NEWS SCAN: Anthrax in Bangladesh, flu reassortment in pigs, polio in Africa, pertussis cases missed, school flu resources

Sep 8, 2010

Bangladesh battles major anthrax outbreak
Bangladesh is battling a major outbreak of human and cattle anthrax infections, with more than 400 human cases and "scores" of cattle deaths, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report published today. Officials have described the outbreak as the biggest in the country's history, though no humans have died, the story said. The government has set up checkpoints at cattle markets, put livestock and health officials on "red alert," and sent emergency veterinary teams to the eight affected districts. Meat consumption has dropped sharply as consumers have shunned beef for fear of the disease, the report said. Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax pathogen, occurs in soil and infects livestock that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing, the story noted. People can contract it by handling or eating infected animals. In humans the pathogen can cause cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and lung infections, the last two of which are often fatal. A Sep 5 BBC News report said all the human cases in Bangladesh at that point were cutaneous.
Sep 8 AFP story
Sep 5 BBC News story

Pigs found to have human, avian reassortant flu viruses
Chinese scientists documented two distinct groups of "human-like" H3N2 influenza viruses circulating in pigs: wholly human-like H3N2 viruses and double-reassortant viruses containing genes from "contemporary human" H3N2 as well as avian H5 viruses. The researchers, who collected nasopharyngeal swab samples in 2007 and 2008 in Jilin, China, and analyzed them genetically and phylogenetically, say it is the first example of the coexistence of these two flu types in pigs. They write, "The coexistence of reassortant viruses, especially reassortants of H3 and H5 viruses, emphasizes that genetic reassortment is an important factor in the evolution of H3N2 viruses, and a formal surveillance system is needed for swine and avian influenza." The novel H1N1 virus that caused the 2009-10 pandemic contained genes from human, swine, and avian influenza strains.
Sep 7 PLoS ONE study

WHO warns about polio in central Africa
Fresh outbreaks of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in Angola have spread to a neighboring area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a combination of events that poses the biggest threat to Africa's polio eradication efforts, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. In a statement, the agency said Angola's polio outbreaks, which began in 2007, have affected six provinces that were considered polio-free. The virus has also spread to the DRC's Kasai Occidental province, and a WPV1 case in Katanga province with an onset date of Jun 20 has been linked to a virus imported from Angola in 2008, the agency said. The same transmission chain was identified in a 2009 case detected in Burundi. The WHO termed polio-control measures in Angola and the DRC inadequate and said the risk of further international spread of WPV1 from the two countries is high. The countries urgently need to improve their polio immunization and disease surveillance efforts, and countries across Africa need to strengthen their acute flaccid paralysis surveillance to rapidly detect and respond to polio importations, the agency said.
Sep 8 WHO statement

Pertussis diagnosis missed in California infants who died
California health officials said the eight infants who have died of whooping cough (pertussis) this year were not diagnosed as having the disease despite repeated visits to hospitals and clinics, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. As a result, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently sent a letter to physicians advising that anyone younger than 6 months who has trouble breathing should be treated for pertussis until the disease is ruled out, the story said. "By the time these infants developed severe respiratory distress, it was usually too late for any intervention to prevent their tragic deaths," John Talarico, the state's immunization branch chief, wrote in the letter. A similar letter was sent to hospitals. Meanwhile, the CDPH said yesterday that 3,834 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of pertussis have been reported in the state this year, seven times as many as at this time last year. The number signals an incidence of 9.8 cases per 100,000 people, the highest since 1962. Of 1,549 cases with available information, 187 patients were hospitalized, 139 of whom were under 6 months of age. Seven of the eight infants who died were less than 2 months old and had not received any doses of pertussis vaccine, the agency said.
Sep 7 AP story
Sep 7 CDPH pertussis update

CDC updates flu resources for schools
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday released two flu prevention resources for schools. One is an updated guide to help administrators reduce the spread of seasonal flu, which reflects the CDC's current thinking on the flu threat for the upcoming season. The agency expects that the 2009 H1N1 virus will cause illnesses again and that other flu viruses will likely circulate. The CDC emphasizes that flu viruses are unpredictable but says schools can play an important role in reducing their spread by, for example, educating students, staff, and parents about recognizing and preventing the disease. About 55 million students and 7 million staff—about one fifth of the nation's population—attend schools each day, according to the CDC.
CDC seasonal flu prevention guidance for schools
CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting schools

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