News Scan for Aug 07, 2015

More Saudi MERS cases
Hand washing and respiratory infection
Global health cooperation

Three new MERS patients in Riyadh include health worker

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported 3 new MERS-CoV cases in Riyadh including 1 in a healthcare worker, bringing to 10 the number of cases confirmed in the city in the past 5 days.

The new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases involve two Saudi nationals—a 72-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man, both in critical condition—and a 29-year-old female expatriate health worker. The latter is in stable condition in home isolation, the MOH said.

The two women had recent contact with a MERS patient, while such contact in the man's case is under review, the agency said.

The MOH also reported that a 28-year-old foreign man in Riyadh has recovered from his MERS-CoV infection. He is not a healthcare worker and did not have pre-existing disease. The new cases bring the country's total to 1,068, including 471 fatal cases. In addition to the woman in home isolation, 11 people are still being treated for the disease.
Aug 7 Saudi MOH update


Study: Web-based hand washing tool may lower respiratory illness

An Internet-based hand washing intervention system may reduce rates of flulike illness and other respiratory tract infections (RTIs), according to a study yesterday in The Lancet.

UK researchers enrolled 20,066 volunteers across three winters from Jan 17, 2011, through Mar 31, 2013. About half received the Web-based intervention and half did not. The automated intervention system is designed to maximize intent to wash hands, monitor hand washing practice, provide feedback, reinforce positive behavior, and address negative beliefs.

The authors were able to follow up with 16,908 participants (84%).

After 16 weeks of follow-up, 4,242 participants (51%) in the intervention group reported at least one episode of RTI, compared with 5,135 (59%) in the control group. The intervention reduced the transmission of RTIs that were reported within 1 week of another household member both to and from the index person. The authors noted a slight increase in minor skin irritation—1% in the control group compared with 4% in the hand washing group—but no serious adverse events.

An accompanying commentary by Dutch physician Chris van Weel, MD, PhD, states that the findings "strongly support promotion of handwashing in the socioeconomically and culturally diverse communities in which primary health care operates, along with strategies to retain adherence in the long term."
Aug 6 Lancet study
Aug 6
Lancet commentary


OIE report emphasizes cooperation on animal, public health

Professionals in public health, animal health, and the security sector must unite their efforts to strengthen health systems, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said today in a new report based on a conference last month.

The OIE global conference on biothreat reduction convened a host of key players in the health and security sectors, the agency said in a press release, and their recommendations focus on bolstering collaboration "to strengthen the ability of public and animal health systems to prevent, detect, and respond to all biological threats whether they are deliberate, accidental, or natural, in particular at the animal source of animal diseases transmissible to humans."

A key outcome of the meeting was an emphasis on good governance of animal and public health national systems to allow early disease detection and rapid response to outbreaks. The report lays out 18 recommendations.

The experts underscore that the social and economic costs of investing in health systems far outweigh the costs of responding to a preventable biological disaster. "Investments in the systems needed to support these policies should be considered a priority in all countries," the OIE said. The report also emphasizes that countries share success stories—such as in combatting antibiotic resistance—with other countries.

Because many nations cannot meet international standards, the OIE, together with the World Health Organization, has established a comprehensive global framework for strengthening both public and animal health, the OIE said in the release.
Aug 7 OIE report
Aug 7 OIE press release

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