NEWS SCAN: Novel coronavirus update, ricin charges dropped, H5N1 in Nepal, global polio fight

Apr 24, 2013

WHO updates novel coronavirus status, cites unanswered questions
Coming about a year since the first known novel coronavirus (nCoV) patient got sick with the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) today posted an update on what is known about the new virus, which has resulted in 17 infections, 11 of them fatal. No new cases have been reported since a man from the United Arab Emirates was treated for the disease in Germany, where he died in March. Though four clusters have been identified, person-to-person transmission has been confirmed in only three UK cases, suggesting no sustained transmission. Four viruses have been posted to GenBank, and all are highly similar. The WHO said serologic tests and a new sensitive polymerase chain reaction test may help reveal how common the virus is in the community. Other unanswered questions include how humans are exposed to the virus, the pathogen's geographic extent, and optimal clinical management. So far, evidence points to a zoonotic source, though experts are exploring the role of human-to-human spread and the possibility of an intermediary host. Protocols are clinical management trials should be developed to help treat future cases, the group said. The emergence of nCoV shows the importance of global vigilance and surveillance for unusual respiratory disease clusters, according to the WHO.
Apr 24 WHO update

US drops ricin-mailing charges against Mississippi man
Federal officials yesterday dropped the criminal charges against a Mississippi man over ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and two other officials, the New York Times and other media reported. News of the dropping of charges came shortly after the news that Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, Corinth, Miss., had been released from jail. Curtis, 45, a celebrity impersonator, said he had been framed by a personal enemy, J. Everett Dutschke, a martial arts instructor from Tupelo, Miss., the Times reported. FBI agents raided Dutschke's house but did not file any immediate charges against him, the newspaper said. Dutschke has denied any involvement in the case. Threatening letters that contained a white powder found to be ricin were sent earlier this month to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sadie Holland, a Lee County, Miss., judge. Authorities originally suspected Curtis because language used in the ricin letters was very similar to language he had used previously in letters to elected officials. Ricin is a powerful toxin derived from castor beans.
Apr 23 Times story

H5N1 hits more poultry farms in Nepal
Nepal's veterinary laboratory in Kathmandu has confirmed another H5N1 outbreak at more poultry farms in the country's Chitwan district, the Himalayan News Service reported yesterday. Rapid response teams culled about 6,000 birds at Bharatpur and Mangalpur farms, where they also destroyed eggs and chicken feed. The new findings follow recent outbreaks at five other farms in Chitwan in western Nepal over the past week, according to the report.
Apr 23 Himalayan News Service report

Leaders meet in Middle East to outline plans against polio
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and other global leaders estimated at the start of a global summit today in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, that polio can be eradicated by 2018 if $5.5 billion is invested in the effort, The Seattle Times said yesterday. The leaders, citing a new global strategy and unprecedented political support in polio-endemic nations, expressed optimism at reaching the goal despite past failures at polio eradication. They said that funding from Muslim nations in addition to traditional Western donors will be crucial. Polio remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
Apr 23 Seattle Times article
As part of these efforts, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, yesterday pledged to donate US $120 million to support global efforts to eradicate polio by 2018, according to a report today in Abu Dhabi–based The National. Part of the donation will be used to fight polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the story said.
Apr 24 National story

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