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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as the outbreak continues to spread outside Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus. This allows countries to take necessary actions including closing their borders, cancelling flights and screening people arriving at airports or implementing other protective measures. As of 13 February, there are more than 47,000 cases, more than 98% of which are in mainland China.

MSF’s epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are following the fast-evolving development of the outbreak.  We have also offered support to health authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong, who are leading response efforts offering similar support to what we did in 2003 during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These activities include training of healthcare staff on methods to prevent and control infections, and health education for vulnerable and at-risk groups. 

MSF conducts a health promotion session on novel coronavirus in Hong Kong. Photo: Shuk Lim Cheung/MSF
MSF has also deployed a team to Hong Kong with an initial focus on health education for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and other at-risk groups.  The nCoV virus is new and much remains to be understood. However, as with other coronaviruses, droplet infection seems to be the main mode of transmission, so infection control measures such as hand-washing and cough etiquette (cover coughs with disposable tissues or clothing) remain very important for prevention. Here’s a short video explaining some of these prevention measures.

Hepatitis C consultation
This week, MSF, in collaboration with the National Health Mission (NHM) organised a consultation with various stakeholders in Delhi to share experiences from our hepatitis C project in Meerut’s district hospital. From January 2017 to December 2019, MSF provided treatment to 3,638 patients at our clinic, among which 94% were declared cured of the disease after their last test. The clinic was the first such public facility to provide free, simplified and decentralized care to those patients in the state.

At the consultation, MSF also shared its experience working and intervening in different contexts across the world in treating hepatitis C. The objective of the consultation was to share experiences and brainstorm ways for better treatment access and quality of care for hepatitis C in India. During the consultation, MSF emphasized that if India is to achieve 2030 targets of Hepatitis C elimination, simplified models of care delivered through decentralized testing and treatment, need to be rapidly expanded throughout the country.

“Taking the example of Public-Private Mix initiative from National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme, the Hepatitis Programme should engage and involve private sector care providers for enhancing the access to testing and treatment across the country. ”

                                                               - Dr. Stobdan Kalon, Medical Advisor with MSF India

MSF also recommends the government  scales up community-based awareness activities and targeted interventions like the implementation of Re-Use Prevention syringes (a syringe which becomes redundant after one use ) and stringent blood safety measures especially in  high burden areas like western UP to reduce disease transmission.

Advanced HIV care Patna:
It has been a year since MSF started treating patients with advanced HIV in Patna, Bihar. Before we initiated the project, we wanted to understand the issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in the region.  To achieve this, MSF had conducted a qualitative study on stigma and discrimination faced by PLHA in accessing healthcare facilities. The study is significant since, to our knowledge, this would be the first such study from the region to document discrimination faced by PLHA in accessing health facilities, despite legal protection under the law.

In addition to documenting how stigma hampered access to care, the study also showed PLHA reporting non-consensual disclosure of their HIV status at many healthcare centres, which prevented them from accessing or continuing to seek treatment.  

The study also showed that universal precautions for infection control are widely misunderstood in the region. We will share more information soon. Do get in touch with us if you are interested in the study. You can read more about our Patna project
here. You can also read patient stories from our project here.

International staff
We had two international staff return from their missions this week. Anand Kumar returned from his assignment last week in Ethiopia. Anand’s job was to outline guidelines and a plan of action to contain and prevent the recent chikungunya and dengue outbreak in the cities of Addis and Dire Dawa. The recent outbreak had affected nearly 10 per cent of the population.During our conversation with Anand, he told us “I could find a person having the infection in almost every household.” Do get in touch if you would like to speak to him!

Vineetha Bambasala also returned this week after spending 14 months in South Sudan. This was her first mission with MSF. Vineetha was in charge of building a learning and development policy for our staff in South Sudan. Training local community members working with MSF helps improve the service we provide at our projects. Vineetha has many stories to share, so do get in touch if you wish to speak to her!

Facebook live:
We also thank everyone who tuned in to our facebook live this week where we had freelance journalist Menaka Rao and regional head of access campaign, Leena Menghaney discuss various barriers to healthcare and the role treatment activists and civil society play in breaking those barriers. If you missed it, you can watch it
here. The live is part of our Crises in Focus series covering various humanitarian issues across the world. You can follow us on facebook for more updates. Stay tuned!
Until next time.
Know someone in your newsroom who would be interested in our stories? Click on the link below or email us at aditi.sonrexa@new-delhi.msf.org