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December 20, 2013

Public health officials advise on rising flu levels in Texas 2013/2014 season

Public health officials advise on rising flu levels in Texas 2013/2014 season

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Friday, December 20, 2013

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With current flu levels classified as “high” around the state, public health officials in Texas are encouraging citizens to seek vaccination. While many officials anticipated the flu season to peak in January, it has seemingly arrived much earlier in many parts of the state.

Health officials are urging citizens to seek care with their primary doctors, instead of their local hospital emergency rooms. They also recommend that everyone over age six months receive a flu vaccination. Thus far in December, over 450 cases of influenza have been reported in just a small portion of central Texas. Four recent deaths are being blamed on a flu-like illness. Other citizens are also showing signs of the same unknown condition, health officials said.

A nurse for a Texas school system noted during a media interview, “The number one prevention for the flu and cold is hand washing, [from] little kids [up to] big kids.” People suffering from the symptoms report fever, and coughing along with headaches and fatigue. One Texas man told Wikinews, “I had the flu just a few weeks ago. It was awful. I was miserable.”



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October 27, 2013

Slow start to winter 2013/2014 flu season in USA

Slow start to winter 2013/2014 flu season in USA

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

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With the United States flu season having started this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Weather Channel and Google‘s FluTrends websites report today low flu levels.

All three sources say there are no, or minimal, reports of the flu in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. All three indicate Alabama has moderate flu levels. Google FluTrends indicates that at the same time last year, the flu level nationally was at moderate.

During the early part of the month, there were some concerns about the quality of flu reporting as the CDC and other government supported flu tracking organizations were impacted by the US government shutdown. Some non-profits and private organizations provided their own data during this period to fill the information void.

The CDC advises people to get a flu vaccine as the best means of avoiding getting the flu. Dr. Harry Leider, Chief Medical Officer for Walgreens, also is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine now before the flu becomes more widespread. For the 2013/2014 flu season in the US, there are two types of vaccines available. One provides immunization for two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus — specifically, an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus; an A(H3N2) virus, similar for antigenic purposes to cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011; and a virus similar to B/Massachusetts/2/2012. A second type of vaccine provides immunization for two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

Flu prevelance by state
State Google FluTrend CDC The Weather Channel
Alabama Moderate Local Localized
Alaska Low Sporadic
Arizona Low Sporadic Sporadic
Arkansas Low No activity
California Low Sporadic Sporadic
Colorado Low No activity
Connecticut Low Sporadic Sporadic
Delaware Low No activity
Florida Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Georgia Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Hawaii Low Sporadic
Idaho Low No activity
Illinois Moderate Sporadic
Indiana Low Sporadic Sporadic
Iowa Low Sporadic Sporadic
Kansas Moderate No activity
Kentucky Moderate No activity
Louisiana Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Maine Low No activity
Maryland Low No activity Sporadic
Massachusetts Low Sporadic Sporadic
Michigan Moderate Sporadic
Minnesota Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
Mississippi Moderate Local Sporadic
Missouri Moderate No activity
Montana Low No activity
Nebraska Low Sporadic
Nevada Moderate Sporadic
New Hampshire Low No activity
New Jersey Low Sporadic Sporadic
New Mexico Moderate Sporadic Sporadic
New York Low Sporadic Sporadic
North Carolina Low No activity
North Dakota Low Sporadic Sporadic
Ohio Low Sporadic Sporadic
Oklahoma Moderate No activity
Oregon Low Sporadic
Pennsylvania Low Sporadic
Rhode Island Low No activity
South Carolina Low Local Localized
South Dakota Low No activity Sporadic
Tennessee Moderate No activity
Texas Moderate Sporadic Localized
Utah Low Sporadic Sporadic
Vermont Low No activity
Virginia Low No activity
Washington Low Sporadic Sporadic
West Virginia Low No activity
Wisconsin Low Sporadic Sporadic
Wyoming Low Sporadic Sporadic
District of Columbia Low Sporadic



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January 14, 2013

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address Influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

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The influenza virus under an electron microscope.
Image: CDC.

Physicians and others are struggling to address a growing outbreak of influenza affecting a large portion of the United States. Earlier this week, the Mayor of Boston declared a “flu emergency” for the city, as 700 cases of the virus were reported.

Public officials in Texas have urged citizens to receive a flu shot. The state’s public health Commissioner said in a press release, “The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get a dose of flu vaccine now.” Doctors are telling citizens to wash their hands, get a flu shot and avoid sick people if possible to lessen chances of catching the virus. However, a report released on Friday noted that 7.3% of deaths last week were a result of pneumonia and the flu.

