New coalition to target viral spillovers

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The Lancet and the Coalition for Preventing Pandemics at the Source yesterday announced that they have convened the new Commission on Prevention of Viral Spillover.

This commission strives to mobilize decision makers to act to limit viral spillovers through research, policy, law, and practice, reducing the risk of future pandemics. The commission said viral spillovers between animals and humans have been the source of five viral pandemics in the last century (1918 influenza, 1957–58 influenza, 1968 influenza, 2009 influenza, and HIV), and more recently, COVID-19.

Commission to produce report within 3 years

"Spillovers are a reminder that humans are inherently part of nature and that human wellbeing is intertwined with that of animals and the environment. As such, adopting a One Health approach when addressing viral pandemic threats is imperative," authors wrote in The Lancet.

Spillovers are a reminder that humans are inherently part of nature.

The initial goals of the coalition are to conduct original research and published a comprehensive report in 2 to 3 years on viral spillover prevention. A total of 28 experts are on the commission, from fields ranging from epidemiology, veterinary medicine, and food systems management.

Climate change, deforestation, and biosafety in veterinary care and animal husbandry will be early foci for the commission.

UNICEF plans for malaria vaccine purchase

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DFID / Flickr cc

Today UNICEF announced it would purchase a supply of the world’s second malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, in a deal to inoculate children in vulnerable regions. The 4-year deal is contingent on pre-qualification of the product from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It is heartbreaking and unacceptable that almost half a million children die of malaria every year. This agreement is a critical step towards protecting more children from this deadly disease,” said Director of UNICEF Supply Division Leila Pakkala, MD, in a press release on the agreement.

The WHO estimates malaria kills one child under age 5 every minute.

R21/Matrix-M follows RTS,S, the first approved malaria vaccine anticipated to start being used later this year. They are the first two vaccines to target a parasitic disease, and are the result of 35 years of research and development.

UNICEF is the world’s largest vaccine purchaser, buying more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine childhood immunizations in 100 countries around the world.

Avian flu outbreaks strike poultry farms in 2 more states

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Minnesota and Montana reported highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks on commercial poultry farms, part of a small rise in activity that began early this month. The uptick follows a lull during warmer-weather months, though detections have continued in wild birds, with occasional spillovers to mammals such as harbor seals in Washington.

barn turkeys
Mizzou CAFNR, Morgan Lieberman / Flickr cc

In Minnesota, the outbreak occurred at a turkey farm in Meeker County in the central part of the state that houses 140,000 birds, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The event marks the first appearance of the virus in Minnesota poultry flocks since mid-May.

Elsewhere, Montana’s outbreak was reported at a poultry farm in Glacier County in the northwest corner of the state at a facility that has 50,300 birds, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Montana last reported the virus in a poultry flock in April.

The outbreaks in poultry involve a Eurasian H5N1 clade circulating globally, and since US outbreaks began in early 2022, the virus has led to the loss of a record 59.1 million birds across 47 states, according to APHIS.

Study: Immunity from infection a major driver in Netherlands mpox decline

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An analysis of the Netherlands’ mpox outbreak and measures to battle the disease suggest that infection-induced immunity, rather than vaccination, may have been the biggest contributor to a sharp decline in cases in summer 2022. Researchers from the country reported their findings this week on the medRxiv preprint server.

back lesions
Photo: CDC

For the study, they used public health records to examine cases and vaccines administered to calculate uptake and coverage. They also examined behavioral trends based on data from people who visited sexual health centers.

The country’s outbreak peaked in early July 2022, then declined sharply. The preventive vaccine campaign started on July 25, with 29,851 doses delivered, with 45.8% receiving at least one dose and 35.4% who were fully vaccinated. Researchers estimated that the vaccine effectiveness was 68.2% (95% confidence interval, 4.3% to 89.5%).

They did not see a decrease in high-risk behavior, though they said the impact couldn’t be demonstrated with the available indicators. The group said it’s not likely that the vaccine triggered the outbreak decline, given that cases started falling before the mpox vaccine program began. “We hypothesise that infection-induced immunity in high-risk groups contributed most to the decline,” they wrote.

Foodborne illness outbreak in Utah linked to raw milk

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Health officials in Utah are investigating a cluster of campylobacteriosis cases linked to raw milk.

In a press release, officials with the Salt Lake County Health Department say they have identified 10 people in the county with campylobacteriosis, a gastrointestinal illness caused by the bacterium Campylobacter, with four additional cases reported statewide. Twelve of the 14 patients have confirmed raw milk consumption, the source of which has not yet been identified.

The patients' ages range from 2 to 73 years old. One patient has been hospitalized but is now recovering at home.

Campylobacter is among the species of foodborne illness-causing bacteria found in raw, unpasteurized milk. Infection with the bacterium causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting, and illness can be serious for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

State officials warn that drinking raw milk may be dangerous and advise residents to consume only dairy products that have been pasteurized.

There have been 25 outbreaks of Campylobacter linked to raw milk in the state since 2009, resulting in 295 people becoming ill.

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