News Scan for May 11, 2018

Salmonella egg outbreak
;
Pandemic threats
;
More flu deaths in US kids
;
Lassa outbreak contained

Salmonella outbreak tied to eggs grows to 35 cases in 9 states

Twelve more people in five states have been sickened with Salmonella from eggs produced by an Indiana farm, bringing the outbreak total to 35 cases in nine states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an update yesterday.

Patient ages range from 1 to 90 years, with a median age of 65. Illness-onset dates range from Nov 16, 2017, to Apr 14, 2018, the CDC said, while reporting no newly affected states. Of 28 people with available information, 11 (39%) have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

New York and Virginia have confirmed the most cases, at 8 each, while Pennsylvania has had 6 and North Carolina 5. As the CDC noted in its initial outbreak report on Apr 16, the outbreak strain is Salmonella Braenderup.

"CDC continues to recommend consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, serve, or sell recalled eggs produced by Rose Acre Farms' Hyde County farm," the agency said in the update. "Throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund." Rose Acre Farms, of Seymour, Ind., has recalled more the 200 million eggs sold under multiple brand names, including Coburn Farms, Country Daybreak, Food Lion, Glenview, Great Value, Nelms, Publix, Sunshine Farms, and Sunups.
May 10 CDC update

 

Center for Health Security warns: Prepare for next pandemic pathogen

The next pandemic pathogen to plague the world will most likely be respiratory, contagious during its incubation period and before symptoms develop, initially cause only mild symptoms, and have microbial characteristics that together substantially increase disease spread, according to a new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The report, "The Characteristics of Pandemic Pathogens," establishes a framework for identifying naturally occurring microorganisms that pose a global catastrophic biological risk (GCBR) and makes recommendations for improving preparedness efforts. "GCBRs are events in which biological agents could lead to a sudden, extraordinary, widespread disaster beyond the collective capability of national and international governments and the private sector to control," the center said in a press release.

"Health security preparedness needs to be adaptable to new threats and not exclusively wedded to historical notions," said Amesh Adalja, MD, project lead and senior scholar at the Center for Health Security. "A more active-minded approach to this problem will, in the end, help guard against a GCBR event occurring."

To prepare the report, the authors interviewed more than 120 subject matter experts and convened a meeting with some of them to analyze data the authors had gathered. The experts identified RNA viruses as the biggest threat because of their high ability to mutate.

Key preparedness recommendations detailed in the report include having a focused approach with some flexibility, improving surveillance for respiratory-borne RNA viruses, developing antiviral agents, pursuing a universal flu vaccine and other vaccine, fully funding appropriate research, and devising better diagnostic tests.
May 10 Center for Health Security news release
May 10 Center for Health Security full report

 

As US flu continues at low levels, CDC reports 2 more pediatric deaths

Post-epidemic influenza activity in the United States continues at much reduced levels, but CDC officials today confirmed 2 new flu-related deaths in children, bringing the number of pediatric fatalities this season to 165, the highest recorded since 2012-13.

The percentage of clinical visits for influenza-like illness stayed the same as the previous week, at 1.5%, well below the national baseline of 2.2%. Likewise, the number of states reporting geographically widespread flu remained the same, at three (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York).

The overall rate of hospitalization for flu, a marker that often lags other indicators, also held, at 106.0 per 100,000 population. For seniors, the number rose from 457.2 to 459.7 per 100,000 population.

As is common late in the flu season, respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza B continued to strongly outpace influenza A, totaling 65% for the week. (Over the season, however, influenza A has been twice as prevalent as influenza B, and the H3N2 strain has constituted 85% of "A" viruses that were subtyped.)

The two new pediatric deaths were both recorded in March, one caused by H3N2 and one by influenza B. The 2012-13 season saw 171 pediatric flu deaths, according to CDC data.
May 11 CDC FluView update

 

WHO says Nigeria's Lassa fever outbreak is contained

Cases have been declining over the past 6 weeks on Nigeria's largest Lassa fever outbreak, and with only a handful of cases reported in recent weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the critical phase of the outbreak is under control.

For the week ending May 6, only 3 new cases were reported, edging the number of cases since the first of the year to 423, including 106 deaths. The WHO said case numbers have dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency when compared with data from earlier outbreaks.

Ibrahima-Soce Fall, MD, MPH, regional emergencies director for Africa, said in the WHO statement that Nigeria is to be congratulated for reaching this important milestone. "But we cannot let our foot off the pedal. We must use the lessons learnt to better prepare at risk countries in our region to conduct rapid detection and response," he said.

The WHO said it will continue to support Nigeria's stepped-up response to the outbreak, which it says led to 37 infections in health workers, highlighting the need to implement standard infection prevention and control practices with all patients and a high index of suspicion, regardless of health status.

Lassa fever is a viral infection mainly transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine, feces, or blood. The virus can pass from person to person through direct or indirect contact with an infected person's body fluids.
May 10 WHO statement

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