Expert opinion

We have been trying to keep up with the novel coronavirus ever since. Each day, we are faced with worrying headlines reporting the latest twists and turns of this outbreak. We have seen the virus spill over China’s borders and spread to at least 25 countries worldwide, and watched with mounting anxiety as the number of cases creeps ever higher. We wait apprehensively to see where the virus shows up next.
The evidence of the harm that a warming planet will do to our health is mounting. Heat waves will trigger an increase in deaths, particularly among the elderly and vulnerable. Mosquitoes that can spread diseases such as Zika and dengue will colonise new areas of the world and crops will fail with rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
This has led to serious concern that the recent gains achieved by bed nets may only be short-lived, and that resistant mosquitoes will drive malaria deaths back up to the pre-bed net era - when nearly a million people were dying each year. New methods for killing mosquitoes are desperately needed.
Globally, around a third of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. There are many negative impacts for women and their families, including poor physical health, mental health problems, such as depression, post-traumatic distress, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse.
India, once referred to as the ‘open defecation capital of the world’, is celebrating the fact that in five short years over 100 million toilets have been built and sanitation coverage has gone from only 40% to almost 100% in rural areas. What are the secrets of this extraordinary sanitary success story?
Although not a new concept in quantitative infectious disease research, outbreak forecasting has yet to be fully integrated into formal policy and decision-making processes in many parts of the globe. One reason for this is the mismatch between the forecasting goals set out by researchers and those considered useful by policy and decision-makers.
Current treatments are able to cure hepatitis C at a relatively low cost to the NHS. This provides a great opportunity to find and treat those currently infected, curing the infection before the onset of liver failure or liver cancer. Testing is currently offered to those who are identified as being at high risk of infection. However, the way in which testing is provided needs to change in order to increase the number of people diagnosed and receiving treatment. Testing needs to be expanded to reach more people that it currently does.
With this short message on March 22, 2014, the missionary doctor in the small hospital where I worked part-time informed the medical team of eight about the outbreak of a strange and deadly disease in a village in Guinea, just across the border from Liberia.
People always ask me when I’m deploying out to Ebola outbreaks, “Aren’t you scared?” and the answer is usually, “No, not really, I’m pretty good at this”. Which I know must sound a bit strange: it’s odd to be good at a viral haemorrhagic fever. But after working for nine months on the big West African outbreak back in 2014 and 2015, and then doing my doctoral study on reproductive health during outbreaks of Ebola, it’s now very much my speciality.
Prof Jimmy Whitworth
It took time to realise that there was an outbreak happening, and then to work out that it was due to anthrax. We needed to urgently arrange treatment and cattle vaccinations, alert human and animal health authorities, and warn communities and advise them how to deal with cases and prevent more occurring. More recently many of us were part of the international response to the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa. This was a huge complex operation but brought the same feelings of nervousness, exhilaration, sadness and achievement.