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WHO: Europe to grow quite obese by 2030

Obesity will hit Europeans hard in the coming years, according to the World Health Organization. Only one EU country is getting skinnier. The European Union country worst affected by obesity will be Ireland, where nine out of 10 men will be overweight by 2030, with Irish women coming in just behind, at 85 percent, according to the WHO report released Wednesday. Obesity will affect nearly half of Irish men and more than half of women by 2030. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more. More concretely: A six-foot-tall man (1.82 meters) is obese at 221 pounds (100 kilograms), while a 5'6'' woman (1.68 meters) is obese at 186 pounds (84 kilograms). In Greece, the number obese people will double by 2030 to 40 percent, and the same will hold true for men in Spain. In the Czech Republic, where the WHO presented its projections at a European Congress on Obesity in Prague, 36 percent of men and 37 percent of women will be obese in 15 years. In a emailed clarification to DW, the WHO offered a caveat from Dr. Joao Breda, its program manager for nutrition, obesity and physical activity at the agency's Office for Europe, saying: "The study should be used with some caution as it was relatively small and was based on nationally available data that may not reflect the latest WHO estimates which are under further development." The 2030 modeling projections compiled by the WHO and UK Health Forum. Even Sweden - long known for slender frames - will see nearly one in four of its men and women obese by 2030. In Britain, every third woman will suffer from obesity by 2030. No data was available on Germany. The only good news came from the Netherlands, which is projected see drops in obesity levels over the next 15 years: Just 8 percent of men and 9 percent of women will be dangerously overweight. Obesity reduces life expectancy, lowers the quality of life and leads to various diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The WHO's Breda wants EU countries to heed his organization's health-related clarion call and prevent an obesity crisis. "Action taken today can prevent these predictions from becoming reality and in some European countries the trend is already flattening off thanks to preventive measures including successes, for example, in the area of childhood obesity."

Obesity will hit Europeans hard in the coming years, according to the World Health Organization. Only one EU country is getting skinnier. The European Union country worst affected by obesity will be Ireland, where nine out of 10 men will be overweight by 2030, with Irish women coming in just behind, at 85 percent, according to the WHO report released ... Read More »

German measles eradicated from Americas

Rubella, also known as German measles, has been eradicated from the Americas, health officials say. It is the third infectious disease after polio and smallpox to be eliminated from the two continents. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) attributed the breakthrough to successful vaccine campaigns in North, Central and South America. "This historic achievement culminates a 15-year elimination effort," the director of PAHO/WHO, Carissa Etienne, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. German measles is a mild illness spread through coughing or sneezing that causes a rash and low-grade fever. However, in pregnant women, the virus poses a serious threat to the fetus, causing stillbirths, mental defects and physical deformities. Etienne noted on Wednesday that the American continents had "become the world's first region to be declared free of endemic transmission of rubella virus." The last case of German measles was reported in Argentina in 2009, making the Americas free of the virus for five years. Europe is slated to be declared rubella-free this year, followed by southeast Asia, according to PAHO. The only other infectious diseases to have previously been eradicated from North and South America are smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

Rubella, also known as German measles, has been eradicated from the Americas, health officials say. It is the third infectious disease after polio and smallpox to be eliminated from the two continents. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) attributed the breakthrough to successful vaccine campaigns in North, Central and South America. “This historic achievement ... Read More »

Doubts plague new malaria vaccine

Final results of a study show that the world's leading malaria vaccine candidate appears to be a disappointment. The study showed that it doesn't work very well and that initial protection fades over time. Despite the poor results - it protects about one-third of children vaccinated - developers are moving ahead to get it approved because it could still help protect some children from getting the mosquito-spread disease. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the vaccine, with additional backing from the non-profit group PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The vaccine is likely to be the world's first licensed shot for malaria. A decision from the European Medicines Agency is expected later this year. The World Health Organization had set a target of 2015 for having a malaria vaccine that was at least 50 percent effective with protection lasting longer than a year. According to a study published Friday in the British journal The Lancet, those goals have been missed with the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine, although scientists say the shot isn't a complete waste. "Everyone accepts that this is not the perfect or the last malaria vaccine," said Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study's lead author. "It's not good enough to stop transmission but it will cut the huge burden of disease." Seven African countries involved in study The vaccine study involved about 15,500 babies and toddlers in seven African countries. One group got three doses; a second group also got a booster shot and a third group got dummy shots. All of the children used a mosquito bed net and they were followed for up to four years. Overall, the vaccine was about 30 percent effective in those who got three doses and a booster shot but the protection waned over time. The WHO said it expects to make a recommendation about the vaccine in October if the European Medicines Agency has issued its assessment by then.

