News Scan for May 23, 2017

News brief

Six more cases of Ebola reported in DRC

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) situation report, there are now 43 suspected cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is six more probable cases since the last situation report released yesterday.

Also, three new possible case contacts were identified, bringing the number of people currently being monitored to 365. To date, a total of 419 contacts have been identified, with 54 making it through the follow-up period without signs of infection.

The six new cases were identified in the Nambwa health area, which is in Lakati health district, the site of the DRC's eighth Ebola outbreak. The district is remote and hard to reach, which has helped limit the spread of the deadly virus. A team from Medicines sans Frontieres arrived in Nambwa on Monday to help assist with cases.

The WHO said radio messaging was being used throughout Likati to help educate and inform people about the risks of Ebola virus disease.
May 23 WHO situation report


Meningococcus C strain confirmed in more Liberian cluster patients

A new report from the World Health Organization African Regional Office (WHO-ARO) said that a strain of meningococcus C most likely caused the mysterious Liberian illness that led to 31 illnesses and 13 deaths last month. The last case was reported on May 7, and the last death occurred on May 2.

Tests conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Neisseria meningitidis serotype C in 13 of 24 samples from patients. The bacterium caused meningococcal disease, a blood infection, as opposed to the more common meningitis.

The number of positive tests is up sharply from four reported on May 10, when the WHO said an investigation was still underway to explore other possible sources of the illness.

The illness has been traced back to a funeral held in Sinoe County in late April. Contact tracing has followed 214 people, including 110 who attended the funeral, but so far no new cases have been reported in 3 weeks.

"The available laboratory results and clinical picture of the disease are suggestive of meningococcal disease outbreak," the report concluded. "These findings are consistent with the pathogenesis of meningococcal septicaemia, also called meningococcal disease."
May 23 WHO ARO report


WHO notes two clusters in recent H7N9 cases in China

Two clusters are among a group of 23 H7N9 avian influenza cases reported by China on May 13, the WHO said today in an update.

Seven of the patients died from their infections and 15 had either pneumonia or severe pneumonia; 1 had a mild infection. Nineteen had been exposed to poultry or live poultry markets, one had contact with a hospitalized patient, and one had exposure to both poultry and a previously confirmed case-patient. The two remaining case-patients had no known poultry exposure.

All of the patients were adults who hailed from Beijing and 10 different provinces.

The first cluster includes a 63-year-old man from Shaanxi province who was hospitalized on May 2 with a mild illness after visiting a confirmed case-patient in the hospital, a 62-year-old man from the same province. The other involves a 37-year-old woman from Hebei province who was hospitalized on May 3 with pneumonia. She had raised backyard poultry but also had contact with her 62-year-old mother who had been sick with an H7N9 infection in the middle of April.

In its risk assessment, the WHO said that although small clusters of H7N9 illnesses have been reported, including patients in the same hospital ward, so far evidence suggests the virus doesn't spread easily among humans and the likelihood of further community spread is low.

Since the virus was first detected in humans in 2013, the WHO has received reports of 1,486 cases. Most are from China, which is still in the midst of its fifth and biggest wave of illnesses and in which at least 700 cases have been reported since October.
May 23 WHO statement


Study: Parents who skip vaccination looked down on by peers

A new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) measured the attitudes parents have toward peers who skip vaccinations for their children and showed that mothers who don't vaccinate are perceived in a harsh light regardless of their reasons.

The study was conducted as an online survey and measured responses to four scenarios: A mother who outright refuses to vaccinate, a mother who delays vaccinating because of safety concerns, a mother who wants to vaccinate but has missed appointments because of time constraints, and a mother who always vaccinates her children. 

"If the parent has simply refused vaccines, we found that people view them more negatively than if the parent delayed some vaccines because of safety concerns or if they didn't have time because of work or family demands," said Richard Carpiano, PhD, the study's lead author and UBC sociology professor.

Unvaccinated children, regardless of the reasoning behind the decision were treated with more "distancing" attitudes and behaviors, according to responses from 1,469 US participants in the survey.

The results of the study are published in the latest issue of Social Science and Medicine.
May 23 UBC press release
May 6 Soc Sci Med


Botulism toxin found in gas station nacho cheese

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed that liquid nacho cheese sold at a Sacramento County gas station was contaminated with the toxin that causes botulism. Ten people have gotten sick and one person died after eating the cheese sauce, which was removed from the gas station on May 5.

"While there are still unanswered questions about this outbreak, these tragic illnesses are important reminders to be vigilant about food safety," said CDPH director and state public health officer Karen Smith, MD, in a press release.

According to the CDPH, foodborne botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Foodborne botulism is fatal in about 5% of cases.

The CDPH said there is no continuing threat to the public.
May 23 CDPH press release

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