Microsoft word - global network caribbean press release.doc
For Immediate Release Contact: Kari Stoever 202.842.5025; firstname.lastname@example.org Karen Palacio 202-683-1882; email@example.com Helping Caribbean Countries Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases Just One Dollar Per Tourist Could Help End the Suffering of the Poorest Carribean Children and Families WASHINGTON (June 3, 2008) – Away from the beaches, resorts, and cruise ships of the Caribbean, there lies a hidden underbelly of poverty and with this poverty comes endemic neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – disabling, disfiguring and sometimes deadly parasitic and bacterial infections. In an editorial in this month's PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the journal's Editor in Chief, Professor Peter Hotez (Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, Sabin Vaccine Institute, and George Washington University) proposes that a modest US$1.00 airline or cruise ship fee or a fee on tourist entry could provide a simple, effective funding mechanism for the Caribbean countries to control these NTDs.
Almost 22 million visitors come to the Caribbean annually, where they spend an estimated US$21.6 billion. “Given the impact of the NTDs on child development, pregnancy outcome, and worker productivity, one dollar per tourist to eliminate massive NTD health disparities in the Caribbean is a very reasonable and easy-to-digest financial mechanism, as well as a highly cost-effective means to lift the region’s poorest people out poverty. Simply put, one dollar is far less than the cost of a piña colada and will make a real difference in a child’s life” Hotez stated.
Four Caribbean countries in particular have a high burden of NTDs: Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Jamaica. For example, out of a population of 8.1 million people, Haiti is estimated to have 3.8 million cases of the intestinal worm whipworm (trichuriasis), 2.6 million cases of the intestinal worm round worm (ascariasis), and 560,000 cases of the parasitic disease lymphatic filariasis, which can cause elephantiasis.
In addition to lymphatic filariasis, the Caribbean region also has high rates of schistosomiasis and of the intestinal worm hookworm. These diseases were most likely introduced into the Caribbean through the Atlantic slave trade and even today such infections still occur almost exclusively among people living in poverty or people of African descent.
It is tragic, says Professor Hotez, that the burden of these NTDs is so enormous, given how inexpensive it would be to control them. For example, a project in Leogane, Haiti found that giving two drugs (DEC and albendazole) every year to the entire community led to near elimination of lymphatic filariasis after just five rounds of treatment. DEC costs pennies, while albendazole is donated free-of-charge by its manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.
"Given that industry is either donating the NTD drugs, or they are available as low-cost generic medicines," says Professor Hotez, "these last vestiges of American slavery could be controlled or eliminated for a ridiculously small amount."
In addition to his proposal of a $US 1.00 tourist fee, Professor Hotez puts forward several other possible funding mechanisms, including increased funding commitments by local governments, or donations from North American and European governments and private foundations.
Professor Hotez is the Executive Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (http://gnntdc.sabin.org/), a partnership dedicated to eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), the most common infections impacting one billion of the world’s poorest people. The Global Network is comprised of international non-profit organizations with decades of on-the-ground experience in fighting disabling, disfiguring, and deadly NTDs. Through strong collaboration with the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies, and disease-endemic countries, the Global Network works to increase access to inexpensive, effective medicines to improve and save lives.
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