World Health Organization
Every 2 minutes a woman dies due to pregnancy or childbirth: UN agencies
Every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, according to the latest estimates released today in a report by United Nations (UN) agencies. The report, ‘Trends in maternal mortality’, reveals alarming setbacks for women’s health over recent years, as maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in nearly all regions of the world. “While pregnancy should be a time of immense hope and a positive experience for all women, it is tragically still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high quality, respectful health care,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “These new statistics reveal the urgent need to ensure every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during and after childbirth, and that they can fully exercise their reproductive rights,” he added. Read More: UNICEF lauds Bangladesh’ breakthrough to accelerate universal birth registration The report, which tracks maternal deaths nationally, regionally and globally from 2000 to 2020, shows there were an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020. This marks only a slight decrease from 309,000 in 2016 when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect. While the report presents some significant progress in reducing maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, gains largely stalled, or in some cases even reversed, after this point. In two of the eight UN regions – Europe and Northern America, and Latin America and the Caribbean – the maternal mortality rate increased from 2016 to 2020, by 17% and 15% respectively. Elsewhere, the rate stagnated. The report notes, however, that progress is possible. For example, two regions – Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia – experienced significant declines (by 35% and 16% respectively) in their maternal mortality rates during the same period, as did 31 countries across the world. Read More: Majority of children with disabilities are not enrolled in any formal education: Survey “For millions of families, the miracle of childbirth is marred by the tragedy of maternal deaths,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “No mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications exist. Equity in healthcare gives every mother, no matter who they are or where they are, a fair chance at a safe delivery and a healthy future with their family.” In total numbers, maternal deaths continue to be largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict. In 2020, about 70% of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 223 globally). Read More: More Rohingya female teachers need training for increasing literacy among their community “This report provides yet another stark reminder of the urgent need to double down on our commitment to women and adolescent health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, and Director of the Global Financing Facility. “With immediate action, more investments in primary health care and stronger, more resilient health systems, we can save lives, improve health and well-being, and advance the rights of and opportunities for women and adolescents.” Severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortion, and underlying conditions that can be aggravated by pregnancy (such as HIV/AIDS and malaria) are the leading causes of maternal deaths. These are all largely preventable and treatable with access to high-quality and respectful healthcare. Community-centered primary health care can meet the needs of women, children and adolescents and enable equitable access to critical services such as assisted births and pre- and postnatal care, childhood vaccinations, nutrition and family planning. However, underfunding of primary health care systems, a lack of trained health care workers, and weak supply chains for medical products are threatening progress. Read More: When classrooms are child-friendly and safe, children are motivated to learn, research shows Roughly a third of women do not have even four of the recommended eight antenatal checks or receive essential postnatal care, while some 270 million women lack access to modern family planning methods. Exercising control over their reproductive health – particularly decisions about if and when to have children – is critical to ensure that women can plan and space childbearing and protect their health. Inequities related to income, education, race or ethnicity further increase risks for marginalized pregnant women, who have the least access to essential maternity care but are most likely to experience underlying health problems in pregnancy. "It is unacceptable that so many women continue to die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth. Over 280,000 fatalities in a single year is unconscionable,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “We can and must do better by urgently investing in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that every woman can get the lifesaving care she needs. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to end preventable maternal deaths; what we need now is the political will." Read More: Bangladesh ranks top among the countries to receive free Covid vaccine from WHO: Health minister The COVID-19 pandemic may have further held back progress on maternal health. Noting the current data series ends in 2020, more data will be needed to show the true impacts of the pandemic on maternal deaths. However, COVID-19 infections can increase risks during pregnancy, so countries should take action to ensure pregnant women and those planning pregnancies have access to COVID-19 vaccines and effective antenatal care. “Reducing maternal mortality remains one of the most pressing global health challenges,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Ending preventable maternal deaths and providing universal access to quality maternal health care require sustained national and international efforts and unwavering commitments, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every mother, everywhere, survives childbirth, so that she and her children can thrive." The report reveals that the world must significantly accelerate progress to meet global targets for reducing maternal deaths, or risk the lives of over 1 million more women by 2030. Read More: There are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer that occur each year: WHO
Is China sharing enough COVID-19 information?
