News Scan for May 02, 2016

Defective surgical gowns
;
Saudi MERS cases
;
More chikungunya
;
Yellow fever in DRC, Uganda

CBS report says US firm knowingly sold defective surgical gowns

A report by CBS's 60 Minutes yesterday alleged that the US company Halyard Health for years sold surgical gowns that it knew were defective, putting healthcare workers at risk for bloodborne infections. In a press release today, the company strongly denied the allegations

The report focused on the MICROCOOL gown, made by Halyard, which sells about 13 million gowns a year and supplies a quarter of the US market. The firm was a division of Kimberly-Clark Corp. until 2014.

Bernard Vezeau, the global strategic marketing director for MICROCOOL and other products from 2012 to early 2015, told 60 Minutes that the gowns didn’t consistently pass leak tests and that the company did not notify customers or the Food and Drug Administration.

Vezeau, who asserted that he was fired for speaking up about the problems, said the company received frequent complaints from nurses and doctors about gowns that leaked.

Michael Avenatti, a California attorney who represents hospitals that are suing Halyard Health and Kimberly-Clark for fraud, told 60 Minutes that in tests by an independent, certified laboratory in 2012, the sleeves of 77% of MICROCOOL gowns failed. The tests were done at the request of one of Kimberly-Clark's competitors, Cardinal Health.

Chris Lowery, chief operating officer of Halyard Health, largely denied the allegations, asserting that the company gets “less than one complaint for every million gowns sold.” He also said the gowns generally fared well in tests commissioned by Halyard and that the firm has never received any reports of healthcare workers getting infected because of a leaky gown. Lowery also asserted that Vezeau didn't raise his concerns until after he left the company.

Reporter Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes said Halyard employees acknowledged that there was a period of 1½ years in which the MICROCOOL sleeve seams often failed tests. During that time, the company sold thousands of the gowns to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies, the report said.

Tests by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of gowns produced in 2014 for the stockpile showed there were some sleeve failures in three out of four batches, according to 60 Minutes.

In a press release today, Halyard Health said the 60 Minutes story was a rehash of a 2014 class action lawsuit and leaves a false impression that the gowns are a safety risk and have been the subject of frequent healthcare worker complaints.
May 60 Minutes report
May 2 Halyard Health press release

 

Saudi Arabia reports 3 new MERS cases, 1 death

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported three new MERS-CoV cases, two recoveries, and the death of one previously reported patient over the past several days.

The first MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case involves a 70-year-old Saudi man from the north central city of Hail who is hospitalized in critical condition. He is not a healthcare worker, and his previous exposure to camels is "under investigation," the MOH said in an Apr 30 update.

The second patient is a 55-year-old Saudi man in Hofuf who is hospitalized in critical condition, the MOH said yesterday. He is not a healthcare worker, and he had recent contact with camels, a known risk factor, the MOH said.

The third case involves a 40-year-old foreign man in Riyadh who is also hospitalized in critical condition. He is not a healthcare worker, and the MOH has listed his infection as "primary," meaning he did not contract the illness from another person. His history of contact with camels is unknown.

The MOH yesterday reported the death of a 53-year-old Saudi man in the southwestern city of Najran. He was not a healthcare worker and had an underlying medical condition. The MOH had reported his case previously.

In addition, two previously reported patients have recovered from their infections, one of whom was a 72-year-old Saudi man from the western city of Turbah, the MOH said on Apr 30. He was not a healthcare worker and had preexisting disease. A 25-year-old Saudi man in Riyadh who was not a healthcare worker and had an underlying medical condition has also recovered from the disease, the MOH said today.

Today's update brings the MERS-CoV total in Saudi Arabia since 2012 to 1,381 cases, including 588 deaths. Nine cases remain active.
Apr 30 MOH update
May 1 MOH update
May 2 MOH update

 

Chikungunya cases climb by more than 28,000, PAHO notes

In its most recent chikungunya fever update, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported 28,317 new suspected and confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the 2016 total to 82,603 cases as of Apr 29.

Many countries, however, are behind on their reporting or have not submitted any data.

Brazil recorded by far the largest increase since the previous update, adding 25,341 new cases and 10 related deaths that occurred in March. The country's total of 39,017 cases now accounts for 47% of all cases in 2016 thus far.

Nicaragua had the second-highest increase at 1,137 new cases for a total of 12,458. Honduras was next, according to PAHO, reporting 797 new cases, for a total of 7,978.

There are now 12 related deaths caused by chikungunya so far this year, all in Brazil. The outbreak was first reported in December 2013 on St. Martin in the Caribbean with the first recorded cases of the disease in the Americas. Since then PAHO has reported 1,962,149 suspected or confirmed cases and 279 related deaths.
Apr 29 PAHO update

 

WHO notes local yellow fever spread likely in DRC, confirmed in Uganda

The World Health Organization (WHO) today posted updates on yellow fever outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—which is linked to an ongoing event in Angola—and in Uganda.

The outbreak in the DRC is very concerning, given that the disease is endemic, reports of suspected cases began in January, and a large Angolan community in Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people, the WHO said. It added that an ongoing investigation of 41 cases possibly related to Angola's outbreak revealed that 2 are probably due to local transmission.

An entomology survey in the middle of April to help assess the threat of local spread found a high density of Aedes aegypti larvae, and samples are being tested for the presence of yellow fever virus. The WHO said the mosquito population's high density is a sign that the risk for disease amplification is very high.

Since January, a total of 453 suspected yellow fever cases have been reported in the DRC, 45 of them fatal. The DRC government formally declared an outbreak on Apr 23, according to the WHO.
May 2 WHO statement on DRC outbreak

Meanwhile, a suspected viral hemorrhagic fever cluster in Uganda prompted an early April rapid response team investigation, which confirmed yellow fever in three samples, the WHO said in a separate update.

As of Apr 18, a total of 30 cases from seven districts had been reported, 7 of them fatal. Among the 30 cases, 6 have been confirmed from two districts, including 2 deaths. Most of the patients are male, and none had traveled outside of Uganda.
May 2 WHO statement on Uganda's yellow fever outbreak

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