healthcare

In the news: WHO sounds the alarm on a gonorrhea superbug that is hard to treat and more

A wrap of health news over the past week.

New gonorrhea superbug

Antibiotic resistance has given rise to untreatable strains of gonorrhea and at least three people worldwide have been infected by such gonorrhea “superbugs”, the World Health Organisation said on Friday. Calling the situation “very, very serious”, the WHO has said that it is only a matter of time before even last-resort antibiotics start failing to treat the sexually transmitted disease.

“Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug,” said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based U.N. health agency, speaking to news agencies about the imminent health crisis. “Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.”

The WHO estimates that 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea every year. The disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. A gonorrhea infection also increases the risk of getting HIV.

The WHO’s Global Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme, which monitors drug-resistant gonorrhea, found widespread resistance of the bacterium to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin during 2009 to 2014 with 97% of countries that reported data having drug-resistant strains. Eighty one percent of countries reported resistance to azithromycin. The emergence of resistance to what is now used as last-resort treatment – the extended-spectrum cephalosporins or ESCs (ESCs) – was 66%.

While India does not have a very high burden of gonorrhea, there is a large and growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

WHO officials have said that global control of gonorrhea will require new tools and systems for better prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Specifically, they have called for the development of new antibiotics and a vaccine to prevent gonorrhea. In the meantime, they advocate safe sexual practices and the use of condoms to contain the spread of the disease.

Kerala nurses’ strike

Five associations of healthcare providers in Kerala have asked nurses to hold off on their strike planned for July 11 saying that the strike would force private hospitals to discharge patients sooner than is advisable and refrain from admitting new patients. Private hospitals provide about 70% of healthcare services Kerala. Kerala has also been in the grips of a fever epidemic with a large number of swine flu and dengue cases being reported in the state

The joint statement was made by the Association of Healthcare Providers of India-Kerala, the Kerala Private Hospital Association, the Association of Advanced Speciality Healthcare Institutions, Qualified Private Medical Practitioners Association and Catholic Healthcare Association Of India, which together represent most of the private hospitals in the state.

The plea from the associations comes after 10 days of protest by nurses across the state demanding better wages. Nurses associations have held relay protests in five districts including Kannur, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Thiruvanthapuram.

The hospital associations claimed that most of the hospitals in the state complied with the statutory norms on wages and that they were sympathetic towards the need for a reasonable wage revision for the nurses. “All hospital associations have been actively collaborating with the state government/industrial relations committee to arrive at the revised minimum wages,” the statement said.

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