News Scan for Jun 20, 2018

News brief

Ebola in DRC: 5 more suspected cases in Iboko

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) health ministry reported five more suspected cases of Ebola in Iboko health zone, as lab testing ruled out seven previously suspected cases.

There are now a total of 60 cases, including 28 deaths (38 confirmed, 14 probable, and 8 suspected). The case-fatality rate is 47%.

According to the latest situation report from the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday, officials have not confirmed any new Ebola cases since May 17 in Bikoro and Wangata health zones, and the last confirmed case patient in Iboko health zone developed symptoms on Jun 2 and died on Jun 8.

"The number of contacts requiring follow-up is progressively decreasing, with a total 1,417 completing the mandatory 21-day follow-up period," the WHO said. As of Jun 17, a total of 289 contacts were still being monitored.

Despite the signs of slowing transmission, the WHO said the current risk level in the DRC is still high.
Jun 19 DRC report

Jun 19 WHO situation report


Oxitec targets malaria-spreading mosquitos

Oxitec yesterday announced its partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop their trademarked "Friendly" mosquitoes to target Anopheles albimanus, one of the most important vectors transmitting malaria in the Western Hemisphere.

The "Friendly" mosquitoes are male-selecting strains that mate with wild females. According to Oxitec, only male offspring with a self-limiting gene survive to adulthood.

"When deployed as part of an integrated vector control program, this strain is anticipated to dramatically reduce wild populations of this malaria-transmitting mosquito species, while still ensuring Oxitec self-limiting mosquitoes do not persist in the environment," Oxitec said in a press release.

Previously, Oxitec used its genetically modifying technology to target Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Zika-endemic regions. The first batch of Friendly mosquitoes was launched in Indaiatuba, Brazil, in May of 2018.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said that tactics targeting vector control have been lacking in the fight against malaria, and Oxitec's mosquitoes offer a novel approach to limiting the disease.
Jun 19 Oxitec press release

Flu Scan for Jun 20, 2018

News brief

H5 avian flu outbreaks reported in Russia, Northern Ireland

Russia's agriculture ministry reported 16 more highly pathogenic H5 outbreaks, mostly in backyard poultry, according to a notification today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The outbreaks began from Jun 7 to Jun 19, affecting locations in three oblasts: Samarskaya, Kurskaya, and Penzenskaya, all in the country's southwest. Fourteen involved backyard poultry, and two occurred on farms. The virus killed 15,027 of 420,698 susceptible birds, and the remaining ones were slated for culling.

Newly reported outbreaks come a week after the country reported an initial H5 outbreak in backyard birds in Kurskaya oblast.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) yesterday reported highly pathogenic H5N6 in a second graylag goose found dead in a park in County Armagh. The report comes just a few days after the country reported the first detection in the same area.

Earlier this month the park where the geese were found hosted a large agricultural show, according to reports flagged by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog. Agriculture officials met with representatives of the poultry industry after the first detection, and so far there's no sign of sick or infected poultry linked to the show.
Jun 20 OIE report on H5 in Russia
Jun 19 DAERA report
Jun 20 AFD post on H5N6 in Northern Ireland


Survey: 73% of health workers agree with mandatory flu vaccination

An online survey of 2,438 healthcare personnel (HCP) conducted in April of 2017 revealed that 72.9% supported a mandatory flu vaccination policy for HCP. The results of the survey are published in a letter to the editor in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

A total of 78.6% of respondents said they received the flu vaccine during the 2016-17 season, and 42.3% of respondents said they worked in a setting with employee vaccination requirements.

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the survey via an opt-in web panel. Participants were asked how much they agree with the statement, "Healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated for the flu," and rate their agreement on a 4-point scale.

Among HCP who had gotten vaccinated, 83.5% expressed agreement with the statement, compared with 33.9% among HCP who did not get the flu vaccine.

"Most HCP from all occupational groups and healthcare settings agreed with vaccination requirements, including 33.9% of those not vaccinated. . . . Interventions known to improve coverage, such as educating workers and offering vaccine on site, at no cost, and during work hours should be implemented," the authors concluded.
Jun 19 Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol

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