Transcript of WHO podcast - 17 August 2007
Search for Marburg clues in Uganda; new guidance on mosquito nets; medicines needed in flood-affected Bangladesh
Christine McNab: You’re listening to the WHO podcast for the week of 20 August 2007. I'm Christine McNab.
In this episode,
- The search for the source of a fatal hemorrhagic fever: WHO scientists hunt for Marburg clues in Uganda
- WHO issues new guidance on malaria nets
- Bangladeshis affected by the monsoon floods need more medicines
The latest outbreak of a rare, and fatal hemorrhagic fever in Uganda has renewed the search for the source of the disease. Marburg is a virus in the same family as Ebola. There have been only seven known outbreaks in recent history, all but one in Africa. Despite years of study of the virus, scientists don't yet know the reservoir for Marburg. The latest outbreak in western Uganda is believed to be contained. There, a gold mine worker, and one person he was in contact with, were infected. The mine worker died. Now, a team of experts are at the mine. Every night, wearing full protective gear, they are capturing bats who live in the mine, and studying them, to find out if they are the source of the disease.
Dr Pierre Formenty, a WHO expert conducting the studies, talked to reporters from the Ugandan laboratory, about 300 kilometres from Kampala.
Dr Pierre Formenty: We are a team of eight persons today: staff from NICD South Africa, CDC in Atlanta, and WHO. We are starting to go to the mine around 5 o'clock in the afternoon to set up the nets. We are not netting inside the mine. In fact, we are netting inside an opening with two galleries where the bats are going out to go in the forest, because this mine is in the middle of the rain forest. So we are capturing the bats in the open cast where there is an entrance to the mine. We have been visiting the mine in the past, two or three times, to look and to understand the form of the mine, and to understand how it works, where the cases have been working in the mine. When we go in, we are wearing face masks, and we are wearing face shield together with a gown and clothes and boots, of course.
Christine McNab: Dr Formenty and his colleagues then take the bats to a laboratory, where they dissect them to examine their organs and take blood samples. The bats will soon be sent to laboratories in South Africa and to the US Centers for Disease Control - where they will be more fully tested for Marburg.
If you'd like to see and learn more, there are exclusive photos of the Ugandan Marburg bat study, on WHO web site: www.who.int.
Christine McNab: As the flood waters begin to recede in parts of south Asia, WHO announced that it is working quickly to replenish badly needed stocks of life-saving medicines in Bangladesh. Before the floods, WHO had pre-positioned oral rehydration salts, antibiotics and intravenous fluids - anticipating a rise in diarrhea and other diseases which are common during the monsoon flooding in the country. Bangladeshi health authorities are treating about 1,000 people with diarrhea every day, and say that more than half of these people are severely dehydrated. WHO warns that diarrhoeal infection can spread quickly in these conditions - and therefore is educating people about how to purify water, and to ensure personal hygiene. WHO is also concerned about the scarcity of safe drinking water, as sources have been contaminated by the flooding. About five million people in Bangladesh are affected by the floods.
Christine McNab: Mosquito bednets have long been proven to be an effective guard against malaria. Insecticide treated nets have traditionally been targeted at those most at risk: pregnant women and young children. However new data from Kenya show that when long-lasting insecticidal nets are widely and freely distributed to cover everyone in the community, death and illness from malaria can drop dramatically. This study, combined with other WHO research, supports WHO's new guidance. Dr Pierre Guillet, who is in charge of vector control in WHO's malaria programme, says that countries in Africa in particular, should now distribute free, or highly subsidized, long-lasting insecticidal nets to the entire community. He says this can have a dramatic impact.
Dr Pierre Guillet: It means that for public health we are looking at ITN's deployment at a much wider scale, and we are also looking at malaria prevention not only with the objective to protect those at most risk but to protect the entire community in order to basically first reduce the burden of disease. But more than that, a more ambitious target is to progressively reduce incidence and hopefully, one day eliminate malaria.
Christine McNab: Malaria currently kills more than one million people every year, most of them young children in Africa.
Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast. For more information about these stories, and other global public health issues, visit the WHO web site, at www.who.int.