News Scan for Jul 18, 2019

Flu drugs and hospitalization length
Cuts in federal WMD programs
Alaska measles

Study: Early neuraminidase inhibitors shorten hospital stays

Treatment with neuraminidase inhibitors when patients are first admitted for flu reduced the length of hospitalization by 19%, according to a meta-analysis published yesterday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The analysis included 18,309 pediatric and adult patients from 70 clinical centers across all 6 World Health Organization (WHO) regions who were hospitalized with suspected or confirmed 2009 H1N1 infections between Jan 2, 2009, and Mar 4, 2011, a time period that covers the pandemic years. More than 80% of the infections were lab confirmed. Researchers compared early neuraminidase inhibitor treatment, later treatment, and no treatment.

Shorter hospitalization was seen across all clinical groups and translated into a median decrease of 1.19 days in those who were treated upon admission.

The team notes that treatment in early hospitalization avoids the uncertainty of gauging the symptom onset date, and they said their findings support recommendations to treat adults hospitalized with suspected flu as soon as possible. "If used consistently, this strategy would contribute to the management of surge pressures and healthcare costs during seasonal influenza epidemics and pandemics," they wrote.
Jul 17 J Infect Dis abstract


Probe details Trump administration cutbacks in WMD prevention programs

The Trump administration has scaled back or dismantled some programs created after the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks to detect and prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMD), according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

In a report today the Times, quoting both current and former Department of Homeland Security employees and contractors, said, for example, that training exercises have been scrapped and that there has been a loss of several scientists and experts.

The shifts have occurred under the direction James McDonnell, head of the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, who has been appointed to different posts within the DHS, which has gone through several leadership changes since 2017. Neither McDonnell nor the DHS commented for the Times story. A department spokeswoman said some programs were realigned or restructured to remove bureaucratic redundancy.

Examples of programs that have been gutted or reduced include an elite "red team" that conducted several drills and assessments each year, the Operations Support Directorate that leads 20 WMD training exercises each year, and the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center. A DHS group that works with foreign counterparts to track and stop the flow of dangerous nuclear materials has been disbanded and the use of portable detection units at large public events has been reduced.

According to the report, the DHS has also halted an update of a formal assessment of chemical, biological, and nuclear-related risks. And according to the Times, more than 100 science or policy experts have been reassigned or put in jobs unrelated to their expertise.
Jul 18 LA Times story


Alaska records first measles case in years

An unvaccinated teen from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula is the first person from that state to be diagnosed with measles in years, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) confirmed earlier this week.

The case makes Alaska the 29th state to have at least one confirmed measles infection in 2019. The teen recently traveled from Alaska to Arizona via Seattle, officials said.

"The last confirmed case of measles in an Alaskan patient was diagnosed in 2015 in Fairbanks. That was after almost 15 years with no measles cases," HSS said in a statement.

Yesterday officials in El Paso, Texas also confirmed the fourth measles case in that city in the last 2 weeks. Three of the four cases are in toddlers, and the fourth case is one of the children’s mother.

According to the El Paso Times, these are the first measles cases the city has seen in 25 years.
Jul 16 HHS statement

Jul 17 El Paso Times story

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