News Scan for Feb 20, 2014

Two Saudi MERS cases
Severe flu cases in California
Malaria risks in Africa

Saudi Arabia reports 2 MERS cases, 1 fatal

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported two new cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, one of which was fatal.

The first patient is a 58-year-old male citizen of Al-Ahsa, who has "various chronic diseases." He is receiving medical treatment, but the MOH didn't provide any details on his condition or whether he had contact with any animals or infected people.

The second case is in an 81-year-old woman from Riyadh, who also had underlying chronic diseases. She died, but the MOH did not list a date of death or any other specifics.

The cases appear to bring the global MERS-CoV count to 186 cases and 81 deaths.
Feb 20 Saudi MOH statement


California reports 405 severe flu cases so far this season

Influenza in California has caused almost 100 deaths and more than 300 visits to an intensive care unit (ICU), and it appears to be hitting the middle-aged and those with underlying medical conditions especially hard, according to a report today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health analyzed data on 94 deaths and 311 ICU flu cases from Sep 29, 2013, through Jan 18, which they classified as 405 cases of severe flu.

They noted that 266 (66%; 72 deaths) of them occurred in patients aged 41 to 64 years, compared with only 39 (10%; 3 deaths) in children. Those in the 41- to 64-year-old age-group had six times the risk for death and almost four times the risk for ICU admission compared with those aged 40 and younger.

The investigators also found that, of 80 patients who died and had sufficient information, 74 (93%) had underlying medical conditions known to increase the risk for severe flu. They also reported that, among fatal cases with enough information, only 6 (21%) of 28 patients had received the seasonal flu vaccine.

The report also found that about 54% of hospitalized patients who died did not receive antiviral drugs when admitted to the hospital.
Feb 21 MMWR report


Study: 57% of Africans still at moderate to high risk of malaria

In spite of substantial reduction of malaria transmission in most malaria-endemic African countries from 2000 to 2010, 57% of the continent's population still remains at moderate to high risk of contracting the disease, according to a study today in The Lancet.

Scientists from Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization compiled data from 26,746 community-based surveys in 44 malaria-endemic African nations and used geostatistics to estimate malaria infection rates.

From 2000 to 2010, the team estimated that the number of people living in high-transmission areas fell 16%, from 218.6 million to 183.5 million, but the number of people living in areas with moderate to high risks of contracting malaria rose 57%, from 178.6 million to 280.1 million.

The researchers also found that 40 of the 44 countries saw reductions in the prevalence of malaria in children during the decade.

"These results emphasize the need for continued support for malaria control. . . . If investments in malaria are not sustained, hundreds of millions of Africans run the risk of rebound transmission, with catastrophic consequences," said lead author Robert W. Snow, FMedSci, of the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi and the University of Oxford, in a Lancet press release.
Feb 20 Lancet abstract
Feb 19 Lancet press release

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