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WHO: Increase taxes to curb smoking

The WHO has said that governments should increase tobacco taxes to curb the unhealthy practice. Six million people die yearly from smoking, but the figure may rise to 8 million by 2030, reported the UN agency. In a report entitled "The Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015," the World Health Organization (WHO) said that too few governments have implemented the UN health agency's recommendations to increase tobacco taxes to curb practice. The WHO recommended that at least 75 percent of the price of a cigarette pack should be tax. "Raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective - and cost-effective - ways to reduce consumption of products that kill, while also generating substantial revenue," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan noted in the report. The WHO report added that one person dies roughly every six seconds from tobacco-related diseases. About 6 million people die from smoking yearly, although the figure is set to increase to 8 million by 2030 if governments do not implement programs - such as increasing taxes - to curb tobacco use. Meanwhile, out of the 194 WHO member countries, only 33 have levied taxes on tobacco products amounting to 75 percent of the overall sales price. In 2008, countries which had implemented the WHO's recommendations amounted to 22, marking an increase of 11 countries in 2015. However, the UN health agency said in the report that it was not enough. In France, a country that has seen a steady rise in tobacco-related taxes since the early 1990s, as recorded a notable drop in its lung cancer death rate since the middle of the decade. Jose Luis Castro, president of the World Lung Foundation, said that the WHO's message was clear, according to Reuters news agency. "This report confirms that a failure to increase taxes on tobacco products will certainly lead to more premature death and disease, particularly in low and middle income countries with high levels of smoking and where tobacco is affordable," Castro said in reference to the report.

The WHO has said that governments should increase tobacco taxes to curb the unhealthy practice. Six million people die yearly from smoking, but the figure may rise to 8 million by 2030, reported the UN agency. In a report entitled “The Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said that too few governments have implemented the UN health ... Read More »

Liberia finds two new Ebola cases, reviving fears

Liberian officials say at least two people caught Ebola from a teenager who died of the virus. The country had battled West Africa's most recent outbreak for over a year before being declared free of Ebola in early May. On Wednesday, Liberia confirmed two new Ebola cases in the town where doctors found the virus on the corpse of 17-year-old Abraham Memaigar seven weeks after officials had declared the country free from the virus on May 9. Health officials told the news agency AFP that the infected pair had come into physical contact with Memaigar before his death on Sunday in a village near the country's international airport, about an hour's drive southeast of the capital, Monrovia, a city of about 1 million people. "One hundred and two contacts have been identified, although that number is expected to increase as investigations continue," the World Health Organization said in its latest report. "At this stage the origin of infection is not known." Liberia continues to reel from an outbreak that killed 4,800 people. Guinea and Sierra Leone have also battled Ebola, which claimed more than 11,200 lives in 18 months across West Africa. 'Not done' Liberia had reported its last victim on March 20. However, Health Minister Bernice Dahn said that additional cases were now likely. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference in Washington that the new Ebola death served as "a warning to us that the job is not done." Experts say Memaigar could have become infected with a new variant of the virus, perhaps from an animal such as a fruit bat, rather than from a human. However, some worry that clusters of Ebola could continue to smolder under the surface, outside of the gaze of local or international health authorities. Ebola's incubation period - the time between infection and recognizable symptoms - can last several weeks. Moses Massaquoi, the head of the Liberian government's Ebola management department, said that 14 conventional health workers among the people identified to have had contact with Memaigar placed themselves in voluntary quarantine. Ebola spreads among humans via the bodily fluids of recently deceased victims and people showing symptoms of the tropical fever, which include vomiting, diarrhea and - in the worst cases - massive internal and external hemorrhaging. During the months of peak transmission from August to November last year, Liberia became the setting for some of the most shocking scenes from the outbreak, by far the biggest in recorded history. The country reported more than 300 new cases a week. Three hundred and seventy-eight health workers became infected, with 192 dying.

