Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Beer drinkers, pregnant women more vulnerable to mosquito bites

By: Chioma Umeha

A new study has shown why some people are mosquito magnets. Up to 20 percent of people across the world are highly attractive to mosquitoes, the study said. Entomology professor, Dr. Phil Koehler, University of Florida said: “Both your metabolism and your unique body chemistry—which is as distinctive as a fingerprint—play an important role in determining whether or not you are a mosquito magnet. Also, there is evidence that your degree of attractiveness to mosquitoes can change over time.” 

Are you one of those who often feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten? You could be right. So, there may be scientific reasons of being bitten by a mosquito, while everyone else says they are fine. Scientists have discovered some surprising reasons. “Both your metabolism and your unique body chemistry—which is as distinctive as a fingerprint—play an important role in determining whether or not you are a mosquito magnet,” says University of Florida entomology professor Dr. Phil Koehler. “Also, there is evidence that your degree of attractiveness to mosquitoes can change over time.” 

Mosquito Bites
Here are some intriguing discoveries about why some people are particularly tasty targets for the tiny vampires: Like vampires, they prefer dark clothes Dark-colour clothing can increase your risk of falling victim to the little bloodsuckers, compared to lighter-colour garments, says Dr. Koehler. In one study comparing the appeal of various hues to mosquitoes, the researchers reported the following results:  black (most attractive); red (very attractive); grey and blue (neutral); khaki, green, light khaki, and yellow (less attractive). Mosquitoes prefer blood type O In their quest for a meal, mosquitoes are nearly twice more likely to land on people with type O blood than those with type A, according to a Japanese study.  Indeed, the biting pests consider type 0 more delectable than any other blood type, the researchers reported. Most people secrete substances that allow mosquitoes to identify blood type before they bite. 

Beer drinkers should be cautious Swigging just one bottle of beer can significantly boost your risk of being bitten, according to a study published in Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. The researchers reported that, “Mosquito landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion.” At moonlight Mosquitoes are 500 times more active when the moon is full, reports the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). Overall, the highest risk times for mosquito bites are dusk and dawn, with the females of some species migrating up to 40 miles in pursuit of a meal. (Male mosquitoes don’t bite.) Dirty socks, feet The pungent aroma of dirty feet is apparently irresistible to mosquitoes, as a brave scientist, Bart Knols, discovered when he sat in a laboratory in his underwear to find out which parts of the body the pests are most likely to target. 

He found that 75 per cent of the bugs homed in on his feet, but after he washed them with deodorant soap, the mosquitoes bit randomly. His team also reported that a stinky cheese, such as Limburger—which has the same odoriferous compound responsible for foot odor—also draws mosquitoes. Why mosquitoes identifies expectant mothers Expectant mothers get bitten about twice as often as women who are not pregnant, increasing their risk for bug-borne diseases, according to a study conducted in Gambia. The researchers hypothesized that since women in the later stages of pregnancy exhale 21 per cent more volume, mosquitoes were drawn in by the moisture and carbon dioxide in their breath.
They also found that pregnant women’s abdomens are nearly one degree warmer, which may cause more volatile substances—released in sweat and attractive to mosquitoes—to be present on their skin. Not only do several other studies have similar findings, said Dr. Koehler, but “there is also evidence that women are more attractive to mosquitoes during certain phases of the ovulation cycle.” Studies have mixed results as to whether men or women are more likely to get bitten, he adds. Why running cannot help you Both the carbon dioxide we exhale and substances in sweat, such as lactic acid, help mosquitoes home in on their prey.  “You are more likely to be bitten if you’re running or exercising than when you are at rest, since you are breathing harder and sweating more.” In fact, physical activity ups risk for bites by as much as 50 percent, according to AMCA.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 18,  2013.
Five unusual signs of vitamin deficiency

By: Chioma Umeha

Running Low on Vitamins? 
When your body is trying to tell you something—for example, that you’re skimping on critical vitamins—it may go to some strange lengths. “With today’s diet of processed foods, it’s easy to become vitamin-deficient, either by not eating enough of the right foods or not absorbing them properly due to digestive issues,” according to Dr. Susan Blum, the founder of the Blum Center for Health and the author of the new book; The immune system recovery plan. “You may not get a disease, but you can end up with impaired functioning, because vitamins are cofactors for all the biochemical reactions in the body. You need them to function properly.” That impaired functioning can sometimes manifest in mysterious ways. Here are five unusual warning signs that you may be vitamin-deficient. The good news: Most are fixable with dietary tweaks—all the more reason to make nutrition a top priority. But if food cures don’t work, be sure to check in with your doctor. 