As COVID-19 rips through China, other countries and the World Health Organization are calling on its government to share more comprehensive data on the outbreak. Some even say many of the numbers it's reporting are meaningless. Without basic data like the number of deaths, infections and severe cases, governments elsewhere have instituted virus testing requirements for travelers from China. Beijing has said the measures aren't science-based and threatened countermeasures. Of greatest concern is whether new variants will emerge from the mass infection unfolding in China and spread to other countries. The delta and omicron variants developed in places that also had large outbreaks, which can be a breeding ground for new variants. Read More: WHO 'continues to urge' China to share more data amid Covid surge Here's a look at what's going on with China's COVID-19 data: WHAT IS CHINA SHARING AND NOT SHARING? Chinese health authorities publish a daily count of new cases, severe cases and deaths, but those numbers include only officially confirmed cases and use a very narrow definition of COVID-related deaths. China is most certainly doing their own sampling studies but just not sharing them, said Ray Yip, who founded the U.S. Centers for Disease Control office in China. The nationwide tally for Thursday was 9,548 new cases and five deaths, but some local governments are releasing much higher estimates just for their jurisdictions. Zhejiang, a province on the east coast, said Tuesday it was seeing about 1 million new cases a day. If a variant emerges in an outbreak, it's found through genetic sequencing of the virus. Since the pandemic started, China has shared 4,144 sequences with GISAID, a global platform for coronavirus data. That's only 0.04% of its reported number of cases — a rate more than 100 times less than the United States and nearly four times less than neighboring Mongolia. Read more: Beijing threatens response to ‘unacceptable’ virus measures WHAT IS KNOWN AND WHAT CAN BE FIGURED OUT? So far, no new variants have shown up in the sequences shared by China. The versions fueling infections in China “closely resemble” those that have been seen in other parts of the world since July, GISAID said. Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies viruses at the Christian Medical College of Vellore in India, agreed, saying there wasn’t anything particularly worrisome in the data so far. That hasn't stopped at least 10 countries — including the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, the U.K., France, Spain and Italy — from announcing virus testing requirements for passengers from China. The European Union strongly encouraged all its member states to do so this week. Health officials have defended the testing as a surveillance measure that helps fill an information gap from China. This means countries can get a read on any changes in the virus through testing, even if they don’t have complete data from China. “We don’t need China to study that, all we have to do is to test all the people coming out of China,” said Yip, the former public health official. Canada and Belgium said they will look for viral particles in wastewater on planes arriving from China. “It is like an early warning system for authorities to anticipate whether there’s a surge of infections coming in,” said Dr. Khoo Yoong Khean, a scientific officer at the Duke-NUS Centre for Outbreak Preparedness in Singapore. Read More: EU, Beijing heading for collision over China’s COVID crisis IS CHINA SHARING ENOUGH INFORMATION? Chinese officials have repeatedly said they are sharing information, pointing to the sequences given to GISAID and meetings with the WHO. But WHO officials have repeatedly asked for more — not just on genetic sequencing but also on hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern this week about the risk to life in China. “Data remains essential for WHO to carry out regular, rapid and robust risk assessments of the global situation,” the head of the U.N. health agency said. The Chinese government often holds information from its own public, particularly anything that reflects negatively on the ruling Communist Party. State media have shied away from the dire reports of a spike in cremations and people racing from hospital to hospital to try to get treatment as the health system reaches capacity. Government officials have accused foreign media of hyping the situation. Khoo, noting that South Africa’s early warning about omicron led to bans on travelers from the country, said there is a need to foster an environment where countries can share data without fear of repercussions. Read More: Lack of info on China’s COVID-19 surge stirs global concern
"World must be better prepared, coordinated and supported to protect all people, everywhere"
Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to develop the first draft of a legally binding agreement designed to protect the world from future pandemics. This “zero draft” of the pandemic accord, rooted in the WHO Constitution, will be discussed by Member States in February 2023. Agreement by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), comprised of WHO’s 194 Member States, was a milestone in the global process to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent a repeat of the devastating impacts it has had on individuals and communities worldwide. The INB gathered at WHO headquarters in Geneva from 5-7 December for its third meeting since its establishment in December 2021, following a special session of the World Health Assembly. The Body today agreed that the INB’s Bureau will develop the zero draft of the pandemic accord in order to start negotiations at the fourth INB