Saturday, August 08, 2020

July 27, 2020  WASHINGTON, DC - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today urged that countries maintain essential prevention and treatment services for viral hepatitis during the COVID-19 pandemic so as not to jeopardize progress towards its elimination. "In the midst of a pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to sicken and kill thousands of people," said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne.

"Services, including vaccination against hepatitis B, are essential and cannot be stopped. Care must continue safely for all those who need it," she added.

In the Americas, 3.9 million people live with chronic hepatitis B, and 5.6 million live with hepatitis C. However, a model developed by WHO estimates that 17 countries in the region have already managed to eliminate mother-to-child and early childhood transmission of hepatitis B, and that the Americas as a whole has also achieved the goal of less than 0.1% prevalence of hepatitis B in children under the age of 5.

PAHO/WHO recommends that all newborns are vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth and subsequently receive at least 2 additional doses to be protected for life. "With universal vaccination, we are creating new generations free from hepatitis B and moving towards eliminating hepatitis as a public health problem," said Etienne.

World Hepatitis Day is celebrated every 28 July to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. This year, the theme of the day is "Hepatitis-free future". The focus is on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B.

Over 90% of new, chronic hepatitis B infections occur from mother-to-child transmission or between children during early childhood. It is therefore essential that newborns and infants are vaccinated against hepatitis B within the first 24 hours of life. In the Americas, 31 countries (representing over 95% of newborns – around 14 million) recommend universal vaccination at birth and all countries and territories of the Region (51) vaccinate against hepatitis B in their routine vaccination programs. Regional vaccination coverage is over 80%.

Following the introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine more than two decades ago, the Americas is the Region of the world with the lowest prevalence of chronic infection. "The progress achieved is exemplary," said the Director of PAHO. It is estimated that in 30 years, the region managed to reduce the prevalence of hepatitis B in children under the age of 5 from 0.7% to less than 0.1%, compared to the global average of 0.9%.

"These results would not be possible with the commitment of governments, health personnel and families to vaccinate," said Etienne. However, the PAHO Director also warned that routine vaccination rates have recently decreased in some countries. She emphasized that efforts should be made to ensure that vaccination of newborns against hepatitis B occurs during the first 24 hours of life and that vaccination coverage of children under the age of one must remain high.

The estimated prevalence of hepatitis B in the general population is also lower in the Americas (0.7%) when compared to the world average (4%). While older generations did not benefit from childhood vaccinations, countries offer vaccination against hepatitis B to populations such as health personnel and at-risk groups. In the absence of a cure for people infected with hepatitis B, early diagnosis helps substantially prevent the risk of progression to cirrhosis and liver cancer, and access to treatment can control the infection.

Currently, there is no vaccine against hepatitis C, but antivirals can cure more than 95% of those infected. However, only 14% of infected people in Latin America and the Caribbean are diagnosed and less than 1% receive treatment due to its high cost. Some countries in the Region have accessed direct-acting antivirals (DAA) – which can cure hepatitis C in three months or less – through the PAHO Strategic Fund, a mechanism that ensures quality, affordable access to this medicine. However, few currently use it.

In 2019, PAHO launched its Elimination Initiative to end more than 30 infectious diseases in the Region by 2030, including viral hepatitis. To achieve this, health systems must ensure access to testing and treatment for all people with viral hepatitis for those who need it, as well as preventative measures such as vaccination.

August 2, 2020   LOS ANGELES (AP) — Wilford Brimley, who worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included “Cocoon,” “The Natural” and “The Firm,” has died. He was 85. Brimley’s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died Saturday morning in a Utah hospital. He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments, she said. The mustached Brimley was a familiar face for a number of roles, often playing characters like his grizzled baseball manager in “The Natural” opposite Robert Redford’s bad-luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford in “Brubaker” and “The Electric Horseman.” Brimley’s best-known work was in “Cocoon,” in which he was part of a group of seniors who discover an alien pod that rejuvenates them. The 1985 Ron Howard film won two Oscars, including a supporting actor honor for Don Ameche.

July 31, 2020  LONDON (AP) — Alan Parker, a successful and sometimes surprising filmmaker whose diverse output includes “Bugsy Malone,” “Midnight Express,” and “Evita,” has died at 76, his family said. A Briton who became a Hollywood heavyweight, Parker also directed “Fame,” “The Commitments and “Mississippi Burning.” Together his movies won 10 Academy Awards and 19 British Academy Film Awards. The director’s family said he died Friday in London after a long illness. Parker was born in London on Feb. 14, 1944, and, like many other aspiring British directors of his generation, including Ridley Scott and Adrian Lyne, began his career in advertising as a copywriter and director of commercials.

NEW YORK (AP) — When historians look back on the top films at the box office in the summer of 2020, they may feel like they’ve slipped into a time warp, or maybe “Back to the Future.” Over the second weekend in July, “Empire Strikes Back” — 40 years after it was first released — was again No. 1. “Ghostbusters” claimed the July 4th weekend, 36 years after opening. Over the June 19-21 weekend and 27 years after it last led the box office, “Jurassic Park” again ruled theaters. In a pandemic that has resurrected all kinds of vintage pastimes, from puzzles to drive-ins, even the blockbusters are retro. That is much out of necessity. About 1,000 theaters in the U.S. are currently open, just about a sixth of the nation’s cinemas. That includes the approximately 300 drive-ins that have, since the multiplexes shuttered in March, hosted the majority of moviegoing.

July 29, 2020  LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tracy Morgan and his wife of five years are ending their marriage The actor-comedian’s representative said in an emailed statement Wednesday that Morgan and Megan Wollover have filed for divorce. “This is a challenging time for all involved, so I ask that you please respect our privacy,” Morgan said in a statement. Morgan and Wollover married after the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member recovered from a 2014 highway crash. One man was killed in the crash that left Morgan and two friends seriously injured. The crash happened when a Wal-Mart truck slammed into the back of a limo Morgan was riding in.