Cracks at the corners of your mouth 

Cracked Mouth
The deficiency: Iron, zinc, and B vitamins like niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and B12. “It’s common if you’re a vegetarian to not get enough iron, zinc, and B12,” Blum says. Ditto if you’re skimping on essential immunity-building protein due to dieting. Remedies: Eat more poultry, salmon, tuna, eggs, oysters, clams, sun-dried tomatoes, Swiss chard, tahini, peanuts, and legumes like lentils. Iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C, which also helps fight infection, so combine these foods with veggies like broccoli, red bell peppers, kale, and cauliflower. 

A red, scaly rash on your face (and sometimes elsewhere) and hair loss.

Red or white acne like bumps, 
typically on the cheeks, arms, 
thighs, and butt 

The deficiency: Biotin (B7), known as the hair vitamin. While your body stores fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), it doesn’t store most B vitamins, which are water-soluble. Body builders take note: Eating raw eggs makes you vulnerable, because a protein in raw eggs called avidin inhibits the body’s ability to absorb biotin. Remedies: Reach for more cooked eggs (cooking deactivates avidin), salmon, avocados, mushrooms, cauliflower, soybeans, nuts, raspberries, and bananas. 

Red or white acne like bumps, typically on the cheeks, arms, thighs, and butt 
The deficiency: Essential fatty acids and vitamins A and D. Remedies: Skimp on saturated fat and trans fats, which you should be doing anyway, and increase healthy fats. Focus on adding more salmon and sardines, nuts like walnuts and almonds, and seeds like ground flax, hemp, and chia. For vitamin A, pile on leafy greens and colorful veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers. “This provides beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which your body will use to make vitamin A,” Blum says. “For vitamin D, though, I recommend a supplement—2,000 IU a day in one that also contains vitamins A and K, which help with D absorption.” 

Tingling, prickling, and numbness in hands, feet, or elsewhere 
The deficiency: B vitamins like folate (B9), B6, and B12. “It’s a problem directly related to the peripheral nerves and where they end in the skin,” says Blum, noting that these symptoms can be combined with anxiety, depression, anemia, fatigue, and hormone imbalances. Remedies: Seek out spinach, asparagus, beets, beans (pinto, black, kidney, lima), eggs, octopus, mussels, clams, oysters, and poultry. 

Crazy muscle cramps; stabbing pains in toes, calves, arches of feet, and backs of legs 
The deficiency: Magnesium, calcium, and potassium. “If it’s happening frequently, it’s a tip-off that you’re lacking in these,” Blum says. And if you’re training hard, you can lose more minerals (and water-soluble B vitamins) through heavy sweating. Remedies : Eat more bananas, almonds, hazelnuts, squash, cherries, apples, grapefruit, broccoli, bok choy, and dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and dandelion.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2013.
Sugary drinks may cause premature births

By: Chioma Umeha

Women who drank sugary drinks and sodas during their pregnancies had higher rates of premature births, according to Reuters reports Soon-to-be mothers should take note of the newest research on sodas and sugary drinks. Reuters’ reports confirmed that soda consumption and premature births may be linked.  A study in Norway, which followed 60,000 pregnant women, found that women who drank soda while pregnant were 25 percent more likely to give birth early, compared to those who avoided soda altogether. 


