NEWS SCAN: Ebola in DR Congo, viruses and chronic fatigue, cholera in Sierra Leone, Afghan polio immunization

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Sep 18, 2012

Tests confirm more cases, another death in DR Congo outbreak
The World Health Organization (WHO) today reported 5 more Ebola infections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), pushing the total to 46, including 14 confirmed and 32 probable cases. One more death was reported, raising the total to 19, of which 6 are confirmed and 13 are probable, according to the WHO statement. The DRC's health ministry and its partners are investigating 26 suspected cases reported in two health zones of Orientale province in the northeastern part of the country.
Sep 18 WHO update
In another development, a 29-year-old woman hospitalized in the outbreak gave birth to a baby on Sep 13, which appears to be the first instance of an infant being born alive to a patient infected with Ebola, according to a translated media report posted yesterday on ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. The hospital staff was unfamiliar with precautions to take during the delivery and was guided by phone by medical experts from Kinshasa and the country's health minister. The baby safe, but his prognosis is unclear, according to the Media Congo report. The ProMED moderator commented that the baby is still within the incubation period for infection contracted during delivery and that the staff members shown in the accompanying news photo appeared to be well protected with biosafety suits, respirators, eye protection, and full body covering, including the head.
Sep 17 ProMED Mail post

Study rejects idea of two viruses as cause for chronic fatigue syndrome
A rigorous new study has laid to rest the idea that the viruses XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) and pMLV (polytropic murine leukemia virus) may be causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) said today as it published the study in its journal, mBio. Researchers have searched unsuccessfully for the cause of CFS—which costs up to $7 billion a year to treat—for many years. Separate studies in 2009 and 2010 linked CFS to the two viruses, causing a "sensation," and though subsequent studies did not confirm the link, speculation has persisted, the ASM said. W. Ian Lipkin, MD, of Columbia University, senior author of the new study, said the National Institutes of Health funded it in the hope of settling the question. The researchers—who included many of the authors of the two earlier studies—recruited 147 CFS patients and 146 healthy people and tested their blood for genes from the two viruses, the ASM said. The researchers "took extraordinary care to eliminate contamination in the enzyme mixtures and chemicals used for testing, which may have been the source of viruses and genes detected in the earlier studies," the statement said. The researchers found no evidence of infection with XMRV or pMLV. "These results refute any correlation between these agents and disease," Lipkin commented in the press release. The ASM said there is still no evidence of an infectious cause for CFS, and Lipkin said the search for its cause will continue.
Sep 18 mBio abstract
Sep 18 ASM press release

Sierra Leone cholera cases top 18,000, with 271 deaths
Cholera cases in Sierra Leone this year have reached 18,508, including 271 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 1.5%, the WHO said in an update today. Those numbers represent 2,148 more cases and 16 more deaths since the agency's previous update, on Sep 8. The highest number of cases is in western Sierra Leone, in an area that includes the capital, Freetown, the WHO said. It said the country's Ministry of Health and Sanitation is working closely with national and international partners to control the outbreak through case management, communication and social mobilization, promotion of sanitation and hygiene, and disease surveillance.
Sep 18 WHO update
Sep 8 WHO statement

Afghan polio immunization campaign under way
Afghanistan's government is in the midst of a 3-day polio vaccination campaign aimed at immunizing 8.2 million children under age 5, Bakhtar News, the country's state news agency, reported today. The effort launched Sep 16 with more than 56,000 volunteers working in 34 provinces. The health ministry has asked government officials, police commanders, religious leaders, and elders to encourage families to cooperate with the vaccine drive. The ministry also asked parents to allow health teams to immunize children, even those that are sick or guests in their homes, according to the report. Afghanistan is among the three countries where polio is still endemic. So far this year 17 cases have been reported in the country, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The most recent onset of paralysis was Jul 21, in a patient from Kunar in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, where other cases had been reported over the summer.
Sep 18 Bakhtar story
Sep 11 GPEI update

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