meeting, scheduled to start on 27 February 2023. This draft will be based on the conceptual zero draft and the discussions during this week’s INB meeting. The INB Bureau is comprised of six delegates, one from each of the six WHO regions, including the Co-Chairs Mr Roland Driece of the Netherlands and Ms Precious Matsoso of South Africa. Read more: Declare COVID-19 vaccines a global common good: Global leaders “Countries have delivered a clear message that the world must be better prepared, coordinated and supported to protect all people, everywhere, from a repeat of COVID-19,” said Driece, Co-Chair of the INB Bureau. “The decision to task us with the duty to develop a zero draft of a pandemic accord represents a major milestone in the path towards making the world safer.” Fellow INB Bureau Co-Chair, Matsoso, said government representatives stressed that any future pandemic accord would need to take into account equity, strengthen preparedness, ensure solidarity, promote a whole-of-society and whole- of-government approach, and respect the sovereignty of countries. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human lives, economies and societies at large must never be forgotten,” said Matsoso. “The best chance we have, today, as a global community, to prevent a repeat of the past is to come together, in the spirit of solidarity, in a commitment to equity, and in the pursuit of health for all, and develop a global accord that safeguards societies from future pandemic threats.” Read more: WHO DG announces Global Health Leaders Awards The WHO pandemic accord is being considered with a view to its adoption under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, without prejudice to also considering, as work progresses, the suitability of Article 21.
WHO: Monkeypox cases drop 21%, reversing month-long increase
The number of monkeypox cases reported globally dropped by 21% in the last week, reversing a month-long trend of rising infections and a possible signal the outbreak in Europe may be starting to decline, according to a World Health Organization report issued Thursday. The U.N. health agency reported 5,907 new weekly cases and said two countries, Iran and Indonesia, reported their first cases. To date, more than 45,000 cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April. Cases in the Americas accounted for 60% of cases in the past month, WHO said, while cases in Europe comprised about 38%. It said infections in the Americas showed “a continuing steep rise.” The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday the continent had 219 new cases reported in the past week, a jump of 54%. Most were in Nigeria and Congo, the agency said. Also read: Public health emergency declared over monkeypox in WA county In early July, just weeks before the agency declared the international spread of the disease to be a global emergency, WHO’s Europe director said countries in the region were responsible for 90% of all laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox. British health authorities said last week after seeing a decline in the number of new cases getting reported daily that there were “early signs” the country’s monkeypox outbreak was slowing. The U.K.’s Health Security Agency downgraded the country’s monkeypox outbreak last month, saying there was no evidence the once rare disease was spreading beyond men who were gay, bisexual or had sex with other men. Since monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were identified in May, WHO and other health agencies have noted that its spread was almost exclusively in men who have sex with men. Also read: Monkeypox cases cross 35,000: WHO Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades and experts suspect the outbreaks in Europe and North America were triggered after the disease started spreading via sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium. WHO’s latest report said 98% of cases are in men and of those who reported sexual orientation, 96% are in men who have sex with men. “Of all reported types of transmission, a sexual encounter was reported most commonly,” WHO said. “The majority of cases were likely exposed in a party with sexual contacts,” the agency said. Among the monkeypox cases in which the HIV status of patients was known, 45% were infected with HIV. WHO has recommended that men at high risk of the disease temporarily consider reducing their number of sex partners or refrain from group or anonymous sex. Monkeypox typically requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with an infected patient’s lesions to spread. People can also become infected through contact with the clothing or bedsheets of someone who has monkeypox lesions. With globally limited vaccine supplies, authorities in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. have all begun rationing doses to stretch supplies by up to five times. WHO has advised countries that have vaccines to prioritize immunization for those at high risk of the disease, including gay and bisexual men with multiple sex partners, and for health workers, laboratory staff and outbreak responders. While Africa has reported the most suspected deaths from monkeypox, the continent has no vaccine supplies apart from a very small stock being tested in a research study in Congo. “As we know, the situation with monkeypox vaccine access is very topical, but there are not enough doses of vaccines," Nigeria Center for Disease Control Director-General Ifedayo Adetifa said this week. Potentially, a lot more more doses will become available, but because of challenges with manufacturing factories and unexpected uptick in monkeypox cases, the vaccine may actually not be available until 2023.”