Women who drank artificially sweetened beverages (that is: diet sodas) were 11 percent more likely to give birth early as well.  No one’s quite sure what the link is; Dr. Michael Katz of the March of Dimes foundation (which works to help babies’ health) told Reuters that the study didn’t indicate the risk of soda consumption. However, the study did note the strong correlation between soda consumption, pre-term labour, and overweight women. While most (not all) women seem to know to avoid alcohol while pregnant, soda seems to be another one to avoid.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2013.
Malaria control: Nigeria indicted in N65.2bn spurious spending

By: Chioma Umeha

National Audit Office (NAO), the UK watchdog, has indicted Nigeria as among the four countries showing spurious spending of £252m, an equivalent of N65. 2 billion, meant for counter-prevention measures of malaria in 18 countries from 2011 to 2012. The indictment is coming on the heels of World Health Organization’s (WHO) warning of a $2.8billon, an equivalent of N700 billion shortfalls in global funding to tackle the disease, regarded as one of the biggest health and economic challenge for countries with high rates of illness. This is even as evidence has shown that the anti-malarial bed nets paid for by the UK are not in adequate use around the world. The UK spent £252million from 2011 to 2012 on counter-prevention measures in 18 countries, 16 of them in Africa. 

The budget is expected to rise to £494million from 2014 to 2015, making the UK the third largest global donor. However, the NAO’s report, weekend, alleged that Nigeria is one of the countries where the use of the money cannot be justified, based on a direct research. Others are Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Burma. An agency report said: “The UK watchdog drew on first-hand research in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Nigeria and Burma, said the countries had been ‘well-chosen’ but, questioned the effectiveness of some of the spending.” Also, the report showed a dismal distribution of mosquito nets in the four countries.  It said: “There had been a 23 per cent increase in the number of families in the four countries owning a mosquito net since 2010 but usage by target groups such as children had increased by just 11.6 per cent.” A target for 80 per cent of children under five to sleep under bed nets by 2015 was in danger of being missed, it added, and better monitoring was needed of how many nets were used and how long they lasted. 

The UK is hoping to halve the number of malaria deaths in 10 target countries by 2015. Not enough anti-malarial bed nets paid for by the UK are being used around the world, it was reported.  The UK has funded 25 million mosquito nets since 2010, but the National Audit Office (NAO) insisted that usage among target groups, such as children, was disappointing. The watchdog urged the UK to work with aid recipients to “change attitudes” and to ensure proper value for money. Ministers said the increased use of bed nets was part of a multi-faceted strategy acknowledged to save lives. There is no vaccine for malaria and the disease killed an estimated 660,000 people last year and left 250 million people seriously ill. Mortality rates from malaria in Africa have dropped by a third in the past decade, but the NAO warned that this progress was at risk of stalling and there could be ‘a rapid resurgence of the disease.’

Francis Maude

Countries receiving UK aid are: Burma, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, India, Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Somalia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan.With some nets wrongly sized and difficult to hang, persuading the most vulnerable to use them was as much of a challenge as providing them in the first place, the watchdog said. “Bilateral programmes use proven interventions, such as providing bed nets, and funding the introduction of rapid diagnostic tests and the distribution of drugs,” said its head Amyas Morse. “But sustained improvement will crucially depend on changing the attitudes and behaviour of the populations at risk. “It is important that the department influences the governments of countries receiving malaria aid so that their efforts to tackle the disease match its own rising spending.” Campaign group, Malaria No More, said the NAO’s conclusions were based on “a few countries” and the issue of 12 million nets in Ghana had produced “encouraging” results with reported usage among children up sharply.


“We know what works and thanks to the simple, cost-effective means at our disposal, global malaria death rates have been cut by 26 per cent between 2000 and 2010,” said its director, James Whiting. International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, said the watchdog’s report had recognised that the UK’s programmes saved lives and represented good value for money. “Less disease and healthier populations make for more stable, productive and, ultimately, self-sufficient developing economies,” she said. “The UK is playing its part by improving access to life-saving drugs, increasing the use of bed nets and investing in developing new technologies to tackle malaria and reduce the spread of resistance.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 8,  2013.
Nigeria joins league of 192 dracunculiasis-free countries

By: Chioma Umeha

Monday, Nigeria will play host to the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Their mission is to assess the surveillance and reporting efforts, as well as verify and confirm the claim of the absence of indigenous guinea worm transmission, also known as dracunculiasis, a debilitating parasitic infection that affects people living in remote, poverty-stricken communities. 

If Nigeria meets their requirement, the country will join 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO member states, that have been certified free of dracunculiasis transmission. “As of 1st May 2013, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO member states, as free of dracunculiasis transmission,”  according to a recent report by the World health body. Referred in some local parlance as the “impoverisher,” the guinea worm outbreaks in south east alone, cost rice farmers an estimated US $140 million annually, within a period of seven years, between 1988 and 1995. This is an equivalent of N22.4 billion today. 

