Transcript of WHO podcast - 28 February 2007
Neurological disorders; yellow fever in Togo; new management team in WHO
Iain Simpson: You are listening to the WHO podcast for the week of 27 February 2007. I'm Iain Simpson.
In this episode:
- new report highlights neurological disorders around the world;
- yellow fever vaccination campaign protects more than 1 million people in Togo;
- WHO Director-General announces new senior management team.
Iain Simpson: A new report published by WHO this week looks at the problems faced by people with neurological disorders. In simple terms, that means anything that affects the brain, the spinal cord, the nervous system, or muscles. The report says that up to 1 billion people worldwide are affected by neurological disorders which range from epilepsy, to Alzheimer disease, and from stroke to headaches. The report says, for example, that as many as 50 million people have epilepsy, and another 24 million have Alzheimer and other forms of dementia.
Neurological disorders affect people from all countries regardless of age, sex, education or income. WHO strongly believes that caring for people with neurological disorders within the primary health care system is the best solution, particularly where people have no other access to health care. At the moment for example, as many as 9 out of 10 people with epilepsy in Africa go untreated although highly effective, low-cost treatments are available. Health systems need to be strengthened to provide better care with more trained staff and essential drugs. There are also simple measures that can be taken to prevent neurological disorders - motorcyclists wearing helmets, and people in vehicles wearing seatbelts can prevent brain injuries. Immunization against meningitis and early identification and treatment of malaria can also prevent neurological disorders.
Iain Simpson: The Director-General Dr Chan has named her senior team to lead WHO headquarters in Geneva. Dr Chan also announced a revised structure which includes three new health clusters. Making the announcement, Dr Chan said her goal is to align the Organization's structure with the six core areas she has identified to take WHO's work forward. These are health development, health security, health systems capacity, evidence and information, partnership and performance.
Iain Simpson: And in the west African state of Togo, WHO and partners have just completed a mass vaccination campaign to protect people against yellow fever. The campaign was started after the first cases of yellow fever in almost 20 years were reported in the north of the country. During the campaign, which was supported by the new Yellow Fever Initiative, about 1.3 million people were vaccinated. Dr Kadri Tankari is the WHO representative in Togo. He told Fadéla Chaib about the campaign.
Dr Kadri Tankari: Yellow fever is a very serious, a very severe infectious disease due to a virus present in the tropical regions of Africa and South America. The clinical manifestations of yellow fever are, at the beginning, fever and jaundice. At later stages, you can have bleedings. This last year several epidemics have been reported in countries of North Africa. Fortunately, this disease has a vaccine that confers a 10-year to life-long immunity. It is very effective. It is transmitted by mosquitoes; it is not transmitted between humans.
Fadéla Chaib: Is WHO recommending not to travel to Togo?
Dr Kadri Tankari: People can safely travel to Togo, it is not a problem. We just recommend to them if they travel to infected areas to get themselves vaccinated.
Fadéla Chaib: Tell us, what are the challenges to conduct a massive vaccination campaign?
Dr Kadri Tankari: It is the first massive vaccination campaign that we have had in the past 20 years concerning yellow fever. The last one was in 1984-85. It is why it was important to get support from many partners. First of all, one of the main challenges we have is, of course, to have a strong political commitment from national authorities. We had to have a staff to be able to cover the entire country for the campaign. We need also to mobilize the population. For the preparation also, we are providing technical support to the Ministry of Health in order to train the staff. This campaign is really a wonderful example of national and international cooperation. It was also important to enter into mobilization activities with the local communities so that people can really participate actively in the campaign.
Fadéla Chaib: Looking back at this last week of intense work, what are your strongest impressions?
Dr Kadri Tankari: From my experience in the field, we have been really well impressed by the strong commitment of health workers, thousands of volunteers and partners. We have been equally very impressed by the welcome from the population who didn't really understand very well the advantage of being vaccinated against yellow fever.
Iain Simpson: That was Dr Kadri Tankari, the WHO representative in Togo talking to Fadéla Chaib. And you can learn more about that vaccination campaign in a special photo feature on the WHO web site. Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast.
For the latest public health news and any more information on WHO's work, please visit our web site at www.who.int.