Top 10 Food-Borne Parasites of Greatest Global Concern : Africa

Top 10 Food-Borne Parasites of Greatest Global Concern

A new report released today by two United Nations agencies identifies a “top 10” of food-borne parasites with the greatest global impact, including those found in pork, fish, fresh produce, fruit juice and milk, among other foods.

According to the report, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the top ten are:

  • Taenia solium (pork tapeworm): In pork
  • Echinococcus granulosus (hydatid worm or dog tapeworm): In fresh produce
  • Echinococcus multilocularis (a type of tapeworm): In fresh produce
  • Toxoplasma gondii (protozoa): In meat from small ruminants, pork, beef, game meat (red meat and organs)
  • Cryptosporidium spp. (protozoa): In fresh produce, fruit juice, milk
  • Entamoeba histolytica (protozoa): In fresh produce
  • Trichinella spiralis (pork worm): In pork
  • Opisthorchiidae (family of flatworms): In freshwater fish
  • Ascaris spp. (small intestinal roundworms): In fresh produce
  • Trypanosoma cruzi (protozoa): In fruit juices

“Obviously this top ten is a more general, global perspective and does not necessarily reflect parasite rankings at a national level where each country may have more precise information,” Renata Clarke, head of food safety and quality at FAO, said in a news release.

“But considering the problems they cause, these parasites do not get the attention they deserve. We hope that by releasing a top ten ranking we can increase awareness among policy makers, the media and the general public about this major public health issue,” she added.

The parasites affect the health of millions of people every year, infecting muscle tissues and organs, causing epilepsy, anaphylactic shock, amoebic dysentery and other problems, the agencies noted. Some can live on in people’s bodies for decades.

Despite their huge social costs and global impacts, information is generally lacking regarding just where these parasites come from, how they live in the human body, and – most importantly – how they make people sick.

The list and report were developed following a request by the global food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), for FAO and WHO to review the current status of knowledge on parasites in food and their public health and trade impacts.

The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene is now developing new guidelines for the control of these parasites. FAO and WHO are supporting the process by providing scientific and technical information.

The aim is to develop new standards for the global food trade that will help countries control the presence of these parasites in the food chain.

The report lists a number of ways to reduce the risk of parasite infections. For farmers, it advises the use of organic fertilizer, particularly on produce, should be closely monitored to ensure it is composted properly and all faecal matter is removed. Water quality must also be closely monitored.

For consumers, it advises that all meat should be well cooked and only clean water should be used to wash and prepare vegetables.

The agencies noted that in Europe, more than 2,500 people are affected by food-borne parasitic infections each year. In 2011, there were 268 cases of trichinellosis and 781 cases of echinococcosis recorded in the European Union.

In Asia, there is no precise national data but parasitic diseases are known to be widely spread and are recognized as major public health problems in many countries.

Meanwhile, there is no data at all in most African nations on the prevalence of food-borne parasites in humans because of a general lack of surveillance systems.

In the United States, Neurocysticercosis, caused by Taenia solium, is the single most common infectious cause of seizures in some areas of the US where 2,000 people are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis every year. Toxoplasmosis is a leading cause of food-borne illness and death.

Source: All Africa


Ebola outbreak in West Africa infects 80, killing 59

An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has killed at least 59 people in Guinea and is suspected to have spread to neighbouring Liberia.

Health workers in Guinea are trying to contain the spread of the disease which causes severe internal bleeding. In neighbouring Liberia, health officials said they are investigating five deaths after a group of people crossed the border from Guinea in search of medical treatment.

“The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitizing local health authorities on the disease,” Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale said.

The Ebola virus leads to severe hemorrhagic fever in its victims and has no vaccine or specific treatment. The new cases mark the first time in 20 years that an outbreak of the virus has been reported in West Africa.

Sierra Leone on high alert

Already health workers fear the outbreak could overtax Liberia and Guinea, both deeply impoverished countries with severely limited medical facilities. Officials in Sierra Leone are also on high alert and have sent medical teams to the border with Guinea, though no cases have emerged so far.

“The Ebola fever is one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind with a fatality rate up to 90 per cent,” said Ibrahima Toure, Guinea’s country director for the aid group Plan International.

“Communities in the affected region stretch across the borders and people move freely within this area. This poses a serious risk of the epidemic becoming widespread with devastating consequences,” he said.

The World Health Organization said it is dispatching experts to help ministry officials in Guinea.

Panic erupts

Efforts were underway to keep the virus from reaching the capital of Conakry, home to some 3 million people. Panic erupted Sunday amid reports that two of the deaths had occurred in the capital. However, on Monday authorities said that those cases were only under investigation and later proved not to be positive for the virus.

