- Sierra Leone has lifted quarantine measures imposed at the height of the Ebola epidemic, as the World Health Organisation warned the crisis was still “extremely alarming” despite a drop in new cases.
- Innovation will improve the lives of the poor faster in the next 15 years than at any time in history, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda say.
- As children head back to school this week, parents are being warned of a sharp increase in whooping cough in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 26th January 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Sierra Leone has lifted quarantine measures imposed at the height of the Ebola epidemic, as the World Health Organisation warned the crisis was still “extremely alarming” despite a drop in new cases.
The West African nation of 6 million had restricted travel for around half its population, sealing off six of its 14 districts and numerous tribal chiefdoms in response to an outbreak which has killed more than 3,000 Sierra Leoneans.
“Restrictions on movement will be eased to support economic activity,” president Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation.
“As such, there will no longer be any district or chiefdom level restrictions on movement.”
Mr Koroma pointed to a “steady downward trend” in new cases in recent weeks, adding that “victory is in sight”.
But the move came as the WHO warned that the situation was still “extremely alarming”, and that the progress made so far could rapidly be undone unless $315 million was made available to continue the fight over the coming months.
The warning echoed an assurance by Mr Koroma that the crisis would not be considered over until all three countries had seen no new cases for 42 days.
The relaxation nevertheless marks huge progress against an epidemic which has seen commerce all but grind to a halt, with restrictions on movement halting crop harvests and sparking warnings of a looming food crisis.
The president said the travel bans on almost 3 million people would be removed on Friday, while restrictions would be eased on Saturday trading hours in the hard-hit Western Area, which includes the capital Freetown.
Sierra Leone is targeting zero new cases by March 31 of the deadly tropical fever that has killed about 9,000 West Africans over the past year, according to official data – although the real toll is thought to be significantly higher.
The World Health Organisation said in its latest update that 8,688 people had died, among a cumulative total of 21,759 cases.
Innovation will improve the lives of the poor faster in the next 15 years than at any time in history, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda say.
In their annual letter, released on Thursday, the couple laid out their upbeat vision for a technology-driven wave of change that will lift hundreds of millions out of poverty by 2030.
The major breakthroughs would be most noticeable in health, but also in agriculture, digital banking and online education, where the Gates Foundation plan to pour in resources.
Child deaths are predicted to be cut by half, polio would be wiped out while the fight against malaria, a major killer in Africa, would make strides with vaccines and a single-dose cure.
The Gates’ “big bet” that the world would be a better place in 2030 comes at a time of gloom in international circles, with humanitarian agencies struggling to help a record number of people displaced by conflicts.
The letter acknowledged that there were sceptics and that “we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a handful of the worst-off countries will continue to struggle”.
As children head back to school this week, parents are being warned of a sharp increase in whooping cough in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.
The number of whooping cough cases quadrupled between last April and December in New South Wales.
In Victoria and the ACT reported cases doubled.
While figures are not at the highs seen during the last major outbreak in 2010/2011, authorities are concerned another outbreak may be imminent.
Dr Nicholas Wood, a staff specialist general paediatrician at Sydney’s Westmead Children’s Hospital, said whooping cough … is a condition that has fairly regular outbreaks in Australia.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, the director of communicable disease at NSW Health, said cases were clearly on the rise in the state.
“We’re watching the number of cases very closely,” she said.
“We got a low in about the middle of 2014, down as low as about 140 cases [per month] and now we’re up to close to 500 cases per month.
“In the peak of the previous outbreak, we had close to 2,000 per month recorded.”
Dr Sheppeard said the disease often came in waves of outbreaks, because immunity waned with time.
This has been the news on Health Professional Radio. For more information on today’s items head to hpr.fm/news and subscribe to our podcast on itunes.