Final results of a study show that the world’s leading malaria vaccine candidate appears to be a disappointment. The study showed that it doesn’t work very well and that initial protection fades over time. Despite the poor results – it protects about one-third of children vaccinated – developers are moving ahead to get it approved because it could still help ... Read More »

Pesticides likely behind ‘mysterious killer disease’ in Nigeria

Eighteen people died under mysterious circumstances in southwest Nigeria this week, sparking fears of a new infectious disease outbreak. Weed killer was the likely cause, the World Health Organization has now said. When over a dozen men in the village of Ode Irele in southwestern Ondo state who complained of similar symptoms all died within a day, alarm bells began to ring. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no reason to suspect any outbreak of infectious disease, such as Ebola, which has claimed over 10,000 lives in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The "current hypothesis is herbicides," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said on Sunday, adding: "Tests done so far are negative for viral and bacterial infection." The victims began showing symptoms between April 13 and 15, including blurred vision and loss of consciousness, and Ondo spokesman Kayode Akinmade said it was due to a "mysterious killer disease." The Ondo state health commissioner, Dayo Adeyanju, said on Saturday that a total of 23 people had been affected. The state government of Ondo State set up an emergency response task team aimed at containing the spread of the illness. The team was tracing all people who had come into contact with the dead and monitoring them in case of infection, Adeyanju said in a statement. State spokesman Akinmade said health officials and experts from the government and aid agencies, as well as WHO epidemiologists, had arrived in Ode Irele to investigate the deaths. All of the tests were carried out at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, the WHO said.

Eighteen people died under mysterious circumstances in southwest Nigeria this week, sparking fears of a new infectious disease outbreak. Weed killer was the likely cause, the World Health Organization has now said. When over a dozen men in the village of Ode Irele in southwestern Ondo state who complained of similar symptoms all died within a day, alarm bells began ... Read More »

UNICEF: reopening of schools in Sierra Leone ‘a huge undertaking’

Children have gone back to school in Sierra Leone after a nine-month break due to Ebola. After a slow start, classrooms are now filling up again and safety precautions are in place. Children in Sierra Leone have returned to school for the first time in nine months after an enforced absence caused by the Ebola outbreak. Almost two million schoolchildren were set to return to their classrooms amidst a major health and safety operation supported by the UN's children's agency UNICEF. DW spoke to the head of UNICEF in Sierra Leone, Roeland Monash (pictured above). DW: How has the return to school been progressing? Approximately how many children were back at school on Tuesday (14.05.2015)? Roland Monash: We are still monitoring the numbers. On Tuesday morning when the schools first opened, the turnout was around 30 percent so not all children came back. This is not something to be immediately worried about. Normally, when a new academic year starts in Sierra Leone, it takes between one and two weeks before all children are back at school. I personally had thought that after such a long closure many more children would come but I think it was a combination of parents not being prepared yet, not having school uniforms and other items, and also still being concerned about Ebola and the school environment. There are reports that there were many more children in school this Wednesday. This was the first day back at school in nine months. Presumably this wasn't an ordinary school day for the children? No, definitely not. I visited one of the schools that was used as an Ebola treatment center on the outskirts of Freetown – UNICEF had a 20-bed facility there – basically the whole schoolyard was taken over by tents. Now we cleaned it all up and of course the community was very much aware about Ebola because it was right there in their own community. It was an emotional moment, the head teacher spoke words of compassion. You could see the seriousness on the faces of the children. So indeed it's not your regular opening of school year as normally experienced. Presumably your main priority at UNICEF is to stop children from catching Ebola and to stop them from spreading it. What precautionary measures do you have in place? First of all we had long discussions with public health experts, locally as well as internationally, on what is the right timing for reopening the schools. The opening was initially planned for early March but we delayed it, based on the fact that the number of Ebola cases had not come down quickly enough. But we are now having just one or two cases a day and it's really isolated in a few chiefdoms. In order to get the right measures in place, we developed a national protocol and guidelines for all schools, telling them how to open their schools safely. We trained 10,000 teachers in how to use those protocols. Together with the government and some other partners, we distributed close to 80,000 hand-washing stations, that's buckets with taps and soap, and over 55,000 thermometers around the country. So there are all these extra measures in place, also posters and brochures and radio discussion programs to make everybody aware of what they need to do to make sure the schools are safe. Every child has its temperature taken every morning. What guarantees does UNICEF have that the resources it has made available in Sierra Leone will be properly deployed by the Sierra Leonean authorities? We have monitors in the field, we have developed a rapid SMS system, and basically we have independent monitors who are going from school to school. At the moment we are visiting over a thousand schools, 96 percent of these schools have hand-washing stations in place, as well as thermometers and trained teachers. At the few schools which do not have these things in place, it's probably not because the buckets have been taken away, but basically there was not an updated list of schools. In recent years a number of schools have been added because of the population growth. Does UNICEF, as a UN organization, have the resources it needs to do this job thoroughly? It has been a huge undertaking and we are continuing to fundraise. We were fortunate that we had more than ten international donors willing to chip in to this education response, including the German government. We need more money, specifically for teaching materials and other materials, because of course children and parents need to feel confident that when the children go back to school they actually learn something. However, the basic minimum safety standards to prevent Ebola, we have that covered.

