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As we finally step into 2021, it’s only natural to reflect upon 2020 and its overall impact on our lives and communities. To say that 2020 was a tragic year is only an understatement. Last year was full of crises piling on top of one another then exploding in unexpected ways. However, despite 2020 being the year most known for the global health crisis aka the coronavirus pandemic, notable bright spots of good health news managed to shine through.

An end of the Ebola outbreak

2020 marks the hopeful end of the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. The outbreak started in congo and killed about two-thirds of the 3,470 infected population. However, with the aid of life-saving measures, such as rapid testing, isolating sick people, and contact tracing, the government was able to tackle the crisis. The outbreak was also contained with the help of the vaccine. Furthermore, with new data on the disease, the US food and Drug Administration approved its very first Ebola drug. Thus, in June 2020, officials declared the ending of the outbreak.

Cancer treatment breakthroughs

2020 also witnessed some amazing breakthroughs for curing cancer. Though the world is still behind on having a solution for this cruel disease, scientists in Australia reported the discovery of a new cancer vaccine with promising signs. “We are hoping this vaccine could be used to treat blood cancers… plus solid malignancies including breast, lung, renal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and glioblastoma,” said Lead Researcher Associate Professor Kristen Radford in July.

Moreover, in September, during the meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, many leading scientists presented their advancement in other treatments developments. The meeting also discussed advancement  in the treatment regarding patients with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer. 

Peanut allergy protection

The FDA approved the first medicine for subduing peanut allergies in children and teens. For years now, people with severe peanut allergies weren’t able to even tolerate the accidental bite of peanuts. One peanut encounter is enough to put their lives at risk. However, with the aid of the new vaccine called Palforzia, patients can now build tolerance for peanuts. Though the drug doesn’t eliminate the allergy completely, it will help people survive the accidental peanut encounter without the need of running to the hospital.

Furthermore, the drug relies on the body gradually accepting peanuts. It contains small peanut proteins which are given to the patients in escalating amounts. Thus, with time, the body learns to accept that these proteins are harmless, preventing severe reactions.

Hepatitis B cases decreasing

In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the drop of hepatitis B in children under the age of five. The viral form of liver infection kills around 900,000 lives a year. It also increases the possibility of liver cancer for its patients. Thus, fortunately, due to the efforts of non-profit organizations, the cases of hepatitis B in children under the age of five dropped below 1%. 

“No infant should grow up only to die of hepatitis B because they were not vaccinated ─ today’s milestone means that we have dramatically reduced the number of cases of liver damage and liver cancer in future generations,” stated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Discovering the HIV’s elite controllers

Though science turned HIV from a lethal disease into a manageable one, a recent 2020 discovery increased the probability of completely eliminating it. Usually, patients take antiretro­viral drugs as a means of keeping the virus in check. However, experts discovered the rare case of a patient’s immunity system wiping out the virus on its own. When checked, none of the 1.5 billion blood cells taken from this once-infected person turned out infected. Furthermore, scientists only discovered one functional copy of HIV in more than a billion blood cells while checking another similar patient. These discoveries will play an important role in advancing HIV treatment moving forward. Thus, these discoveries will help in saving words. 

Though 2020 was burdened with all kinds of tragedies, one can take some comfort in these discoveries. They provide us with a  silver lining and are proof that even during the worst health crises hope isn’t lost. Lives can be saved. Hopefully, 2021 will provide us with more of these shining silver linings.

References:

9 good news stories from 2020. (2020, December 15). World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/good-news-stories-2020/Staff, U. U. T. T. (2020, December 23). The good news in 2020? Yes, it’s true! Here are 100 positive things that happened this year. USA TODAY. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/2020/12/23/good-news-2020-positive-stories-amid-coronavirus-election-celebrity-deaths/3921159001/Thompson, H. (2020, December 24). Against all odds, 2020 featured some good health news. Science News. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/2020-good-news-public-health-drugs

Haneline, A. U. T. (2020, July 29). Good news prevails: 100 positive things that happened in 2020 (so far). USA TODAY. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/2020/07/29/100-good-things-from-2020-positive-stories-news/3257222001/