News Scan for Jan 30, 2014

States' readiness efforts
MERS-CoV antibodies in camels
Imported Zika cases
Avian flu in skunks

CDC highlights states' preparedness success stories

In its annual snapshot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday noted that states in 2012 and 2013 again benefited from the agency's support for public health readiness and response through its Public Health Emergency Preparedness program.

The report, published by the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR), highlighted several success stories, including:

  • Conducting 185 engagements and 204 exercises
  • Lowering emergency response time in 2012 to 27 minutes, which was 9 minutes faster than the 2011 average
  • Establishing a proficiency passing grade in 92% of Laboratory Resource Network (LRN) biological labs and 96% of LRN chemical labs
  • Increasing the percentage of Escherichia coli–positive tests analyzed and entered into PulseNet within 4 working days from 90% to 94% and timely testing and reporting of Listeria-positive results from 88% to 92%
  • Achieving high scores in states, localities, and territories for the ability to effectively dispense material from the CDC's Strategic National Stockpile

"The ability of our local and state health departments to be innovative and maintain a steady level of preparedness despite extensive budget cuts is reassuring," said OPHPR Director Ali Khan, MD, MPH, in a CDC news release. "However, preventing an erosion of our nation's health security will be difficult in the current fiscal environment."
Jan 29 CDC news release
Jan 29 OPHPR report


UAE camels show signs of MERS-CoV infection in 2005

Camels from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2005 showed signs of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) or a closely related virus, according to a study in Transboundary Infectious Diseases.

Canadian and UAE researchers, using a standard MERS-CoV neutralization assay, tested serum samples from 11 dromedary camels, 3 sheep, and 3 horses collected in 2005 in Dubai. The team also tested samples from six US and Canadian dromedary camels.

The sheep, horses, and US/Canadian camels all tested negative, but 9 of the 11 UAE camels tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV or a close relative. The 2 Dubai camels that tested negative were both calves and showed no presence of MERS-CoV–like antibodies over the 5 months they were studied, the investigators said.

The authors conclude, "Interactions of MERS-CoV at the human-animal interface may have been ongoing for several, perhaps many, years, and by inference, a widespread pandemic may be less likely unless significant evolution of the virus allow[s] accelerated infection and spread potential in the human population."

Earlier this month, Dutch, German, and UAE researchers detected similar antibodies in camel sera from 2003. Multiple serologic studies last year reported recent MERS-CoV–like antibodies in camels in Oman, Egypt, the Canary Islands, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. And late last year the actual virus was detected in a Saudi camel and three Qatari camels.
Jan 24 Transbound Emerg Dis abstract


Imported Zika virus infections reported in Germany, Japan

Two reports in Eurosurveillance today detail the first known imported case of Zika virus infection in Europe and the first cases in Japan imported from an outbreak in French Polynesia.

The European case involved a German man in his 50s who was seen in a hospital on Nov 22, 2013, after returning from a 3-week trip to Thailand. He reported joint pain, ankle swelling, a widespread maculopapular rash, malaise, fever, and chills. He also reported being bitten by mosquitoes while in Thailand.

Lab testing revealed Zika-specific antibodies in his blood. The authors said one lesson learned was that unusual dengue serology results might indicate another flavivirus such as Zika. The two viruses can cause similar mosquito-borne disease in humans.

Canada's first imported Zika case, reported last May, also originated in Thailand.
Jan 30 Eurosurveillance report on German case
May 30, 2013, CIDRAP News scan on Canadian case

The other report details two Zika cases in Japan that were imported from French Polynesia, where by the end of 2013 a total of 6,630 suspected cases were reported and 333 of 500 cases tested positive by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for Zika virus.

The first patient, a man in his mid-20s reported to a hospital in mid-December with fever, headache, joint pain, and widespread maculopapular rash. He had traveled for 6 days to Bora Bora and had not used insect repellent. PCR testing revealed Zika virus.

The other patient was a woman who presented to the same hospital early this month for pain around her yes, low fever, rash, and itching. She likewise had traveled to Bora Bora for 10 days starting in mid-December. She reported mosquito bites in spite of using repellent. She also tested positive for Zika virus on PCR testing.

The authors noted that these cases were confirmed shortly after 26 cases imported from French Polynesia were reported in New Caledonia.
Jan 30 Eurosurveillance report on Japanese cases


Study: Skunks shed low-path avian flu viruses

Skunks have the potential to shed large amounts of avian flu viruses, according to a study yesterday in PLoS One.

US researchers inoculated eight striped skunks (Memphitis memphitis) with low-pathogenic H4N6 avian flu viruses and monitored them for 20 days. Samples from nasal washes and oral swabs confirmed that all the skunks shed large quantities of viral RNA and live virus. Nasal shedding peaked 8 days after infection.

They also noted some evidence for possible fecal shedding. All animals showed an antibody response in collected serum samples 20 days post-infection.

The authors conclude, "Considering the peri-domestic nature of these animals, along with the duration of shedding observed in this species, their presence on poultry and waterfowl operations could influence influenza A virus epidemiology.

"For example, this species could introduce a virus to a naive poultry flock or act as a trafficking mechanism of [avian flu] to and from an infected poultry flock to naive flocks or wild bird populations."
Jan 29 PLoS One study

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