Children

Children, Infectious Diseases, Vaccination, International Aid

Is Measles Eradication Possible when the World is Still Trying to Eradicate Polio?

~Written by Theresa Majeski (Contact: theresa.majeski@gmail.com)

Also published on Global Contagions

Humanity has only truly conquered one human infectious disease, smallpox. Smallpox was successfully eradicated in 1977 after causing between 100 and 300 million deaths in the 20th century. Strides are being made to make polio the second eradicated infectious disease. Polio eradication efforts have been ongoing for almost 30 years, costing nearly 11 billion dollars. The World Health Organization (WHO) set a goal for polio eradication by 2000 but, 16 years later, that goal has yet to be achieved for reasons such as oral polio vaccine (OPV) effectiveness, armed conflict, and myths about vaccine dangers. The global public health community has been “burned” by the polio eradication campaign and may not have the money or energy for another global eradication campaign, especially since the polio campaign is still ongoing. Even if the global health community is burnt out on polio eradication efforts, is it time to turn our attention toward measles eradication?

Measles, along with smallpox and polio, is one of the very few diseases that meets the criteria necessary for eradication. Measles cases can be easily diagnosed due to the characteristic rash, the vaccine is incredibly effective, and there is no animal host where the virus can hide. Perhaps most importantly, measles transmission has been eliminated in large geographic areas, demonstrating that eradication may be feasible.

 

Number of reported measles cases from April 2015 to September 2015 (6 months); Photo Credit: World Health Organization

Measles is a deadly disease. In 2013, measles killed an estimated 145,000 people, mostly children in Africa, while leaving countless others deaf, blind, or otherwise disabled. To prevent measles individuals need to receive two vaccinations, which are 99% effective at preventing measles. While the number of children receiving measles vaccinations has risen over the past decade, there are still a handful of countries where children aren’t receiving vaccines (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan). Even places like the United States and some countries in Europe, which have eliminated measles locally, are seeing outbreaks due to imported cases. Until measles is eradicated, imported cases will continue to pop-up in countries without local transmission.

While measles meets the criteria for eradication efforts, there are still challenges to achieving that goal. One major challenge is that measles is incredibly contagious; infectious droplets can linger in the air for up to two hours, infecting unsuspecting people. To interrupt measles transmission, over 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated, compared to only 80% for smallpox and polio. The measles vaccine is also harder to deliver than the OPV, which is administered via a few drops in a child’s mouth. The measles vaccine must be given via injection, thus trained staff is necessary, and the vaccine has to be reconstituted in the field (liquid added to the powder vaccine to make the complete vaccine). Once reconstituted, the vaccine is only viable for six hours, which isn’t much of an issue for large vaccination campaigns but becomes problematic when only one or two children need to be vaccinated.

As with many global public health campaigns, governments and non-governmental organizations donate money to help high-risk countries control the spread of measles. In 2009, the global recession hit and measles eradication efforts lost significant funding. Mass vaccination campaigns were canceled or reduced and routine vaccination programs suffered. Following the reduction in vaccinations the number of measles cases exploded in southern African countries, going from 170,000 in 2008 to 200,000 in 2011. Added to these challenges is the perception of measles in high-income countries. Even though measles is a deadly disease, many in high income countries view measles as a minor illness with  a rash and fever; certainly not something worth spending billions of dollars on over the course of many years.

Source: Butler D (2015). Measles by the numbers: A race to eradication. Nature 518 (7538): 148-149. doi: 10.1038/518148a.

Measles eradication is feasible. Measles meets the criteria necessary for eradication; it is easily diagnosed, it has an effective vaccine, and humans are the only host. It has been successfully eliminated in large areas of the world (for example, all 35 countries of the Americas eliminated measles in 2002), demonstrating that it is possible to at least end local transmission. However, significant challenges do exist. While the global health world may be hesitant to embark on another “eradication” campaign after the continued struggle with eradicating polio, perhaps it’s best to start eradicating measles without labeling it an “eradication” campaign. Avoiding the “eradication” label may help prevent critics who are hesitant about taking on another potentially long and expensive eradication campaign, especially as the polio eradication campaign is still ongoing. Regardless of the use of the word “eradication” in the efforts to rid the world of measles, without measles in the world, lives will be saved. Let’s ensure measles is added to the very short list of human diseases we’ve eradicated.