Reports from the Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, stated: “Disease outbreaks in south eastern Nigeria, alone, cost rice farmers an estimated US $20 annually in the late 1980s.”Also, a similar report from Carter Center in 2008 said that the disease still cost USD $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone as at mid-1990s. “In the mid-1990s, guinea worm infections in part of the heavily populated region of southeast Nigeria caused an estimated USD $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone,” the report said. Reacting to what it cost Nigeria to eradicate the disease, Mr. Buki Ponle, member of the steering committee, NIGEP, said the loss cannot be quantified in monetary terms. In a telephone interview, he reasoned that a farmer with guinea worm has trouble working. Mothers cannot take good care of their children or carry them to clinics for vaccination. 

Children lose many weeks of schooling, and eventually end up as school dropout. Similarly, the World Bank estimated $1 billion in annual lost production of marketable goods, in the early 1980s due to the disease. Confirming this, a report from Health and Development International, Inc. (HDI) added that the disease worsens poverty for individuals and whole villages. It occurs mostly at times that are critical for farming, causing large losses of food production. HDI further said that guinea worm is a grotesque disease which always debases the victim. There is no effective treatment, but simple preventive interventions are dramatically alleviating affliction, because people become free of guinea worm unless they are re-infected every year. 

The Carter Center worked with the Nigeria Ministry of Health to spare thousands of people from suffering from this devastating disease, beginning from 1988. Between 1988 and 1989, Nigeria was the most Guinea-worm-endemic country in the world, reporting more than 650,000 cases in 36 states. For instance, the country conceived the Nigeria Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP) in 1988 to spearhead the eradication campaign in the country. In collaboration with NIGEP, the strategy for elimination consisted of several components, driven by health education. The goal was to change behaviour and mobilize communities to improve the safety of their local water sources. Approaches introduced to communities included: health education and nylon filter distribution; treating stagnant ponds monthly with safe ABATE® larvicide (donated by BASF Corporation); direct advocacy with water organizations; and increased efforts to build safer hand-dug wells. 

The program also trained and supervised village volunteers to carry out monthly surveillance and interventions. In addition to these sweeping efforts, other activities to stamp out Guinea worm were initiated. For example, in 2000, Nigeria held a national symposium on Guinea worm eradication in Abuja with the theme “Guinea Worm Eradication: Let’s End It Now!” In an address read on his behalf by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar announced that the head of state released more than N5 billion, approximately USD $50 million – for safe water to rural communities. The former Vice President further said that Guinea-worm-endemic villages would be given priority attention. He highlighted the impoverishing nature of the disease – hence the Kanuri term for Guinea worm disease, Ngudi, “the impoverisher.” 

A total of 653, 620 guinea worm cases were identified at the inception of the Committee in 5,879 villages throughout Nigeria in 1988; while the last case of the disease was reported on November 11, 2008. However, through persistence, leadership from individuals like General Gowon, and Nigeria’s contribution of US $2 million of its own funding to The Carter Center for the campaign, Nigeria reported its last case in a 58-year-old woman in south east  in November 2008. “In 2008, a total of 38 guinea worm disease cases were reported in Nigeria from Ekerigwe, Abakaliki, Ebonyi local government area of Ebonyi state, Ezza Nkwubor and Utamazi of Enugu East local government and Owachi-Ubahu of Nkanu East local government in Enugu state”, he further stated. 

From December 2008 till date, Nigeria has maintained a zero guinea worm disease case status for fifty-two consecutive months. But, the National Certification Committee on Guinea Worm Eradication in Nigeria recently, confirmed that there has not been any guinea worm case since 2008. The committee stated this in its report through its Chairman, Prof. Olukayode Oyediran in Abuja at an occasion to mark this year’s World’s Guinea Worm Eradication Day. It added that the International Certification Team on the elimination of guinea worm will be guests in the country to declare the country free of the disease. “No case of guinea worm disease has been reported till date. From 2009 till date, we have received 545 rumour cases of guinea worm disease out of which 21 was recorded from January to March 2013. All guinea worm disease rumours from the general public are investigated within 24 hours,” Prof. Oyediran noted. 

