NEWS SCAN: Polio funding, Haiti's paralysis cases, dengue vaccine collaboration, FMD alert in Asia, diseases from pets

Jan 27, 2011

Polio efforts draw major funds, spark US-Russian pact
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi plan to give $50 million each to vaccinate children in Afghanistan and Pakistan against polio and other diseases, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Gates Foundation said a third of the money will go to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to provide polio vaccines in the two countries, and two-thirds will be used for two vaccines to protect young Afghan children from pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough, and other diseases, according to the story.

In other developments, the United States and Russia today signed an agreement to work together to eradicate polio, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in a news release. The agreement outlines a "globally-based partnership" on polio eradication between the US Agency for International Development, HHS, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Russia's Ministry of Health and Social Development, HHS said. Potential collaborative efforts may include disease surveillance, support for immunization campaigns, technical assistance, advocacy efforts, and other activities, the agency said. The agreement builds on previous successful US-Russian cooperation on global health, including work on HIV/AIDS in Africa. US and Russian officials signed the agreement while in Geneva to attend other meetings.
Jan 27 HHS press release

PAHO says polio unlikely as cause of paralysis in Haitian cholera patients
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said yesterday that polio probably did not cause the paralysis that recently afflicted four recovering cholera patients in Haiti, killing three of them. Officials from PAHO, the WHO, Haiti's Ministry of Health, and the CDC are investigating the cases and "are likely to rule out polio as a cause, pending laboratory results," the agency said. Polio was eliminated from the Americas in 1994, the statement noted. A cluster of neurologic illnesses in Haiti's Northwest department was first reported Jan 10. Four of the patients had signs and symptoms of acute bilateral flaccid paralysis; three patients died, and the fourth is recovering slowly in a Port-au-Prince hospital, PAHO reported. Polio was one of the first possibilities investigators considered, but it is unlikely, mainly because it does not produce a high mortality rate, officials said.
Jan 26 PAHO news release
In a related development, the Venezuelan health ministry said more than 20 Venezuelans contracted cholera while visiting Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, BBC News reported yesterday. The patients, who had traveled to the country for a wedding, were hospitalized in Caracas. A number of other Venezuelans are also thought to have the disease, the story said. It said Venezuela has had occasional cholera outbreaks in recent decades and has enough medical supplies to treat 10,000 patients. The report noted that nearly 200,000 Haitians have contracted cholera since the epidemic began last October, and 238 cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic.
Jan 26 BBC News report

US firm, Singapore school join to pursue dengue vaccine
Inviragen, a pharmaceutical firm based in Ft Collins, Colo., and Duke University's Singapore medical school announced yesterday that they have signed an agreement to research and develop vaccines against diseases such as dengue fever; hand, foot, and mouth disease; and chikungunya. Dr Joseph Santangelo, Inviragen's chief operating officer, said in a press release that Duke–National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School is conducting world-class research on emerging infectious diseases, and a goal of the collaboration is to improve global public health by developing safe and effective vaccines. Inviragen's lead product candidate is a dengue fever vaccine. The partnership plans to launch clinical trials of the dengue and hand, foot, and mouth vaccines in Singapore. A Bloomberg News story about the partnership noted that Sanofi Aventis has a dengue vaccine in phase 3 trials. The Duke–NUS Graduate School of Medicine was established in 2005 and will graduate its first class this year, according to the release.
Jan 26 Bloomberg story

FAO issues foot-and-mouth disease alert for Asia
Veterinarians and border-control officials in Asia should be on the alert for animals showing signs of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cautioned today. The alert comes after a South Korean FMD outbreak that started in November led to the culling of 2.2 million livestock, a vaccine campaign targeting 9 million swine and 3 million cattle, and quarantine measures, according to an FAO news release. Efforts to curb the highly infectious disease have cost the country $1.6 billion. "The current FMD dynamics in eastern Asia, as well as the magnitude of the outbreak in South Korea, are unlike anything that we've seen for at least a half century," said Juan Lubroth, FAO's chief veterinary officer, in the release. "This makes preparedness and monitoring extremely important right now." He said officials are especially concerned about the approaching Lunar New Year holiday, when large numbers of people will be traveling, many carrying meat products and some transporting animals. FAO's regional office is planning a meeting of chief veterinary officers in East Asia to discuss possible coordinated responses.
Jan 27 FAO press release

Review suggests limiting intimate contact with pets
People who own pets and share their beds with them—increasingly common practices—face an increased risk of contracting zoonotic diseases, claims a review article in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The article, which says as many as 45% of dog owners and 62% of cat owners at least on occasion share a bed with their pet, discusses cases caused by a broad range of bacterial, viral, and parasitic agents after exposure during sharing a bed, kissing , or being licked by a pet. Examples include plague outbreaks in New Mexico and Arizona after bed-sharing with a cat or dog, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection after sleeping with and being licked by a dog, Pasteurella multocida–associated meningitis after saliva exchange with a pet, and an increased risk of Chagas disease from sharing sleeping quarters with a pet. In addition to measures such as parasite prevention, the authors recommend not sleeping with or regularly kissing a pet, and that any area licked by a pet should be washed with soap and water, especially in children or immunocompromised people and for open wounds.
Jan 26 Emerg Infect Dis article

This week's top reads