More women work in health and care but earn 24% less than men: UN
Women working in the health and care sector earn nearly 25 percent less than their male counterparts – a larger gender pay gap than in other economic sectors, two UN agencies said in a new report Wednesday. "The gender pay gap in the health and care sector: a global analysis in the time of Covid-19" was published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The report documents a raw gender pay gap of roughly 20 percentage points which jumps to 24 percentage points when factors such as age, education and working time are taken into account. While much of this gap is unexplained, the agencies said it is perhaps due to discrimination towards women, who account for nearly 70 percent of health and care workers worldwide. The report also revealed that wages in health and care tend to be lower overall when compared with other sectors, which is consistent with the finding that wages often are lower in areas where women are predominant. Also, even with the pandemic, and the crucial role played by health and care workers during the crisis, there were only marginal improvements in pay equality between 2019 and 2020. "The health and care sector has endured low pay in general, stubbornly large gender pay gaps, and very demanding working conditions. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed this situation while also demonstrating how vital the sector and its workers are in keeping families, societies and economies going," Manuela Tomei, director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the ILO, said. The UN report also found a wide variation in gender pay gaps in different countries, indicating that these gaps are not inevitable and that more can be done to close the divide. Read: UN resident coordinator Gwyn Lewis meets Speaker Dr Shirin Within countries, gender pay gaps tend to be wider in higher pay categories, where men are over-represented, while women are over-represented in the lower pay categories. Mothers working in the health and care sector also appear to suffer additional penalties, with gender pay gaps significantly increasing during a woman's reproductive years and persisting throughout the rest of her working life. A more equitable sharing of family duties between men and women could lead to women making different job choices, according to the report. The analysis also examines factors that are driving the gender pay gaps in the health and care sector. Differences in age, education and working time, as well as the difference in the participation of men and women in the public or private sectors, only address part of the problem. The reasons why women are paid less than men with similar labour market profiles remain, to a large extent, unexplained by labour market factors, the report said. "Women comprise the majority of workers in the health and care sector, yet in far too many countries systemic biases are resulting in pernicious pay penalties against them," Jim Campbell, WHO's director of the health workforce, said.
