Recent news from WHO



· At a 16 –18 February meeting of public health experts, pharmaceutical industry officials, regulators and policy-makers in Rome, WHO called for urgent action to halt the spread of counterfeit medicines, which are a major risk to global public health.

· WHO is helping Nigeria after reports that the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was found in domestic birds in the northern state of Kaduna. A team of WHO experts, led by Dr Luis Sambo, Regional Director of WHO's Office for Africa, arrived in Nigeria on 13 February to help with epidemiology, data and laboratory work. Nigeria has launched a public information campaign, and is using the public health infrastructure of the polio eradication programme to help with surveillance and logistics.

· WHO said on 6 February it would start developing new diagnostic tests with a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization for human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness. The project with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. African sleeping sickness, a major public health threat in sub-Saharan Africa, spreads among people bitten by the tsetse fly and is fatal unless treated. Early-stage infection produces few symptoms and only about 10% of patients with the disease are accurately diagnosed using current methods.

· On World Cancer Day on 4 February, WHO called for more action to curb rising levels of cancer across the world. It is estimated that over 40% of all cancer can be prevented. However, dramatic increases in risk factors such as tobacco use and being overweight are contributing to the rise in cancer rates, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, that account for more than 70% of all cancer deaths.

· The number of countries with indigenous polio has dropped to four, as polio eradication efforts enter a new phase involving the use of next-generation vaccines targeted at the two surviving strains of virus. The WHO announcement on 1 February followed confirmation that indigenous poliovirus has not circulated in Egypt and Niger for more than 12 months.


For more about these and other WHO news items please see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/2006/en/index.html

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