News Scan for Feb 10, 2017

Saudi MERS case
;
Senate confirms HHS pick
;
Avian flu update

Saudi Arabia reports severe MERS infection in Mecca

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed another MERS-CoV infection yesterday, noting a severe case in Mecca.

The patient is a 60-year-old male expatriate who is hospitalized in critical condition with MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) illness. He is not a healthcare worker and had direct infection with camels, a known risk factor.

The man's illness lifts the countries MERS total to 1,554 cases, including 646 deaths. Nine patients are still being treated for the disease.
Feb 9 Saudi MOH update

 

Full Senate confirms Price as HHS secretary

The full Senate in the early hours of the morning confirmed Rep. Tom Price, MD, as secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Washington Post reported. Price, a Republican and orthopedic surgeon who represents Georgia's 6th district, was confirmed on a 52-47 party line vote.

In final hearings in the overnight hours, Democrat senators raised concerns about the impact of dismantling and replacing the Affordable Care Act and potential cuts and changes to Medicare and Medicaid. They also highlighted unanswered questions surrounding reports of Price's special access to buying discounted biotechnology stock. However, Republican senators said Price's experience with healthcare issues and as a practicing physician will help inform policy decisions.

Norris Cochran, former HHS deputy assistant secretary for budget, has been serving as acting HHS secretary since the departure of Sylvia Burwell. HHS plays a key role in the nation's public health, with activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health under its umbrella. President Trump has not yet announced nominees to lead those agencies.

In a statement e-mailed to journalists, William Powderly, MD, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) said, "We are hopeful that, as a physician, Secretary Price will bring to his new role an interest in collaborating with the medical community and an appreciation for evidence-based policies." He added that IDSA will support Secretary Price on efforts to strengthen and support the ID and HIV physician workforce; combat antimicrobial resistance; invest in public health infrastructure and emergency preparedness; and incentivize the research and development of urgently needed new antimicrobial drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines.  "We were pleased that Senators of both parties raised these issues during confirmation hearings. We look forward to the work ahead."
Feb 10 Washington Post story

 

H5N5 strikes again in Germany; other strains hit elsewhere in Europe, Japan

In the latest avian flu developments, Germany yesterday reported its third highly pathogenic H5N5 outbreak in poultry, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The latest event began on Jan 23 at a fattening turkey farm in Schleswig-Holstein state in the north, the same area where the other two poultry outbreaks occurred, killing 500 of 14,610 birds.  Germany is one of seven European countries that have reported recent H5N5 outbreaks.

France today reported 32 more highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreaks on poultry farms, as well as three more low-pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks. The H5N8 outbreaks began between Jan 22 and Feb 6, affecting four provinces in the southwestern part of the country that have already been hit hard by outbreaks. There were about 65,000 susceptible birds among all the locations.   France also reported three more H5N2 outbreaks, all on duck farms in the same region where H5N8 outbreaks are underway.

Meanwhile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, and Finland all reported more highly pathogenic H5N8 detections in wild birds, based on reports today to the OIE.

Elsewhere, Japan's agriculture ministry today said tests have confirmed H5N6 as the cause of a recent outbreak in Saga prefecture in which initial tests were positive for highly pathogenic H5. The event began Feb 4 at a broiler farm and killed 40 of 70,783 susceptible birds. The remaining ones were culled to curb the spread of the virus.
Feb 9 OIE report on H5N5 in Germany
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in French poultry
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N2 in French poultry
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in Croatian wild birds
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in Czech Republic wild birds
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in Danish wild birds
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in Finnish wild birds
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N8 in French wild birds
Feb 10 OIE report on
H5N6 in Japan

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