News Scan for Mar 26, 2018

Saudi MERS cases
OIE clarifies Ghana H9N2 report

Saudi Arabia records four new MERS cases

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) released four new reports of MERS-CoV cases over the weekend, including two cases that had direct contact with camels.

On Mar 21, a 67-year-old Saudi man from Najran was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). He is in stable condition and had contact with camels.

The MOH recorded the case of another patient with camel contact on Mar 24. The patient is a 44-year-old expatriate from Hofuf who is in critical condition.

On Mar 24, the MOH also said a 41-year-old Saudi woman from Jeddah was in stable condition with MERS. She is described as a household contact of a previously noted case, the third such case recorded in Jeddah this month.

Finally, on Mar 23 the MOH said a 64-year-old expatriate man from Riyadh had MERS. He is in critical condition, and the source of his infection is listed as "primary," meaning it's unlikely he contracted the virus from another person. 

Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total cases since 2012 are 1,825, including 738 deaths. Fifteen people are still being treated for their infections.
Mar 21 MOH update  
Mar 23 MOH update
Mar 24 MOH update


Follow-up tests rule out high-path H9N2 avian flu in Ghana poultry

Further analysis of H9N2 avian flu samples from Ghana, which raised concerns in February when the virus was originally reported to be highly pathogenic, is in fact low-pathogenic, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in a Mar 23 clarification posted on ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

The earlier reported raised concerns, because the development, if true, would have been unprecedented. Low-pathogenic H9N2 is known to circulate in Africa, but a highly pathogenic form had never been detected. Highly pathogenic H9N2 would have implications for both animal and human health.

The OIE said molecular and pathogenicity tests at its reference lab confirmed low-pathogenic H9N2 virus, and because the isolate isn't notifiable, the earlier report was removed from its database on Mar 19.

In a comment on the post, ProMED Mail moderator Arnon Shimshony, DVM, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, commended Ghana officials for their transparency. Though it's a relief that a reassortment of the widespread H9N2 virus into a highly pathogenic virus hasn't taken place, the event highlights the need for continued vigilance and the important of involving OIE reference labs in epidemiologic investigations, he said.
Mar 23 ProMED Mail post
Feb 15 CIDRAP News story "High-path H9N2 infects Ghana poultry, raising concern"

In other avian flu developments, Northern Ireland recently reported its first highly pathogenic H5N6 detection, according to a Mar 23 report from the OIE. The virus was found in a dead buzzard that was collected in County Antrim as part of wild raptor surveillance.
Mar 23 OIE report on H5N6 in Northern Ireland

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