WHO: COVID-19 cases rising nearly everywhere in the world
The number of new coronavirus cases rose by 18% in the last week, with more than 4.1 million cases reported globally, according to the World Health Organization. The U.N. health agency said in its latest weekly report on the pandemic that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500. COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas. The biggest weekly rise in new COVID-19 cases was seen in the Middle East, where they increased by 47%, according to the report released late Wednesday. Infections rose by about 32% in Europe and Southeast Asia, and by about 14% in the Americas, WHO said. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, mostly driven by the omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. “This pandemic is changing, but it’s not over,” Tedros said this week during a press briefing. He said the ability to track COVID-19′s genetic evolution was “under threat” as countries relaxed surveillance and genetic sequencing efforts, warning that would make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants. He called for countries to immunize their most vulnerable populations, including health workers and people over 60, saying that hundreds of millions remain unvaccinated and at risk of severe disease and death. Also Read: Bangladesh reports 4 more Covid deaths with 2,183 cases Tedros said that while more than 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, the average immunization rate in poor countries is about 13%. “If rich countries are vaccinating children from as young as 6 months old and planning to do further rounds of vaccination, it is incomprehensible to suggest that lower-income countries should not vaccinate and boost their most at risk (people),” he said. According to figures compiled by Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, fewer than half of the 2.1 billion vaccines promised to poorer countries by the Group of Seven large economies have been delivered. Earlier this month, the United States authorized COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers, rolling out a national immunization plan targeting 18 million of the youngest children. American regulators also recommended that some adults get updated boosters in the fall that match the latest coronavirus variants.
WHO convenes experts to decide if monkeypox is an emergency
The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee of experts to determine if the expanding monkeypox outbreak that has mysteriously spread outside Africa should be considered a global health emergency. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday he decided to convene the emergency committee on June 23 because the virus has shown “unusual” recent behavior by spreading in countries well beyond parts of Africa where it is endemic. “We believe that it needs also some coordinated response because of the geographic spread,” he told reporters. Declaring monkeypox to be an international health emergency would give it the same designation as the COVID-19 pandemic and mean that WHO considers the normally rare disease a continuing threat to countries globally. The U.K. said Monday it had 470 cases of monkeypox across the country, with the vast majority in gay or bisexual men. British scientists said last week they could not tell if the spread of the disease in the U.K. had peaked. The meeting of outside experts could also help improve understanding and knowledge about the virus, Tedros said, as WHO released new guidelines about vaccinating against monkeypox. Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO’s emergencies director for Africa, said case counts were growing every day and health officials face “many gaps in terms of knowledge of the dynamics of the transmission” — both in Africa and beyond. “With the advice from the emergency committee, we can be in a better position to control the situation. But it doesn’t mean that we are going straight to a public health emergency of international concern,” he said, referring to WHO’s highest level of alert for viral outbreaks. “We don’t want to wait until the situation is out of control to start calling the emergency committee.” The U.N. health agency does not recommend mass vaccination, but advises the “judicious” use of vaccines. It said controlling the disease relies primarily on measures like surveillance, tracking cases and isolating patients. Last month, a leading adviser to WHO said the outbreak in Europe and beyond was likely spread by sex at two recent rave parties in Spain and Belgium. Scientists warn that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is susceptible to catching monkeypox if they are in close, physical contact with an infected person or their clothing or bed sheets. Also read: Suspected Chuadanga patient not infected with monkeypox, says medical board WHO has been working with partner countries to create a mechanism by which some vaccines for smallpox — a related disease — might be made available to countries that are affected, as research continues into their effectiveness against the new outbreak. Tedros said more than 1,600 cases and nearly 1,500 suspected cases have been reported this year in 39 countries, including seven where monkeypox has been reported for years. A total of 72 deaths have been reported but none in the newly affected countries, which include Britain, Canada, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United States. Also read: Brazil confirms 2nd case of monkeypox The ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and elsewhere marks the first time the disease has been known to spread among people who have no travel links to Africa.
