NEWS SCAN: Smallpox destruction, measles updates, travel-related salmonellosis, vaccine for pneumonic plague

May 13, 2011

US to ask WHA to postpone smallpox destruction pact
US officials will ask the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone a decision again about destroying the global remaining stocks of smallpox virus, which is on the World Health Assembly's (WHA's) agenda next week, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. The US and Russia have maintained stocks of virus from the eradicated disease for research purposes, especially for bioterrorism countermeasures. However, developing countries and many disease experts have advocated for the destruction of the remaining stocks. This year marks the fifth time the issue will be put before the WHA. Dr Nils Daulaire, director of the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Affairs, told the AP that US scientists need more time to finish research on new vaccines and drugs. He added that the United States would like to keep its own supply in the event of a bioterror attack, which would prompt the need for further study. A scientist at a Russian smallpox lab, who asked not to be named, told the AP that samples should be kept in case similar diseases surface in the future and more research is needed.
May 13 AP story

New measles cases reported in New York, California, Boston
A measles case confirmed in an adult overseas traveler visiting New York has sparked a warning about others who may have been exposed to the patient at a hospital. Winthrop University Hospital, based in Mineola, NY, said yesterday that visitors to its adult emergency department may have been exposed to the virus the afternoon and evening of May 6, as well as on May 7 for those who were in facility's sixth floor pavilion during afternoon and evening hours. The hospital urged people who were exposed and not immune to measles to call about receiving preventive treatment.
May 12 Winthrop University Hospital press release
Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a press release today saying the state has confirmed 7 new measles cases since Apr 1, bringing the state's 2011 total to 13. That compares with 27 cases for all of last year and 9 in 2009. The alert said the cases are likely due to "international travel or exposure to others who have recently traveled to Europe, Asia and Africa where there are outbreaks of this highly contagious disease." Dr. Gilberto Chavez, deputy director of the CDPH's Center for Infectious Diseases, said in the release, "Anyone who will be traveling or is expecting contact with recent international travelers should confirm that their vaccinations are up-to-date."
May 13 CDPH news release
May 12 public service announcement by Dr. Chavez
In other measles developments, Boston's Public Health Commission (BPHC) on May 10 reported an increase in measles cases, including five newly confirmed cases over the past week. In a statement it said only one patient is a Boston resident and that the other four were treated at local health facilities, visited the city, or worked there while contagious. Ages range from 16 months to 65 years old. One patient, a man in his 40s, worked at the South Station transit hub while contagious. The BPHC said it has not found any links between the patients.

About one tenth of US salmonellosis may be associated with travel
Among those with Salmonella infections in the United States, 11% had traveled to another country in the week before becoming ill, and Mexico is far and away the most common destination, according to a study in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. Researchers reviewed salmonellosis cases reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's FoodNet sentinel surveillance database, from 2004 to 2008. Among 23,712 case-patients whose travel status was known, 2,659 (11%) had traveled internationally within 7 days before illness onset. The most common destinations reported were Mexico (38% of travel-related infections), India (9%), Jamaica (7%), the Dominican Republic (4%), China (3%), and the Bahamas (2%). Proportions of travelers with Salmonella infection hospitalized and with invasive disease were inversely correlated to the wealth of the destination country. Travel to Africa was associated with the highest rate of hospitalized case-patients—33%—while travel to Asia was linked to the highest rate of invasive disease, also 33%. The authors conclude, "A high index of clinical suspicion for Salmonella infection is appropriate when evaluating recent travelers, especially those who visited Africa, Asia, or Latin America."
May 12 Foodborne Pathog Dis abstract

Combination vaccine protects macaques from pneumonic plague
A combination (rF1 + rV) vaccine fully protected cynomolgus macaques from pneumonic plague, according to a new study in Vaccine. The vaccine, which has been shown safe and immunogenic in clinical studies, was administered in either two 40-microgram (mcg) or two 80-mcg doses 3 weeks apart to two groups of 10 macaques. After 8 weeks, the monkeys were challenged with an aerosolized Yersinia pestis strain called CO92. All of the animals in the higher-dose group survived, while one in the lower-dose group died, a macaque that had a significantly lower antibody response to the vaccine.
May 12 Vaccine abstract

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