in South Africa as initially feared. Back in March and April this year case numbers on the continent were still modest. But predictions and projections were sombre. There seemed to be consensus that African countries had weak public health systems and few testing facilities, and containment and social distancing were going to be problematic in poor communities. More specifically, local and international organisations pointed to the fact that these areas…
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Africa’s miners face new TB threat as pandemic disrupts treatment

Africa’s miners face new TB threat as pandemic disrupts treatment

KIM HARRISBERG VAMA Jele's heart dropped every time he heard that another migrant miner home from South Africa had died from tuberculosis (TB) due to skipping treatment under lockdown. In just four months, it happened 60 times. When COVID-19 shut South Africa's mines, workers from Jele's homeland eSwatini and other neighbouring nations rushed home - disrupting TB care for thousands of miners at high risk from the disease due to weakened lungs after years working underground. Jele - secretary general of a migrant mineworkers' association in eSwatini - said more lives could now be lost to TB as overstretched healthcare…
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Managing HIV and diabetes together: South African patients tell their stories

Managing HIV and diabetes together: South African patients tell their stories

SOUTH Africa faces a quadruple burden of disease: HIV, tuberculosis (TB), non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and injuries. South Africa has more people living with HIV than anywhere else in the world. Around 13.5% of the country’s total population has HIV. DR. EDNA N BOSIRE, Researcher, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU) & DSI NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development., University of the Witwatersrand Many of these patients are co-infected with TB and are also at risk of developing noncommunicable diseases. This can be attributed to a massive rise in noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes. Research shows…
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