News Scan for Sep 26, 2013

Flu vaccine strain selection
Electronic lab reporting
European polio risk
Emergency Twitter Alerts

WHO picks strains for 2014 Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine

Note: This story was corrected on Sep 27. It originally incorrectly stated that the H3N2 strain was changed from the one used in the 2013-14 Northern Hemisphere vaccine. We apologize for the error.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced its recommended strains for next year's Southern Hemisphere trivalent (three-strain) flu vaccine, keeping the same components as in the vaccine currently in use in the Northern Hemisphere.

The strains are:

  • An A/California/7/2009 H1N1 strain
  • An A/Texas/50/2012 H3N2 strain
  • A B/Massachusetts/2/2012 strain

In addition, the WHO recommended an additional B/Brisbane/60/2008 strain for quadrivalent (four-strain) vaccines, which contain two influenza B viruses. That is also unchanged from the current version.

In a statement today, the WHO said, "A/Texas/50/2012 is an A(H3N2) virus that following adaptation to growth in eggs has maintained antigenic properties similar to the majority of recently circulating cell-propagated A(H3N2) viruses, including A/Victoria/361/2011."
Sep 26 WHO statement


CDC: Lab results sent electronically have doubled since '05

Electronic reports from laboratories has more than doubled since 2005, and 62% of reports from state and local health department labs are being transmitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) electronically, the CDC said in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today.

In the past year, the number of reports received electronically increased by 15%, the CDC said. Since 2010, the agency has provided funds to 57 state, local, and territorial health departments to increase their use of electronic laboratory reporting (ELR), the CDC said in a press release on the study.

"Rapid recognition of an outbreak saves lives," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "Thanks to ELR, we're detecting outbreaks faster than ever.

"Unfortunately, only a quarter of the 10,000 labs across the country use ELR. We must keep expanding use of ELR to help CDC and our partners save lives and reduce healthcare costs."

The MMWR report also showed slower adaptation of ELR for some diseases. For example, 76% of reportable lab results for general communicable diseases were sent via ELR, compared with 53% for HIV and 63% for sexually transmitted diseases in general.
Sep 27 MMWR report
Sep 26 CDC press release


Report cites risk of polio reintroduction to Europe

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today that the recent detection of wild-type polio virus 1 (WPV1) in sewage and asymptomatic carriers in Israel pose a risk that WPV1 could be imported to Europe and become reestablished.

"Furthermore," the agency said in a news release about the risk assessment, "based on the limited information on existing surveillance systems, there is a risk that poliovirus circulation will go undetected if it is imported."

The highest level of risk is posed by un- or under-immunized populations, the ECDC added, noting that about 12 million Europeans under 29 years old fit that description. "Sub-optimal hygiene and crowded living conditions may also play a role."

The ECDC assessment recommends:

  • Top priorities should be a thorough assessment of polio vaccination uptake and strengthening of surveillance and lab capacity.
  • All travelers to areas where WPV circulates should have up-to-date polio vaccination.
  • Operational and contingency plans are needed to mobilize polio vaccine stockpiles in case of WPV transmission.

Sep 26 ECDC risk assessment
Sep 26 ECDC news release on the report

Twitter Alerts launched for emergency notifications

Social media microblogging platform Twitter yesterday launched Twitter Alerts "to help users get accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters, or moments when other communications services aren't accessible," Twitter said in a blog post.

Those who sign up to receive the alerts will get a message via the text-messaging service SMS, and iPhone or Android users will also receive a push notification. National organizations such as the CDC, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are participating, as are state and regional agencies.

"To subscribe to these notifications, Twitter said on its blog, "you can go directly to an account's setup page, which you'll find at[username]/alerts. See FEMA's page at for an example." Participation will also be noted in an organization's Twitter profile.

A complete list of participating organization can be found here.
Sep 25 Twitter blog post

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