The establishment of a standing committee on pandemics was a commitment of the new Scottish Government to deliver during its first 100 days in office. Comprising of leading scientists and medical specialists, the committee met for the first time on 19 August 2021, and has been tasked with ensuring that the country is as prepared as possible for any future risks from novel pathogens. The committee will provide expert advice across a range of areas, including public health, epidemiology, virology, behavioural sciences, global health, zoonotics and statistical modelling, and will recruit further members to support this objective.
Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Edinburgh chaired the meeting in an interim capacity, while a permanent chair is sought. Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Gregor Smith, is a member of the committee as is Professor Nick Phin, director of Public Health Science and medical director of Public Health Scotland (PHS).
The existing Covid-19 advisory group will continue to sit and advise ministers on the current pandemic, while the new committee will focus on preparedness for future emerging threats.
Source: Scottish Government, 19 August 2021
On 14 August 2021, the government of Cote d’Ivoire reported its first case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) since 1994. The patient, an 18-year-old who had recently travelled by road from Labe in Guinea to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, was admitted to hospital on 12 August 2021 with a fever. The infection was later confirmed as being caused by EVD, though it is not yet clear if this case is linked to a recent EVD outbreak that ended in Guinea in June 2021.
Advice for travellers
- EVD is a viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) and the risk to travellers of becoming infected or developing EBV is reported as being extremely low.
- Travellers to known Ebola outbreak areas must be made aware of the risk of infection and transmission routes of Ebola virus.
- Medical personnel travelling to work in an outbreak region must follow strict infection prevention control guidance.
- Travellers returning from an Ebola outbreak area should seek rapid medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, diarrhoea or general malaise, within 21 days after return. They should call NHS24 (Scotland), NHS111 (England and Wales) or contact their GP by telephone. While EVD is unlikely, the returning traveller should mention any potential exposure to the virus, including dates and itinerary of travel.
Further information and advice on viral haemorrhagic fever is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 16 August 2021
Since the beginning of the 2021 West Nile virus (WNV) transmission season, up to 12 August 2021, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported 19 cases of West Nile fever in EU and EEA countries, comprising of ten cases in Greece, six in Italy, two in Austria, and one in Romania. In Serbia, there have been reported cases in two persons, both of whom have died.
West Nile fever is caused by WNV and occurs annually in southern and central Europe. The virus is spread by mosquito bites and can cause a flu-like illness and, in rare cases, severe disease.
Advice for travellers
- There is no vaccine against WNV.
- Mosquito bite avoidance should be practiced at all times, especially during peak transmission times and when outbreaks are known to be occurring.
- Medical advice should be sought if symptoms develop, following travel to a risk area.
- Blood donors should note that if they have travelled to an area where WNV has been detected in the past four months, they may need to be tested for the virus before donating blood. All travel must be mentioned to the blood transfusion service so that they can determine whether a test is required. The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has produced a leaflet which details information about blood donation after travel.
Further advice and information is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 18 August 2021
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a manual which aims to help health workers better administer and manage the safety of people who benefit from free medicines for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The objective of this manual is to provide practical tools, including training modules and job aids, to help national programmes for NTDs plan, prepare and monitor the safe administration of medicines for treatment of these diseases. While the materials consolidate and emphasise critical aspects of existing guidance published by the WHO, they do not make new recommendations.
The manual summarises key issues related to the safety of NTD medicines and their administration, with a focus on essential medicines used in mass drug administration (MDA), also called preventive chemotherapy. The manual can be used as a standalone reference, but is intended to be used in conjunction with the accompanying training modules, which provide practical instruction, and aide-mémoires.
Source: WHO, 16 August 2021
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published a progress report on the continuum of HIV care in Europe and Central Asia in 2020, one in a series of thematic reports monitoring implementation of the Dublin Declaration on partnership to fight HIV and AIDS.
In 2020, 40 out of 55 countries in Europe and Central Asia provided the latest available data on all four stages on the continuum of HIV care, compared to 34 countries in 2018. A total of 45 countries were able to provide data for at least two consecutive stages on the continuum of HIV care, compared to 42 in 2018.
The UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets were established in 2014, with the aim that, by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV (PLHIV) would be diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed would be receiving treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment would achieve viral suppression, translating to a target of 73% viral suppression among all PLHIV. Using data from countries able to provide at least two consecutive stages of the continuum, the overall performance of the European and Central Asian region against the UNAIDS targets in 2020 is:
- 82% of all PLHIV have received a diagnosed
- 67% of those diagnosed with HIV are receiving treatment
- 90% of those on treatment are virally suppressed
The ECDC report that more progress is needed to meet the substantive target of 73% of all PLHIV being virally suppressed, with performance for the overall region at 50%, based on the countries that submitted data for all four stages of the continuum.
Based on information from the 34 countries that reported all four stages of the continuum in both 2018 and 2020, there has been some progress towards meeting the global substantive targets. Overall, for these countries, 82% of all PLHIV were diagnosed, 55% of all PLHIV were on treatment, and 49% of all PLHIV were virally suppressed in 2020. This compares to 80%, 51% and 43% respectively in 2018.
Source: ECDC, 16 August 2021
On 19 August 2021, the Scottish Government launched a nationwide media campaign urging homeowners to install interlinked heat and smoke alarms before new fire safety laws come into effect next year.
By February 2022, every home will need to have:
- one smoke alarm in the room householders spend most of the day in
- one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings
- one heat alarm in the kitchen
All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and be interlinked. If homes have a carbon-fuelled appliance, such as a boiler, fire, heater or flue, they must also have a carbon monoxide detector.
Private rented and new-build homes must already meet these standards, but from February 2022, they will apply to every home in Scotland, regardless of age or tenure.
Source: Scottish Government, 19 August 2021
World Water Week, organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), takes place between 23 and 27 August 2021. World Water Week aims to be a collaborative learning experience, providing a forum and opportunity to exchange views, experiences, and practices between scientific, business, policy and civil societies.
Under the theme ‘Building Resilience Faster’, World Water Week 2021 will address issues such as the climate crisis, water scarcity, food security, health biodiversity, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s campaign will be held entirely online and the full programme of events and registration details are available on the SIWI website.