Children have gone back to school in Sierra Leone after a nine-month break due to Ebola. After a slow start, classrooms are now filling up again and safety precautions are in place. Children in Sierra Leone have returned to school for the first time in nine months after an enforced absence caused by the Ebola outbreak. Almost two million schoolchildren ... Read More »

Australia to cut benefits to parents who refuse to vaccinate

The Australian prime minister has said parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will have some benefits cut. The move comes amid a resurgent vaccination debate in several parts of the world. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday that Australians who refuse to vaccinate their children will in future be denied some government benefits such as child care subsidies and family tax benefits. "It's essentially a 'no jab, no pay' policy from this government," Abbott told reporters in the eastern city of Sydney. "It's a very important public health announcement. It's a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible," he said. "The choice made by families not to immunize their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments," he said, adding that the new policy would go into force on January 1, 2016. The announcement comes amid a nationwide debate over immunizing children. Many vaccination objectors say they fear that a triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella is behind an increase in cases of childhood autism - a theory posited in a since-retracted article in the Lancet medical journal in 1998 that has been repeatedly disproven by a number of studies. Few exemptions Currently in Australia, the some 3 percent of benefit recipients who do not have their children immunized on the basis of "conscientious objections" still have access to benefits such as child care rebates. Such parents stand to lose a reported 15,000 Australian dollars (10,880 euros; $11,500) annually per child under the new policy, which is also supported by the Labor opposition in Australia, making parliamentary approval a formality. Exemptions will be permitted only on strict medical or religious grounds, with parents who cite religion having to prove affiliation with a religious group whose objection to vaccination has received government approval. Although Australia has vaccination rates of more than 90 percent for children aged one to five, the government says more than 39,000 children under seven have not been immunized - an increase of more than 24,000 children over the past decade. The vaccination debate in and outside of Australia has been fueled by recent outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough in several parts of the world. Non-vaccinated people who contract such diseases can pose a danger to babies who have not yet been immunized or those with auto-immune conditions, who are otherwise protected by so-called "herd immunity."

The Australian prime minister has said parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will have some benefits cut. The move comes amid a resurgent vaccination debate in several parts of the world. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday that Australians who refuse to vaccinate their children will in future be denied some government benefits such as child care ... Read More »

Potential Ebola vaccine triggers antibodies needed to fight virus

Early-stage trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine indicate it is safe and triggers antibodies. There is currently no vaccine for the virus that has killed thousands in West Africa. Without a licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) last year endorsed a fast-track process for potential treatments through trials. The latest, and worst outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Initial clinical trials of the VSV-ZEBOV candidate vaccine, manufactured by the Public Health Agency of Canada and developed by Merck, show that it "triggers the production of antibodies capable of neutralising the Ebola virus," the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) said in a statement on Wednesday. In coordinated trials in Germany, Switzerland, Gabon and Kenya, 158 healthy volunteers received a placebo or any of five dose-levels of VSV-ZEBOV vaccine. All 150 people who received vaccine developed antibodies to Ebola and higher responses were related to higher doses. Reports of the trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that even very small amounts of the vaccine could be effective. The phase 1 trials are aimed at testing for safety. Follow-up analysis six and 12 months later should determine "whether a single injection is enough to induce a lasting immune response" or if booster injections would be needed, HUG said. The HUG statement emphasized that phase 3 clinical trials being carried out in Guinea "will determine whether the immune response triggered by this vaccine is able to protect the population against the Ebola virus." They should also show if large-scale vaccination campaigns are feasible. The trials at HUG were briefly suspended late last year after several volunteers experienced unexpected joint pains, but resumed after it reduced the doses used. There were also trials carried out in the United States, at the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. They began last October and involved 52 volunteers. Another experimental vaccine, ChAd3, made by Britain's GlaxoSmithKline is also undergoing phase 1 trials in a range of countries and started phase 3 trials in Liberia in February.

