News Scan for Apr 09, 2019

More Saudi MERS
NYC measles emergency
Next-generation flu vaccine
Polio worker killing

Saudi Arabia records 3 more MERS cases, including 1 in Khafji

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday reported three more MERS-CoV cases, including another case in Khafji in the northeastern part of the country. Officials also confirmed cases in Riyadh and Najran.

The patient in Khafji is a 34-year-old woman diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). Her case is listed as involving secondary exposure and is likely part of a growing cluster of 10 cases in that city reported since Mar 29. It is not known if she had camel contact.

Both the cases involving a 51-year-old man from Riyadh and a 79-year-old man from Najran are listed as primary, meaning it is unlikely they contracted the disease from another person. Camel contact status is also unknown for these two patients, as well.

The 3 new illnesses lift Saudi Arabia's total since the first of the year to 126 cases, including 57 linked to a large outbreak in Wadi ad-Dawasir.
Apr 8 MOH update


NYC declares state of emergency, mandatory measles vaccinations

Today New York City (NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency requiring mandatory vaccination for all unvaccinated people exposed to the measles virus in certain parts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The emergency will allow the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to check the vaccination records of any case contact and require unvaccinated individuals to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or pay up to $1,000 in fines.

"As a pediatrician, I know the MMR vaccine is safe and effective," said city Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, MD, in an NYC press release. "This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods. They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science."

The 285-case outbreak began in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods last September and is connected to a measles outbreak in Israel. Children account for 246 cases, and 39 cases are in adults, with most patients being unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. There have been no deaths in the outbreak, but 21 case-patients have been hospitalized, including 5 admissions to the intensive care unit.
Apr 9 NYC press release


Experts and researchers call for universal flu vaccines

Progress toward a revolutionary universal flu vaccine is gaining momentum, and one is needed to be prepared for the next pandemic. That's the takeaway from a new 15-article supplement published today by the Journal of Infectious Diseases that explains the current research on universal flu vaccines in light of a century of fighting influenza pandemics.

Unlike the seasonal flu vaccine, which needs to be administered annually, a universal flu vaccine would ideally offer long-term protection against common influenza strains. In an introduction to the supplement, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said a universal flu vaccine must be put in place before the next flu pandemic.

Pandemics, of which there have been four in the past 100 years, represent novel strains of influenza and can produce a high morbidity and mortality rate. The most devastating one in that span was the 1918 "Spanish flu" H1N1 virus, which killed 50 million people worldwide from 1918 to 1920.

Even in non-pandemic seasons, Fauci said seasonal flu causes an estimated 291,243 to 645,832 deaths each year—with approximately 12,000 to 56,000 deaths in the United States alone. Though seasonal flu vaccines reduce morbidity and mortality rates, they vary in their effectiveness.
Apr 9 NIH press release
Apr 9 J Infect Dis


WHO condemns polio worker's killing in Pakistan

The World Health Organization (WHO) today condemned the killing of a frontline polio worker in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In a statement, it said the man who died, Wajid Ali, was a dedicated worker who was shot and killed while supporting polio eradication and immunization in Pakistan yesterday.

Ahmend Al-Mandhari, MD, PhD, who directs the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean regional office, said in the statement, "Health care should never be a target, and WHO and our partners will not be deterred by such attacks. We will continue our efforts to work with the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF, and other partners to eradicate polio and ensure the highest possible level of health for all the people of Pakistan."

Pakistan is one of three countries in which polio is still considered endemic. The others are Afghanistan and Nigeria. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in Pakistan's northwestern tribal area near the border with Afghanistan.

Ni'ma Abid, MD, acting director of the WHO's Pakistan office, said health officials are devastated by the tragic news and extend their condolences to the man's family and friends. "The only tribute we can pay to those who have sacrificed their lives to protect Pakistani children from the death and lifelong disability polio brings, is to complete their mission and eradicate polio from Pakistan."
Apr 9 WHO statement

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