Transcript of WHO podcast - 24 September 2007
Report of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; WHO's response to cholera in Iraq; and UNITAID's first anniversary
Christine McNab: You’re listening to the WHO podcast for the week of 24 September 2007. I'm Christine McNab.
In this episode:
- A front-line report from the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
- WHO and its partners respond to cholera in Iraq;
- And, one year in, UNITAID announces success in lowering the cost of medicines for HIV.
This week, experts are on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respond to a rare and deadly haemorrhagic fever. Over the last five months, about 400 people have been reported ill, and about 170 have died in western Kasai province in the country. The Ministry of Health recently confirmed nine cases of Ebola in Kasai. But the outbreak is complex, because Shigella - which causes bloody diarrhoea - and typhoid fever have also been confirmed in the area. Now the challenge for the experts is how to work in a remote, poor area with very bad roads; to determine who might be affected by Ebola; and stop the outbreak. Dr Dominique Legros is a WHO medical epidemiologist. I spoke with him on a cell-phone while he was in Luebo, one of the centres of the outbreak.
Dr Dominique Legros: It's a very poor community, small villages along the very, very bad roads. The rainy season has started, and moving around is quite difficult. With the car yesterday, we were stuck in the mud, for instance, but in terms of logistics, it's quite complicated.
Christine McNab: Dr Legros says the work should get easier this week, once a mobile laboratory is set up. The laboratory, sent from Canada, is being flown into the area, so that samples can be diagnosed right on the spot.
Dr Dominique Legros: We have to concentrate on surveillance, making sure we can detect any new suspect cases, emerging from the community from contact with former cases. I hope that within 4-5 days, we shall be able to have a very good surveillance system and to have a better picture of the extent of the outbreak and in order to detect new cases.
Christine McNab: Watch the WHO's website - www.who.int - in the coming days to learn more about the progress in the Ebola response.
Christine McNab: WHO and its partners continue to help the Iraqi government to stop a cholera outbreak. The outbreak has mainly been focused in the northern provinces, where there are about 30 000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea with more than 2000 confirmed cases of cholera. One case was recently confirmed in Baghdad. The disease, which causes severe diarrhoea, can be treated through oral rehydration, or using intravenous fluids in the most severe cases. It is caused by contaminated food or water. Iraqi officials are working hard to stop the outbreak, including checking water and food safety. WHO is helping to provide tonnes of emergency supplies, including chlorine tablets, rapid diagnostic kits, and diarrhoeal disease kits. Dr Claire-Lise Chaignat coordinates the WHO Global Task Force on Cholera Control.
Dr Claire-Lise Chaignat: WHO is providing technical assistance to the health authorities, particularly in the north and also to the other provinces and health authorities in other provinces, which are not yet affected by the outbreak. Particularly in these areas, WHO is helping to improve preparedness activities, so that the governments can respond in case an outbreak should occur and spread to these yet unaffected areas. Unfortunately, the latest information received shows that in fact the outbreak is spreading and is spreading from one district to the other. Also, the outbreak is likely to continue spreading in view of the precarious water and sanitation conditions in the current context of the country.
Christine McNab: There are more than 2 million Iraqis displaced by the conflict to Jordan, Syria and other neighbouring countries. The large numbers of people who have arrived over the past year have put an enormous strain on the already overstretched public health services. People need specialized health care, including amputees who need prostheses, people who need cancer treatment and women who need reproductive health services. There are gaps in disease surveillance. There are also concerns that those Iraqis, who don't have money to buy food, may be at greater risk for malnutrition. To respond to this, WHO and its many partners working in the UN health sector have appealed for almost US$ 85 million to significantly boost health services for displaced Iraqis in Jordan and Syria.
Christine McNab: UNITAID is announcing significant progress in reducing the price of medicines for HIV. UNITAID is an international drug purchase facility which was created one year ago, to find ways to deliver cheaper medicines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. It uses innovative financing mechanisms, including solidarity contributions to airline tickets, to fund this work. Dr Jorge Bermudez is the Executive Secretary of UNITAID.
Dr Jorge Bermudez: Looking back, one year later we are working with more than 80 countries. We are addressing 53 countries with HIV/AIDS in partnerships mainly with the Clinton Foundation and WHO. We are addressing malaria in 22 countries with the Global Fund, UNICEF and Roll Back Malaria (Partnership). We are addressing tuberculosis in 58 countries working together with the Global Fund, Global Drug Facility and Stop TB (Partnership). So, we are addressing hundreds and thousands and millions of treatments, all over the world, in more than 80 countries. Most of those countries are in Africa, and, in all of those cases, we have analysed very carefully that we are impacting market dynamics, bringing down prices of medicines and scaling up access.
Christine McNab: Dr Bermudez says that in the next year, UNITAID aims to expand the partnership to include more countries, and continue work to ensure more access to medicines for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast. For more information about these stories, and other global public health issues, visit the WHO website, at www.who.int.