NEWS SCAN: Record West Nile deaths, polio in Somalia and Pakistan, global sanitation access

May 13, 2013

CDC: Final 2012 West Nile tally: 5,674 cases, 286 deaths
US states confirmed 5,674 cases of West Nile virus (WNV) disease last year, the highest since 2003, and 286 WNV deaths, the most ever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today as it released its final 2012 surveillance data. Of the cases reported in the contiguous 48 states, 2,873 (51%) were classified as the more serious neuroinvasive form, which includes manifestations such as meningitis, encephalitis, and acute flaccid paralysis. Texas accounted for a third (1,868) of all WNV cases, and 62% of cases were concentrated in seven states: California, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. "Last summer's outbreak likely resulted from many factors, including higher-than-normal temperatures that influenced mosquito and bird abundance, the replication of the virus in its host mosquitoes, and interactions of birds and mosquitoes in hard-hit areas," the CDC said in a news release via e-mail. The agency said the best way to prevent WNV disease is to avoid mosquito bites.
May 13 CDC WNV update
May 13 CDC table of cases by state

Somalia's first wild poliovirus case since 2007 triggers alert
A report of Somalia's first wild poliovirus (WPV) case since 2007 has triggered a surveillance alert and mass vaccination plans, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced May 11. The preliminary report of a WPV came from the Banadir region, where the virus was found in specimens collected Apr 21 from a 32-month-old girl who had acute flaccid paralysis and in specimens from three of her contacts. Because large parts of central and southern Somalia have not run vaccination drives since 2009, "the confirmation of WPV circulation would constitute a serious national and international risk to public health," the WHO said. A surveillance alert has been announced for all of Somalia and neighboring areas of northern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia. Also, plans call for an oral polio vaccine drive targeting all children under age 5 in the Banadir region, starting May 14.
May 11 WHO statement
Meanwhile, two new polio cases were reported in Pakistan, raising the nationwide case count this year to nine, according to a report from The News International, a Pakistani newspaper. The cases are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. One case involved a 7-month-old baby boy whose father had refused vaccination for him; the other case was in an 11-month-old.
May 11 News International story
In other news, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan said they would support polio vaccinations, but warned foreigners against participating in the campaigns, according to a report from the South African Press Association (SAPA) and Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA). The insurgents said they supported all programs "which work for the healthcare of the helpless people of our country." They called on UN agencies such as the WHO to "employ unbiased people in the region" because of the ongoing conflict, according to the story.
May 13 SAPA-DPA story

Report: Billions still without access to proper sanitation
Although 1.9 billion more people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, about 2.5 billion people, or a third of the world's population, will remain without such access in 2015, according to a joint report today on drinking water and sanitation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). "There is an urgent need to ensure all the necessary pieces are in place—political commitment, funding, leadership—so the world can accelerate progress and reach the Millennium Development Goal [MDG] sanitation target," Maria Neira, MD, WHO director for public health and environment, said in a WHO/UNICEF news release. The report found that 64% of the world's population had access to improved sanitation facilities. And of the 2.5 billion who lacked access to improved sanitation, 761 million use public or shared sanitation facilities and 693 million use facilities that do not meet minimum hygiene standards. In 2011, 1 billion people still defecated in the open, with 90% of the practice happening in rural areas. On the upside, the report said, the MDG 2015 goal for drinking-water access was surpassed in 2010, but about 768 million people are still without improved sources for drinking water.
May 13 WHO/UNICEF report
May 13 WHO/UNICEF news release


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