News Scan for Jun 24, 2016

News brief

Obama veto threat looms over latest version of Zika funding bill

President Obama yesterday signaled he would veto a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill passed by the House of Representatives before they adjourned for the 4th of July break, Reuters reported. He said he objects to the deal reached through House and Senate conferencing because it is well short of the $1.9 billion the administration requested back in February.

White House spokesman Ed Schultz said the bill strips money from other important health measures and limits contraceptives for women at risk for Zika virus, according to Reuters.

The funding bill will likely be up for a Senate vote next week, where Democrats, though in the minority, have more leverage for its passage than their peers in the House, Reuters reported. Lawmakers aren't likely to take any further steps until after their July 4 recess, which puts the United States and its territories further into summer mosquito season.

House Appropriations Committee chair Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said $543 million of the bill would come from unspent funds earmarked to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in US territories, $107 million from unspent Ebola money, and $100 million in unused administrative money from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), according to Reuters.
Jun 23 Reuters story


Saudi Arabia reports another hospital-linked MERS case

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) reported another case of MERS today.  A 25-year-old Saudi woman contracted the disease as a patient at King Khalid University Hospital in Riyadh. She is asymptomatic and is in stable condition.

As of this week, the MOH has reported 30 cases of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) in Riyadh, many of them connected to the hospital outbreak. After a surge of cases last week, the number of new illnesses has slowed substantially.

The MOH also reported the death of a 68-year-old Saudi man from Medina. He was previously reported as having a history of frequent contact with camels and drinking raw camel milk.  MERS-CoV has been found in camels, which can pass the virus to people.

The developments lift Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total since 2012 to 1,420 and its number of deaths from the disease to 596. Fourteen patients are still being treated for their infections.
Jun 24 MOH report
Related Jun 20 CIDRAP News story


FDA extends shelf life for Flublok

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a longer shelf life for Flublok, the cell culture seasonal influenza vaccine made by Protein Sciences Corp.  The agency said the vaccine can be given for 9 months from the date of manufacture, a 3-month increase.

In a statement from Protein Sciences, the vice president of the company said they were pleased with the FDA’s decision and working on obtaining a 1-year shelf life for the vaccine. Extending the shelf life of the vaccine helps protect people throughout the flu season, Protein Sciences said.

The FDA approved Flublok in Jan 2013 as the first and only egg-free influenza vaccine used in adults 18 and older. Flublok contains no preservatives. In June 2015 the FDA granted Protein Science exclusive marketing rights to Flublok for 12 years, the first vaccine awarded this status.
Jun 23 Protein Sciences press release

In other flu vaccine developments, the International Journal of Infectious Disease published the first study to assess the safety of cell culture flu vaccine in children, which showed that it has a similar safety profile as egg-derived flu vaccine.

The phase 3 study concluded that both types of vaccines have acceptable tolerability and similar safety profiles for children ages 3 to 18.  Tenderness and pain at the site of injections were the most common adverse events, reported in about half of children receiving either type of vaccine. There were no serious adverse events described with either vaccine.
Jun 23 Int J of Infect Dis study


House investigators get omitted lab incident reports from CDC

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently supplied a Congressional committee with 34 incident reports that it inadvertently omitted from a request for information, according to a report today from USA Today in its latest series exposing problems with US biolab safety.

In 2014 the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the CDC for information on lab incidents since 2002, and it recently questioned what the agency submitted after USA Today in May reported that an incident related to work with Japanese encephalitis virus at the CDC's Fort Collins facility wasn't in reports sent to the committee.

Stephan Monroe, PhD, the CDC's associate director for laboratory science, said the CDC's original response mistakenly only covered events that occurred at its lab facilities in Atlanta, according to the report. He said about 30 of the previously undisclosed incidents occurred at the Fort Collins lab from Nov 2010 through Jan 2011, relating to vials stored in unapproved freezers and cold storage areas. CDC labs in Puerto Rico and Anchorage each had one incident involving a select agent found in an area not registered to have it.

USA Today said a small number of the newly reported incidents involved potential exposure to lab workers doing lab specimen inventory at the Fort Collins lab. Monroe said workers were wearing protective equipment and no infections occurred.
Jun 24 USA Today report


Study: 12.5% US kids susceptible to measles

In the first rigorous estimate of the number of US children and adolescents susceptible to measles, researchers put the overall number at 12.5%, with the level sharply higher in children age 3 and younger. Using information from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Immunization Survey-Teen between 2008 and 2013, a team based at Emory University reported their findings yesterday in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

They noted that though imported cases have sparked outbreaks in the United States, they haven't led to sustained transmission. However, the team noted that the susceptible number accumulates with each birth cohort. Their analysis accounted for vaccine effectiveness, infant protection from maternal antibodies, and immunity loss after childhood cancer treatment.

Vaccination levels are high in the United States, approaching or higher than the 92% herd immunity benchmark, they found. However, the group estimated that a drop to the level seen in 2009 would add nearly 1.2 million children and adolescents to the group susceptible to measles.

They said the findings underscore the importance of maintaining high vaccination coverage. In the wake of earlier outbreaks, such as one linked to Disneyland that sickened more than 100 in several different states, health officials warned that the disease can spread in undervaccinated pockets of the population.
Jun 23 Am J Epidemiol abstract


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