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WHO releases 6 policy briefs to end COVID-19

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World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday released six short policy briefs that outline key actions that all governments must take to end COVID-19 pandemic.

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WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, announced this at a news conference at the UN health agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

He said the policy briefs are based on evidence and experiences of the last 32 months, outlining what works best to save lives, protect health systems, and avoid social and economic disruption.

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He added that the briefs will serve as urgent call for governments to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future pathogens with pandemic potential.

He explained that the documents, which are available online, include recommendations regarding vaccination of most at-risk groups, continued testing and sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and integrating effective treatment for COVID-19 into primary healthcare systems.

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He, therefore, urged authorities to have plans for future surges, including securing supplies, equipment, and extra health workers.

The briefs also contain communications advice, including training health workers to identify and address misinformation, as well as creating high-quality informative materials, he added.

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He said WHO had been working since New Year’s Eve 2019 to fight against the spread of COVID-19 “and will continue to do so until the pandemic is truly over.

“We can end this pandemic together, but only if all countries, manufacturers, communities and individuals step up and seize this opportunity.”

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According to him, as the number of weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 plunged to its lowest since March 2020, the end of the pandemic is now in sight.

He said “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic.

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“However, the world is not there yet.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view. She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we.

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“We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running.

“The policy briefs outline the key actions that all governments must take now to finish the race.” (NAN)

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WHO launches blueprint to tackle dementia health challenge

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By Francesca Iwambe

The World Health Organisation (WHO), has launched the first-ever research blueprint for tackling dementia.

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WHO said worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia, with over 60 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries.

The world health body said as the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in nearly every country, this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050.

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According to the UN health agency, dementia is one of the greatest health challenges of our generation.

“Although dementia is the seventh leading cause of death globally, dementia research accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of total health research output,” WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan, said in a statement.

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“Sadly, we are falling behind implementing the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-25,” she said, adding that addressing dementia comprehensively requires.

“research and innovation to be an integral part of the response.”

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Strategies are needed to better understand, prevent, and treat the underlying diseases that cause dementia and, at the same time, provide care and support to people who suffer from it, as well as those who care for them.

Research needs to be conducted within an enabling environment, where collaborations are fostered, and equitable and sustained investment is realised, the UN health agency maintained.

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Those are the objectives behind WHO’s new blueprint for dementia research, the first WHO initiative of its kind for noncommunicable diseases.

It’s designed to provide guidance to policy makers, funders, and the research community on dementia research, making it more efficient, equitable, and impactful.

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WHO is encouraging national and international research agencies, together with financing bodies, to use the blueprint to inform upcoming funding and operationalise research.

At the same time, civil society should ensure that advocacy efforts are also aligned, supporting a more equitable, efficient, and collaborative research landscape.

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JUST IN: Nigeria At High Risk Of Ebola, NCDC Warns

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has said that Nigeria is at high risk of Ebola virus disease following the outbreak of the disease in Uganda.

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The NCDC, in a release on Tuesday, signed by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, stated that it was on high alert, adding that “the likelihood of importation of the disease to Nigeria is high due to the increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda, especially through Kenya’s Nairobi airport, a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda.”

According to the NCDC, the ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease was caused by the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus in Uganda as declared on September 20, 2022.

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The statement partly read, “The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the virus in samples collected from a 24-year-old male who exhibited symptoms of the disease and later died as a result in Mubende District in the Central Region about 175km from the capital, Kampala.

As of September 29, 2022, the Ugandan Ministry of Health has reported 54 cases (35 confirmed and 19 probable) and 25 deaths (seven confirmed and 18 probable).

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The Ugandan Ministry of Health with support from the WHO is working to effectively respond to and contain the spread of the virus.

“The NCDC-led multisectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Technical Working Group working with partners and stakeholders has conducted a rapid risk assessment to guide in-country preparedness activities.

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The NEVHD TWG coordinates preparedness efforts for EVD and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases.

“Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as HIGH for the following reasons:

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“The Sudan Ebola Virus does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or licensed vaccine for prevention.

“The extent of the outbreak in Uganda has not yet been ascertained as investigations have shown that some persons may have died with similar symptoms which were not reported to health authorities.

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In addition, their burials were not conducted safely to prevent transmission.

“The case fatality rate of the Sudan virus varied from 41% to 100% in past outbreaks.

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“The likelihood of spread in Nigeria following importation is high due to the gatherings and travel associated with politics, the coming yuletide as well as other religious gatherings and festivals during the last few months of the year.”

However, the NCDC said, despite this risk assessment, Nigeria had the capacity – technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic – to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak.

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“Currently, no case of EVD has been reported in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the Nigerian government through the NCDC’s multisectoral NEVHD TWG has put several measures in place to prevent and prepare for immediate control of any outbreak of the disease in-country,” it noted, adding that the NCDC Incident Coordination Centre is now in alert mode.

“Passengers arriving from Uganda and persons who transited in Uganda are being followed up for 21 days of their arrival in Nigeria on their health status.

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“Trained Rapid Response Teams are on standby to be deployed in the event of an outbreak.

“Public Health Emergency Operations Centres in states with major points of entry, that is, Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Rivers states are on standby. A medical countermeasures plan is available.

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“Amplification of risk communication and engagement with states and partners to strengthen preparedness activities which include– a review of risk communication protocols, plans, and messages in the event of an outbreak,” the NCDC added.(PUNCH)

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Scientist who extracted DNA from 40,000-year-old bones wins Nobel Prize

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A Swedish scientist, Svante Paabo, on Monday, emerged as the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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The 67-year-old won the prize for his decades’ work of extracting DNA from 40,000-year-old bones and sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans.

He was also able to establish that gene transfer occurred between extinct hominins and homo sapiens.

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In a statement on its website, the Nobel Prize organisation said Paabo won the prize “for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.”

“Paabo’s seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline; paleogenomics. By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human,” the statement added.

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According to the Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine and a Professor in Medical Biochemistry for the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Dr Nils-Goran Larsson, what Paabo’s work achieved had been considered impossible.

Speaking in an audio posted on Nobel Prize’s website, Paabo said his work made him realise that other types of humans existed and contributed to the homo sapiens of today.

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“Well, it does tell us that we are very closely related, first of all, and we are so closely related that they have contributed quite directly, 50, 60 thousand years ago, DNA to the ancestors of most people today, those who have their roots outside Africa. And that variation that, sort of, those variants do have an influence, and influence many things in our physiology today,” he said.

Asked if the discovery would change how humans viewed themselves today, he said, “In some sense, I do think it does so, the sort of realisation that until quite recently, maybe 14 hundred generations or so ago there were other forms of humans around and they mixed with our ancestors and have contributed to us today.

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The fact that the last 40 thousand years are unique in human history, in that we are the only form of humans around. Until that time, there were almost always other types of humans that existed.”

Expressing how he felt about his work winning the prize, the Swedish said he “did not think that this really would qualify for a Nobel Prize,” adding that he never expected to get the call informing him of the win.

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“So I was just gulping down the last cup of tea to go and pick up my daughter at her nanny where she has had an overnight stay.

“And then I got this call from Sweden and I of course thought it had something to do with our little summer house… I thought the lawn mower had broken down or something,” Paabo said.

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Born on April 20, 1955, Paabo is one of the founders of paleogenetics and a professor at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan.

His research investigating how the E19 protein of adenoviruses modulates the immune system earned him a PhD from Uppsala University in Sweden, in 1986.

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He’s the director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

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