News Scan for Oct 15, 2019

Southern Hemisphere flu ebb
Cholera outbreaks in Africa
Philippines polio vaccine campaign

Flu shows more Southern Hemisphere signs of decline

As the Southern Hemisphere nears the end of its typical flu season, influenza activity continues to decline, with a second wave of activity in Chile—mainly from influenza B—slowing, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest global flu update.

In Australia, where the season started early, flu is not yet back to interseasonal levels, though there is some geographic variability, the WHO added.

Elsewhere, flu is rising in some tropical locations, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ivory Coast Guinea , and Laos.

In the Northern Hemisphere, flu is still at interseasonal levels in most temperate locations, except for Arabian peninsula countries, where H3N2 viruses predominate in Qatar and all subtypes are circulating in Kuwait and Oman.

Globally, influenza A viruses accounted for 55.7% of positive flu samples during the last half of September, and of the subtyped influenza A viruses, 64.5% were H3N2 and 35.5% were 2009 H1N1.
Oct 14 WHO global flu update


Cholera outbreaks strike Sudan and DRC

A cholera outbreak in two Sudan states has resulted in 287 suspected cases, including 8 deaths, the WHO said today in a statement.

Health officials in Sudan notified the WHO of the outbreak in early September, and cases have now been reported in four locations in Blue Nile state and five in Sinnar state. So far, 62% of those infected are female, and 93.1% are people older than 5 years old.

With the WHO's support, Sudan has activated its cholera task force and the WHO has sent a technical team to help the health ministry and has, along with partners, provided cholera kits. So far, the health ministry has activated 14 cholera treatment centers.

The WHO, along with the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has launched an oral cholera vaccination campaign with a goal of vaccinating 1.6 million people in the two affected states. The agency notes that Sudan has experienced a continuous surge of cholera activity since 2016 and that the current outbreak comes in the wake of severe rainstorms and flooding in 15 of Sudan's 18 states that has damaged infrastructure.
Oct 15 WHO statement

In other African cholera developments, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced a resurgence of the disease in recent weeks, following persistent activity in the country, which is also battling an Ebola outbreak and a large measles outbreak.

A weekly update from the WHO's African regional office said today that, for the week ending Sep 22, there were 925 suspected cases, 10 of them fatal, in 66 health zones across nine provinces, including two that have reported Ebola cases: North Kivu and South Kivu.

Weekly case numbers remain high in North Kivu province, with a dramatic increase in new cases over the past 3 weeks coming from Haut Lomami province.

The WHO said the DRC's cholera outbreak is its worst since 1994. Officials added that some areas where the disease isn't endemic are reporting cases, raising the risk of further spread, given that vaccination campaigns weren't carried out there.
Oct 15 WHO African regional office weekly report


WHO, UNICEF support Philippines in major polio campaign

The WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are supporting the Philippines Department of Health as it launches a vaccination campaign to immunize 1.8 million kids against polio.

In September the Philippines confirmed two polio cases, the country's first cases in decades. 

The immunization campaign launched yesterday and will continue through Oct 27, targeting children under 5. The campaign will take place in Metro Manila, Davao City, Marawi City, Davao del Sur, and Lanao del Sur.

"To stop this outbreak, we aim to reach nearly two million children within two weeks. We will work closely with the Department of Health to achieve this target," said the acting WHO representative in the Philippines, Rabindra Abeyasinghe, MD.

According to UNICEF, the Philippines has seen a decline of immunization coverage in the past few years: In 2018, 66% of children completed their oral polio vaccine (drops) doses and 45% received their inactivated polio vaccine (injection) dose. Coverage with the polio vaccine needs to reach 95% to stop the spread of the virus.
Oct 15 UNICEF press release
Sep 20 CIDRAP News scan "Philippines reports 2nd polio case; more cases confirmed in Africa"

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