 

Economic Burden, Infectious Diseases, Innovation, Non-Communicable Diseases, Research, Vaccination, Children

Recent Therapeutic Advancements in Combating Dengue and Glioma

~Written by Kate Lee, MPH (Contact: kate@recombine.com)

Sanofi-Pasteur's Dengvaxia has been approved for the prevention of the four subtypes of dengue in children over 9 years old and adults under 45 years old. Photo Credit: European Pharmaceutical Review

Infectious and chronic diseases are some of the top priorities in global health. Abundant funding, both from the government and private sector, is poured into therapeutics research to help decrease morbidity and mortality from both types of diseases. For example, recent news has highlighted two promising therapies with the potential to alleviate the global burden of two diseases: dengue fever, an infectious disease, and glioblastoma, a chronic disease.

After 20 years of research, Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company, developed Dengvaxia, a vaccine to prevent dengue. Mexico is the first country to approve the vaccine for use in children over the age of nine and adults under the age of 45. A clinical trial last year found the vaccine to have an effectiveness of 60.8% against four strains of the virus[1]. Sanofi bypassed European and US regulations and sought regulatory approval for Dengvaxia in dengue-endemic countries. According to their press release, the vaccine, “will be priced at a fair, affordable, equitable, and sustainable price... and may be distributed for free in certain countries”[2].

Dengue is a febrile viral illness that is spread via the bite of an infected mosquito, and is endemic to tropical and sub-tropical climates. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 400 million people globally are infected with the dengue virus each year. Prevention has been limited to effective mosquito control and appropriate medical care[3]. These measures are often either ineffectively implemented, or there are limited, or no available medical resources in the community. Dengvaxia has the potential to reduce the burden of dengue, especially in developing countries that are particularly hard-hit with the disease. Future research could be directed towards making the vaccine more effective in children, as severe forms of dengue are the leading cause of illness and death in children in Asian and Latin American countries[3].

As one tropical virus is being prevented, another virus is being used to combat brain cancer. Researchers at Harvard and Yale have teamed up to use vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and Lassa virus, to search for and destroy cancer cells in mice[4]. Lassa is a febrile illness, usually transmitted by rodents, and is endemic to tropical and subtropical regions of the world[5]. VSV has been studied for many years and is generally effective in killing cancer cells; it becomes deadly to the patient when it reaches the brain[4,6]. Interestingly, including Lassa virus appears to make VSV safe for cancer therapy in the brain.

Researchers created a Lassa-VSV chimera, an organism that includes the genetic codes of two different organisms, to target glioma, one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer, which accounts for more than 80% of primary malignant brain tumors[7]. Glioblastoma is the most common form of glioma and is associated with poor survival, making this chimeric treatment a potential life saver for many patients. The next step in the treatment development process is primate research to evaluate safety. This is still a long way from the initiation of human trials, and eventual market, but promising nevertheless, for the millions of people globally who are affected by brain cancer.

Dengvaxia and the Lassa-VSV chimera represent recent advancements in therapeutics with potentially significant global impact for brain cancer and dengue respectively - diseases that affect populations in many nations.

References:

1.     Sanofi's Dengvaxia, World's First Dengue Vaccine, Approved For Use In Mexico. International Business Times. http://www.ibtimes.com/sanofis-dengvaxia-worlds-first-dengue-vaccine-approved-use-mexico-2219515. Published December 10, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

2.     World’s First Dengue Vaccine Approved After 20 Years of Research. Bloomberg Business. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-09/world-s-first-dengue-vaccine-approved-after-20-years-of-research. Published December 9, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

3.     Dengue and severe dengue. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/. Updated May 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

4.     Using a deadly virus to kill cancer: Scientists experiment with new treatment. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/using-a-deadly-virus-to-kill-cancer-scientists-experiment-with-new-treatment/2015/12/07/7d30bc5a-9785-11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html. Published December 7, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

5.     Lassa fever. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs179/en/. Updated March 13, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

6.     Viral Therapy in Treating Patient with Liver Cancer. ClinicalTrials.gov. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01628640. Updated July 2015. Accessed December 20, 2015.