A total of 20 children in the United States have died during this flu season from flu-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control reports nine out of 10 regions in the United States had “elevated” flu activity. These data indicate that seasonal flu has spread and reached high levels several weeks before the usual time of late January or February. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state-wide public health emergency on Saturday. He also issued an executive order which allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between six months and 18 years of age.



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December 1, 2012

Bird flu outbreak kills birds in Krasnodar region

Bird flu outbreak kills birds in Krasnodar region

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

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Temryuk (green) and Anapa (red) districts

Krasnodar, Russia officials said yesterday they have found roughly 4,000 dead wild birds in the region. Doctors identified the disease as bird flu subtype H5. Officials said the outbreak originated with coots in water reservoirs at the west of the region.

The Krasnodar leading veterinary physician, George Gzhailidi, said the bird flu outbreak originated with coots in the Temryuksky District and Anapsky District. The region governor Alexander Nikolayevich Tkachyov said, “At risk is the health and safety of people, of everybody who lives in the region. This is why I make the decision to ban hunting in the districts with mass mortality of wild birds — Temryuk[sky District] and Anap[sky District]. Also, a quarantine is being declared for these areas.”((ru))

Officials started emergency vaccinations of birds on local farms. Officials are also carrying out emergency vaccination of humans in the area.



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April 4, 2012

Brazzaville picks up the pieces after ammo depot explosion

Brazzaville picks up the pieces after ammo depot explosion

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Many women and children have been living in the grounds of the Sacred Heart Cathedral since munitions in a Brazzaville army barracks exploded on March 4, 2012.
Image: Laudes Martial Mbon/IRIN.

The Brazzaville Arms Depot was located in Mpila.
Image: NASA.

The average number of deaths per incident of an explosion is 3, according to a six-month study conducted by Landmine Action and Medact in 2009.
Image: Crtew.

Brazzaville munitions depot explosion as of March 14, 2012. The map shows the extent of the exclusion zone, the redzone checkpoint and 1km radius from ground zero.
Image: MapAction.

Christian Sedar Ndinga, president of the Congolese Red Cross, talks about the role played by local and trained volunteers in responding to the March 4 blast in Brazzaville.
Video: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Extensive damage was caused to residential areas of Brazzaville when munitions at an army barracks blew up on March 4, 2012.
Image: Laudes Martial Mbon/IRIN.

World relief organizations are assisting the Republic of the Congo after last month’s deadly explosions at the Brazzaville Arms Depot that claimed around 300 lives, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and left parts of the city looking like a war zone.

One month after the March 4 explosions and the relief efforts continue.

Bernard Metraux, who is in charge of the ICRC mission in Brazzaville, said 292 people have died and around 12 bodies were still unidentified as of Monday. On Saturday, Pierre Moussa, Minister of Defense for the Republic of Congo, released a slightly lower death toll of 282. There was no explanation for discrepancies between the government’s and the relief organization’s figures as the ICRC’s previous statement was already higher than Moussa’s figure. Moussa said the death count, however, is expected to rise higher as the relief operations continue.

Metraux also reported 75 children were still missing. The international organization has had success reuniting 42 children with their families in the aftermath and locating 23 missing children since.

Also, the World Health Organization has confirmed around 10 cases of cholera, which was supported by Alexis Elira Dokekias, the nation’s director general of health.

Already in the first month of the operation, the munitions clearing teams have disposed of 16 tons of ordinance.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies expects the relief operation to last three more months.

The Brazzaville blast

To put the Brazzaville blast into perspective, the number of people killed by the depot explosion this month is almost 100 times the average number of people killed in explosive incidents, based on figures presented by Landmine Action and Medact of explosions and deaths from around the world. The average death per explosive incident was reported by Landmine Action to be 3.3 people (see infographic).

The blast on March 4, 2012, was actually three separate explosions that were caused by an electrical short circuit at the depot. The blast injured 2,500, made 14,000 homeless, and disrupted education for 20,000 students. The explosion collapsed whole buildings nearby, including a church; contaminated the area within 1 km; and destroyed windows as far away as 4 km. The force of the explosion could be felt in neighboring Kinshasa. And, most dangerous for people now, the blast spread live munitions over a perimeter that spans 6 km. The Talangaï Hospital, one of Brazzaville’s medical centers, was the most critical site affected. A portion of the hospital was destroyed and unexploded ordinances were spread over the premises.

Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of the Congo. According to the US State Department, 70 percent of the country’s population lives in Brazzaville. It is the largest city there with a population of over 1.2 million, according to the CIA World Factbook. Nearly one third of the population there lives near the affected sections of the city, including Talangaï, Ouenzé, Moungali and Mfilou which were close to the depot located in the Mpila district.

The storage of arms in city centers is more common in Africa. In an interview with Wikinews, Dr. Kelechi Kalu, who is the director of the Center for African Studies at Ohio State University, said the orgins of the practice go back to the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union would arm opposite sides and would locate the arms so that the forces they supported could have access to them. After the Cold War, however, the practice was continued by governing institutions. “The institutional structure that is supposed to handle explosives such as this and dispose of them in order to keep people safe are not as developed as people would expect.” Kalu referred to another armory explosion in January 27, 2002, in Lagos, Nigeria that killed over 1000 people.

The 2009 report from Landmine Action said casualities as a result of explosives happens regularly around the world and the number of incidents spreads globally within a fairly short period of time — six months of data were studied. The report said the worst cases with high death rates occurred when explosive violence took place in urban settings, like the blast from the arms depot located in the highly populated area of Brazzaville.

Moreover, the Landmine Action study reported that civilians, especially women and children, fared worse from these blasts. Congolese citizen Irène Ithos, 44, and a mother of three, told IRIN News that the blast was unprecedented in her lifetime. It is one of the Republic of the Congo’s worst catastrophes since its civil war was fought between 1997 and 1999. The depot itself was a holdover from the civil war era.

The relief operation

Cquote1.svg The main thing now is to clear those areas as quickly as possible … Cquote2.svg

—Bernard Metraux

Dealing with the unexploded munitions is urgent. “The main thing now is to clear those areas as quickly as possible so that the people who live or work there and want to go back can do so without danger,” said Metraux.

The Congolese army has fenced off the 1km area around the depot so that the site can be decontaminated. The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre is trying to dispose of the live munitions so that the Brazzaville residents can leave the camps and return to their homes. The organizations involved in ordinance disposal also include the British Mines Advisory Group, a contingent from Handicap International, and the ICRC. With so much ordinance underneath the ruins, the Congolese Red Cross is playing an important role in warning residents to call for assistance if they see ammunition.

Early on the Congolese Red Cross, as the area’s first responders, provided first aid, transported crush victims from the fallen buildings and burn victims to the military and university hospitals, and provided blankets and water, said Christian Sedar Ndinga, president the country’s organization. The Congolese Red Cross mobilized 200 volunteers in response to the crisis.

While the relief agencies working with the Congolese have alleviated some needs, the effort still has holes to fill. Six sites have been established to relieve the homeless, but the camps do not have enough tents. One of those sites is the Sacred Heart Cathedral and it has 20 tents that were set up by the French army, but those are not enough, and during rains, even when the church is opened, not all people can be sheltered. The Nkombo Market is the other large relief site; it is a covered market converted into a shelter. The sites, however, have allowed Doctors Without Borders to vaccinate 2,500 children from measles and the medical staff there has reported some malnutrition cases.



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January 18, 2011

Two children die after contracting H1N1 virus in Northern Ireland

Two children die after contracting H1N1 virus in Northern Ireland

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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In Northern Ireland, a two-year-old boy has died after contracting the H1N1 virus. Hours later, it emerged that another boy, aged ten months, had also died after contracting the virus.

The second boy had underlying health difficulties. It is unknown if the first had other problems with his health. Since the start of the flu season in the United Kingdom, the total number of deaths in Northern Ireland as a result of contracting the H1N1 virus has now increased to 19. At least two of those 19 dead had other underlying health issues.

Michael McGimpsey, Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, expressed his sympathy. “This is tragic news and my thoughts and sympathies are with the family of this baby at this very sad and difficult time,” he stated.

Following these incidents, Dr. Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, is attempting to reassure the parents of children that are in good health. “We continue to offer vaccinations to any child under five in an at risk group as advised by the joint committee. The question has been posed if we should extend to healthy under-5s. I know the JCVI is keeping this under close and active review and we will continue to be guided by their expert advice.”

Michael McGimpsey pointed out that he acknowledges the anxiety that young childrens’ parents may be experiencing. “I have recently spoken to other UK health ministers about Northern Ireland’s current flu picture,” he explained. “I have also spoken to Mary Harney, the Republic of Ireland’s health minister. In addition, I have consulted with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about the particular circumstances here. They do not recommend extending the vaccination programme beyond the current at risk groups.”