When The Carter Center began spearheading the international campaign to eradicate guinea worm disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, less than one percent of cases remain in pockets of southern Sudan, eastern Mali, and western Ethiopia; 94 percent of remaining cases are found in Southern Sudan. In 2010, fewer than 1,800 cases of guinea worm disease were reported, 94 percent of which remain in Southern Sudan, with a handful of cases found in eastern Mali and western Ethiopia. Ghana reported its last case and made a formal announcement late last year. Early last year, former U.S. President and Carter Center Founder, Jimmy Carter confirmed that only three endemic countries remain in the fight against Guinea worm disease, poised to be only the second disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. As at the end of December 2011, 35 countries have been certified as free of dracunculiasis in the African region. 

The annual incidence decreased from 892 640 in 1989 to 30 cases in 2011. 11 countries in the Africa region remain to be certified, consisting of: eight currently and formerly endemic countries (Chad, Ethiopia and Mali, currently endemic and Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya in pre-certification) Three are never endemic countries (Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa) that require verification, prior to certification. Only 30 (0.03 per cent) of the 1 058 cases reported globally in 2011 were reported in the Africa Region. To be declared free of dracunculiasis, a country needs to have reported zero transmission and afterwards maintained active surveillance for at least three years. After this period, an international certification team visits the country to assess the adequacy of the surveillance system and to review records of investigations regarding rumoured cases and subsequent actions taken. Indicators such as water supplies in infected areas are examined and assessments are carried out in villages to confirm the absence of transmission. Risks of reintroduction of the disease is also assessed. 

Finally a report is submitted to ICCDE for review. Since 1995 the ICCDE has met eight times and on its recommendation, WHO has certified 192 countries and territories as free of dracunculiasis. As at May 1, this year, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO Member States, as free of dracunculiasis transmission.   Monday, Nigeria will play host to the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Their mission is to assess the surveillance and reporting efforts, as well as verify and confirm the claim of the absence of indigenous guinea worm transmission, also known as dracunculiasis, a debilitating parasitic infection that affects people living in remote, poverty-stricken communities. If Nigeria meets their requirement, the country will join 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO member states, that have been certified free of dracunculiasis transmission. “As of 1st May 2013, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO member states, as free of dracunculiasis transmission,”  according to a recent report by the World health body. 

Referred in some local parlance as the “impoverisher,” the guinea worm outbreaks in south east alone, cost rice farmers an estimated US $140 million annually, within a period of seven years, between 1988 and 1995. This is an equivalent of N22.4 billion today. Reports from the Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, stated: “Disease outbreaks in south eastern Nigeria, alone, cost rice farmers an estimated US $20 annually in the late 1980s.”Also, a similar report from Carter Center in 2008 said that the disease still cost USD $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone as at mid-1990s. “In the mid-1990s, guinea worm infections in part of the heavily populated region of southeast Nigeria caused an estimated USD $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone,” the report said. Reacting to what it cost Nigeria to eradicate the disease, Mr. Buki Ponle, member of the steering committee, NIGEP, said the loss cannot be quantified in monetary terms. 

In a telephone interview, he reasoned that a farmer with guinea worm has trouble working. Mothers cannot take good care of their children or carry them to clinics for vaccination. Children lose many weeks of schooling, and eventually end up as school dropout. Similarly, the World Bank estimated $1 billion in annual lost production of marketable goods, in the early 1980s due to the disease. Confirming this, a report from Health and Development International, Inc. (HDI) added that the disease worsens poverty for individuals and whole villages. It occurs mostly at times that are critical for farming, causing large losses of food production. HDI further said that guinea worm is a grotesque disease which always debases the victim. There is no effective treatment, but simple preventive interventions are dramatically alleviating affliction, because people become free of guinea worm unless they are re-infected every year. The Carter Center worked with the Nigeria Ministry of Health to spare thousands of people from suffering from this devastating disease, beginning from 1988. 

