News Scan for May 15, 2014

News brief

New phlebovirus related to Heartland virus discovered in Tasmania

A novel tick-borne phlebovirus related to the recently discovered Heartland virus that has infected at least eight US residents has been discovered in Tasmania state, Australia, according to a report yesterday in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Investigators from Australia and Singapore analyzed viruses obtained from shy albatrosses (Thalassarche cauta) and ticks (Ixodes eudyptidis) linked to an outbreak in 2002 on an island in an archipelago in northwestern Tasmania, which killed some of the birds.

Testing with antibodies against a range of known bunyaviruses (orthobunyavirus, phlebovirus, and nairovirus) did not reveal any cross-reactivity. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) failed to detect any specific sequence from the virus, but PCR amplification of RNA extracted from the virus resulted in sequences that did not match any found in GenBank.

The researchers had to delay confirmatory testing until the national animal lab can obtain next-generation sequencing capabilities.

The team named the new pathogen Hunter Island Group virus after the place where the tick samples were obtained. They said it is closely related genetically to the Heartland virus and to the severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus recently identified in China.
May 14 Emerg Infect Dis study
Mar 27 CIDRAP News scan on most recent Heartland cases


ECDC: 710-case Salmonella outbreak in Europe may not be over

A potentially ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Stanley infections linked to turkey products has affected at least 710 people in 10 European countries and likely stems from contamination early in the production process, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in two recent reports.

In a report today in Eurosurveillance, researchers from the ECDC and affected EU nations said that 710 suspected or confirmed cases were reported from August 2011 through January 2013. Two of three local outbreak investigations undertaken by affected countries in 2012 identified turkey meat as a vehicle of infection.

In addition, routine EU monitoring of animal sources showed that 298 (96%) of the 311 Salmonella Stanley isolates from animal samples in 2011 originated from the turkey food production chain. From  2004 through 2010, none had that origin. An indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profile was identified in 346 of 464 human, food, feed, environmental, and animal isolates from 16 EU countries, and 102 (91%) of 112 non-human isolates tested were from the turkey production chain.

The authors conclude, "On the basis of epidemiological and microbiological evidence, turkey meat was considered the primary source of human infection, following contamination early in the animal production chain."

Countries reporting the most outbreak cases were Hungary, 246; Austria, 190; Germany, 80; and the United Kingdom, 68. Other nations reporting 41 or fewer cases were Belgium, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Slovakia, and Greece.
May 15 Eurosurveillance report

In a May 8 outbreak assessment, the ECDC and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) noted that last month Austria reported 42 Salmonella Stanley infections, Scotland reported 3, and Hungary reported 13. Twelve of the cases in Austria and all the other cases involved the outbreak PFGE pattern. In addition, Germany reported a 14-case outbreak with a matching PFGE profile.

The ECDC said related cases and outbreaks will likely continue and encouraged EU nations to report them to the ECDC and log them in European databases.
May 8 ECDC/EFSA outbreak assessment


Pakistan mandates polio vaccine in travelers from tribal areas

For the second time in 3 days Pakistan has announced a polio vaccine mandate, this one for travelers coming from the country's Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which have been a polio hotspot.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued the order, and troops will be deployed at entry points to ensure that travelers from the FATA have received polio vaccination, Pakistan Today reported. Those refusing immunization will be denied entry.

A statement from Sharif said efforts to provide access to vaccination teams will increase in the FATA, and he has called for a polio task force to address the matter.

On May 13 Pakistan's health ministry said that everyone leaving Pakistan will be required to get a polio vaccination beginning Jun 1.
May 15 Pakistan Today story
May 14 CIDRAP News scan on the previous mandate

Avian Flu Scan for May 15, 2014

News brief

H7N9 sickens man after pigeon contact

China reported another H7N9 influenza case today, in a 66-year-old man from Jiangsu province, according to a provincial health department notice translated and posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board.

The man got sick after he slaughtered a pigeon he bought at a live market. He is listed in critical condition at a hospital in Wuxi.

The new case brings the overall outbreak total to 440, according to a list of officially confirmed cases kept by FluTrackers. So far 304 cases have occurred during the second wave of infections, which started last October, versus 136 in the first.
May 15 FluTrackers thread
FluTrackers human H7N9 case count


Study finds signs of ongoing H7N9 changes

A genetic analysis of avian influenza strains in China's Guangdong province—including its first human case—during the first wave of H7N9 activity suggests that the virus picked up internal genes from H9N2 viruses in local poultry, creating a new reassortant and showing that H7N9 can change quickly.

The study by Chinese researchers was reported yesterday in the Journal of Virology. Guangdong felt little impact during the first wave, and disease activity there was unusual, because the virus was detected in poultry and markets months before the first human illness was found.

The group's analysis is based on viruses identified during live poultry market surveillance from Apr 15 through May 31, 2013, and human surveillance for pneumonia of unknown causes that started on Apr 16, 2013.

Only two H7N9 positives were detected in the poultry markets, both in environmental samples from the same market in Meizhou. The study also included an H7N9 sample from a chicken detected on May 5 by animal health officials in Dongguan and a strain detected Aug 9 in the province's first human case, a 51-year-old woman who slaughtered poultry in a Huizhou poultry market.

Analysis of the viruses' internal genes revealed that the environmental and chicken strains were similar to those found in other provinces, but those from the human case a few months later were different. The internal genes from the human sample clustered with H9N2 viruses found in Guangdong between April and May of 2013.

The team concluded that genetic differences in H7N9 viruses collected in Guangdong at different times hint at continuing reassortment with local H9N2 viruses, which could be fueling rapid evolution of H7N9.

The findings are similar to those in another study of H7N9 viruses in Guangdong by another team, which published its analysis in the Feb 13 issue of Eurosurveillance. It focused on H7N9 sequences from viruses submitted by 11 Chinese provinces, plus some from Hong Kong, in 2013.

The team found increased diversity and reassortment with local H9N2 strains, such as ones found in a Guangdong/Hong Kong transmission cluster, which they said might be one factor triggering reemergence of infections in the second wave.
May 14 J Virol abstract
Feb 13 CIDRAP News story

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