Ebola infects 12 more in the DRC, half in Katwa
Ebola infections have been confirmed in 12 more people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including 6 in Katwa, one of the more recent hot spots, the country's health ministry said today.
The other cases include two from Butembo and one each from Musienene, Kyondo, Beni, and Kayina, which is the newest affected health zone. The illnesses push the outbreak total to 680 cases, including 631 confirmed and 49 probable illnesses. Outbreak responders are still following up on 209 suspected Ebola cases, up from 136 yesterday.
Four more patients died from their infections, three of them in community settings in hard-hit Katwa. The other occurred in a hospital in Beni. The developments lift the fatality count to 414.
In other outbreak developments, a new Ebola treatment center, the ninth in the region, and a laboratory opened in Ituri province yesterday with the goal of isolating, testing, and treating confirmed and suspected Ebola patients in Komanda health zone and surrounding areas. Meanwhile, the number of people immunized with the unlicensed VSV-EBOV vaccine continues to grow, to 61,682 people since early August, according to the health ministry report.
Jan 18 DRC update
Experts say pandemics will cost $570 billion a year in coming decades
In a World Economic Forum (WEF) report released today, economists estimate that pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks in the coming decades will cause annual economic losses of 0.7% of global gross domestic product (GDP) on average—a threat similar to that of climate change—and suggest globalization has magnified the economic impact.
That equals about $570 billion in losses each year.
Since 2011, the report notes, the world has experienced an average of 200 epidemic events a year, and the number and type of outbreaks have increased significantly in recent decades and will likely increase even more. While potentially catastrophic outbreaks may occur only every few decades, highly disruptive regional and local outbreaks are becoming more common and pose a major threat to lives and businesses, the authors say.
The report synthesizes the effects that outbreaks have on employees, supply chains, customers, travel and tourism, and other business-related factors—as well as the impact globalization has had on elevating the economic risk. "The world remains ill-prepared to detect and respond to outbreaks and is not prepared to respond to a significant pandemic threat," the report notes. And its expert authors add, "Multinational corporations will increasingly rely on the often relatively weak public health and disease control infrastructure in these countries to avoid outbreak-related economic disruption."
But the authors also note that, while infectious disease threats are inevitable, the economic damage they cause is not. They recommend a "holistic" approach to preparedness that includes reducing corporate exposure, improving response capabilities, and communicating proactively.
The authors conclude, "Billions of dollars and millions of lives and livelihoods depend on the business community’s collective response to the changing threat of epidemics. Better corporate citizenship towards such threats enables companies to deliver substantial shareholder and social value at the same time."
Jan 18 WEF news release
Jan 18 WEF report
BARDA exercises option for freeze-dried smallpox vaccine
The US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has exercised a contract option worth $44 million with Bavarian Nordic to support production of its freeze-dried MVA-BN smallpox vaccine, the company announced today.
The funding will cover qualification of Bavarian Nordic's new fill-and-finish facility at its Denmark headquarters and transfer and validate the freeze-drying process. The option is the second to be exercised under the contract and follows the 2017 option of $37 million for a phase 3 study, expected to begin in the first half of this year, that is needed to apply for approval.
Paul Chaplin, Bavarian Nordic's president and chief executive officer, said in the statement that the option will support the final steps to bringing the facility into operation, "and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership with BARDA in the development and production of biological countermeasures to protect the U.S. population." The plant will be able to produce 40 million doses of liquid vaccine and 8 million of freeze-dried vaccine each year.
Since 2010, Bavarian Nordic has made 28 million doses of liquid-frozen MVA-BN smallpox vaccine for the US Strategic National Stockpile. The freeze-dried version is designed to provide a longer shelf life and replace expired stockpile doses.
Jan 18 Bavarian Nordic press release
Pakistan, Nigeria record new polio cases at end of 2018
According to the latest update from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) today, both Pakistan and Nigeria recently confirmed polio cases that occurred at the end of 2018.
Pakistan officials noted two cases of wild poliovirus type 1, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Bajour Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Patients experienced an onset of paralysis on Dec 16 and 25, respectively. The cases raises Pakistan's wild poliovirus case count for 2018 to 10.
In Nigeria, a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) case was recorded in Kwara state, close to the Benin border. The patient experienced symptom onset on Dec 5. The infection lifts Nigeria's 2018 number of cVDPV2 cases to 33.
"The country continues to be affected by two separate cVDPV2 outbreaks, the first centered in Jigawa state with subsequent spread to other states as well as to neighbouring Republic of Niger, and the second in Sokoto state," the GPEI said.
So far in 2019, no countries have recorded polio cases.
Jan 18 GPEI update
Nearly 20,000 measles cases recorded in Madagascar since October
Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) described an unusually large measles outbreak in Madagascar, which has resulted in 19,539 cases and 39 deaths since Oct 4, 2018.
"Madagascar last experienced measles outbreaks in 2003 and 2004, with reported number of cases at 62,233 and 35,558, respectively. Since then, the number of reported cases had sharply declined until the current outbreak," the WHO said.
Cases have been reported in all 22 regions of Madagascar, including densely populated cities such as Toamasina, Mahajanga, Antsirabe, Toliara, and the capital city, Antananarivo.
Children ages 1 to 14 years account for 64% of cases, and 51% of patients have not been vaccinated against the disease, or have unknown vaccination status. According to the WHO, the estimated measles immunization coverage in Madagascar was 58% in 2017.
The agency said the outbreak is occurring at the same time plague has made a resurgence in Madagascar, stretching public health resources. The Ministry of Public Health of Madagascar is conducting vaccination campaigns in the hardest-hit communities.
Jan 17 WHO statement
Washington state sees 16 measles cases as NJ declares end to outbreak
Yesterday health officials in Clark County, Washington, confirmed 16 cases of measles, 14 of which occurred in unvaccinated minors since Jan 1.
According to a press release, 13 of the cases occurred in children under the age of 10, and the other 3 cases occurred in kids ages 10 to 18. Several healthcare facilties and schools are listed as possible exposure sites. At this time, it is unclear if the cases are connected. Five additional cases are suspected.
"Clark County Public Health is urging anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles to call their health care provider prior to visiting the medical office to make a plan that avoids exposing others in the waiting room," officials said in a press release.
In other domestic measles news, health officials in Ocean County, New Jersey, said a measles outbreak in that state is officially over as no new cases have been recorded in the past 42 days. A total of 33 people were infected in the outbreak.
New York City officials, meanwhile, have confirmed 58 measles cases of measles in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn since October. The outbreak began when an unvaccinated child contracted the disease during a trip to Israel.
The Borough Park neighborhood has been hardest hit, with 35 cases, including 3 diagnosed in the last week. Officials in New York urge anyone traveling to Israel to get vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at least two weeks prior to their trip.
Jan 17 Clark County press release
Jan 17 NJ Health statement
Jan 16 NYC Health update