Liberian officials say at least two people caught Ebola from a teenager who died of the virus. The country had battled West Africa’s most recent outbreak for over a year before being declared free of Ebola in early May. On Wednesday, Liberia confirmed two new Ebola cases in the town where doctors found the virus on the corpse of 17-year-old ... Read More »

‘Abortion drone’ delivers abortion pills in Poland

Abortion in Poland is largely illegal, but a pro-choice group is hoping to change that. "Women on Waves" delivers abortion pills by drone to Poland to raise awareness. Louise Osborne reports from Slubice, Poland. With rotors spinning and packs of pills hanging below, a drone hovered across the German-Polish border on Saturday to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland, where the procedure is illegal. "Women on Waves," a non-profit organization of doctors and activists from the Netherlands, flew the so-called "abortion drone" from Germany and over the Oder River into the Polish border town of Slubice to highlight Poland's restrictive abortion laws. Women on Waves have so far delivered two packs of mifepristone and misoprostol pills to two women. It was the first time the organization had delivered abortion drugs using a drone, but Gunilla Kleiverda, a gynecologist with Women on Waves said they'd already been asked about sending the medicine to Ireland and had considered similar action to send pills to Brazil from Uruguay. Despite German police trying to prevent the action taking place in Slubice, the World Health Organization approved pills made it to the other side, where women were waiting to use them. Marta, a 30-year-old from Warsaw, who took one of the tablets, said she was "outraged" that she was not able to legally get hold of such methods in her home country. "It's adding to a lot of stress," she said. "I don't like how me wanting the right to have a safe and legal abortion makes me fall into the picture of someone who's not responsible and doesn't have control. That's the discourse that's popular in Poland and that's so hurtful." Restrictive abortion laws Poland, a Roman Catholic Country, is one of only a few European countries where abortion is largely banned. It is only permitted when a woman's life or health is at risk, when the fetus is severely malformed or when there is evidence of the pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. However, fear of prosecution means that even in cases where abortion would be allowed, doctors are often scared of carrying out the procedure, says Kleiverda. "We have evidence that a 14-year-old girl who was raped wasn't helped by doctors," she said. "Women don't receive the care even when they are legally entitled…We can't change the law, but we can create attention, and then the people in the country will have to take their own action." Pro-life activists had vowed to shoot down the drone, but instead showed up to protest against the action after the pills had been delivered. Around a dozen demonstrators handed out small plastic fetuses and stood holding placards. "I understand that it's very difficult for the women, but on the other side it's a life, it's a child," Teresa Skraburska, a midwife and member of the Polish Catholic Mission in Berlin, says holding a banner showing a hanging child within the body of a woman. "It's the duty of society to take these women and children and to help them. The children can be given up for adoption," she says. "But the problem is that it's a difficult procedure and women can get these tablets so easily. But it's the responsibility of the state to give these women another option." A lack of safe options The underground abortion industry in Poland is thought to be thriving. At least 50,000 illegal abortions are estimated to take place each year, with many other women traveling to surrounding countries, like Germany, to get the procedure, according to UN figures. "There are very desperate women who would pay anything. But women who can afford that are the lucky ones, there are many women who can't," said Marta. A lack of sufficient sex education in schools and access to contraception and relevant information in Poland means there is a need for safe abortions for women, Kleiverda adds. Still, despite the problems, Malgorzata Prokop Paczkowski, a member of parliament with the Twoj Ruch party, said legislation in Poland is unlikely to change any time soon. "It's quite sure that in October right-wing parties will be in parliament, and there will be a complete ban on abortion," she said. For women wanting a choice, she said, there is little hope. But she added that "maybe thanks to action like this, Polish citizens will understand that by giving power to right-wing parties, they are taking away their freedom. Freedom is the most important thing and Polish women should have the same rights as those people on the other side of the Oder."

