WHO extends public health emergency for DRC Ebola outbreak
The World Health Organization (WHO) Ebola emergency committee that met today to review the outbreak situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recommended continuing the public health emergency of international concern under International Health Regulations.
At a media briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said he accepted the group's recommendation, and said he will travel to Kinshasa tomorrow to meet with the DRC's president.
He said the situation is still fragile, and there's still a threat, as long as there is a single case in an area as insecure as the outbreak region. Efforts must focus on building the country's health system, he added, as part of steps to prevent the next outbreak.
Robert Steffen, MD, the emergency committee's chair, said the committee is pleased about significant progress in the two hardest-hit provinces and that only two health districts have recently reported cases. The committee downgraded the risk to the regional and national areas from very high to high. The global risk is low. He said there are still two dark clouds on the horizon with the outbreak: continued aggression by rebel groups and a lack of global financial support for the outbreak response.
Today's meeting was the emergency committee's sixth for the DRC's outbreak. WHO emergency committees typically meet every 3 months, or sooner if needed, to reassess developments and tweak their recommendations.
According to the WHO's online Ebola dashboard, there is one new Ebola case, raising the total to 3,432. So far, 2,249 people have died from their infections, and health officials are still investigating 537 suspected cases. For the week ending Feb 9, three new cases were reported, all from Beni.
Feb 12 WHO statement
WHO online Ebola dashboard
Saudi Arabia reports 6th MERS case this month
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported another new MERS-CoV case today, the sixth case this month.
The new case involves a 34-year-old man from Dhahran whose exposure to MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) is listed as primary, meaning it is unlikely he contracted the virus from another person. The man's camel contact status is unknown, and he is not a healthcare worker.
Saudi Arabia reported 15 cases in January, including a probable healthcare-related cluster of 6 cases in Abha.
The WHO said in its latest monthly update that, since 2012, it has received reports of 2,499 MERS-CoV cases, at least 861 of them fatal. The vast majority of these cases were in Saudi Arabia.
Feb 12 MOH report
EPA registers first Candida auris disinfectants for hospitals
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the availability of 11 products that can be used to disinfect surfaces against the multidrug-resistant fungus Candida auris, an emerging pathogen that has proven difficult for healthcare facilities to eradicate.
Agency officials say they hope that the products registered today, which include sporicidal and germicidal sprays and wipes, will help hospitals and nursing homes reduce the spread of the pathogen, which can cause severe and deadly invasive infections, persists on healthcare surfaces, and spreads easily between patients.
"Disinfecting surfaces is one of the best ways to stop the spread of C. auris infections, and EPA's efforts are helping to ensure that healthcare providers have products that can effectively reduce the spread of the dangerous fungus," Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, JD, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in an agency press release.
The EPA says it's been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure the products are effective. Prior to these 11 products being registered, there were no antimicrobial pesticides registered specifically for use against C auris. But the CDC says testing has confirmed that some disinfectants with an EPA claim for Clostridioides difficile are also effective against the fungus.
Since it was first detected in the United States in July 2016, C auris has spread to hospitals in 16 states. According to the CDC's most recent case count, there were 988 confirmed C auris cases as of Dec 31, 2019, and 30 probable cases. An additional 2,051 patients have been found to be colonized.
New initiative aims to reduce antibiotic residue in pharma manufacturing
The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) launched a new initiative this week that aims to reduce emissions of antibiotic residue from pharmaceutical manufacturing.
The Responsible Antibiotics Manufacturing Platform (RAMP) will bring together governments, civil society, and the pharmaceutical industry to improve responsible manufacturing and the supply of antibiotics.
"Reducing emissions of antibiotics from manufacturing is a shared responsibility," Nicolai Schaaf, program manager of SIWI’s Pharma Team, said in a SIWI press release. "This requires changes both in industry practices and when it comes to market demand and regulation. Acknowledging this as a shared objective in the fight against antimicrobial resistance is the starting point for our collaboration platform."
The platform was launched in New Delhi, India. India is one of the world's largest manufacturers of antibiotics, and studies of wastewater from Indian pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities have found high concentrations of antibiotic residues. Experts believe that when this water is released into the environment, the antibiotic residues can promote the development and spread of antibiotic resistance.
The launch comes on the heels of legislation introduced by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that would make India the first country to limit the concentration of antibiotics in wastewater discharged by the pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.
Feb 10 SIWI press release