Early-stage trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine indicate it is safe and triggers antibodies. There is currently no vaccine for the virus that has killed thousands in West Africa. Without a licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) last year endorsed a fast-track process for potential treatments through trials. The latest, and worst outbreak of Ebola ... Read More »

Guinea declares 45-day Ebola ‘health emergency’

In a bid to curb the spread of Ebola, Guinea's President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day "health emergency" in five regions of the epidemic-hit nation. The chances of an Ebola-free West Africa remain uncertain. In a statement published in Guinea's national media on Saturday, Conde said the virus "has shifted to our country's coastal areas" in Guinea's west and southwest. "That is why I am declaring a reinforced health emergency for a period of 45 days in the prefectures of Forecariah, Coyah, Dubreka, Boffa and Kindia," the president said. Food and medical supplies would be given to the affected communities, Conde added. The president did not specify, however, where or when the restrictions would take effect. Conde's announcement on Saturday came as Guinea continues to struggle in its fight against the Ebola virus. In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the epidemic was finally declining in West Africa after the three countries most affected - Sierre Leone, Liberia and Guinea - recorded a steady decrease in cases. In Guinea, however, efforts have often been hindered by violent resistance to health officials. Also on Saturday, neighboring Liberia reported that a woman who became the country's had died. Health officials also said two new suspected cases had been identified, halting the country's plans to be Ebola-free by April. WHO requires countries prove there are no new cases of Ebola reported for 42 days before it can be officially declared virus-free, because the incubation period is 21 days. A day earlier, Sierra Leone began a new three-day nationwide lockdown sparked by fears that the virus was making a comeback in certain parts of the country. Since the Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013, more than 24,000 people in nine countries have been infected with the virus, of which over 10,000 have died.

In a bid to curb the spread of Ebola, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day “health emergency” in five regions of the epidemic-hit nation. The chances of an Ebola-free West Africa remain uncertain. In a statement published in Guinea’s national media on Saturday, Conde said the virus “has shifted to our country’s coastal areas” in Guinea’s west and ... Read More »

Ebola vaccines appear safe and successful, say US researchers

Two experimental Ebola vaccinations "appear to be safe" after testing in Liberia. Meanwhile, a British nurse has been cleared of the virus, but doctors cautioned speculation about the drug's role in her recovery. The two vaccines, one from GlaxoSmithKline and the other from biotech start-up NewLink Genetics, "appear to be safe," the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said. The single injection vaccines proved safe for 600 participants, Fatorma Bolay from the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia said. "We are grateful to the Liberian people who volunteered for this important clinical trial and encouraged by the study results," NIAID Director Dr Anthony Fauci said in a statement on Thursday. "Now we must most forward to adapt and expand the study so that ultimately we can determine whether these experimental vaccines can protect against [the] Ebola virus disease and therefore be used in future Ebola outbreaks," Fauci added. The trial began on February 2, in Monrovia, Liberia with over 2,600 people participating. Niether volunteers, nor researchers knew who received which vaccine, or the placebo saline injection. Trial to be expanded The encouraging results mean the trial will now be expanded to include about 30,000 people throughout the West African country. Participants will be injected either with the GSK vaccine, the NewLink vaccine, or a placebo. Afterward, they will be assessed to see whether their immune systems have responded by producing anti-Ebola antibodies. Volunteers will then be followed for at least a year, with blood samples being taken at six and 12 months after the vaccine to ascertain how long the immune response lasts. Researchers hope to enroll more women in the next stage of the trial, as they only made up 16 percent of the first group, to ensure there are no-gender based differences in immune responses or side effects. Trial participants are not intentionally exposed to the often-deadly virus. The response by a participant's immune system is considered an acceptable alternative to gauge the vaccine's effectiveness should someone be exposed to the virus. British military nurse cured Meanwhile, a British military nurse who contracted the virus while working in Sierra Leone has been successfully cleared of the Ebola virus after being treated with the MIL 77 drug. Twenty-five-year-old Anna Cross was the first person in the world to be given the experimental drug, doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in the UK said at a press conference Friday. However, doctors say it is too soon to know what role the drug played in Corporal Cross' recovery. Liberia was one of the countries hardest hit by the Ebola virus, with 9,602 reported cases and 4,301 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 24,927 people worldwide have been infected with the virus in the last 16 months, 10,338 have died in that period according to the WHO. Guinea, where the epidemic broke out in December 2013, began an Ebola vaccine trial this week.

