News Scan for Feb 14, 2014

News brief

Berkeley student may have exposed thousands to measles

Individuals in the San Francisco Bay area are being told to stay alert for symptoms of measles after an infected and contagious student at the University of California, Berkeley, attended classes and used public transportation before his diagnosis last week, according to news sources.

The student, who is in his 20s, rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system from his home in Contra Costa County to and from downtown Berkeley in the morning and afternoon commuting hours from February 4 through 7, according to a CBS News story.

He was not vaccinated for measles and likely became infected in Asia while studying abroad recently, according to the story.

People who have had measles or who have been vaccinated are probably safe even if they were exposed, an Associated Press (AP) story quotes health officials as saying, but those who have not are at risk. Measles has been virtually eliminated in the United States, notes the CBS story.

People in the area are being urged to see a healthcare provider right away if they show symptoms of measles (fever, dry cough, runny nose, rash of tiny red spots). Symptoms typically begin 7 to 14 days after exposure; about 30% of measles cases develop into serious complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Feb 14 AP story
Feb 14 CBS News story


WHO advisors find RNA particles in CSL's seasonal flu vaccine

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has discovered large RNA fragments and other material in season flu vaccine made by CSL Pharmaceuticals of Australia that may have contributed to febrile seizures in children who received the vaccine, according to a report in the WHO's Weekly Epidemiologic Record today.

The GAVCS reviewed Fluvax, a trivalent vaccine that was associated with an increased risk of febrile seizures in 2010, particularly in children under 5 years old, and a resultant 3-month suspension of the vaccine in kids. The vaccine is now contraindicated in children under 5 and recommended to be avoided in those younger than 8.

Initial findings include "the presence of large RNA fragments, as well as characteristics of the B Brisbane seed virus strain used in seasonal influenza vaccines in 2010 that has a greater ability to maintain RNA fragments during the manufacturing process."

The GACVS said the virus-splitting process that CSL uses differs from other manufacturers' processes. CSL said it plans to modify its process in 2014, and the GAVCS recommended further studies in healthy nonpregnant adults be conducted to determine the effects of the new process on vaccine safety.
Feb 14 WHO Wkly Epidemiol Rec


CDC: Pathologists and public health need to partner against infectious disease

The goal of protecting people from emerging infectious diseases and threats has been furthered by close partnership between the public health community and experts in the field of pathology, says a CDC "Grand Rounds" report in today's Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

"The strong public health partnership between CDC's Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch and forensic pathologists and medical examiners, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art technologies, has facilitated explanation of many otherwise unexplained deaths, led to the discovery of new pathogens, and enabled the monitoring of unexplained deaths and critical illnesses at the state and local levels," says the article.

Pathologists play a critical role in advancing the knowledge of emerging infectious diseases, it says, in that they are often the first to encounter infectious disease outbreaks. Examples of diseases brought to the forefront by pathologists are hantavirus in the early 1990s, transmission of West Nile virus through blood transfusions and organ transplantation, and the association of pulmonary hemorrhage with leptospirosis.

The monitoring of unexplained deaths through autopsy can give "vital information" on the number of infectious disease cases and help in developing prevention strategies, says the article, and gives an opportunity for enhanced infectious disease surveillance. Benefits of several autopsy-based surveillance systems are detailed, including the Med-X system in New Mexico and the UNEX system in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Oregon.

"Effective use of basic and advanced diagnostic tools with ongoing development of new tools, a multidisciplinary approach, and vigilance by all critical partners are important in maintaining the partnership between pathology and public health," the authors conclude.
Feb 14 MMWR article


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