Abortion in Poland is largely illegal, but a pro-choice group is hoping to change that. “Women on Waves” delivers abortion pills by drone to Poland to raise awareness. Louise Osborne reports from Slubice, Poland. With rotors spinning and packs of pills hanging below, a drone hovered across the German-Polish border on Saturday to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland, ... Read More »

Ebola reappears in Sierra Leone’s capital after several weeks without new cases

After recording no new cases since May, Freetown confirmed that two local patients have contracted the deadly Ebola virus. Health officials imposed a curfew in the border cities where the outbreak may have originated. Two new cases of Ebola were confirmed in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown on Tuesday, following several weeks without any new infections, emphasizing the challenge facing the region in completely eradicating the outbreak. The National Ebola Response Center (NERC) announced that it thought the two new cases came to the capital from northwestern towns near the border with Guinea, an area of the country still reeling from last year's unprecedented spread of the disease in West Africa. In an effort to contain the deadly virus, NERC has ordered a 6 pm to 6 am curfew in the border towns of Port Loko and Kambia. "We must maintain zero cases ... until the last person is out of the treatment center," NERC director Paulo Conteh told the press. NERC spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis said the two new cases are particularly worrying as they come from a thickly populated slum in Freetown that is not equipped with adequate hygiene facilities. Nearly 27,341 people have been infected with Ebola since the disease broke out in Guinea in December 2013, and more than 11,000 have been killed by the hemorrhagic fever according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Sierra Leone, of the around 13,000 who have been infected, more than 3,900 have died.

After recording no new cases since May, Freetown confirmed that two local patients have contracted the deadly Ebola virus. Health officials imposed a curfew in the border cities where the outbreak may have originated. Two new cases of Ebola were confirmed in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on Tuesday, following several weeks without any new infections, emphasizing the challenge facing the ... Read More »

Thailand confirms first MERS case amid easing South Korea outbreak

تھائی لینڈ کے حکام نے ملک میں میرس وائرس سے متاثرہ پہلے مریض کی موجودگی کی تصدیق کر دی ہے۔ تھائی لینڈ کی وزارت برائے پبلک ہیلتھ کے مطابق میرس کا شکار ایک 75 سالہ شخص ہے جس کا تعلق مشرق وُسطیٰ سے ہے۔ اس شخص کو طبی نگہداشت کے لیے الگ تھلگ رکھا گیا ہے۔ وزارت کی طرف سے بتایا گیا ہے کہ تین مزید افراد بھی اس وائرس سے متاثر ہونے کے شبے میں طبی نگہداشت میں ہیں۔

Thailand’s Health Ministry has confirmed the country’s first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus. More than 55 people have been quarantined after contact with the infected man. Two laboratories confirmed that a 75-year-old man traveling from Oman has been infected by the deadly virus, Rajata Rajatanavin, Thailand’s public health minister, announced on Thursday. The man arrived in the ... Read More »

South Korean MERS patients in treatment trial

As the death toll from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome rises to 19, doctors are giving two patients an experimental Treatment. The method was first tried on SARS patients more than a decade ago. Two people hospitalized in South Korea with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are being treated with an experimental blood plasma treatment, health officials announced on Tuesday. As the death roll from the latest outbreak rose to 19, doctors said they were trialing a procedure which involves injecting patients with blood plasma from those who have recovered from the disease. Health officials say they've carried out the treatment on two consenting MERS patients in additional to their existing care which includes quarantine and in severe cases, care to support the functioning of vital organs. But doctors acknowledge that they there is insufficient evidence that the new treatment works as the virus continues to baffle experts. Some success The procedure was first tried during the outbreak of a similar illness, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some success. It led to a 23 percent death rate from the SARS virus, which killed 774 people in 2002/3. On Tuesday, South Korea reported three more fatalities from the largest outbreak of MERS outside of Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first diagnosed three years ago. The death toll has now reached 19. Out of 154 people infected over the past month, 17 have been cured and released from hospital and health authorities said the number of new cases was falling, leading to hope that the worst was over. Almost half of the confirmed cases have been traced to one of the most prestigious hospitals in Seoul. Another hospital in Pyeongtaek City, has also seen a large number of cases. More than 5,500 people remain in quarantine after possibly being exposed to the virus. The World Health Organization's MERS emergency committee was due to meet in Geneva on Tuesday amid fears MERS could spread to other countries as easily as SARS did a decade ago. MERS death in Europe Separately, Germany has reported its first death from MERS in more than two years. The 65-year-old man was infected during a trip to the United Arab Emirates in February. He had been in hospital since his return and his death has surprised heath officials who thought he had almost recovered. The only other case in Germany happened when a UAE national died in a Munich hospital in March 2013.

