WHO Current Affairs - 2020

Nepal becomes first country in south-east Asia to eliminate Trachoma: WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) has validated Nepal for having eliminated trachoma, a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. It makes Nepal first country in WHO’s South-East Asia Region to defeat trachoma, world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. The eye disease was second leading cause of preventable blindness in Nepal in 1980s. Its prevalence in Nepal has fallen by 40% following implementation of sustained control activities including national trachoma programme which provided incentives to local communities and districts to build and maintain latrines, measures that were crucial to improve sanitation and reduce disease carrying flies.

WHO Criteria used to assess country’s claim for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem

  • Less than 5% of children aged 1–9 years have signs of active trachoma
  • Less than 0.2% of people aged 15 years and older have trachomatous trichiasis.
  • Health system which can identify and manage new cases of trachomatous trichiasis.

Trachoma

It is an eye disease caused by infection with bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Infection is particularly common in young children. It causes inflamed granulation on inner surface of eye lids. It spreads through contact with infective eye or nose discharges. Ocular or nasal discharge can be transmitted directly from person to person or be mediated by flies which have been in contact with eyes and noses of infected people. Trachoma transmission is associated with poor sanitation and hygiene, which increase availability of eye discharges and encourage breeding of flies. It can be treated with antibiotics in case of children. Older people infected with it require eyelid surgery to cure it.

India had self-declared itself free from infective Trachoma in December 2017 after it met goal of trachoma elimination as specified by WHO under its GET2020 (Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020) program.

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Habitat loss may have triggered Nipah outbreak: WHO report

According to report by World Health Organisation (WHO), human-triggered factors like habitat loss due to deforestation and climate change set off infectious outbreaks such as recent Nipah cases in Kerala. Due to habitat destruction by human activity, flying fox (fruit bat), a natural host of Nipah virus get stressed and hungry, which weakens its immune system, increasing virus load. It results in lot of virus spilling from urine and saliva of bats.

Findings of Study

There is strong evidence that emergence of bat-related viral infections can be attributed to loss of animal’s natural habitats. Reproductive and nutritional stress are potential role players in Nipah and Hendra (Nipah equivalent in Australia) viruses spillover. Nutritional stress is mainly due to loss of food resources which is direct consequence of habitat loss and climate change brings bats closer to urban areas.

Forest fragmentation and hunting bats for food also bring them closer to humans and is often an important cause of disease transmission. It can be seen from rapid urbanisation of bat-rich rainforests contributed to the emergence of Nipah virus in Malaysia.

Nipah virus

Nipah virus (NiV) infection is zoonotic disease (disease transmitted to humans from animals) that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.

Fruit bats or flying foxes of Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus are natural host of Nipah virus. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids. It was first identified in 1999 during outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. It gets its name from Sungai Nipah, a Malaysian village, where pig farmers became ill with encephalitis.

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