Two experimental Ebola vaccinations “appear to be safe” after testing in Liberia. Meanwhile, a British nurse has been cleared of the virus, but doctors cautioned speculation about the drug’s role in her recovery. The two vaccines, one from GlaxoSmithKline and the other from biotech start-up NewLink Genetics, “appear to be safe,” the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said. The ... Read More »

Can a junk-food tax save the Navajos?

The US' biggest Native American tribe has taken an unprecedented move to overcome one of its biggest existential threats. But the fat-tax may not be the silver bullet many in the reservation are hoping for. In less than a week, the home of the Red Robin Monster Meal will see its first junk-food tax go into effect. But it's not kale-loving Californians or teff-chewing Brooklynites that are leading the charge. Instead, it's the latest effort of the Navajo Nation to combat a diabetes epidemic that's posing an existential threat to the single largest reservation in the US. The 2-percent sales tax, passed last November as part of the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, targets products with "minimal-to-no-nutritional-value," including chips, soda, fried foods, and desserts. The act comes on the heels of another amendment signed into law last year, which abolished a 5-percent tribal sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables. The authors, local grassroots organization Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA), wrote the legislation with an eye to existing tobacco and alcohol levies, as well as sugar and so-called "fat taxes" imposed in several European countries, including France and Hungary. The DCAA estimates that the duty will raise at least $1 million (920,000 euros) in annual revenue, with the added income flowing into a Community Wellness Development Projects Fund. A forgotten people? While health activists have been quick to hail the law as a victory, it's also a sad reminder of the challenges facing one of the US' most neglected minority communities. Some 150 years after the US government forced the tribe to relocate to the desolate desert area straddling stretches of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the Nation remains mired in economic misery. The median household income is less than half the national average; nearly 1 in 2 over the age of 25 lives under the federal poverty line; and the unemployment rate is more than 8 times higher the US mean. Compounding the territory's woes are abysmal graduation rates and alarming health issues. According to health organization Partners in Health, roughly 20 percent of the 300,000 Navajo members suffer from diabetes. Another 75,000 are pre-diabetic, a study by the Indian Health Service found, which also concluded that obesity complicated nearly one-third of all Navajo pregnancies in 2011. The health care costs are staggering. "At an average, it costs over $13,000 per person annually to treat diabetes. The cost for treating diabetes related complications can exceed $100,000 per person," according to the findings. Fast food as far as the eye can see According to activists, junk food is one of the main culprits. "Our communities are food deserts," Janene Yazzie told food policy site CivilEats, after moving from New York back to Lupton, Arizona. Her claim is backed by a 2014 report from the Diné Policy Institute, which found that there are just 10 full-service grocery stores scattered across the reservation's 27,425 square miles (71,000 square kilometers) - an area almost the size of Belgium and the Netherlands combined. This leaves healthy food out of reach for most of the tribe's members. "We essentially had no choice but to fall back on a diet heavy in terrible, highly processed foods, along with everyone else," Yazzie told CivilEats. And what little there is of nutritional value is often unaffordable: "a frozen pizza might cost a couple of dollars, but a bag of apples runs upwards of $6.50," noted CivilEats. Fat-tax no cure-all But whether or not a junk-food tax is the silver bullet many are hoping for remains to be seen. Similar efforts elsewhere in the US suggest otherwise. In 2008, Los Angeles imposed a fast-food ban in an effort to combat alarming obesity rates and other nutrition-related diseases plaguing poor, predominantly minority neighbourhoods across South L.A. Surprisingly, a study published by the RAND corporation this year, showed that the obesity rates there actually jumped 12 percent from 2007 to 2012, and that the increase was indeed "significantly larger...than elsewhere" in the metropolis. And in 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg drew nationwide scorn, when he imposed a ban on sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (473 ml), as part of his high-profile push to promote public health amid soaring diabetes rates. A year later, the state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, arguing that the mayor had overstepped his authority - unleashing a wave of Schadenfreude among disgruntled New Yorkers, who had decried Bloomberg for trying to create a "nanny state." While it's too soon to tell if the 2-percent tax is enough to change consumer behavior, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Jonathan Nez told US magazine Mother Jones that it has already sparked a conversation within the tribe "about how to take better care of yourself, how to return back to the way we used to live, with fresh produce, vegetables, and fruit along with our own traditional unprocessed foods."

The US’ biggest Native American tribe has taken an unprecedented move to overcome one of its biggest existential threats. But the fat-tax may not be the silver bullet many in the reservation are hoping for. In less than a week, the home of the Red Robin Monster Meal will see its first junk-food tax go into effect. But it’s not ... Read More »

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