As the death toll from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome rises to 19, doctors are giving two patients an experimental Treatment. The method was first tried on SARS patients more than a decade ago. Two people hospitalized in South Korea with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are being treated with an experimental blood plasma treatment, health officials announced on Tuesday. As ... Read More »

German dies of complications from MERS infection

A 65-year old man has died in northern Germany of a lung disease, following an earlier MERS infection, state health officials have said. The German contracted the virus on vacation in the Middle East in February. The patient passed away from subsequent complications related to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 6, despite managing to overcome the virus itself, the health ministry in German state of Lower Saxony announced Tuesday. "We deeply regret the death of this patient, our sympathies go to his relatives, who hoped for recovery and now have to suffer this heavy blow", Lower Saxony Social Minister for Health and Social Issues Cornelia Rundt said. The 65-year old was infected during his February trip to Abu Dhabi, and is so far the first German whose death can be traced back to the deadly infection believed to have originated in the Middle East. After overcoming the coronary virus in mid-May, the patient had been released from the isolation ward, and so his death came as a surprise for the doctors, according to the dpa news agency. Hundreds of lives lost Some 200 people who were in contact with the patient during his illness have been tested for MERS, with all the results coming back negative, officials have said. This conforms to the current scientific theories saying that MERS only rarely transfers between humans. Two people were treated for MERS in Germany in 2012 and 2013, with patients coming from Qatar and United Arab Emirates. One of them died. Historically, most MERS patients have been reported in Saudi Arabia. However, South Korea is currently combating an outbreak of the disease, which killed 19 people since it was first reported in May this year. MERS currently has a 35-percent mortality rate, according to the World Health Organization, and no vaccine has been developed so far. Around 1,200 people have been infected with MERS since it first appeared in 2012, with virus claiming some 450 lives.

A 65-year old man has died in northern Germany of a lung disease, following an earlier MERS infection, state health officials have said. The German contracted the virus on vacation in the Middle East in February. The patient passed away from subsequent complications related to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 6, despite managing to overcome the virus itself, ... Read More »

Sierra Leone enforces curfew as Ebola virus resurfaces in north west

Sierra Leone has enforced a curfew in the face of renewed outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus in the north west of the country. The government has extended the state of emergency. Sierra Leone's president has announced a three-week curfew in an effort to curb a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. There were 15 new Ebola cases in Sierra Leone in the week ending June 7, according to the World Health Organization. It is the highest weekly total since late March. President Ernest Bai Koroma announced the curfew for parts of the north west of the country on state television on Friday: "I have instructed the security to institute chiefdom-level curfew and restriction on movement from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Kambia and Port Loko districts, with immediate effect," Koroma said in a televised address. "The curfew restrictions and the soldier activities will last for a 21-day period. Offenders detained during this 21-day period are to be taken to courts of law thereafter," the president said. "There will be night patrols, so the idea is to stop people from escaping using vehicles. If they run away on foot they can only get so far," OB Sisay, an official involved in "Operation Northern Push" for Port Loko and Kambia said on Friday. Supermarkets and restaurants are to be allowed to operate so long as they adhere to Ebola prevention protocols such as temperature screening of employees and customers. Eleven of the country's 14 districts have recorded 42 days without an Ebola case. That is the benchmark for declaring an epidemic over. Another district has not registered a new case in two weeks. Sierra Leone's parliament this week extended the country's state of public health emergency for three months. The country has previously used lockdowns to keep residents in their homes so that authorities can attempt to identify the sick who were not being treated at Ebola centers. Ebola has claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa since December 2013, including more than 3,900 in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone has enforced a curfew in the face of renewed outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus in the north west of the country. The government has extended the state of emergency. Sierra Leone’s president has announced a three-week curfew in an effort to curb a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. There were 15 new Ebola cases in Sierra ... Read More »