7.     Schwartzbaum J A, Fisher J L, Aldape K D, Wrensch M. Epidemiology and molecular pathology of glioma. Nature Clinical Practice Neurology (2006) 2, 494-503. doi:10.1038/ncpneuro0289

Poverty, Water and Sanitation, Children

Access to Toilets: Not as Common as You Might Think

~Written by Theresa Majeski (Contact: theresa.majeski@gmail.com; Twitter: @theresamajeski)

There are over seven billion people on the planet and 2.4 billion of them do not have access to proper sanitation. Almost one billion people still defecate in the open. The risk of disease and malnutrition increases with poor sanitation, especially for women and children. This year’s World Toilet Day on November 19 highlights the impact of poor sanitation on malnutrition.

 

Figure 1 : World Toilet Day poster, 2015. http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/wtd-artist-poster-724x1024.jpg

 

Every day, over 1,000 children die from preventable water and sanitation related diarrheal diseases. Half of all cases of under-nutrition associated with diarrheal or intestinal worm infections are directly due to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. Stunting and wasting, which cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage, have been linked to poor (water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions. In 2014, almost 1 in 4 children under five years of age suffered from stunting globally. 58% of all cases of diarrheal disease are directly related to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Access to proper sanitation, hygiene, and potable water is so important that it was included in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Since 1990 an additional 2.1 billion people have started using basic toilets, and today around 68% of people have access to proper sanitation. However, the final MDGs Assessment report shows that the world has fallen short of the MDG goal by 700 million people. This means that there is still work to be done, which is why access to sanitation and clean water is Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are many innovations occurring in the WASH area. One example is a project by Give Water that promotes child health by developing child-sized latrines and teaching children about proper sanitation and hygiene practices in school. This ensures that proper WASH practices start from a young age. The WASH Impact Network website provides a lot of information about additional innovative WASH projects. 

Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a human right. While progress is being made towards this goal, there is still work to be done. World Toilet Day highlights the continued effort to provide proper sanitation facilities to every person on the planet.

Poverty, Children

Highlighting Childhood Disability: DiaBlog with Priyam Global

~Written by Jasmine L. Hamilton (Contact: lajuaniehamilton@gmail.com; Twitter: @jasminogen) with Michaela Cisney (Twitter: @priyamglobal)

A mother supports her son during a therapy session in Hope Special School, Chennai, India.

Disability affects an estimated 1 billion persons worldwide (1). An estimated third are children, the majority of whom (>80%) live in low and middle income countries (LMICs) (1-2). Children affected by disability and their families face significant challenges, including social isolation and stigma, high risk of poverty and violence, minimal resources and programming, and inadequate services, to name a few (1-2). Further, although the convention on the rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (3-4) state that children with disabilities are entitled to the rights of all children and should be provided access to health care, education and protection from violence, abuse and neglect, the current challenges faced by children with disabilities demonstrate failures in translating these values at policy, national and international levels (5-6). The millennium development goals (MDGs) for example, excluded disability from its agenda, a major oversight with dire consequences on children worldwide. For example, a recent report by Human Rights Watch revealed that in South Africa, the second largest economy in Africa, over 500,000 disabled children are unable to access primary education, an issue thought to be a prevalent problem in LMICs (1,5-6). The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and others have repeatedly outlined the shortage of research, policy, or action on behalf of children affected by disabilities in developing countries.

