News Scan for Feb 09, 2015

Melioidosis at Tulane lab
More chikungunya cases

Melioidosis infection halts work at Tulane research center

Federal and state investigators are investigating a possible melioidosis infection in an investigator who got sick after visiting the Tulane National Primate Research Center (TNPRC) in Covington, La., to determine how two macaques contracted the disease, officials of St. Tammany Parish said in a Feb 7 statement.

As a result, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has told the TNPRC to stop research on some of its dangerous pathogens during a CDC investigation of the center's protocols, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday.

Two primates got sick in late November and one was euthanized; in late December, CDC tests confirmed that Burkholderia pseudomallei was the cause, the parish statement said. The CDC and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched an investigation in January, because the organism is a tier 1 select agent and the material was not considered in containment. Investigators were at the lab from Jan 20 to 24 to conduct an epidemiologic study and to review lab practices.

One of the team members got sick with nonspecific symptoms, and tests yesterday confirmed B pseudomallei antibodies in the patient's blood, suggesting exposure. The statement noted that it's too early to say if the investigator was exposed at the research center or during travel. Other members of the investigation team will be tested to gather a baseline and to see if they were exposed to the pathogen.

Federal partners are working with Tulane University and local partners to identify, isolate, and prevent further transmission and to conduct environmental testing that will guide remediation activities. The parish statement added that there are no reports of sick people or primates at TNPRC.

Melioidosis is common in tropical areas and is especially widespread in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Found in water and soil, the bacteria spreads to humans and animals through direct contact with a contaminated source.

In a statement yesterday to its community advisory board, the TNPRC said preliminary tests found that no other animals housed in the same cage with the infected macaques were exposed to the bacteria and that samples from one of the sick animals taken 2 days before it was hospitalized were negative for exposure, raising the possibility that the animals were infected after hospital admission. It said it has suspended all research with B pseudomallei and other select agents (those most likely to be used as bioweapons) until the investigation is completed.
Feb 7 St. Tammany parish statement
Feb 8 AP


Chikungunya outbreak reaches 1.2 million cases

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported 18,415 new cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean and Americas on Feb 6, most of which occurred in Colombia, bringing the outbreak total to 1,201,272.

The new total includes 1,172,787 suspected and 25,255 confirmed locally acquired cases and 3,230 imported cases. Colombia reported 16,088 new cases, bringing the country's outbreak total to 143,458.

Puerto Rico reported 1,217 new cases, bringing the territory's outbreak total to 27,612. Canada reported 233 new imported cases, for a total of 320, with all of them imported.

PAHO also reported two deaths related to chikungunya, one of which occurred in Puerto Rico and the other in Barbados. The outbreak fatality total is now 181.
Feb 6 PAHO update

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