NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Egypt and Hong Kong, anthrax vaccine complaint, meningitis epidemic, MRSA in an elephant

Mar 5, 2009

Egypt reports H5N1 in another toddler
Egypt's health ministry announced yesterday that a 2-year-old boy from Alexandria governorate was hospitalized with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, according to a report posted on Egypt's Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR) Web site. He became ill on Mar 3 and was admitted the same day to the Alexandria Fever Hospital, where he received oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The ministry said his family had had contact with sick and dead poultry. The case will be listed as Egypt's 57th if it is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the second H5N1 case in an Egyptian toddler this week.

Report says wild birds likely caused Hong Kong outbreak
The source of an H5N1 outbreak at a Hong Kong chicken farm in December 2008, Hong Kong's first farm outbreak since 2003, was probably wild birds, according to findings released by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) today. Genetic analysis indicated that the H5N1 virus belonged to clade 2.3.4, which is commonly found in southern China. It closely resembled isolates obtained from Hong Kong poultry markets in June 2008 and from a wild bird found in March 2008. Scientists found no mutations that would make the virus more transmissible in mammals, the report said.
[Hong Kong AFCD press release]

Israel answers soldiers' complaint about anthrax vaccine
The Israeli government, responding to complaints from two Israeli soldiers, said yesterday it took "full responsibility" for side effects suffered by participants in a trial of two anthrax vaccines from 1998 to 2006, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. The trial compared Israeli and American vaccines and involved 716 soldiers, 11 of whom, representing both vaccine groups, later required treatment. Two soldiers submitted petitions claiming that the medical monitoring and care of participants were inadequate. The government said all the volunteers were educated about the vaccine in advance and that all who requested medical care received it.

Thousands of suspected meningitis cases reported in Nigeria
The Nigerian government reported that the country had 5,323 suspected cases of meningococcal disease with 333 deaths between Jan 1 and Feb 22, the WHO said today. Suspected cases have been reported in 22 of 37 states. The WHO said the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis has approved the release of about 1 million doses of vaccine for mass vaccination campaigns in affected parts of Jigawa and Katsina states. A sound vaccination strategy is important given the large population at risk and moderate global vaccine levels, the WHO said.
[Mar 4 WHO statement]

MRSA spread from zoo elephant to caretakers
In the first reported transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from a zoo animal to human caretakers, a baby elephant at a San Diego zoo passed the skin infection to at least five zoo workers last year, according to an article published today by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report also documents the first known case of MRSA in an elephant. Analysis showed that the strain was USA300, the type most commonly involved in community-associated MRSA outbreaks in the United States. Investigators said the elephant calf probably acquired the skin infection from a colonized human caretaker. Three of the caretakers received oral antibiotics for their mild skin infections, but the prematurely born elephant was euthanized because it failed to thrive.
[Mar 6 MMWR article]

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