Ebola spread to southern district adds to Uganda's challenges
At a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing today, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said Uganda's government is making progress in its battle against Ebola, but he raised concerns about case detections outside the main hot spots.
Over the past 2 weeks, most cases have been reported from the capital city Kampala, as well as Kassanda district. Tedros said one cases has also been reported from Masaka district in the south of the country, which appears to raise the number of affected districts to eight. "The detection of cases in several different districts is clearly concerning," he said.
Tedros said the main focus is strengthening contact tracing, community engagement, and infection prevention.
Uganda's health ministry has reported 136 confirmed cases, along with 53 deaths among patients with confirmed infections. Earlier in the outbreak, which began in September, the country reported 21 suspected cases, all of them fatal.
In other developments, in internal report from Uganda's health ministry, dated Oct 31, project that outbreak numbers could rise to as high as 1,200 cases and 500 deaths by April, sources told the United Kingdom-based Telegraph. The sources told the paper that the response has been hampered by a lack of transparency early in the outbreak and tension between the Uganda's authoritarian government and international health partners.
Nov 9 Tedros speech
Uganda health ministry Ebola page
Nov 8 Telegraph story
WHO: Weekly monkeypox cases up slightly
The number of monkeypox cases reported to the WHO rose slightly last week, with 19 countries reporting rises in cases, the head of the WHO said today at a briefing on a host of health issues.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said despite the small rise in cases, the number of weekly cases is down 80% from the peak reported in August. WHO tracking shows cases rose 2.5% for the week ending Nov 6. Most of the cases reported last week were from the Americas and European regions. Of the 19 countries reporting rises, Mexico reported the highest increase.
In another new development, he said the WHO this week signed an agreement with Siga Technologies, the company that developed the antiviral tecovirimat (Tpoxx) for a donation of 2,500 treatment courses. Tedros said WHO will invite low- and middle –income countries to express interest in receiving the donated doses.
Though the treatment isn't approved in most countries, the WHO has posted a protocol that researchers can use to design and conduct clinical trials. Tedros said in settings where trials are not in place, The WHO recommends that tecovirimat be considered for use under a different protocol to promote data collection on the treatment's effectiveness.
WHO global vaccine market report identifies gaps, limitations
In its latest report on the global vaccine market—the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began—the WHO today called for more steps to provide equitable access and spelled out problems with supply and access.
The group said inequitable vaccine distribution isn't unique to the COVID-19 vaccine and is one of the drivers of health disparities. For example, the WHO said human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has only been introduces in 41% of low-income countries, though they bear much of the cervical cancer burden. In contrast, 83% of high-income countries have introduced the HPV vaccine.
Another obstacle is affordability, with middle-income countries often paying the same price as or more than wealthier countries.
The authors of the report also analyzed global vaccine manufacturing capacity. Market volume increased nearly threefold between 2019 and 2021, mainly due to COVID-19 vaccines. However, manufacturing capacity remains highly centralized, with 10 producers supplying 70% of vaccine doses. Several of the top 20 most commonly used vaccines are made by just two suppliers.
The WHO warned that the concentrated manufacturing base poses risk of shortages and insecure supplies at the regional level.
At a briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros added that there are still no vaccines for diseases such as schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis that hit low-income countries hardest. "The bottom line is that market dynamics are failing the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people," he said. "WHO is calling on governments around the world to expand research and manufacturing outside its traditional centers."
Nov 9 WHO press release
Nov 9 WHO global vaccine market report
Nov 9 WHO Tedros speech