News Scan for Oct 19, 2015

More chikungunya cases
Zika incursion in Colombia
DRC measles outbreak

Chikungunya outbreak in Americas grows by almost 2,500 cases

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Oct 16 reported 2,464 new cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean and Americas.

The new total includes 573,708 suspected and 23,875 confirmed local acquired cases and 875 imported cases reported in 2015, or 598,458 total for the year. The previous PAHO update included 3,409 new cases.

Colombia, which has reported some of the largest case numbers per week for the past several months, reported 1,972 new cases last week, bringing its 2015 outbreak total to 339,781. Colombia also reported one chikungunya-related death, bringing the country's fatality total this year to 56. The entire outbreak fatality total for 2015 is 63.

Mexico, which has experienced an uptick in chikungunya cases over the last several weeks, reported 361 new cases, bringing its outbreak total this year to 8,323.

The chikungunya epidemic began in December 2013 with the first locally acquired chikungunya case ever reported in the Americas, on St. Martin in the Caribbean. The epidemic total has now reached 1,745,227 cases.
Oct 16 PAHO update


Colombia reports first-ever cases of Zika virus infection

Colombian officials have confirmed nine cases of Zika virus infection, the first instances of the disease in the country, according to a post yesterday by Pro-Med Mail, an infectious disease news service provided by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Health officials said the virus was imported to Cartagena by a traveler and spread from there. It is carried by Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that transmits chikungunya and dengue.

"This is what happened with chikungunya; the Zika virus has come to stay in Colombia. This is a disease that was introduced from Easter Island and later into Brazil, as we came to know this past June [2015], when we stated that the arrival of this virus into the country was imminent," Colombia's vice minister of public health said.

Authorities have redoubled mosquito-control efforts, the post said.

In an Oct 16 epidemiologic update, PAHO confirmed the Colombian cases and said it "recommends that its Member States establish and maintain the capacity to detect and confirm cases of Zika virus infection, prepare their health services for a potential additional burden at all levels of health care, and implement an effective public communications strategy to reduce the mosquitoes that transmit this disease, particularly in areas where this vector is present.
Oct 18 Pro-Med Mail post
Oct 17 PAHO update


Measles cases, deaths continue rising in DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is in the midst of a measles outbreak that has infected some 30,000 people this year and killed at least 428, according to news sources. Most cases involve children, and a third of all cases have been reported just since August,

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in August committed $2.4 million for vaccination programs in the region formerly known as Katanga province (it has recently been divided into four provinces), said an Oct 16 Reuters story.

"We have contained the disease somewhat in the short term. . . . But it's sad to see that the disease is still progressing," an OCHA spokesperson said.

Poor roads, remote villages, and a lack of healthcare personnel have posed difficulties for the vaccination campaigns, according to a Sep 1 story from Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), one of only two groups working there.

Other challenges, such as keeping a cold chain for transport of vaccine and the need for a booster shot a month after initial vaccination, have also contributed. The cost of vaccinating one child is about $1; mortality rates for measles in poor countries can run as high as 20%, MSF said.

The DRC's last serious measles outbreak was in 2011, when 77,000 people were infected and nearly 1,100 died in Katanga, which lies in the southeast and is the heart of copper and cobalt mining in the country.
Oct 16 Reuters story
Sep 1 MSF story

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