Fortunately, recent developments at the policy level indicate movement towards a more equitable approach for addressing disability. Most importantly, the inclusion of targets toward improving access to education and employment for disabled persons in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), stands to profoundly affect the way disability is perceived worldwide, with a significant possibility of increased access to healthcare, education, and other services available to children affected by disability.

These developments are bringing optimism and a surge of hope to organizations and volunteers that have been working tirelessly to bring about positive change in this area. I recently spoke with the director and co-founder of Priyam Global (http://www.priyamglobal.org/#who-we-are) a new NGO working to improve quality of life, opportunity, and global perception of value for the world’s poorest children who have disabilities, in an effort to outline major challenges and steps that can be taken towards creating a more equitable world for children affected by disability. What follows are her comments on some of the challenges and hopes that she has for Pryiam Global and the children with disabilities in Chennai, India who inspire her work.

Q1: What does Priyam stand for, when was it founded and what is your vision for the organization?

Michaela Cisney: Priyam is a word meaning ‘love’ that is shared among the Tamil, Hindi, and Sanskrit languages. The name was selected through a collaborative process with the children’s home we partner with in Chennai and reflects what is essential to the success of our work: a simple, abiding love for all of humanity, but especially for its children. I co-founded Priyam in July 2014, with the vision of bringing childhood disability to the heart of global health by creatively and attractively reframing the ways we look at children, ability, and value.

Q2: How many disabled children are you currently reaching and what assistance do you provide?

Michaela Cisney: Our collaborative work with a special education school and a children’s home currently reaches about 200 children affected by disability in India. We’ve been able to support and increase special nutrition initiatives to combat India’s severe child malnutrition rates, cost-share the expenses of additional therapists, provide start-up funding to selected families for self-employment opportunities, train and place national and foreign volunteers, and—importantly—take a critical role in increasing awareness and understanding of childhood disability as an urgent and relevant global maternal and child health issue.

Q3: What is your biggest challenge working in the area of CD?

Michaela Cisney: As a connector organization and catalyst, the greatest challenge we face is general low awareness in high-income countries of childhood disability realities, contexts, and opportunities for change in developing countries. Disability makes people uncomfortable, reflecting a great need for disability issues to be framed as secondary to universal values that resonate with all of us: a child’s beautiful personality, a toddler’s wellbeing and ability to thrive, a mother’s love bound by her inability to provide for her children in extreme poverty. Disability is somehow seen as “other” to these issues and so it’s a challenge to gently dismantle prejudices many of us are not even aware we hold, to then attractively frame CD in positive contexts of change and growth while also portraying urgent realities in a balanced way.

Q4: What is your greatest hope for Priyam Global and the children in Chennai that you currently work with?

Michaela Cisney: My greatest hope is that every child, in Chennai and beyond, would see the full and beautiful realization of her rights and dreams: a family that loves her without limits, a body and mind that are cared for and well, and the opportunities to explore her interests and thrive using her strengths.

To learn more about the work of Priyam Global visit www.priyamglobal.org For information on the global plan to address the challenges faced by persons with disabilities visit: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1618

 

About Michaela Cisney

Michaela earned a Master’s in Public Health in Behavioral, Social and Community Health from Indiana University, focusing on maternal and child health, and nutrition and disease interactions. Before launching Priyam Global, she worked with Timmy Global Health to develop culturally-relevant monitoring and evaluation plans for a WASH program in rural Ecuador. In addition to her role as Executive Director for Priyam Global, Michaela works as a consultant for World Vision International (WVI), where she helps WVI communicate critical impact of community health worker programming globally for marketing and advocacy. She has also worked with WVI to design and launch a global training on individual/household health behavioral counseling (ttC). Follow her on Twitter: @priyamglobal

 

References:

  1. www.un.org/disabilities/documents/review_of_disability_and_the_mdgs.pdf
  2. http://www.who.int/disabilities/media/news/2012/13_09/en/
  3. Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York: http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
  4. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml
  5. https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/southafrica0815_4up_0.pdf
  6. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/aug/18/disabled-children-poorer-countries-out-of-primary-education-south-africa-human-rights-watch-report

