New Vision (Kampala)

10 January 2013

Uganda: Nation to Host Global Health Conference

An upcoming global conference to be held in Kampala next month will include a presentation by researchers, on the health threat of jiggers, the President of the World Medical Association, Margaret Mungherera has disclosed.

Mungherera said recent studies had identified the prevalence of jiggers in animals, further complicating the control of the parasites in many parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia.

In 2010, an outbreak of jiggers ravaged at least nine districts in Busoga region, and parts of northern Uganda, leading to a campaign.

The blood-sucking fleas mostly enter under toenails and finger nails of human beings, where they grow to form a round sac, the size of a pea.

Common domestic animals such as pigs, dogs, cats, rats and cattle carry fleas from which jiggers grow.

The infestation is largely attributed to poor hygiene, dusty and cracked floors, and humans sharing accommodation with animals.

Adverse effects of the infection may include severe inflammation, ulceration and fibrosis. It can also cause lymphangitis, gangrene, sepsis, and the loss of toe nails.

The president of the Uganda Veterinary Association, Dr Dominic Mundugo said the conference would provide a framework for human and veterinary health experts to fight diseases affecting humans and animals.

The approach dubbed 'One Health' is a worldwide strategy for expanding collaborations in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.

The framework is based on challenges of increasing contact between humans and animals, as well as the emergence of many new infectious diseases since the 20th century.

"The interaction between humans, animals and the environment present enormous health concerns. Presently, about 75% of emerging and re-emerging diseases are either zoonotic (affect both humans and animals) or vector-borne (carried from infected animals to others through)," Mundugo explained.

According to the One Health Eastern and Central Africa Project, the world registered 30 new diseases in the last three decades, of which animals contributed 20%.

Dr Kenya Mugisha, a public health specialist noted that 61% of the 1,500 microbes that are known to infect humans come from animals.

He also explained that it was ten times cheaper to treat rabies in dogs than in humans, pointing to a need for changes policy directions.

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