News Scan for Dec 14, 2020

News brief

CDC details costs for school COVID-19 mitigation

Data published late last week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) detailed public school costs for recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies, which averaged $442 per student but varied widely.

The CDC provided COVID-19-mitigation guidance to schools in March followed by a series of updates, the most recent issued on Dec 3. Five primary transmission control strategies are recommended for schools, including mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing.

Researchers estimated school costs incurred to implement four of the mitigation strategies—excluding contact tracing because those costs are not financed by school district budgets. Three categories of costs were considered: materials and consumables, additional custodial staff expenses, and additional transportation costs.

The researchers analyzed costs nationally and for each state and the District of Columbia (DC). National costs per student for mitigation measures ranged from a mean of $55 for materials and consumables only to $442 for materials, custodial staff, and transportation costs.

"The highest cost categories were related to employing additional custodians per school (44.8% of total costs) and potential additional transportation (42.8% of total cost)," the report authors wrote.

State-based estimates showed an increase in costs per student ranging from $47 to $109 for materials and consumables only and from $204 and $912 per student for implementation of all strategies combined.

"Additional funds needed as a percentage of fiscal year 2018 per-student expenditures range from 0.3% (materials and consumables only) to 7.1% (all three categories)," the report authors noted.

"These findings offer schools, school districts, and other decision makers cost information necessary to budget and prioritize school resources during the COVID-19 pandemic," the authors wrote. "The cost estimates illustrate the level of resources needed to help ensure that schools both reopen and operate in the safest possible manner."
Dec 11 MMWR study


Five new Montana hunting areas report chronic wasting disease in deer

A report last week in the Mountain Journal notes that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is spreading among Montana's wildlife, with five new hunting areas showing CWD-positive deer for the first time in early December.

CWD—a fatal transmissible neurologic disease occurring in deer, elk, and other cervids—is caused by misfolded proteins, or prions, that produce lesions in the brains and other organs of affected animals. Wildlife managers are increasingly concerned about CWD, which can impact the size and growth of wildlife populations and appears to be expanding in scope across the state. CWD was first detected in captive game farms in the state in 1999.

Five new hunting areas within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem recorded positive tests in wildlife for the first time during the first week of December. The report found evidence for a major emerging CWD hot spot along the lower Ruby River near Sheridan, where a 23.3% positivity rate was found among 335 tissue samples, a percentage far above the norm.

The latest Montana CWD map shows the disease has reached all corners of the state and likely exists everywhere in between, according to the story.

Experts with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) said in a news release that, despite logistical challenges posed by COVID-19, sampling for CWD in hunter-harvested animals went well this season. They also note there is no known transmission of CWD to humans. But scientists have cautioned that the potential exists.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting a deer, elk, or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested for CWD prior to consuming the meat, and to not consume the meat if the animal tests positive," MFWP experts wrote in the news release.
Dec 9 Mountain Journal report
Dec 4 MFWP news release


Avian flu strikes more poultry, wild birds in Europe, Israel, Asia

Highly pathogenic avian flu, mostly H5N8, struck more poultry in several location in Europe, Asia, and Israel, according to official and media reports. Also, the virus was detected in more wild birds in several European countries.

Ireland reported an H5N8 outbreak at a free-range turkey farm in County Wicklow on the country's eastern coast, sickening 5 of 127 susceptible birds. In England, outbreaks hit poultry farms in three locations with start dates on Dec 1 and Dec 3, one in North Yorkshire and two in Norfolk. Taken together, the virus killed 5,542 of 84,564 birds.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine reported one more H5 outbreak in village poultry in Nikolayev oblast, which began on Dec 8 sickening 3 of 115 birds.

In related developments, several European countries reported more detections in wild birds. The UK reported both H5N8 and H5N5, and Belgium, Germany, and Ireland reported H5N8.

Israel reported one more H5N8 event in poultry, which began Dec 8 at a turkey farm in Yerushalayim, killing 100 of 185,000 birds.

In Asia, H5N8 outbreaks in poultry in Japan have now been detected in 10 of the country's 47 prefectures, Reuters reported. Agriculture officials said the H5N8 strain is similar to the one fueling outbreaks in South Korea, but it's distinct from the H5N8 strain currently circulating in European birds. Last week, South Korea ordered a ban on poultry movement for the whole country, according to a separate report from Reuters. The country has reported 10 outbreaks since late November.
Dec 11 OIE report on H5N8 in Ireland
Dec 11 OIE report on H5N8 in the UK
Dec 14 OIE report on H5 in Ukraine
OIE outbreak page that includes wild bird outbreaks
Dec 12 OIE report on H5N8 in Israel
Dec 13 Reuters report on H5N8 in Japan
Dec 11 Reuters report on H5N8 in South Korea

In low-pathogenic developments, the Netherlands reported an H5 outbreak at a commercial poultry farm in South Holland province.
Dec 14 OIE report on low-path H5 in the Netherlands

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