As the government issued messages on state radio and television urging people to wash their hands and avoid contact with sick people, medical officials said supplies of chlorine and bleach were running out at stores.

“I usually take a taxi to get to work but in order to avoid contact with strangers, I’m going to walk instead, said Touka Mara, a teacher in Conakry.

Authorities said that goods in Conakry that had been imported from the affected part of the south were being quarantined as a precautionary measure.

Ebola was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized. Ebola outbreaks were reported in Congo and Uganda in 2012.

The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. During communal funerals, for example, when the bereaved come into contact with an Ebola victim, the virus can be contracted, health officials said.

Source: msn news

Tanzania: Millions of East Africans Are Eating Poison – but Are They Aware of It?

But now we have to contend with a new one that is demanding our attention as well – eating poison. No, our people are not swallowing pesticides to end their lives.

They are happily eating their maize, cassava, groundnuts, rice and other foodstuffs the way they have always done.

And there lies the problem, because these foods are killing them slowly. A workshop held in Bujumbura on 6-7 March was told that millions of East Africans are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. Simply put, aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungus that infects various plants, cereals and legumes.

This can be either in the farm or during storage. The toxin is responsible for serious public health challenges including liver cirrhosis and stunting in children. Livestock that feeds on contaminated produce also gets affected, leading to lower productivity.

Many countries around the world have established what they deem to be safe standards to protect their citizens from harmful imports, the most stringent of these being those imposed by the European Union.

This has obviously affected the acceptability of produce from East Africa, which is said to be one of the major hotspots of aflatoxin. But the crisis has not attracted headlines.

It is unfortunate that the vast majority of our people have never even heard of aflatoxin. Perhaps, this saves them from a situation they would seem helpless to do anything about since at the end of the day they will need to eat something, anyway.

And you cannot tell them the food in the family granary is slowly but surely killing them without offering an alternative. What about the urban poor?

Putting together one meal at the end of the day is hard enough for them, so telling them to watch what they are eating may seem equally cruel. Experts say that up to 100 per cent of the harvest in some areas is often contaminated.

There are occasional outbreaks and some deaths, but generally the effects tend to be felt in the long term, which perhaps encourages officialdom to feign ignorance.

Moreover, the symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning are similar to many other conditions, which again makes it expedient to do nothing and to assume that some other condition may be the culprit. But burying our heads in the sand won’t solve the problem.

Source: All Africa



Malnutrition On the Rise for Children in the North

Some 100,000 children, including Nigerian refugees fleeing attacks from the extremist sect Boko Haram, are suffering from acute malnutrition in northern Cameroon. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Health officials and United Nations agencies have been visiting the children and are promising assistance.

Badyne Mansto cries as her five-year-old child is buried near her house in Maroua, northern Cameroon. She told VOA the child lost weight and died at a private hospital two hours after she was admitted. She blamed the staff for not attending to her immediately when she arrived.

Hospital staff say they are overwhelmed. Mamha Catherine is one of them.

“As you can see, there are so many patients than we can attend to. We lack infrastructure, we lack staff, so what is certain is that some of the children whose lives may have been saved will end up dying,” she said.

Dire situation

Aiida Maimonatou, who is at the hospital with her baby, is getting impatient. She said when her first child was not well, she took him to a traditional healer and he died. Now she has brought her second child to the hospital because the government is asking people not to go for traditional treatment. But, she says, “since I came here, nobody has attended to me.”

Among the malnourished children are Nigerian refugees fleeing from the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram. At their camp in Menowo in Mayo Tsanaga Division where 7,000 refugees live, more than 300 children are suffering.

Comfort Manda, who said she fled Borno State, said she has lost a child to malnutrition.

“My brother, it is very difficult. I don’t know what to tell you, but the situation that I met here is so deplorable that I don’t know what to do now,” said Manda. “I came in from Nigeria and my two children are sick, I have taken them to the hospital and find it difficult to provide their medicine. One of them already died and I am still struggling with one of them. I do not know what will happen at the end. Added to this, there is no food, there is no water and when children are sick they drink a lot of water. We are not able to have even water to give our children. It is very difficult.”

Dr. Ndansi Elvis said the crisis is aggravated because refugees have to compete with the local population for food and water.

“These people come and there is competition for food. And when there is competition for food, there is also limited supply and the prices go up. And there is the problem of early marriages. You will not expect that a 17-year-old who has a child actually understands the nutritional needs of a child as much as a mature woman,” said Elvis.

“It’s astonishing that this is a public health problem but little attention is given to it. I go through the budget of the Ministry of Public Health for this year and I don’t think that even up to 500 million CFA franc [$1 million] has been allocated for any program as far as malnutrition is concerned,” Elvis continued.

