WHO issues health advisory ahead of South Korea Olympic Games
In a joint statement today the World Health Organization (WHO) and South Korean health officials issued public health recommendations for people attending the upcoming winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.
The main threat is an increased risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and indoor crowding during the two events could increase the risk of the spread of those diseases. The groups noted that the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting an increase in seasonal flu, mainly caused by influenza B and H3N2, an influenza A strain.
South Korea has experienced outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N6 avian flu in wild birds and poultry, but no related human cases have been reported, and the risk of human illnesses is considered very low. The advisory warned of a small risk of imported respiratory diseases that aren't typically seen in South Korea, such as measles, diphtheria, and human avian flu.
Generally, the risk of food- and waterborne outbreaks is higher during large gatherings where crowds eat from food outlets, many of which are temporary, the WHO said.
At the global level, given multiple ongoing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, influenza, and mumps, the WHO urged those traveling to South Korea to consult their health providers to make sure they are up to date with recommended routine immunizations.
Feb 7 WHO statement
South Sudan declares end to cholera outbreak
With no new cholera cases reported in the past 7 weeks, South Sudan today declared the end of its longest and largest outbreak of the disease, the WHO Regional Office for Africa said today in a statement. Over the course of the outbreak, more than 20,000 infections, 436 of them fatal, were reported. The last confirmed case-patient was discharged on Dec 18.
The country's government worked with several aid agencies in its battle against cholera, which included receiving 2.2 million doses of oral cholera vaccine from a global stockpile funded by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. More than 885,000 people were vaccinated in the campaign's first round, and nearly 500,000 were immunized during the second round. Because of security challenges, however, not everyone received the recommended two doses.
Evans Liyosi, the WHO's acting representative to South Sudan, congratulated the country for tacking cholera, but he warned that the disease is endemic there and many risk factors remain, underscoring the importance of maintaining the capacity to detect and respond to new cases.
South Sudan is grappling with many complex health challenges, the WHO said. They include armed conflict that forced nearly 4 million people to flee their homes and food insecurity affecting more than 40% of the population.
Feb 7 WHO Africa statement