WHO believes COVID getting worse, not better in North Korea
A top official at the World Health Organization said the U.N. health agency assumes the coronavirus outbreak in North Korea is “getting worse, not better,” despite the secretive country's recent claims that COVID-19 is slowing there. At a briefing on Wednesday, WHO's emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan appealed to North Korean authorities for more information about the COVID-19 outbreak there, saying “we have real issues in getting access to the raw data and to the actual situation on the ground.” He said WHO has not received any privileged information about the epidemic — unlike in typical outbreaks when countries may share more sensitive data with the organization so it can evaluate the public health risks for the global community. Also read: WHO: Monkeypox won’t turn into pandemic, but many unknowns “It is very, very difficult to provide a proper analysis to the world when we don’t have access to the necessary data,” he said. WHO has previously voiced concerns about the impact of COVID-19 in North Korea's population, which is believed to be largely unvaccinated and whose fragile health systems could struggle to deal with a surge of cases prompted by the super-infectious omicron and its subvariants. Ryan said WHO had offered technical assistance and supplies to North Korean officials multiple times, including offering COVID-19 vaccines on at least three separate occasions. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions, state media reported, as they maintained a widely disputed claim that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak is slowing. The discussion at the North’s Politburo meeting on Sunday suggested it would soon relax a set of draconian curbs imposed after it announced the outbreak in early May out of concern about its food and economic situations. North Korea's claims to have controlled COVID-19 without widespread vaccination, lockdowns or drugs have been met with widespread disbelief, particularly its insistence that only dozens have died among many millions infected — a far lower death rate than seen anywhere else in the world. Also read: WHO: COVID-19 cases mostly drop, except for the Americas The North Korean government has said there are about 3.7 million people with fever or suspected COVID-19. But it disclosed few details about the severity of illness or how many people have recovered, frustrating public health experts' attempt to understand the extent of the outbreak. “We really would appeal for for a more open approach so we can come to the assistance of the people of (North Korea), because right now we are not in a position to make an adequate risk assessment of the situation on the ground,” Ryan said. He said WHO was working with neighboring countries like China and South Korea to ascertain more about what might be happening in North Korea, saying that the epidemic there could potentially have global implications. WHO's criticism of North Korea's failure to provide more information about its COVID-19 outbreak stands in contrast to the U.N. health agency's failure to publicly fault China in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. In early 2020, WHO's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly praised China publicly for its speedy response to the emergence of the coronavirus, even as WHO scientists privately grumbled about China's delayed information-sharing and stalled sharing the genetic sequence of COVID-19.
Expert: Monkeypox likely spread by sex at 2 raves in Europe
A leading adviser to the World Health Organization described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, said the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals. “We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann. That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates and outbreaks have not spread across borders. To date, WHO has recorded more than 90 cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries including Britain, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia. Also read: Monkeypox: Govt orders screening passengers at all airports, land ports Madrid’s senior health official said on Monday that the Spanish capital has recorded 30 confirmed cases so far. Enrique Ruiz Escudero said authorities are investigating possible links between a recent Gay Pride event in the Canary Islands, which drew some 80,000 people, and cases at a Madrid sauna. Heymann chaired an urgent meeting of WHO’s advisory group on infectious disease threats on Friday to assess the ongoing epidemic and said there was no evidence to suggest that monkeypox might have mutated into a more infectious form. Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals. It can be spread through close contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedsheets, but sexual transmission has not yet been documented. Most people recover from the disease within several weeks without requiring hospitalization. Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, are also effective in preventing monkeypox and some antiviral drugs are being developed. The disease can be fatal in about 10% of infections, but no deaths have been reported among the current cases. WHO said the outbreak is “atypical” and said the fact that cases are being seen in so many different countries suggests the disease may have been silently spreading for some time. The agency’s Europe director warned that as summer begins across the continent, mass gatherings, festivals and parties could accelerate the spread of monkeypox. Other scientists have pointed out that it will be difficult to disentangle whether it is sex itself or the close contact related to sex that has driven the recent spread of monkeypox across Europe. “By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission," said Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London. On Sunday, the chief medical adviser of Britain’s Health Security Agency, Dr. Susan Hopkins, said she expected more monkeypox cases to be identified in the country “on a daily basis.” Also read: