News Scan for Jul 03, 2019

Absenteeism in flu season
Another Saudi MERS case
Positive Xofluza flu results

CDC reports on workplace absenteeism during tough 2017-18 flu season

A system recently launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor health-related workplace absenteeism during influenza seasons has yielded more evidence that the 2017-18 flu season was unusually severe, the CDC reported today.

Under the system, the CDC's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to estimate the prevalence of absenteeism among full-time workers, the CDC explained in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The CPS is a monthly US Census Bureau survey of about 60,000 households, focusing on employment, demographic, and other characteristics of the adult civilian population. The survey data are "valid, reliable, and nationally representative," the CDC said.

In the 2017-18 flu season, the monitoring showed, absenteeism was 1.7% in October 2017, increased sharply in November, and peaked in January at 3.0%. The latter rate exceeded an epidemic threshold based on data from the five preceding flu seasons. After January the rate declined steadily to a low of 1.4% in July 2018.

The report said the epidemic threshold was significantly exceeded for certain subgroups in certain months, including, in January and February, male workers, workers aged 45 to 64 years, and workers in Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region 6. Also, workers in HHS Region 9 exceeded the threshold in December and March. Region 6 includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, while Region 9 consists of Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

"Workplace absenteeism is an important supplementary measure of influenza's impact on the working population that can inform prevention messaging and pandemic preparedness planning," the CDC said in the report.
Jul 5 MMWR article


Officials confirm MERS case in Najran, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday announced a new MERS-CoV case, the first since Jun 27, according to an epidemiologic week 27 update.

A 37-year-old man in Najran has contracted MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), the MOH said, and it's not known whether he had recent camel contact. Officials list his case as "primary," meaning the disease did not likely transmit from another person.

So far this year Saudi Arabia has had 155 MERS cases. Since 2012 when the virus was first reported, the World Health Organization has confirmed at least 2,442 cases, the vast majority in Saudi Arabia. At least 842 patients have died from their infections.
Jul 2 Saudi MOH update


Company reports comparable flu results between Xofluza and osteltamivir

Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche, yesterday announced positive phase 3 results of its antiviral drug Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil), saying the drug was comparable to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for treating flu and was well tolerated in children who had influenza.

The study assessed Xofluza versus oseltamivir in children 1 to 12 years old. The company did not provide data but said in a news release that it would provide full results of the trial, called MINISTONE-2, at "an upcoming medical meeting."Genentech is based in South San Francisco, California.

Sandra Horning, MD, Genentech chief medical officer and head of global product development, said, "As a one-dose oral suspension medicine, Xofluza could potentially provide a convenient treatment option for children with the flu, and we look forward to sharing these data with health authorities around the world."

Researchers are also testing the safety and efficacy of Xofluza in children with the flu under the age of 1 year in the global phase 3 MINISTONE-1 study. It is the first and only one-dose oral medicine approved to treat the flu and the first new flu medicine with a novel mechanism of action approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nearly 20 years.

The antiviral is approved in several countries, including Japan, for the treatment of influenza types A and B in children, adolescents and adults, and in the United States for treating acute, uncomplicated flu in people 12 years of age and older. In addition, the FDA recently accepted a supplemental New Drug Application for Xofluza as a one-dose oral treatment for people at high risk of complications from the flu. The agency is expected to decide on whether to approve this additional indication by Nov 4, Genentech said.
Jul 2 Genentech news release

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