Vincent Lambert can be allowed to die, EU court rules

A tetraplegic patient severely injured in 2008 can be taken off life support, according to Europe's human rights court. The ruling in Strasbourg upheld a top French court's view, but not that of Lambert's parents. The European Human Rights Court backed France's supreme administrative court on Friday by agreeing that taking Vincent Lambert off intravenous food and water would not violate European rights. The Strasbourg panel voted 12 to five that intravenous support could stop. Its ruling could become a benchmark across the continent. Lambert, a psychiatric nurse from Reims in eastern France and now in his late 30s, was left severely brain damaged and immobilized after a 2008 road accident. The high-profile case prompted nationwide debate in France about end-of-life practices and legal divisions between members of Lambert's family. Legal stance splits family Six of Lambert's eight siblings backed his wife, Rachel, who is also a psychiatric nurse, in wanting to "let him go" in line with a passive euthanasia law adopted in France in 2005. Lambert's doctor briefly withdrew life support in April 2013 and again in January 2014 at their request, but these actions were interrupted through injunctions lodged by Lambert's devout Catholic parents, his half-brother and his sister. In June last year, France's Conseil d'Etat administrative court ruled that the doctor's actions to withdraw care were lawful because there was no hope of recovery. Lambert's parents then appealed to the Strasbourg court. The parents argued for continuing medical support, saying that it came under the auspices of the European Convention of Human Rights and its stipulations protecting the right to life, respect for family life and outlawing inhumane treatment. His mother, Viviane (pictured above with Lambert), said her son was merely handicapped and any attempt to stop life-sustaining treatment would amount to "disguised euthanasia." She said he had "never left a note" explaining his wishes and claimed he was showing signs of progress, such as lifting his leg. She called Friday's ruling a "scandal," saying "we will stay at Vincent's side and we will continue to fight." Expression of will In Friday's judgement, the European court endorsed the French court's assessment that Lambert had indicated that he did not want to be kept in a vegetative state. "There is no relief, no joy to express. We'd just like his will be done," Rachel Lambert told journalists on Friday following the Strasbourg ruling. The lawyer for Lambert's parents, Jean Paillot, expressed "great disappointment" with Friday's ruling and called on doctors to reassess Lambert's condition and "make a new medical decision." He stressed that the initial decision had been taken in January 2014. Bernard Jeanblanc, the head doctor at the Strasbourg clinic where Lambert's parents want him moved, said the patient was "not in a vegetative state" but had a degree of consciousness which enabled him to interact with his environment.

A tetraplegic patient severely injured in 2008 can be taken off life support, according to Europe’s human rights court. The ruling in Strasbourg upheld a top French court’s view, but not that of Lambert’s parents. The European Human Rights Court backed France’s supreme administrative court on Friday by agreeing that taking Vincent Lambert off intravenous food and water would not ... Read More »

WHO to send team to South Korea to respond to MERS outbreak

جنوبی کوریا میں میرس وائرس کی نشاندہی کے بعد اسکول بند کر دیے گئے ہیں۔ حکام نے بتایا کہ میرس سے اب تک چار افراد ہلاک ہو چکے ہیں اور اس وائرس کو مزید پھیلنے سے روکنے کے لیے انتہائی اقدامات اٹھائے جا رہے ہیں۔ مزید یہ کہ ملک بھر میں سات سو سے زائد اسکولوں کو بند رکھنے کا اعلان کیا گیا ہے۔ نظام تنفس کو متاثر کرنے والے اس وائرس سے دنیا بھر میں چار سو سے زائذ افراد ہلاک ہو چکے ہیں۔ شمالی کوریا نے بھی پڑوسی ملک میں اس وائرس کے بڑھتے ہوئے واقعات پر تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

The WHO has said it will send a team to South Korea to assist in local efforts to contain an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. This followed the news that a fourth South Korean has died from the disease. A statement posted on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website on Friday said the team, to be led by its ... Read More »

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