Health Current Affairs

Ebola reaches US

Ebola virus which has claimed many lives in African nations due to lack of proper treatment and medication has now reached soils of United States of America. A patient who has recently travelled from Liberia on September 19, reached US on September 20. He was completely healthy at the time of his travel but developed symptoms of the infection after 4-5 days of his stay. He has been admitted to a Dallas hospital.
Authorities have kept his identity and the details of mode of infection secret. There were no media briefing about the treatment that is being administered to him. The patient has been kept in ICU and in isolation. He was on a family visit to US and has been moving freely ever since his arrival. Even after the apparent symptoms of the disease, he still had contacts with some people before he was put in complete isolation. The authorities are finding ways to pick out these contacts. Even the health crew who transported the patient has also been kept in isolation. The authorities also confirmed how many other patients the ambulance carried after the transport of Ebola infected person. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has duly stressed that there is no risk to public health and as all procedures were properly followed to decontaminate the ambulance. However, how far and wide the patient travelled in Dallas before being diagnosed is yet to be probed and checked to rule out any public health hazard.

Dr. Frieden finally added that “the bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation or this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country”. Ebola causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which can affect multiple organ systems in the body and is often accompanied by bleeding. Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat, each of which can be easily mistaken early on for other ailments like malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis.
Ebola is spread by direct contact with someone sick with the virus. That means people on the patient’s flight are not thought to be at risk, as he did not begin to show symptoms until several days after arriving in the United States, Frieden said.

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Government to launch Universal Health Assurance Mission

Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has announced that the government will introduce a universal health insurance programme under UHAM (Universal Health Assurance Mission). The programme will seek to provide all people access to tertiary medical services. In a country where only approximately 25% of the population is estimated to be covered by insurance, this step will go far in increasing insurance coverage and lowering premium rates.

Expert Group

An Expert Group headed by Dr.Ranjit Roy Chaudhary was formed to prepare a roadmap to UHAM. The group submitted its report in eight weeks and the report is now under consideration of the Health Ministry.

Projected Highlights of UHAM

  • Set to be the largest public health insurance programme in the world, with free insurance for persons in BPL category and low premium rates for rest of the population
  • 50 essential generic drugs, 30 AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) drugs and a package of diagnostics to be provided free of cost to all citizens at government hospitals and health centres across the country
  • Package containing information regarding preventive and positive health information for all citizens
  • UHAM Agency, an autonomous oversight body will be formed to monitor the activities and ensure genuine protection of the beneficiaries

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

WHO defines UHC as “ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.” UHC can be broken down into three main components

  • Equity in access to healthcare – all persons, irrespective of their financial status, must be able to access healthcare
  • The medical care provided must be of good quality and standard and should result in improvement of health of patients
  • The cost of care must not be so expensive that it puts the seeker of medical help in financial hardship

Significantly, the Millennium Development Goals call for universal access to reproductive health and treatment for HIV/Aids. The WHO constitution of 1948 also declares health a fundamental human right.

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