Monkeypox usually self-limiting but may be severe in some individuals: WHO U.K. officials have said “a notable proportion” of the cases in Britain and Europe have been in young men with no history of travel to Africa and who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men. Authorities in Portugal and Spain also said their cases were in men who mostly had sex with other men and whose infections were picked up when they sought help for lesions at sexual health clinics. Heymann, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the monkeypox outbreak was likely a random event that might be traceable to a single infection. “It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact,” Heymann hypothesized. “And then there were these international events that seeded the outbreak around the world, into the U.S. and other European countries.” He emphasized that the disease was unlikely to trigger widespread transmission. “This is not COVID,” he said. “We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines to protect against it.” Heymann said studies should be conducted rapidly to determine if monkeypox could be spread by people without symptoms and that populations at risk of the disease should take precautions to protect themselves
WHO DG announces Global Health Leaders Awards
The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Sunday announced six awards to recognize outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues. Dr Tedros himself decides on the awardees for the World Health Organization Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards. Also read: Monkeypox usually self-limiting but may be severe in some individuals: WHO The ceremony for the awards, which were established in 2019, was part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented convergence of inequity, conflict, food insecurity, the climate crisis and a pandemic, this award recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting health around the world,” said Dr Tedros. “These awardees embody lifelong dedication, relentless advocacy, a commitment to equity, and selfless service of humanity.” Honorees of Global Health Leaders Awards Dr Paul Farmer Dr Farmer, who passed away in his sleep in February, 2022 in Rwanda, was Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Partners in Health. He was co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, an international non-governmental organization established in 1987 to provide direct health care services, research and advocacy for those who are sick and living in poverty. Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. Wingdie “Didi” Bertrand, co-founder and President of Women and Girls Initiative, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. Dr Ahmed Hankir A British-Lebanese psychiatrist, Dr Ahmed Hankir is Senior Research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research in association with Cambridge University and Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry at the King’s College London in the United Kingdom. He also works in frontline psychiatry for the NHS at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and serves as Visiting Professor of Academic Psychiatry at the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies in Cape Canaveral, in the United States of America. While in medical school in the UK, he developed a debilitating episode of psychological distress, triggered by the traumatic events when living in Lebanon. He is author of The Wounded Healer, an anti-stigma program that blends the power of the performing arts and storytelling with psychiatry, which has been integrated into the medical school curriculum of four UK universities. He is also known for his work on Muslim mental health, islamophobia and violent extremism. Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela A youth sports advocate from Cabo Verde and player of the Cabo Verde national volleyball team, Oliviera Varela’s work to facilitate access to sports for all provides a healthy alternative to risky behaviors among young people, and tackles the growing threat of non-communicable diseases. She holds weekly training sessions for youths in Praia City. In 2021 she was one of the finalists of the UNESCO global competition on the 'Power of Sport in a time of crisis' and she has received awards in several sports competitions in the African Region. Polio workers in Afghanistan Also honored were eight volunteer polio workers who were shot and killed by armed gunmen in Takhar and Kunduz provinces in Afghanistan on 24 February 2022. Four of these polio workers were women. The eight volunteers were reaching thousands of children through house-to-house campaigns in north-eastern Afghanistan. Their work was crucial in a country where wild polio virus type 1 is still circulating. Their names were Mohamamd Zubair Khalazai, Najibullah Kosha, Shadab Yosufi, Shareefullah Hemati, Haseeba Omari, Khadija Attaee, Munira Hakimi and Robina Yosufi and her brother Shadab. ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist Workers) ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are the more than 1 million female volunteers in India, honored for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services, as shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ASHAs worked to provide maternal care and immunization for children against vaccine-preventable diseases; community health care; treatment for hypertension and tuberculosis; and core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living. Also read: WHO: COVID-19 falling everywhere, except Americas and Africa Yōhei Sasakawa Yōhei Sasakawa is the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and Japan's Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by leprosy. For more than 40 years, he has continued his global fight against leprosy as well as its stigma and social discrimination. As chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Japan's largest charitable foundation, Mr Sasakawa has been a pioneer in guiding public-interest activities by the private sector in modern Japan.