Between 1988 and 1989, Nigeria was the most Guinea-worm-endemic country in the world, reporting more than 650,000 cases in 36 states. For instance, the country conceived the Nigeria Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP) in 1988 to spearhead the eradication campaign in the country. In collaboration with NIGEP, the strategy for elimination consisted of several components, driven by health education. The goal was to change behaviour and mobilize communities to improve the safety of their local water sources. Approaches introduced to communities included: health education and nylon filter distribution; treating stagnant ponds monthly with safe ABATE® larvicide (donated by BASF Corporation); direct advocacy with water organizations; and increased efforts to build safer hand-dug wells. The program also trained and supervised village volunteers to carry out monthly surveillance and interventions. In addition to these sweeping efforts, other activities to stamp out Guinea worm were initiated. For example, in 2000, Nigeria held a national symposium on Guinea worm eradication in Abuja with the theme “Guinea Worm Eradication: Let’s End It Now!” 

In an address read on his behalf by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar announced that the head of state released more than N5 billion, approximately USD $50 million – for safe water to rural communities. The former Vice President further said that Guinea-worm-endemic villages would be given priority attention. He highlighted the impoverishing nature of the disease – hence the Kanuri term for Guinea worm disease, Ngudi, “the impoverisher.” A total of 653, 620 guinea worm cases were identified at the inception of the Committee in 5,879 villages throughout Nigeria in 1988; while the last case of the disease was reported on November 11, 2008. However, through persistence, leadership from individuals like General Gowon, and Nigeria’s contribution of US $2 million of its own funding to The Carter Center for the campaign, Nigeria reported its last case in a 58-year-old woman in south east  in November 2008. 

“In 2008, a total of 38 guinea worm disease cases were reported in Nigeria from Ekerigwe, Abakaliki, Ebonyi local government area of Ebonyi state, Ezza Nkwubor and Utamazi of Enugu East local government and Owachi-Ubahu of Nkanu East local government in Enugu state”, he further stated. From December 2008 till date, Nigeria has maintained a zero guinea worm disease case status for fifty-two consecutive months. But, the National Certification Committee on Guinea Worm Eradication in Nigeria recently, confirmed that there has not been any guinea worm case since 2008. The committee stated this in its report through its Chairman, Prof. Olukayode Oyediran in Abuja at an occasion to mark this year’s World’s Guinea Worm Eradication Day. It added that the International Certification Team on the elimination of guinea worm will be guests in the country to declare the country free of the disease. “No case of guinea worm disease has been reported till date. From 2009 till date, we have received 545 rumour cases of guinea worm disease out of which 21 was recorded from January to March 2013. All guinea worm disease rumours from the general public are investigated within 24 hours,” 

Prof. Oyediran noted. When The Carter Center began spearheading the international campaign to eradicate guinea worm disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, less than one percent of cases remain in pockets of southern Sudan, eastern Mali, and western Ethiopia; 94 percent of remaining cases are found in Southern Sudan. In 2010, fewer than 1,800 cases of guinea worm disease were reported, 94 percent of which remain in Southern Sudan, with a handful of cases found in eastern Mali and western Ethiopia. Ghana reported its last case and made a formal announcement late last year. Early last year, former U.S. President and Carter Center Founder, Jimmy Carter confirmed that only three endemic countries remain in the fight against Guinea worm disease, poised to be only the second disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. 


As at the end of December 2011, 35 countries have been certified as free of dracunculiasis in the African region. The annual incidence decreased from 892 640 in 1989 to 30 cases in 2011. 11 countries in the Africa region remain to be certified, consisting of: eight currently and formerly endemic countries (Chad, Ethiopia and Mali, currently endemic and Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya in pre-certification) Three are never endemic countries (Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa) that require verification, prior to certification. Only 30 (0.03 per cent) of the 1 058 cases reported globally in 2011 were reported in the Africa Region. To be declared free of dracunculiasis, a country needs to have reported zero transmission and afterwards maintained active surveillance for at least three years. 

After this period, an international certification team visits the country to assess the adequacy of the surveillance system and to review records of investigations regarding rumoured cases and subsequent actions taken. Indicators such as water supplies in infected areas are examined and assessments are carried out in villages to confirm the absence of transmission. Risks of reintroduction of the disease is also assessed. Finally a report is submitted to ICCDE for review. Since 1995 the ICCDE has met eight times and on its recommendation, WHO has certified 192 countries and territories as free of dracunculiasis. As at May 1, this year, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO Member States, as free of dracunculiasis transmission.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 22, 2013.
//www.mynewswatchtimesng.com/nigeria-joins-league-of-192-dracunculiasis-free-countries/
Nigeria tops HIV infection chart in sub-Saharan Africa with 60,000 – UN

By: Chioma Umeha

Nigeria has been identified as number one country in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest number of children with HIV, recording nearly 60,000 new infections in 2012. A report from the United Nations AIDS programme, on Tuesday, implicated the country as among the seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa where progress has been stalled since 2009. 