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January 14, 2011

Fifteen flu sufferers die in Wales in one week

Fifteen flu sufferers die in Wales in one week

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Friday, January 14, 2011

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Over the course of the last week, fifteen people who have suffered from influenza have died in Wales, as reported to the Welsh Assembly Government. The total amount of flu-related deaths in Wales since October 2010 has now increased to 27.

Cquote1.svg Despite the slight increase in the clinical consultation rate for influenza this week compared to the previous week, the rate of consultations for flu-like illness in Wales still remains within the levels of normal seasonal flu activity. Cquote2.svg

Dr. Tony Jowell, Chief Medical Officer of Wales

On Tuesday, 49 people were being treated in critical care beds in hospitals around Wales, according to health officials. With twelve reported admissions, Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board had the highest amount of critical care patients in Wales. Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board has the second highest total number of patients experiencing this critical care in the country, with eleven being cared for. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board have nine important care admissions each. Cwm Taf NHS Trust contains five of such patients, while Hywel Dda NHS Trust has three.

The age group of 25–34 years old had the largest amount of meetings with general practitioners; the rate of consultation was 147 people for every 100,000. For all age groups, 93 people out of every one hundred thousand have been consulting with a GP; on January 5, the total figure stood at 85 meetings per 100,000.

“Despite the slight increase in the clinical consultation rate for influenza this week compared to the previous week, the rate of consultations for flu-like illness in Wales still remains within the levels of normal seasonal flu activity,” said Dr. Tony Jowell, the Chief Medical Officer of Wales. “Most healthy people will recover from flu-like illnesses within five to seven days with plenty of rest and drinking non-alcoholic fluids. On the issue of vaccination against seasonal flu, whilst we have been working to make stocks of the vaccine that was developed against swine flu available to be used where supplies of seasonal flu vaccine have run low, we are now well into the flu season.”

According to Media Wales, 13 patients experiencing flu-related symptoms were getting treatment at Withybush General Hospital in Haverfordwest on Tuesday. Meanwhile, five were receiving hospital treatment at Bronglais General Hospital in Aberystwyth. Also, Carmarthenshire NHS Trust in Llanelli and West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen both had a solitary patient.

Jowell also commented: “People in at-risk groups are at a higher risk of complications from seasonal flu, and the best protection is early vaccination. A press and publicity campaign has been running since October and has included television, radio and bus adverts to let people know if they are in an at-risk group, and that the vaccine is available free of charge to those groups from GPs. We have also encouraged health boards and GPs to ensure that their patients and front line NHS staff are vaccinated against seasonal flu.”

Throughout the United Kingdom, 62 individuals reportedly died in the last week, as the result of suffering from influenza. The majority of these victims were suffering from swine flu. In most of these cases, the sufferers were aged between 15 and 64. However, nine of the fatalities were of children aged below fourteen.



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October 21, 2010

Whooping cough outbreak kills ten infants in California

Whooping cough outbreak kills ten infants in California

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Ten infants have died and nearly 6,000 others have been infected in California, United States with whooping cough, or pertussis, since the beginning of this year. Health officials are referring to the event as the worst outbreak of the cough in 60 years.

File photo of a young boy suffering from whooping cough.
Image: CDC.

A spokesman from the California Department of Public Health, Michael Sicilia, says all of the deaths occurred in infants under three months and that nine of the deaths were found in infants under eight weeks old. This leads to the conclusion that the children were too young to receive the vaccine for the disease.

Sicilia indicated that an estimated 50% of children received the disease from parents or caregivers. Earlier in July of this year California recommended that anyone over seven years old who was not fully vaccinated for Pertussis get a Tdap pertussis booster.

Some parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated against the disease and the vaccine has worn off in some adults. Alison Patti, a spokesperson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pointed out that the vaccine does not protect individuals indefinitely and health officials are urging that people get the vaccine again if they have not received it within the past five years.

According to the CDC, for the first week or two the symptoms of the cough are similar to the common cold; soon after the child begins to “cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they’re forced to inhale with a loud ‘whooping’ sound.” Pertussis carries side effects, such as a 20 percent chance of pneumonia and about a one percent chance of convulsions, which makes it very deadly to infants.

Doctors and parents often miss the symptoms of whooping cough in infants under six months old due to the absence of the “whooping” sound. Alison Patti said that the “whooping” characteristic is absent in adults which makes them think they don’t have pertussis. She recommends that anyone with a persistent cough get tested for the whooping cough.