Jean Mark Eding of Doctors Without Borders said a number of factors are contributing to the increasing number of malnourished children this year.

“The first thing is the absence or insufficient food for the children,” he said. “There are also environmental factors, like droughts, floods, dykes that give way, insects that destroy crops and reduce food production.”

UNICEF says large sectors of Cameroon’s population lack access to basic health services, safe water, sanitation facilities and basic education. The agency is appealing for funds to prevent and combat malnutrition. Its officials and other United Nations agencies have been visiting the malnourished children and promising to help as soon as they get the funds.

Source: All Africa

Malaria ‘spreading to new altitudes’

Malaria (1)

Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread to higher altitudes, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that people living in the highlands of Africa and South America are at an increased risk of catching the mosquito-borne disease during hotter years.

They believe that temperature rises in the future could result in millions of additional cases in some areas. The research is published in the journal Science. Prof Mercedes Pascual, from the University of Michigan in the US, who carried out the research, said: “The impact in terms of increasing the risk of exposure to disease is very large.”

Vulnerable to disease

Areas at higher altitudes have traditionally provided a haven from this devastating disease. Both the malaria parasite and the mosquito that carries it struggle to cope with the cooler air.

Prof Pascual said: “The risk of the disease decreases with altitude and this is why historically people have settled in these higher regions.” But the scientists say the disease is entering new regions that had previously been malaria-free.

To investigate, scientists looked at densely populated areas in the highlands of Colombia and Ethiopia, where there are detailed records of both temperature and malaria cases from the 1990s to 2005.

They found that in warmer years, malaria shifted higher into the mountains, while in cooler years it was limited to lower elevations.

“This expansion could in a sense account for a substantial part of the increase of cases we have already observed in these areas,” said Prof Pascual.

The team believes that rising temperatures could cause a further spread.

In Ethiopia, where nearly half of the population live at an altitude of between 1,600m (5,250ft) and 2,400m, the scientists believe there could be many more cases.

“We have estimated that, based on the distribution of malaria with altitude, a 1C rise in temperature could lead to an additional three million cases in under-15-year-olds per year,” said Prof Pascual.

The team believes that because people living in areas that have never been exposed to malaria are particularly vulnerable to the disease, attempts to stop the spread should be focused on areas at the edge of the spread. The disease is easier to control there than at lower altitudes where it has already established.

According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa.

Source: BBC news

Student With Hole in Heart to Undergo N3.47 million for Surgery

An 11-year-old student of Federal Government College, Gusau has been diagnosed with a heart condition that will cost an estimated N3.47 million for corrective surgery in an Indian hospital.

Ifeoma Igbo was born with patent ductus arterosus (PDA) a congenital heart condition that’s left an open hole at the top of her heart.

She has been hospitalized with a “history of difficulty in breathing and lower respiratory tract infection during infancy and early childhood,” her medical report at Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital said.

Dr Usman Sani, consultant paediatric cardiologist at UDUTH, reported a heart murmur on examination but said Ifeoma had been only on “conservative management” and referred her to Madras Medical Mission in Chennai, India for surgery.

Ifeoma’s father, Donatus Igbo, a technician based in Zamfara, said the condition has hugely disrupted his daughter’s schooling.

PDA results when a major vessel at the top of heart crucial to breathing and feeding in foetuses fails to close after birth.

The condition puts a strain on the heart, causing shortness of breath and an increased risk of cardiac arrest.

Last year, a two-year-old girl with PDA successfully underwent corrective surgery at Garki Hospital in Abuja.

Source: All Africa


Call for Shake-Up in Africa Nutrition Research

Rwanda has achieved remarkable success in reducing child hunger, and nutrition experts believe there may be lessons here for other countries in Africa.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a 2013 report on progress in tackling malnutrition, noted that in 2005 more than half of Rwanda’s children under five years of age – about 800,000 – were stunted. “Just five years later, stunting prevalence had decreased from an estimated 52 percent to 44 percent,” the report said.

The Rwandan approach has been to try and find home-grown solutions.

It scaled up community-based nutrition programmes in all 30 of the country’s districts, and has also been setting up an almost universal community-based health insurance scheme. “This was all done with the help of food grown locally, and not packaged interventions provided by donors,” said Fidele Ngabo, director of Maternal Child Health. “There are thousands of local solutions for hunger…

“Each village comes up with community-based approaches to tackle malnutrition and food insecurity that don’t cost money – we are at the centre to provide support and play a monitoring role,” she said.

Examples include the setting up a communal grain reserve to which each household contributes at least 20 percent of their harvest during a good season, with the stored grain being used during the lean season; or the expansion of kitchen gardens with shared information on the vegetables to be grown.

