NEWS SCAN: Ebola in DR Congo, physiology of N-95 use, pertussis in England

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Sep 4, 2012

Ebola toll rises in DR Congo; outbreak ending in Uganda
The death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC's) Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 14 and the case count to 29, according to a Reuters report yesterday. That compares with 24 cases and 11 deaths reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Aug 30. The latest numbers were reported by Anja de Weggheleire, MD, medical co-coordinator in the area for Doctors Without Borders, according to Reuters. "We have quite a clear picture of what is happening, but I cannot say it is under control," de Weggheleire said. The story said nearly 170 people were still being monitored for possible symptoms, and officials cautioned that the end of the outbreak was still distant.
Sep 3 Reuters story
Meanwhile, the WHO said yesterday that no new cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever have been reported in Uganda since Aug 3, indicating that the outbreak is nearing its end. Officials have reported 24 probable and confirmed cases in the outbreak, 17 of them fatal. The last hospital patient with confirmed Ebola was discharged on Aug 24 after recovery, the WHO said. All contacts of probable and confirmed case-patients have completed the recommended 21 days of monitoring for the disease. The two outbreaks are deemed unrelated, as they involve different Ebola strains: Sudan in Uganda and Bundibugyo in the DRC.
Sep 3 WHO statement

Study: Physiologic effects of N-95 respirators are small
The physiologic effects of wearing N-95 respirators are small and shouldn't pose an obstacle for healthy people, according to a study yesterday in the American Journal of Infection Control. Scientists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied 20 healthy young adults who were nonsmokers and passed a health-screening test. They wore four different face-fitted N-95 models while exercising at low to moderate levels on a treadmill for 1 hour while researchers monitored physiologic variables, including heart rate, respiratory rate, transcutaneous carbon dioxide (tcPCO2), and oxygen saturation. As a nonrandomized control, each participant at the start of the study walked for an hour on the treadmill at the test rate without wearing an N-95. Two of the four models had exhalation valves. Researchers conducted a total of 100 tests. They found small increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, and tcPCO2 during respirator use, with no difference between control and respirator use for oxygen saturation. The tcPCO2 was clinically asymptomatic. The group said the young, healthy study participants may perform differently than older age-groups and those who have underlying medical conditions, and they also noted that the data may differ during longer periods of N-95 wear. They added that future research should address more diverse populations and respirator use for longer periods.
Sep 3 Am J Infect Control abstract

Pertussis cases in England, Wales far exceed last year's numbers
Pertussis cases in England and Wales are running far ahead of last year's pace, with 1,047 reported in July alone, compared with 1,118 for all of 2011, the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced on Aug 31. The total pertussis case count for this year is 3,523, the HPA said. The outbreak is mainly affecting teenagers and young adults, but 235 infants under 3 months old have had the disease this year, and 6 have died, compared with 5 deaths in that age-group in 2008. Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, MD, an immunization expert at the HPA, said parents should ensure that their children are vaccinated on time so that they are protected as early as possible and be alert to pertussis signs and symptoms. The Department of Health's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is reviewing a number of options for responding to the epidemic, including introducing a booster vaccination in teenagers and protecting newborn babies by vaccinating them and their families, as well as women during pregnancy, the HPA said.
Aug 31 HPA statement

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