Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 00:22:55 +0200 (METDST)
By Susan NJANJI

Johannesburg, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - Four years ago, South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe, 38, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. A year ago, it developed into multi-drug resistant strain requiring painful injections and heaps of pills.   Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and started a second round. At the end of it he still wasn't cured.

Thanks to a new treatment - approved Wednesday by the US Food and Drug Administration - he is now cleared of the disease, has bounced back to work and has even resumed night-clubbing, something he has stopped four years ago.   "I was willing to beat TB and I'm living proof. I can move around... I can still go clubbing till the early hours," said the dreadlocked designer at his home in Soweto township.   The announcement was especially welcomed in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest number of TB cases. Of the more than 1.6 million TB deaths recorded every year, more than 75,000 are in South Africa alone. In 2017, South Africa recorded more than 322,000 active TB cases.   The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period.

The three-drug regimen consists of bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid - collectively known as the BPaL regimen.    Pretomanid is the novel compound developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance and which received the FDA greenlight Wednesday.    The treatment regimen was trialed at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients and achieved a 90 percent success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups.

- 'Groundbreaking treatment'-
With the treatment involving five pills of the three drugs daily taken over just six months - it makes easier to administer.   This compares to between 30 and 40 drugs that multiple-drug resistant TB patients take each day for up to two years.   "Usually and in many places in the world the treatment for (multiple) ... drug resistant TB would take anything between 18 to 24 months," said Pauline Howell, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital in Johannesburg.   "This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful," Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference.

The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of the world's deadliest infectious disease, said Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance.    Last year there were more than half a million drug resistant TB cases in the world.    A chronic lung disease which is preventable and largely treatable if caught in time, tuberculosis is the top infectious killer, causing over 1.6 million deaths each year.   More than 10 million are cases recorded every year. The disease has worsened as it has become increasingly resistant to available medicines.

TB Alliance started designing the trial in 2014.   "This is really groundbreaking result we have here," said Folu Olugbosi, clinical director and head of the South African office of TB Alliance.   Patients are moving from a "truckload of pills" to cure the resistant strain with just three drugs and in just six months, Olugbosi said.   At the Sizwe hospital northeast of Johannesburg, a patient named Nxumalo arrived from Katlehong township for his regular post-treatment check-up to make sure he is still in the clear.   "With the old regimen, I would vomit," said the 23-year-old unemployed man. "But with the one for research, it's easier to take than 24 tablets."
Date: Sun 14 Jul 2019
Source: cape{town}etc [edited]
<https://www.capetownetc.com/news/increase-in-flu-and-pneumonia-cases-across-sa/>

There has been a noticeable increase in cases of flu and pneumonia in South Africa compared to last year [2018], along with the time it takes for affected individuals to recover.

The Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis (CRDM) has announced its concerns regarding the rise in cases in a report, saying, "The 2019 South African influenza season, which started towards the end of April, is ongoing. Transmission of influenza measured using the Viral Watch programme and impact measured using the pneumonia surveillance programme have both reached high levels." As more people struggle to kick the nasty bug so do more find themselves contracting the flu from friends, family members, or colleagues. The CRDM has declared that the risk of contracting these respiratory illnesses will extend until October this year [2019].

Influenza A(H3N2) has been identified as the most prevalent strain this year. According to the CRDM, "To date, the majority 711/783 (91%) of influenza positive samples for this season, detected by 3 surveillance programmes, have been identified as influenza A(H3N2). Influenza A(H3N2) is one of the three seasonal influenza viruses prevalent in human populations."

Along with being longer than is the norm, the 2019 flu season also started earlier in the year. The 1st week of June is usually when it begins, but this year reports of cases of flu began being recorded in April.

CRDM warned that some groups may be especially vulnerable to this spike in flu cases, particularly pregnant people, the elderly and those already suffering with a disease that weakens their immune system. Locals are encouraged to be cautious and even take immunity-boosting supplements for prevention. Additionally, individuals who contract the flu should take at least 2 days off work to reduce the spread of the virus and shorten their recovery time.  [byline: Aimee Pace]
=======================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of South Africa:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/179>]
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2019 01:56:34 +0200
By Béatrice DEBUT

eMalahleni, South Africa, June 27, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness.   "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs.   "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."   The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people.

Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls.   "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says.   "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants."   Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.   Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night.

Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler."   Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler.   The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines.   "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks.   eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.

- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced.   But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high.   Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits.   They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery.

Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs.   They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.   The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg.   "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani.   "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)."

In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld.   Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data.   "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said.   Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.

- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni.   "When they leave this area, some of them get better."   But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons.   "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".

In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital.   Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask.   If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow."   Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks.   "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
22nd June 2019
https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-06-22-cape-town-hit-by-flooding-and-evacuations-as-storms-strike/

Heavy rains and driving winds forced the evacuation of a Cape Town building and left several suburbs without power. City council disaster officials and firefighters evacuated as many as 1,000 people from a building in Kruskal Avenue in Bellville after it was damaged by the storm. City of Cape Town traffic chief Richard Coleman said while no injuries had been reported, the road was closed and emergency service personnel were attending to the incident. Mandy Thomas, of the city’s disaster risk management, said officials were dealing with the incident.

A massive cold front pounded the Western Cape with up to 50mm of rainfall expected over the weekend. The SA Weather Service issued a weather warning on Thursday, informing residents to take proactive measures as the cold front approached. Localised flooding was expected in some areas, and vulnerable residents were advised to dig trenches around their properties.

A tree fell over onto a train at Thornton station.
A tree fell over onto a train at Thornton station.

According to an update issued by disaster risk management earlier on Saturday, there had been numerous reports of flooded roadways and fallen trees. As a result, the electricity supply in parts of Milnerton, Plumstead and Sybrand Park was interrupted. “Roofs were blown off in Belhar, Strand, Khayelitsha, Woodstock and Claremont. No rockfalls or mudslides have been reported. The City's Electricity Department is busy restoring the power and other city departments are busy with mopping up operations,” the update read. A tree is also reported to have fallen over onto a train at Thornton station. Officials said the tree was being removed but that major train delays could be expected. 

Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 03:43:29 +0200
By Béatrice DEBUT

eMalahleni, South Africa, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness.   "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs.   "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."

The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people.   Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls.   "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says.   "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants."   Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.

Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night.   Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler."   Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler.   The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines.   "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks.   eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.

- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced.   But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high.   Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits.   They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery.   Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs.   They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.

The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg.   "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani.   "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)."   In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld.   Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data.   "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said.   Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.

- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni.   "When they leave this area, some of them get better."   But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons.   "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".

In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital.   Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask.   If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow."   Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks.   "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
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