Children, Government Policy, Health Systems, Infectious Diseases, Vaccination, Poverty

Life after Polio: Towards Improving the Situation of Polio Survivors

~Written by Hussain Zandam (Contact: huzandam@gmail.com, twitter: @zandamatique)

 A woman paralyzed by polio, Rotary International (2010)

A woman paralyzed by polio, Rotary International (2010)

here is a surge of excitement among international development communities and global health partners as the World Health Organization announced that the battle against polio is gradually coming to an end (WHO, 2013). The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has set out a new strategy (Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan), which hopefully will be the final onslaught that will result in a global certificate eradication of the disease by 2018 (GPEI, 2013). The eradication will be a significant victory for the global population, as future generations will also be saved from polio's devastating toll of death, morbidity, and disability.

 Map of the world comparing countries with polio cases in 1988 and 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC (2014).

Map of the world comparing countries with polio cases in 1988 and 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC (2014).

While a vast amount of resources has been disbursed to prevent polio since 1952, inadequate attention has been devoted to understanding the devastations left behind in the lives and households of polio survivors. The damage is more severe in those permanently disabled by the disease and those recently identified with post-polio syndrome (PPS). Post-polio syndrome is characterized by a renewal or new experience of polio symptoms including disability and functional deterioration after years of recovery and functional stability. PPS usually occurs 30-40 years after original infection and affects about 40% of polio survivors including those who developed permanent disability and those who recover from initial affectation with no or few symptoms (Lin and Lim, 2005). 

Although the situation of polio survivors in high-income countries is relatively well documented, there is a dearth of information in low and middle-income countries. This has profound political, economic and social implications for local, national and international policy-making. While the number of individuals disabled by polio will begin to disappear in the next few decades in the developed world, those in the developing world will continue to be a major concern for at least another generation (Gonzalez et al., 2010). And as the population of younger polio survivors reaches middle and old age, a new wave of individuals with PPS will begin to make additional demands on developing countries’ health systems.

Generally, individuals disabled through polio confront not only a range of physical disabilities but also significant social, financial and human rights barriers hindering integration and participation in families and communities. These barriers in turn, lead to chronic ill-health, social marginalization, limited access to education and employment, and high rates of poverty (Groce et al, 2011). Women are impacted disproportionately, as are individuals from poorer households, minority communities and from rural and urban slum areas (WHO/World Bank, 2011). 

To design effective programs and policies that improve life course outcomes for polio survivors, more research is essential. To begin, more accurate estimates of regional prevalence of polio survivors and the degree of residual disability sustained will be useful for efficient planning and appropriate resource allocation. In particular, addressing the stigma and prejudice encountered by persons disabled by polio must be part of long-term strategies to address the needs of people living with PPS and must be linked to broader efforts to confront disability and stigma faced by all people with disabilities. Ratification by countries of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and progressive national legislation are not enough - inclusion of polio survivors in community awareness campaigns and increased support by DPOs is also needed. And given the disproportionate impact of polio on women, DPOs must pay particular attention to gender sensitive research.

 

References:

Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 2013. Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan: 2013e2018.

Groce, N., Kett, M., Lang, R., Trani, J.F., 2011. Disability and poverty: the need for a more nuanced understanding of implications for development policy and practice. Third World Quarterly 32 (8), 1493e1513.

Gonzalez, H., Olsson, T., Borg, K., 2010. Management of postpolio syndrome. The Lancet Neurology 9 (6), 634e642.

Lin, K.H., Lim, Y.W., 2005. Post-poliomyelitis syndrome: case report and review of the literature. Annals-academy of MEDICINE SINGAPORE 34 (7), 447

WHO, 2013. Poliomyelitis. Fact Sheet No. 114. WHO, Geneva. http://www.who.int/ mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/index.html (accessed 11.08.15.).

WHO/World Bank, 2011. World Report on Disability. WHO, Geneva. http://www. who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/index.html (accessed 12.08.15.).