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June 6, 2010

WHO\’s reaction to H1N1 influenced by drug companies, reports claim

WHO’s reaction to H1N1 influenced by drug companies, reports claim

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reports suggest the World Health Organisation’s declaring a swine flu pandemic was an error driven by drug companies, and lead to unjustified fear. A year after the swine flu pandemic was declared, stocks are left unused and governments try to abandon contracts, pharmaceutical companies have profited at least £4.6billion from the sale of vaccines alone.

Reports by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) and the Council of Europe claim that The World Health Organisation reaction to H1N1 was influenced by pharmaceutical companies and that key scientists behind advice had financial ties with firms Roche and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). These conflicts of interest have never been publicly disclosed by WHO, an apparent violation of its own rules.

The World Health Organisation issued H1N1 guidelines in 2004, recommending countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medication. The advice prompted many countries around the world into buying up large stocks of Tamiflu, made by Roche, and Relenza manufactured by GSK.

A joint investigation with the BMJ and the BIJ, found that scientists involved in developing the WHO 2004 guidance had previously been paid by Roche or GSK for lecturing and consultancy work as well as being involved in research for the companies. “The WHO’s credibility has been badly damaged,” BMJ editor Fiona Godlee said in an editorial.

A report by the health committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights watchdog, found that the WHO’s reaction was influenced by drug companies that make H1N1 antiviral drugs and vaccines. It criticised WHO lack of transparency around the handling of the swine flu pandemic and says the public health guidelines by WHO, EU agencies and national governments led to a “waste of large sums of public money and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public.”

Cquote1.svg We’re still in the pandemic Cquote2.svg

—Margaret Chan of the World Health Organisation said yesterday.

A spokesman for WHO said the drug industry did not influence its decisions on swine flu. Margaret Chan, the organisation’s director, had dismissed inquiries into its handling of the A/H1N1 pandemic as “conspiracy theories” earlier this year, she had said: “WHO anticipated close scrutiny of its decisions, but we did not anticipate that we would be accused, by some European politicians, of having declared a fake pandemic on the advice of experts with ties to the pharmaceutical industry and something personal to gain from increased industry profits.”

Yesterday, a 16-member “emergency committee” consisting of advisors from the World Health Organisation said that the H1N1 pandemic is not yet over. The WHO has refused to identify committee members, arguing that they must be shielded from industry pressure, so possible conflicts of interest with drug companies are unknown. The BMJ report also reveals that at least one expert on the “emergency committee” received payment during 2009 from GSK.

In related news, Reuters reported, Pfizer Inc, the world’s biggest drugmaker, is selling its swine vaccine business to Chinese Harbin Pharmaceutical Group for $50 million.

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April 25, 2010

WHO starts simultaneous immunization campaigns in over 100 countries

WHO starts simultaneous immunization campaigns in over 100 countries

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

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Child receiving an oral polio vaccine (file photo)

The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday began simultaneous immunization campaigns, in 112 countries and territories across its Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, and European regions. The unprecedented vaccination drive will last for a week.

This is the first time the World Health Organization has launched such an event across multiple regions at once. WHO officials say their goal is to expand immunization coverage and raise awareness of the importance of vaccines, and that such cross-border activities can prevent disease and save lives.

WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein says that many countries are working to eliminate measles, adding that says countries in the European region are very concerned that they have stalled in their goal of eliminating measles and rubella this year.

“In European countries, in many of them, immunization coverage is below the 95 percent recommended level. And, there have been ongoing measles outbreaks in some of these countries. Measles cases have also been imported to the US and Canada and the Americas from European countries,” said Epstein.

The agency says an important goal of the immunization campaigns is to reach those who have been excluded up to now. It notes that every year, in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 25 percent of deaths among children under age five are attributed to vaccine preventable diseases. 2.1 million children in the Middle East hadn’t received a shot against tetanus, whooping cough, or diphteria in 2009, according to the WHO.

In the Americas, WHO says special regional events are being held in border areas of Nicaragua, between Suriname and French Guiana, and between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It says many young children, pregnant women, elderly and indigenous peoples live in isolated areas where vaccine coverage is low.

In all three regions, Epstein said the vaccination campaigns will be accompanied by health information campaigns.

“The biggest obstacle to reaching our goals of vaccination are lack of awareness, lack of information and people being ignorant that they should be vaccinated, and thus not having enough vaccinators, money, trucks, bicycles, etc. to get to these remote regions,” he said.

WHO also began a large polio immunization campaign across sixteen countries in central and West Africa on Saturday. It says 78 million children under five will be vaccinated to stop a major outbreak of the disease.



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