Entries in World Health Organization (3)


Toxic Pollution Engulfs China; State TV Warns Residents to Stay Inside

Getty/George Doyle/Thinkstock(BEIJING, China) -- China is grappling with a wave of toxic pollution that has engulfed the country.

In Beijing, the US Embassy monitoring index recorded a level of 755 or “beyond index.” According to the World Health Organization, anything over 300 triggers an emergency warning.

An acrid smoke and thick smog filled Beijing…at times visibility was down to a few hundred feet. It was just one of dozens of cities to be hit this weekend.

China’s rapid growth, an explosion in car ownership and poor environmental standards are blamed for the bad air. The government has long downplayed the issue but this weekend even state TV warned residents across the country to stay inside.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Spreading, Says World Health Organization

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization is warning medical providers around the world about the potential spread of a drug-resistant form of gonorrhea, urging them to be vigilant in spotting the disease and taking steps to stop its spread.

The health agency plans to issue a “global action plan,” hoping to raise awareness of the disease and encouraging research efforts to find a cure.

Cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea have so far been identified in Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Sweden and Norway, but it’s likely that there are undetected cases in other countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about the rising rate of drug-resistant gonorrhea in an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in February.  So far, there have been no reports of any cases of gonorrhea resistant to cephalosporins in the U.S., the agency says on its website, but it does have a surveillance system in place.

“There is much to do, and the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly,” the authors wrote.

In 2006, the prevalence of resistance to cephalosporins was about 0.1 percent, but by the middle of 2011, that number rose to 1.7 percent, the authors said.  CDC’s first warnings about drug resistance came in 2010.

The most alarming part of the story, they said, is that cephalosporins are the only remaining drugs of choice that work. They have to be taken along with two other antibiotics.

“A major component of the threat is that there really is no backup plan if -- most likely when -- these more resistant organisms become more prevalent,” Dr. Kenneth Fife, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at Indiana University Medical School, told ABC News in response to the CDC’s commentary. “There are very few new drugs that have activity against the gonococcus, no clinical trials to establish the efficacy of the few drugs that might have promise.”

In many cases, there are no symptoms of gonorrhea, so an infected person can spread the disease without even knowing he or she has it.

Fife added that it’s unlikely that experts will be able to prevent an outbreak from happening, so it’s urgent to research and develop new treatments.

If the situation progresses to the point where we are in a “post-antibiotic era,” Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said experts will be “hard-pressed to provide quick and effective therapy to patients.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


E. Coli Outbreak Affecting Significantly More Women

S. Lowry/Univ Ulster(GENEVA, Switzerland) -- The European E. coli outbreak that has claimed more than a dozen lives and sickened thousands, including four suspected cases in the U.S. -- has disproportionately affected women.

"The outbreak is unusual in that it has developed very rapidly, and an unusually high number of cases affect adults ... particularly women, instead of the normal high-risk groups, which are young children and the elderly," said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a communications officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) .

Women account for about 70 percent of the cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, the serious illness affecting the kidneys caused by the bacteria, according to WHO.

While officials have not yet been able to determine the source of the bacteria, Dr. Gerard Krause, an outbreak investigator with the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, told ABC News that soon-to-be-released studies implicate lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Krause said the outbreak is most closely associated with lettuce.

Speculation is that more women are falling ill because they eat more vegetables, or it could be a gender-specific biological factor.

"It may be just because whatever is causing it is something that women eat more than men," said Dr. Maria Alcaide, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. "The other thought is that women have something different in their gut that's making these bacteria more attracted."

In a briefing earlier Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are four suspected cases in the U.S., individuals who likely contracted the infection while in northern Germany and brought it back to the United States. Three of the victims are hospitalized with hemolytic-uremic syndrome and the fourth reported bloody diarrhea consistent with the outbreak strain of E. coli.

Two American military service members stationed in Germany are also suspected cases. The CDC said both of them have a similar diarrheal illness.

Government officials stressed that the outbreak has not affected the United States directly.

The Food and Drug Administration is monitoring lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from Spain and Germany based on information it has received from European investigators. Produce from those countries accounts for less than 0.2 percent of produce imported into the U.S. every year.

The FDA says it is also stepping up its food safety regulations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio