For three years there has been no wild polio virus in Ghana. The World Health Organization certifies Ghana as polio free. This is due to an aggressive and comprehensive immunization program. Ghana will have to remain vigilant, as there is still polio that can come across her borders. Three years polio free is mark of pride and achievement, but immunization and vigilance must continue. It is nice to see that the immunization program is accompanied by distribution of insecticide treated nets that help prevent malaria.

Accra, Nov. 9, GNA – Ghana has succeeded in recording no wild polio virus for three-continuous years, a sign of successful eradiation of polio, Dr Kwadwo Antwi-Agyei, Programme Manager of the Expanded Immunisation Programme of the Ghana Health Service, said on Thursday. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra Dr Antwi-Agyei explained that Ghana, since September 2003 recorded no virus and the only way to maintain a polio-free state was to ensure high immunity levels for children under-five years.
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“Though we will be certified as polio-free, we will still stand at risk once our neighbour Nigeria had more than 500 cases in 2005 and about 847 cases as at October 3, 2006; we have to intensify our high immunity levels and be alert on our borders.”

Dr Antwi-Agyei said though measles was still the leading cause of illness among the vaccine preventive diseases for children under-five years, no death had been recorded for the past two years.
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The (immunization) exercise, which started on November 1 and ended on November 5, combined measles and polio immunisation, administering of vitamin A and distribution of 2.1 million free Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) to children less than two years.

After decades of complacency, world health groups are launching an unprecedented assault on the scourge of malaria, but much work remains to be done.
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Long overlooked in the age of the AIDS epidemic, malaria sickens more than 300 million people each year and kills more than 1 million. It also exacts a heavy economic toll. The World Health Organization estimates that the disease costs Africa, which sees 80 percent of the world`s cases, an estimated $12 billion per year in lost income.

Even those who are not killed experience lifelong effects, especially pregnant women and children. Malaria during pregnancy can result in miscarriage and low birth weight, and children who get the disease can grow up with slowed cognitive development.

‘The real tragedy,’ Bilimoria said, ‘is the disease is preventable and curable.’
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And despite the new commitments, there is still a large funding gap, Riggs said. WHO estimates that $4.2 billion per year is needed to scale-up malaria support to reach international targets — far more than the current funding available.

Malaria is one of the biggest killers, and general health threats in Ghana, where it kills around 40,000 people per year. It is a huge health threat in many other countries around Africa and around the world. Researchers in Uganda may have found new information which could lead to a vaccine.

A LANDMARK study by Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Makerere University has indicated that it might soon be possible to develop a malaria vaccine.
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“For some reason, women in their first pregnancy lose the semi-immunity that is normally found in adults,” said Niloofar Rasti, a KI graduate student who has been working on the study. “The placenta seems to be an anatomically favourable environment for a subpopulation of the parasites.”
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Adults who have been infected several times can become partly immune as their defence system gradually starts to recognise the parasite’s proteins. When the placenta is formed, however, a new environment is introduced with a different set of receptors.

This means that a new growth niche is made available to a subpopulation of the parasites. Earlier studies had suggested that each protein from the parasite attaches to only one specific protein, a receptor, in the placenta.

“Most of the parasites we studied could bind to three different receptors in the placenta,” one of the researchers Niloofar Rasti said.

“This would mean that a future vaccine cannot be based on the principle of one protein-one receptor, as was previously believed.”

The Monitor (Kampala)
September 5, 2006
by Peter Nyanzi

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