NEWS SCAN: Inhalational anthrax case, dengue in Bahamas, disease modeling project

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Aug 16, 2011

Minnesota officials confident that anthrax case is not something else
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) officials said today they are confident that the recently reported inhalational anthrax case in Minnesota was in fact caused by Bacillus anthracis, not Bacillus cereus, which was reported to be the cause of some similar illnesses in Texas and Louisiana. Recent postings on ProMED (the disease reporting service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases), prompted by the Minnesota case, refer to past reports of a few cases of severe or fatal lung disease that closely resembled inhalational anthrax but were caused by B cereus. One of the published reports describes a B cereus strain that killed a Texas welder and was closely related B anthracis but genetically distinct. The strain contains a plasmid similar to the B anthracis plasmid that encodes anthrax toxin, according to the report cited. But MDH spokesman Doug Schultz told CIDRAP News today that "We are confident that the organism [in the Minnesota case] is Bacillus anthracis. Through various laboratory means we have confirmation of Bacillus anthracis." The case was reported last week in a person who had traveled through Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas before arriving sick in Minnesota and being hospitalized somewhere in the state. The MDH believes the patient, who has not been identified, contracted the disease through some natural environmental exposure, the nature of which is under investigation. Schultz said today he had no new information about the case or the investigation.
Aug 15 ProMED posting on B cereus case in Texas

Dengue problem in Bahamas turns political as Cuba takes precautions
The Bahamas has had 1,500 confirmed cases of dengue fever so far this year, a new record, and the outbreak is prompting the political opposition to accuse the Bahamian government of a weak response, according to a report in the Nassau Guardian yesterday. Dr. Bernard Nottage of the Progressive Liberal Party asserted that the government has not responded vigorously enough and that it lacks equipment to combat the disease because it cut its mosquito-control budget from $1 million to $600,000. But the environment minister, Phenteon Neymour, said last week that the government has more than enough equipment and is doing everything it can, according to the story. In a separate story yesterday, the newspaper said a specialist from the World Health Organization (WHO) was scheduled to arrive that day to help deal with the outbreak. The story said an average of 100 cases of dengue fever had been reported daily over the preceding week.
Aug 15 Guardian story on criticism of government response
Aug 15 Guardian story on WHO involvement
In other developments, neighboring Cuba yesterday launched an intensive campaign against the dengue-spreading Aedes aegypti mosquito, according to a Xinhua report. The effort will run through Sep 15 and cover the most vulnerable cities, including Havana and Guantanamo, the story said. Maria Guadelupe Guzman, a dengue expert at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, said the epidemiologic situation in Cuba is stable, but that an outbreak is possible because of high temperatures and heavy rains in eastern areas and drought in the west. The story said Cuba, Chile, and Uruguay are the only Latin American countries where dengue is not endemic.
Aug 15 Xinhua report

NIH renews funding for MIDAS infectious disease modeling project
An ongoing multi-university project aimed at preparedness for natural or intentionally caused emerging infectious diseases and emergencies has received funding of $500,000 per year for an additional 5 years. First funded as a 5-year project in 2004 and since renewed for 2 years, the "Synthetic Information Systems for Better Informing Public Health Policymakers" project is being carried out at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. It is part of the federal Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Stephen Eubank, a leader of the project, said, "Past support from MIDAS has helped us scale our simulations from local to regional and national levels, to understand what details matter to the big picture, and to learn more about the important issues facing public health decision-makers," according to a press release yesterday.
Aug 15 Virginia Tech press release

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