New UNMEER leader appointed as Ebola cases increase
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Apr 25 appointed Peter Jan Graaff to lead the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), taking the place of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania, who had held the position since late December. Ould Cheikh Ahmed succeeded UNMEER's first chief, Anthony Banbury.
Graaff, from the Netherlands, had been working as the UN's Ebola crisis manager for Liberia since October. He has worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) in several African countries, as well as Afghanistan and Haiti. The UN said Graaff will work closely with the UN's special Ebola envoy, David Nabarro, MD.
Meanwhile, Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been appointed as Ban's special envoy for Yemen. In the statement, the UN leader praised the outgoing UNMEER head for his exceptional work and leadership.
In other developments, the WHO said the number of confirmed, probable, and suspected Ebola cases in the outbreak region has grown to 26,159, including 10,842 deaths. The numbers reflect increases of 58 cases and 18 deaths since the WHO's last update on Apr 24. Today's totals include data from Sierra Leone as of Apr 25, Guinea as of Apr 24, and Liberia as of Apr 19.
Apr 25 UN press release
Apr 27 WHO situation update
Nearly 30,000 new chikungunya cases reported, mainly in Latin America
After a modest increase in reported case numbers for chikungunya the previous week (700-plus), last week's rise of 29,434 is more in line with recent trends in the continuing outbreak. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) published new numbers Apr 24.
The week-by-week count may be misleading, because not all countries and territories report each week. For example, the largest increase this past week was reported by Colombia, with 18,516 new suspected and 65 new confirmed cases; however, that number reflects new cases over a 2-week period.
Countries with the next highest increases were Honduras, with 4,729 new suspected cases, and Guatemala, with 4,337 new suspected and confirmed cases; neither country reported to PAHO last week.
The cumulative case count as of Apr 24 stands at 1,401,560, which includes 1,367,343 suspected, 30,580 confirmed, and 3,637 imported cases, most of the latter in the United States.
Apr 24 PAHO update
China's Hubei province reports first H7N9 case
China's Hubei province yesterday reported its first H7N9 avian flu case, in a 50-year-old man who works with and slaughters poultry, according to media and official sources. Hubei is in east-central China.
According to a provincial health department statement translated and posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board, the man is hospitalized in stable condition. His infection triggered a county emergency response, which included live-poultry market closures, culling, and enhanced surveillance at hospitals.
The man's illness appears to be the fourth H7N9 infection reported in China this month. The case lifts the global total to 658, according to FluTrackers' case list.
Apr 27 FluTrackers thread
Apr 27 Xinhua story
FluTrackers H7N9 case list
Avian flu hits poultry in Taiwan and Vietnam
Three different varieties of avian influenza viruses recently struck poultry in Taiwan and Vietnam, and H5N1 was found in wild birds in Russia, according to reports the governments filed with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in the past few days.
After battling numerous highly pathogenic (HP) H5N2 outbreaks over the winter, Taiwan reported three more to the OIE Apr 24. The incidents involved a goose farm and a chicken farm in Yunlin County and chickens in an abbatoir in Pingtung County.
Of 25,780 birds at the three sites, 13,137 died of the infection, and the rest were culled to stop further transmission, the report said. The sites were cleaned and disinfected, and poultry farms within 3 kilometers of them will be under increased surveillance for 3 months.
Taiwan also was afflicted by a number of HP H5N8 outbreaks over the winter, and on Apr 24 it reported two more on goose farms in Yunlin and Changhua counties. The two flocks included 7,140 birds, of which 3,695 were killed by the virus and the rest were destroyed as a precaution, officials told the OIE.
Apr 24 OIE report on H5N2 in Taiwan
Apr 24 OIE report on H5N8 in Taiwan
In Vietnam, the H5N6 virus struck a village poultry flock in the northern province of Ha Nam, sickening all 1,606 birds and killing 301, according to another OIE report. The surviving birds were destroyed.
Vietnam has had several H5N6 outbreaks since the virus first surfaced there last August. The virus was first identified in China in March 2014 and has caused a few poultry outbreaks there and in Laos, as well as Vietnam. China has had three human H5N6 cases, two of them fatal.
Apr 27 OIE report on H5N6 in Vietnam
In other news, Russian officials told the OIE today that they found the H5N1 virus in five dead Dalmatian pelicans in the Astrakhan region, which is in southern Russia near the northern shores of the Caspian Sea. Partial genetic sequencing indicated the isolates were similar to H5N1 viruses found in Russia last year and in Vietnam and China from 2012 to 2014.
Apr 27 OIE report on H5N1 in Russia
CDC posts travel notices for dengue, Ross River virus
Late last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued two travel notices about mosquito-borne diseases: dengue in Malaysia and Ross River virus disease (RRVD) in Australia.
Both alerts are at the "watch" level, the lowest of the three travel notices that the CDC issues; the others are "alert" and "warning." For a watch, the CDC recommends that travelers practice "usual precautions."
The agency said that Malaysia has had more than 30,800 cases of dengue fever this year through Mar 21, including 308 deaths. Case numbers are up 41% over the same period in 2014.
In Australia, meanwhile, 6,054 RRVD cases have been reported in 2015 through Apr 17, the largest number since 1996, the CDC said in the other travel notice. Most cases have been in Brisbane and the surrounding areas of Queensland. From 55% to 75% of people who get infected with RRVD don't feel sick, the CDC noted. Of those who do feel ill, symptoms can include joint pain and swelling, muscle pain, fever, tiredness, and rash.
For both outbreaks, the CDC advised travelers to practice mosquito-prevention steps, such as covering skin and using insect repellents.
Apr 24 CDC dengue-in-Malaysia travel notice
Apr 24 CDC RRVD-in-Australia travel notice