Flu Scan for Feb 03, 2016

News brief

Study: Flu vaccine coverage up in young kids but still below 50%

Although complete flu vaccine coverage increased dramatically from 2002-03 to 2011-12 in kids under 2 years old, it still falls well below 50% and is even lower in minority groups, according to a study yesterday in Pediatrics.

Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Leidos Inc of Atlanta analyzed National Immunization Survey data on children 6 months to 23 months of age over 10 influenza seasons beginning in 2002-03. They found that complete flu vaccination in that age-group increased from 4.8% in 2002-03 to 44.7% in 2011-12.

They also found that, in all the seasons, vaccination uptake was lower in African-American and Hispanic children compared with white kids.

The authors conclude, "More implementation of evidence-based strategies that increase the percentage of children who are fully vaccinated is needed."
Feb 2 Pediatrics study


Avian flu outbreaks reported in Taiwan, South Africa, and Macao

In separate reports posted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday, officials confirmed H5N2 and H5N8 avian flu in Taiwanese poultry and H7N3 in South African ostriches, and a media report today noted an H7 strain in the Chinese region of Macao.

H5N2 was confirmed on three farms near Tainan City in southwestern Taiwan and in Taoyuan County in the northwest, according to the first report. The flocks ranged in size from 3,000 to 23,000 ducks or geese, and all outbreaks began in the first part of January. Of 34,630 poultry on the four farms, 17,287 birds died from the virus, and the rest were culled to prevent outbreak spread.

The H5N8 outbreak in Taiwan, in contrast, involved just one small flock at an abattoir in Kaohsiung County in the southwestern part of the island. On Jan 22, 1 chicken of 426 died of the virus, and the rest were euthanized as part of response efforts. Polymerase chain reaction tests confirmed H5N8 on Jan 25.

The OIE report from South Africa detailed two outbreaks of H7N3 involving farm flocks of 612 and 3,835 ostriches in Western Cape province in the far south that happened last fall. The smaller flock saw 232 deaths from the virus, and the larger had 366 bird fatalities. No surviving birds were culled, but quarantine and other measures have been implemented.

In Macao, an area of China near Hong Kong, meanwhile, an H7 avian flu strain was detected in samples from poultry sold at a street market, local officials reported, according to Xinhua, China's state news agency. Authorities said 15,000 live chickens had been imported recently from Guangdong province and have been euthanized. They also suspended live-poultry sales for 3 days.
Feb 2 OIE report on H5N2 in Taiwan
Feb 2 OIE report on H5N8 in Taiwan
Feb 2 OIE report on H7N3 in South Africa
Feb 3 Xinhua story

News Scan for Feb 03, 2016

News brief

Saudi Arabia confirms MERS case in man who had camel contact

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported a new MERS-CoV infection in a man who had contact with camels, the second case in 3 days, and agriculture officials said 85% of camels recently tested at a market in Jeddah harbored the virus.

The new case of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection involves a 78-year-old Saudi man in Taif in southwestern Saudi Arabia, the MOH reported. He is hospitalized in stable condition and is not a healthcare worker. The agency said he had contact with camels, a known risk factor.

The country's previous case was in a 43-year-old man in Riyadh whose probable cause of infection was still being investigated when his case was confirmed on Feb 1. Today's case brings the country's MERS total to 1,290, of which 551 proved fatal, the MOH said. Six patients are still being treated.

The animal testing, meanwhile, involved 112 camels at the Al-Inam Central Market in Jeddah, Arab News reported today. Of 112 camels tested in an Agriculture Ministry study, 85% were found to carry MERS-CoV. Undersecretary for animal resources Habed bin Abdulaziz Al-Batshaan said preventive measures must continue to be taken by camel dealers, with mandatory use of masks and gloves.
Feb 3 MOH update
Feb 1 CIDRAP News scan on previous case
Feb 3 Arab News story


Search continues for some high-risk Ebola contacts in Sierra Leone

In the wake of two Ebola cases reported from Sierra Leone's Tonkolili district last month, which ended its Ebola-free status, 112 contacts are still under monitoring, with most completing the process today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its regular update on West Africa's Ebola outbreak.

Four close contacts who lived with the most recent case-patient when she fell ill, though, will be monitored until Feb 11.

Efforts are still under way to locate 48 of the contacts, all believed to be in Kambia. The WHO said 18 of them are high-risk contacts, and efforts to locate all of the missing ones will continue for 21 more days.

The most recent case-patient in the two-person family cluster is still being treated in an Ebola treatment center in Freetown. She is the aunt of the index case, a 22-year-old woman whose illness wasn't detected until after she died.
Feb 3 WHO Ebola update


International group dissects WHO failings, offers reform steps

In the latest salvo directed against the WHO's ability to respond well to global health crises after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, an international group of leading public health experts last week in BMJ spelled out the organization's shortcomings and listed six broad areas for reform.

The group lays out six examples of what is wrong with the WHO, based on failed response to not only the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic but also eight other emergencies, from African unrest in 2005 and 2006 to the Syrian refugee crisis of recent years:

  • Prioritizing political over technical considerations
  • Failing to promote based on merit, and failing to emphasize crisis response competencies
  • Being aloof from non-government groups
  • Lacking internal and external accountability
  • Undertaking restructure and reform with no observable leap in performance
  • Not having sufficient flexible funding for crisis functions

The group offers a raft of suggested reforms that fall under six broad categories, from internal structuring and streamlining to a radical human resources review to enhanced transparency.
Jan 28 BMJ commentary

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