NEWS SCAN: Measles up in Europe, Ebola case in Uganda, dengue vaccine prediction, H1N1 vaccine & race, polio in Pakistan, malaria vs malaria

May 16, 2011

European measles cases top 7,000
Measles cases in Europe continue to surge, according to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Regional Office for Europe. The WHO European Region, which includes some Asian nations, has now confirmed 7,028 cases of the disease, up by more than 500 since its last report on Apr 20. The agency cautioned that the actual number of cases may be higher because of variations in reporting. It also reported detecting 25 cases involving a new genotype for Europe, G3, which is commonly found in Southeast Asia. The regional report said that large, extended outbreaks can be expected to continue in areas where coverage with two doses of measles vaccine is below 95%. A Mar 6 report from the same agency showed several WHO European Region nations to be in that category, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Austria. (The report showed no vaccine-coverage data for France, by far the hardest-hit country in the region.)
May WHO Epidemiological Brief
Apr 20 WHO Europe press release
Mar 6 WHO Epidemiological Brief

Ugandan girl dies of Ebola fever
A 12-year-old girl in Uganda recently died of Ebola fever, marking the country's first reported case since 2007, according to news reports. The girl, who was from the Luwero district north of Kampala, died May 6, according to Anthony Mbonye, Uganda's commissioner for community health, as reported by Reuters. "Laboratory investigations have confirmed Ebola to be the primary cause of the illness and death. So there is one case reported, but we expect other cases," Mbonye said. Uganda's last Ebola outbreak, in 2007, killed 37 people, the story said. Mbonye said 33 people who are believed to have had contact with the girl are being monitored closely for signs of illness, the Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor reported today.
May 14 Reuters story
May 16 Daily Monitor story

Sanofi exec predicts launch of dengue vaccine in 2014
The head of vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur said the company hopes to launch its dengue virus vaccine in 2014 and to produce about 100 million doses per year, according to Reuters. "It's a considerable amount: by comparison we produce around 200 million doses of flu vaccine each year," Olivier Charmeil, the company's CEO, told Reuters. "We have been working on this for 15 years." There is currently no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever or its more serious complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever. Sanofi is one of several companies working on dengue vaccines and is regarded as the furthest along. The company launched a phase 3 clinical trial in Australia last November.
May 13 Reuters report

Survey teases out racial 2009 H1N1 vaccination differences
Racial differences in flu vaccine uptake persisted during the 2009 H1N1 immunization campaign, but with some variation across groups, according to a survey in the American Journal of Public Health. The survey, of 3,537 people conducted in March 2010, mirrored national data obtained by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a few weeks into the 2009 H1N1 vaccine campaign. While uptake levels were similar in white and Hispanic populations, the level for blacks lagged that of whites, 13.8% to 20.4%. For the seasonal flu vaccine, uptake in Hispanic and black populations was lower than for whites. The researchers suggested the lower vaccination rates in blacks could stem from distrust of the vaccines, despite targeted communications campaigns. They also suggested that Hispanics may have had a higher awareness of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine because the virus originated in Mexico. The survey also found that doctor's offices were common vaccination sites for all groups, and blacks were least likely to be immunized at retail clinics.
May 12 Am J Public Health abstract

Pakistan polio levels rise, despite vaccine activities
Global health groups voiced concerns about continued reports of polio cases in Pakistan, despite intensive vaccination efforts, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported May 14. The country has reported 37 cases so far this year, including 15 from the Federal Administered Tribal Area (FATA), 11 from Sindh province, 8 from Balochistan province, and 3 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The level is more than double the 18 cases reported at this time last year. Officials from the WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently visited high-risk areas to observe vaccination activities, according to the report. They asked health workers to support Pakistan's latest polio eradication campaign, which is aimed at 33 million children. Health officials said two of the main challenges are accessing some communities at risk and convincing parents of the vaccine's importance.
Study: Malaria parasites protect their human turf
A person who has malaria and is bitten by a mosquito carrying another strain of the parasite is unlikely to get a second infection (superinfection), because the first infection blocks the second one in the liver, according to a study published yesterday by Nature Medicine. The study was conducted by scientists from the Instituto Medicina de Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal, and two other institutions. After a mosquito bite, malaria parasites first travel to the liver, where they multiply before invading red blood cells, according to a press release from the institute. The new study shows that in an infected person, a bite from another infected mosquito does not lead to a full-blown second infection because the existing blood parasites cause the liver parasites to be starved of iron, stopping their growth. Dr Hal Drakesmith, who co-led the study at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, commented in the release, "'Now that we understand how malaria parasites protect their territory in the body from competitor parasites, we may be able to enhance this natural defense mechanism to combat the risk of malaria infections." He added that the study raises questions about the advisability of iron supplementation programs in malaria-endemic regions.
May 15 Nature Med abstract
May 15 Instituto Medicina de Molecular press release


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