News Scan for Jan 23, 2018

Saudi MERS death
;
Flu antibodies and immunity
;
Suspected RVF in South Sudan, Senegal

Recent MERS case-patient dies in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday a woman from the village of Al Qaryat died from MERS-CoV.

The 60-year-old Saudi woman's MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case was announced last week. Her infection source was listed as "primary," meaning it was unlikely she contracted the virus from another person.

Her death brings the total number of MERS-CoV deaths since 2012 to 725 out of 1,777 cases total. Eight people are currently being treated for their infections.

In other MERS-CoV news, Malaysia declared it is free of virus, given that two incubation periods have passed with no new cases have been announced since Dec 31, when a man who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia was diagnosed as having the disease. According to a media report, a total of 75 contacts were closely followed, but there is no sign of ongoing transmission, the Malaysian ministry of health said.

The man told authorities he drank camel's milk and came into contact with camels as he was making a religion pilgrimage throughout Saudi Arabia.
Jan 22 MOH update
Jan 23 New Straits Times story

 

Antibody levels shed light on influenza immunity

A study today in mBio shows how human antibodies to hemagglutinin (HA) protein dictate the immune system's response to the influenza virus

Humans generate anti-HA stem antibodies in response to flu infection, and this is the first study to assess if these antibodies are a predictor of protection against influenza.

In the study, 65 healthy adults were isolated and exposed to the 2009 H1N1 strain of influenza, with HA levels measured before, during, and after exposure. A total of 64% of participants had increased HA levels after infection, but HA levels did not correlate to severity of influenza infection.

Researchers said that understanding the HA protein has wider implications for influenza vaccines, as the HA part of the virus doesn't change or mutate as quickly as the neuraminidase (NA) protein, the traditional target for seasonal flu vaccines.

"This analysis demonstrates that antibody responses to influenza virus vary and that protection is likely to be complex and multifactorial. Our belief is that future universal vaccine strategies should ideally focus on more than one target and/or aspect of immunity," the authors concluded.
Jan 23 mBio study
Jan 23 NIH
news release

 

More suspected RVF cases in South Sudan and 1 in Senegal

In an ongoing investigation into a suspected Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreak in South Sudan, six more suspected cases have been reported, and health officials are waiting on results from tests on a blood sample from a contact of one of the three initial patients in the cluster, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa said in its last weekly health emergency and disease outbreak update. Testing is also underway on six other suspected cases.

One suspected case reported last week has been ruled out, based on negative lab tests. Of tests on animals, a sample from a sick cow showed an IgG titer consistent with previous RVF infection. Tests on six other animals, which included sheep and goats, were negative.

The WHO said though insecurity in the area is a challenge, surveillance for human and animal cases needs to be scaled up rapidly to detect new cases. It added that while signals point to Rift Valley fever as the outbreak's cause, more substantial confirmation is needed.

In other RVF developments, Senegal's health ministry reported a suspected RVFcase to the WHO involving a Korean man who was hospitalized in Dakar. An IgM test on blood sample from the man, a 52-year-old who was working in Gambia for a fishing company and had no history of handling raw meat, was positive for exposure to Rift Valley virus.

In early December, the man and three travel partners traveled to Senegal, then on to Guinea-Bissau. As they made their way back to Gambia, the man's symptoms began, with his brother and driver also experiencing a dry cough. The man's symptoms worsened, and he was hospitalized in Gambia, where he was diagnosed with severe malaria. When his condition deteriorated, he was hospitalized in Senegal, where blood samples were taken and he died on Dec 31 after experiencing hemorrhagic symptoms. Samples from the man's symptomatic contacts are negative for acute infection.

The WHO said RFV outbreaks are uncommon in Gambia and neighboring countries, with Gambia reporting its last case in 2002. So far, there's no sign of a risk of major outbreaks in any of the three countries the man recently visited.
Jan 22 WHO report
Jan 16 CIDRAP News scan "Rift Valley fever suspected in South Sudan VHF cluster; 2 cases reported"

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