Suggestions and proposed solutions are debated in working groups comprising aid agencies, researchers, academics and government officials.

Source: All Africa

Malaria: High risk focused in 10 African countries


Gains in fighting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have left the highest risk for the disease concentrated in 10 countries, according to a study published by The Lancet medical journal.

Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Guinea and Togo together account for 87 percent of areas that have the highest prevalence of malaria, it said.

The study assessed the effectiveness of the battle against malaria, which went into higher gear with the launch of the Roll Back Malaria initiative in 2000.

Since then, financial support has risen from $100 million (73 million euros) annually to about $2 billion (1.46 billion euros).

The researchers drew up a map of the changing face of malaria from thousands of surveys of prevalence of the disease among children in 44 countries.

They set down three categories of risk: high, meaning places where more than 50 percent of the population were likely to be infected by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite; moderate (10 to 50 percent of the population infected); and low (less than 10 percent).

From 2000 to 2010, the number of people living in areas of high-risk infection fell from 219 million to 184 million, a decline of 16 percent.

But the numbers living in moderate-risk locations rose from 179 million to 280 million, a rise of 57 percent.

The good news was that the tally of people living in low-risk areas rose from 131 million to 219 million.

Four countries — Cape Verde, Eritrea, South Africa and Ethiopia — joined Swaziland, Djibouti and Mayotte in the elite club of countries where transmission levels are so low that elimination of malaria is a realistic goal.

The researchers said the overall picture was mixed, and important gains had been partly offset by population increase — over the decade, an extra 200 million people were born in places with malaria.

“Substantial reductions in malaria transmission have been achieved in endemic countries in Africa over the period 2000-2010,” the paper said.

“However, 57 percent of the population in 2010 continued to live in areas where transmission remains moderate to intense and global support to sustain and accelerate the reduction of transmission must remain a priority.”

In its 2013 report on malaria, the World Health Organisation (WHO) last December said 3.3 million lives had been saved worldwide since 2000.

Even so, the mosquito-borne disease still killed 627,000 people last year, mainly children in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The agency pointed to a shortage of funding and a lack of access to artemisinin malarial medicines and basic remedies such as bednets remained a serious problem, it said.

Source: New vision

Guinea Rushes to Curb Measles Outbreak

Health authorities in Guinea are scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that has killed one child, infected 37 others and spread to half of the country’s 33 districts.

More than 400 suspected cases, nearly all of them in children under 10 years old, have been registered. A vaccination campaign targeting over 1.6 million children is to be launched in the coming weeks.

“We have moved from three affected districts in Conakry before the end of last year to the whole city now being affected. Five more districts out of Conakry are also affected. It means that it could spread throughout the country,” said Felix Ackebo, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deputy representative for Guinea.

“One of the causes is the nature of the disease. The other is the social/political instability. Many bilateral donors stopped support, awaiting the holding of legislative elections. The whole health system has been weakened. The government was restricted on what it could purchase, and this affected [availability of] vaccines and other important drugs. Many of the basic social services have suffered from this pause in investment,” Ackebo told IRIN. “In the past, we have been obliged to buy measles vaccines and others because the government could not.”

Only 37 percent of Guinean children are fully vaccinated, according to the 2012 Demographic Health Survey. The country’s last measles epidemic, in 2009, infected 4,755 people and killed 10.

Keita Sakoba, head of disease prevention at the Ministry of Health, said that the current stock of measles vaccine, meant for routine immunization, was insufficient for the vaccination drive. He explained that the outbreak was likely due to the accumulation of unvaccinated children.

“We will launch a vaccination campaign in the 15 affected districts and carry out targeted immunizations in districts neighbouring the affected ones,” Sakoba said.

Source: All Africa

Ethiopia Steps Up Education Budget to Over 25 Billion Birr

Ethiopia has stepped up its budget for education to over 25 billion Birr with a view to satisfy the nation’s growing demand for trained workforce, Ministry of Education has said. A consultative forum aimed at lobbying for the active involvement and support of partners and the public was held in Adama town on Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, Education Minister, Shiferaw Shigute the government has stepped up its budget for education to 25.4 billion Birr with a view to satisfy the nation’s growing demand for trained workforce. The Minister highlighted the key role of partners and the public to address drawbacks in the sector as well as ensure both access and quality.

The forum reached agreement to work harder to augment student intake capacity, cut the rate of school dropouts and repetitions, ensure a 1:1 student-book ratio, furnish school libraries and laboratories, and build information technology capacity. At the end of the consultation, participants expressed readiness to play their part.

Source: article.wn