The report stated that some countries, which were among 21 priority countries in Africa, have witnessed a reduction in the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009. Specifically, the report said there is reduction in the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009 in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s worst-hit region in the global AIDS epidemic. But, it added that Nigeria is one of the two countries where new infections in children have increased and remained unchanged since the review period. 

Michel Sidibe
The next is Angola. According to the United Nations AIDS programme reports, “seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s worst-hit region in the global AIDS epidemic, have cut the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009.”  The dramatic reductions – in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia – mean tens of thousands more babies are now being born free of HIV, UNAIDS said in a report on its Global Plan to tackle the disease in around 20 of the worst affected countries. 

The report further read: “Overall, across 21 priority countries in Africa, there were 130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children in 2012 – a drop of 38 percent since 2009 – mostly due to increased drug treatment of pregnant women with the virus.” Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS’ executive director, said, “The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts, every child can be born free from HIV.  “But progress has stalled in some countries with high numbers of new HIV infections. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 26, 2013.
New date for media merit award entries on guinea worm eradication

By: Chioma Umeha

The Nigeria Guinea worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP) has announced the extension of deadline by three months, for the submission of entries to the Media Merit Award on guinea worm eradication, to allow more journalists to participate. Entries will now close on September 30, instead of June 30. The award was put in place in April to recognise, honour and reward contributions by Nigerian journalists and their media establishments, in the eradication of guinea worm disease since the campaign began in 1988. The award, in three categories – radio, television and newspaper/online publication, was announced as part of media activities preparatory to the visit of the International Certification Team from the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The team is expected in Nigeria on Sunday, June 23. A statement in Abuja on Sunday by the NIGEP National Coordinator, Mrs Ifeoma Anagbogu, noted that although many entries had been received, the programme realised two months’ duration too short and could shut out more journalists from participating. Anagbogu thanked journalists across the country for their sustained interests in ensuring that the war against guinea worm disease is won, and the certification of Nigeria as a guinea worm-free country is achieved. The WHO-Certification team will be in the country for more than two weeks and will go round the states to verify the claim of non-existence of the disease for more than four years as the last guinea worm was reported on Nov. 11, 2008. 


The National Coordinator stated that as in earlier case, entries for the merit award should include feature articles, analyses, in-depth investigative stories, documentaries or discussion programmes. “Stories must be well-researched, well written and well-presented, to be supported, among others, by data, mapping, audio and visual presentations.  “Topics may include “Achieving WHO certification for guinea worm disease eradication in Nigeria,’’ “Surveillance and publicity for guinea worm disease certification in Nigeria,’’ and “Status of guinea worm disease eradication activities in Nigeria: the Way Forward.’’  “Others may include “End in sight as Nigeria gets certification for guinea worm disease eradication by WHO,’’ and “55 months of guinea worm disease status in Nigeria: what next?’’ 

The coordinator said: “All journalists qualify, including affiliated freelance journalists and submitted work must have been broadcast or published in the print and electronic media. Journalists may submit more than one entry, and entries submitted could be posted on Twitter and Facebook by applicants’’.  

Anagbogu said that all entries must be submitted to the National Coordinator, Nigeria Guinea worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP) Federal Ministry of Health, (9th Floor),  Federal Secretariat, Abuja.  It will be recalled that at the inception of the eradication programme in 1988, 653,620 guinea worm cases were identified in 5,879 villages across the country.  While it ravaged, guinea worm contributed to rural poverty depressingly affecting agricultural production, incapacitating the affected people and causing school absenteeism in children.    Meanwhile, the programme is still encouraging people to search and report cases of guinea worm. They will be rewarded with N25,000 cash for any confirmed case, while people could also call on a toll-free line: 0800 100 1000.  

Global eradication effort will make guinea worm the second disease to be eradicated, the first being small pox.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2013.

Blog Archive