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International TB Day: Calls For More Action To Stop Deadly Disease

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More action has been called to stop the deadly tuberculosis disease as the world marked the International TB day on Thursday.

Tuberculosis has remained one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world, despite being preventable and curable.

The World Health Organization says, every day, nearly 4000 persons die from TB and close to 30 000 fall ill with the disease.

In 2019, 10 million persons suffered from TB, and close to one and a half million persons — more than 95% of whom were living in lower and middle-income countries — died of the disease. Tb is also said to remain the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the international community is calling for more action to eliminate tuberculosis as a public health burden by 2030.

Report shows, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem and threatens to unwind the gains made over recent years.  Restrictions on movements have resulted in sharp drops in TB case notifications in 2020 and limited access to TB treatments and services.

Global progress in TB prevention is also lagging.

The rollout of new treatment has started in February in five African countries with high rates of the disease: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

According to the who, only 1 in 5 of the 30 million people targeted for access by 2022 have started a TB preventive treatment.

“About 1/4 of the world’s population, roughly 7 billion people are infected with TB in a latent form,” says Robert Matiru, director of programmes at UNITAID. “if this is not treated with preventive measures and therapies it can become active and people will become sick and die”.

UNITAID’s supported project impaact4tb helps to facilitate access to affordable and easier to use TB preventive treatments for people at risk including people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.

One of those treatments is called “3hp”, a short course of preventive therapy combining two TB drugs – Rifapentine and isoniazid. This has reduced patients’ treatments from one daily dose between 6 to 24 months to one weekly dose for 3 months.

In February, a new fixed-dose combination of this preventive treatment has started to be rolled out in 5 high burden TB countries with the financial support of UNITAID.

This new version reduces the pill burden from 9 pills a week to 3, making it even easier for patients to stick to their treatments with better health outcomes.

In Mozambique, the rollout will first target 3 provinces in the south of the country with a high TB incidence: the city of Maputo, the province of Maputo and the province of Gaza.

Director of Programmes at UNITAID Robert Matiru said, “if we want to have any chance of ending Tb, we need to prevent it in the first place.

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WHO, Africa CDC Urge African Nations To Keep Expired COVID Vaccines

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Africa CDC

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) have urged African countries not to destroy COVID-19 vaccines that have expired.  Many countries on the continent got AstraZeneca vaccines through the U.N. facilitated Covax scheme for their campaigns.

Now, the W.H.O. says countries whose stocks might have expired should hold on to the stock and wait for further guidance. The Africa CDC says it has spoken to the manufacturer and has been reassured that the vaccines are still safe.

Reports say many vaccines can be used up to 36 months after manufacture, but because COVID-19 jabs are new, there is not enough data to prove their effectiveness over longer periods.

The call came after Malawi and South Sudan said they would discard more than 70,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jabs that were out of date.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa has been slow, partly because of supply issues and skepticism about the jab.

Out of 55 African countries, 41 have benefitted from the delivery of vaccines via the global-sharing scheme Covax. Seven are yet to receive their first batch.

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Lagos Shuts All COVID-19 Vaccination Centres

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Lagos has closed all COVID-19 vaccination centers across the state, after vaccinating more than a quarter of a million persons, completing the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.  That makes Lagos the only state that has inoculated more than 200,000 residents during this period.

Authorities say the first vaccination exercise ended on tuesday and all vaccination centres have been shut down.  Lagos State received from the federal government half a million of the nearly four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine delivered to Nigeria.

The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, had advised states to stop vaccination after administering half of the doses supplied to them.  This is to ensure those who had already received the first dose would be able to get the second jab.

Lagos health commissioner, Professor Akin Abayomi says the remaining doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been reserved at the Lagos State cold chain store for the 2nd dose exercise, starting from late next month.

He urged Lagosians who have already received the first jab to keep their next appointment dates for their second dose at the same health facilities where they got the first jab.

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Disruption In Oxygen Supply Kills Many COVID Patients In India

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Twenty-two COVID-19 patients on ventilators have on Wednesday died in a hospital in western India after a disruption in the supply of medical oxygen caused by a leak.

According to Reuters news agency quoting the Nashik district’s collector, Suraj Mandhar said an oxygen tanker leaked outside a hospital in the city, halting its supply for about half an hour before it later resumed for nearly 150 other patients in the hospital.

Media reports said all the victims were on ventilators and in need of constant oxygen supply in the hospital dedicated for COVID-19 patients.

Fire officer Sanjay Bairagi said the leak was halted by the fire service within 15 minutes, but there was supply disruption in the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, a city in Maharashtra state that is the worst hit by the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Television images showed white fumes spreading in the hospital area, causing panic.

Surinder Sonone, a police officer, said the leak occurred in a pipe connecting the oxygen supply to the main tank in the hospital complex.

India with the second highest confirmed cases of COVID-19 behind the United States has reported more than 15.6 million infections as the total number of fatalities stood at 182,553.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state government has ordered an investigation into what caused the leak.

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