News Scan for Jan 28, 2020

News brief

Two more Ebola cases recorded in DRC; Beni remains hot spot

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) grew by 2 cases today, bringing the total to 3,420, including 2,240 deaths. Six hundred cases are still under investigation, according to the online Ebola dashboard maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yesterday the DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) confirmed that one new case was located in Beni. The CMRE also updated vaccination numbers. As of yesterday 7,611 people had been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson's Ebola vaccine, and 276,520 had received Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV.

According to the latest weekly update from the WHO's African regional office, Beni and Mabalako remain the outbreak hot spots, with 51% of cases confirmed in the last 3 weeks coming from Beni.

"Enhanced surveillance performance has helped ensure faster isolation of sick individuals, which in turn decreases the likelihood of infection in the community," the regional office said.  "Continued access and heightened vigilance is required to sustain these gains in case investigation and contact tracing activities."
WHO Ebola
Jan 27 CMRE
Jan 27 WHO African regional office


Lassa fever in Nigeria shows another seasonal surge

Lassa fever cases in Nigeria's ongoing outbreak rose significantly in the first 3 weeks of 2020, which fits with an annual surge of cases at this time of year, the WHO African regional office said today in its weekly outbreak and health emergencies update.

So far this year, 398 suspected cases have been reported, which includes 163 confirmed cases in nine states. Among the confirmed cases, 24 have been fatal.

The overall case-fatality rate of the confirmed cases is 14.7%—considerably lower than the 23.4% seen during the same period in 2019. People ages 11 to 40 are among the hardest-hit groups, with equal proportions of females and males. So far this year no healthcare worker infections have been reported.

The WHO said that, since 2018, an increase in Lassa cases has typically been reported from December to June in Nigeria, with sporadic cases reported the rest of the year. The disease is endemic in the country, where the virus is usually spread by rodents, though human transmission can occur through contact with body fluids from an infected person.
Jan 28 WHO African regional office weekly report


FDA warns Gojo over hand sanitizer claims regarding Ebola, flu, superbugs

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned Gojo Industries, the maker of Purell over-the-counter hand sanitizers, to stop making unproven claims that the products help eliminate Ebola, influenza, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, CNN reported today.

The FDA admonished the company for making marketing claims that could position the hand sanitizers as drugs rather than nonprescription topical antiseptics. The Jan 17 letter from the agency's director of compliance cited several examples of what the FDA calls unproven claims for Purell products made on,, and social media.

Among the claims the FDA challenges:

  • "Kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA & VRE," referring to vancomycin-resistant enterococci
  • "Demonstrated effectiveness against a drug resistant clinical strain of Candida auris in lab testing"
  • "A recent outcome study shows that providing the right products, in a customized solution, along with educational resources for athletes and staff can reduce MRSA and VRE by 100%"

Gojo has also claimed that Purell hand sanitizers may be effective against Ebola virus, norovirus, and influenza, and that the products cut student absenteeism 51% and teacher absenteeism 10%.

Products at issue include Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gentle & Free Foam, Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel, Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Foam, Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gentle & Free Foam ES6 Starter Kit, and Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Ultra Nourishing Foam.
Jan 28 CNN story
Jan 17 FDA warning letter

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