Category Archives: Sanitation and Health

Disease ‘superspreaders’ accounted for nearly two-thirds of Ebola cases, study finds

Disease ‘superspreaders’ accounted for nearly two-thirds of Ebola cases, study finds. Washington Post, February 13, 2017.

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Monrovia, Liberia, was hit hard during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. (Zoom Dosso/AFP via Getty Images)

They are called superspreaders, the minority of people who are responsible for infecting many others during epidemics of infectious diseases. Perhaps the most famous superspreader was Typhoid Mary, presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, between 1900 and 1907.

Now scientists studying how Ebola spread during the 2014-2015 epidemic in West Africa say superspreaders played a bigger role than was previously known, according to findings published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 If superspreading had been completely controlled, almost two-thirds of the infections might have been prevented, scientists said.

The Role of WASH in Healthcare Settings to Reduce Transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance

The Role of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Healthcare Settings to Reduce Transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance. Antimicrobial Resistance Control, July 2016.

This article by USAID’s Rochelle Rainey and Merri Weinger concludes that antimicrobial resistance is a multisectoral problem that requires a comprehensive strategy, including WASH improvements, to prevent emergence and transmission.

The lack of safe water, functional toilets, and handwashing facilities in healthcare settings poses significant health risks to patients, healthcare workers and nearby communities. The ongoing global problem of health facility-acquired infections (HAI) has highlighted the consequences of the lack of water and sanitation facilities and practice of key hygiene behaviours.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a multisectoral problem that requires a comprehensive strategy, including WASH improvements, to prevent emergence and transmission. Hand hygiene has been cited as the single most important practice to reduce HAI, and improved hand hygiene practices have been associated with a sustained decrease in the incidence of antimicrobial-resistant infections in healthcare settings.

WASH also plays a role in the cleaning of surfaces and bedding for preventing transmission of HAI. Leadership and commitment is needed from governments, international and local organizations, donors and civil society to implement the global action plan to achieve universal access to WASH in healthcare facilities.

Study links infant diarrhea to telomere shortening and troubles later in life

Study links infant diarrhea to telomere shortening and troubles later in life. GeekWire, January 2017.

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Telomeres, highlighted in green, serve as protective DNA caps for the cell’s chromosomes. (Illustration courtesy of BioViva USA)

Frequent bouts of diarrhea can be bad news for babies, even decades later: A new study has found a correlation between childhood infections and significant shortening of telomeres, a phenomenon that’s linked to the cellular aging process.

The findings, published today in the American Journal of Human Biology, point to a potential linkage between the environmental and genetic factors that play a role in human health.

They also point to the importance of initiatives aimed at curbing infant diarrhea, such as those funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers led by University of Washington anthropologist Dan Eisenberg found the correlation by sifting through the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, a database that tracked the health of more than 3,000 infants born in the Philippines in 1983 and 1984.

The babies’ mothers provided details about their children’s health and feeding habits every two months, from birth through the age of 2. The data included statistics showing how often the mothers breastfed their babies, and how often the babies suffered from diarrhea, a sign of infection.

Read the complete article.

Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth

Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth.  Journal of Pediatrics, June 2016.

Authors: Christine Marie George, Lauren Oldja, Shwapon Biswas, et al.

Objective – To investigate the relationship between unsafe child feces disposal, environmental enteropathy, and impaired growth, we conducted a prospective cohort study of 216 young children in rural Bangladesh.

Study design – Using a prospective cohort study design in rural Bangladesh, unsafe child feces disposal, using the Joint Monitoring Program definition, was assessed using 5-hour structured observation by trained study personnel as well as caregiver reports. Anthropometric measurements were collected at baseline and at a 9-month follow-up. Stool was analyzed for fecal markers of environmental enteropathy: alpha-1-antitrypsin, myeloperoxidase, neopterin (combined to form an environmental enteropathy disease activity score), and calprotectin.

Findings – Among 216 households with young children, 84% had an unsafe child feces disposal event during structured observation and 75% had caregiver reported events. There was no significant difference in observed unsafe child feces disposal events for households with or without an improved sanitation option (82% vs 85%, P = .72) or by child’s age (P = .96). Children in households where caregivers reported unsafe child feces disposal had significantly higher environmental enteropathy scores (0.82-point difference, 95% CI 0.11-1.53), and significantly greater odds of being wasted (weight-for-height z score <2 SDs) (9% vs 0%, P = .024). In addition, children in households with observed unsafe feces disposal had significantly reduced change in weight-for-age z-score (0.34 [95% CI 0.68, 0.01] and weight-for-height z score (0.52 [95% CI 0.98, 0.06]).

Conclusion – Unsafe child feces disposal was significantly associated with environmental enteropathy and impaired growth in a pediatric population in rural Bangladesh. Interventions are needed to reduce this high-risk behavior to protect the health of susceptible pediatric populations

Understanding Open Defecation in Rural India: Untouchability, Pollution, and Latrine Pits

Understanding Open Defecation in Rural India: Untouchability, Pollution, and Latrine Pits. Economic & Political Weekly, January 7, 2017.

Authors: Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta, Payal Hathi, Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, Sangita Vyas

India has far higher open defecation rates than other developing regions where people are poorer, literacy rates are lower, and water is relatively more scarce. In practice, government programmes in rural India have paid little attention in understanding why so many rural Indians defecate in the open rather than use affordable pit latrines.

Drawing on new data, a study points out that widespread open defecation in rural India is on account of beliefs, values, and norms about purity, pollution, caste, and untouchability that cause people to reject affordable latrines.

Future rural sanitation programmes must address villagers’ ideas about pollution, pit-emptying, and untouchability, and should do so in ways that accelerate progress towards social equality for Dalits rather than delay it.

Aditi Gupta Is Breaking Menstrual Taboos Through Her Comic Book Guide, Menstrupedia

Aditi Gupta Is Breaking Menstrual Taboos Through Her Comic Book Guide, Menstrupedia. India Times, January 18, 2017.

“Chumming” is one of the most natural biological processes that half of the world’s population experiences every month, yet most of us in India can’t gather enough courage to put away the euphemism and say the word, period. menstrupedia_1484728044

For many women in India and South Asia, being on their periods is a nightmare. Some are shunned from the kitchen, others are shunned from their home altogether. Other than the social stigma attached to menstruation, there is also a lack of awareness and sanitation, which then paves way for period myths and misconceptions.

According to Dasra, an organisation documenting the rights and welfare of women, 88% of India’s 355 million menstruating women do not have access to sanitary pads. Also, an estimated 23% of girls in the country drop out of school when they begin menstruating.

Read the complete article.

UNESCO funds Dunedin shadow puppet film in Indonesia about hygiene

Published on Jan 16, 2017
UNESCO along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are financially backing a trans-Tasman project to improve hygiene in Indonesia.

An educational film is being made in Dunedin featuring Javanese shadow puppets who tell the tale of evil bacteria.

Today some top musicians began adding the soundtrack.