News Scan for Dec 20, 2018

News brief

New case of MERS recorded in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) today recorded a new MERS-CoV case for epidemiologic week 51.

The patient is a 47-year-old man who is in home isolation with a MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection. The man is from Al-Kharj, about 48 miles south of Riyadh. He had camel contact, a known risk factor for MERS transmission.

This is the fourth MERS case the MOH has recorded in December; all have involved middle-aged men. It raises the global total since the virus was first detected in humans in 2012 to 2,279, at least 806 of them fatal.
Dec 20 MOH update


Contaminated stem-cell injections sicken 12 people in 3 states

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it has issued a warning to Genetech, Inc., for marketing stem cell products without approval and for significant deviations in current good tissue and manufacturing practices, including some violations that may have led to microbiological contamination that caused serious blood infections in patients.

The FDA said it and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials are aware of 12 patients who received Genetech products from distributor Liveyon and contracted blood and other infections from different bacteria, including Escherichia coli. The CDC and state public health partners today described the illnesses in a note from the field in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

According to the report, the patients, from Texas (7), Florida (4), and Arizona (1), got sick after receiving joint injections or infusions with the stem-cell product from February to September of this year for pain or orthopedic conditions. Resulting illnesses included joint, bloodstream, and epidural infections involving different types of bacteria, including E coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Proteus mirabilis, Enterobacter cloacae, Citrobacter freundii, and Citrobacter koseri.

CDC tests on unopened vials from Texas and Florida yielded some of the outbreak strains. Liveyon voluntarily recalled the product at the end of October, and the CDC issued a national call for reports of other similar infections.

"Regardless of when contamination occurred, this investigation highlights the serious potential risks to patients of stem cell therapies administered for unapproved and unproven uses other than hematopoietic or immunologic reconstitution," the authors of the MMWR report said, adding that although safety for other uses hasn't been established, companies and clinics continue to market them without FDA approval. The FDA has urged patients to avoid the treatments outside of clinical trials.
Dec 20 FDA statement
Dec 20 MMWR report


Nigeria launches week-long yellow fever vaccination campaign in Edo state

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, launched a 7-day yellow fever vaccination campaign in Nigeria's Edo state, the epicenter of an ongoing yellow fever outbreak.

The WHO said in a statement today that vaccinators plan to reach more than 1.4 million people aged 9 months to 44 years old during the campaign.

"This vaccination campaign will allow us to stop the virus from spreading and ensure that all people at highest risk remain safe," said Clement Peter, MD, the WHO officer in charge in Nigeria. "We encourage all eligible persons in the state to come forward and get vaccinated."

Earlier this week, the WHO reported 97 suspected cases of yellow fever in Edo, including 23 deaths. Though the outbreak began in late September, more than half of the 97 cases were reported in the past 2 weeks. Since September of 2017, Nigeria has recorded 3,510 yellow fever cases.

Nigeria introduced the yellow fever vaccine into routine immunizations in 2016, but much of the population is still at risk for contracting the mosquito-borne virus. The WHO said it expects more than 60 million people will be protected against yellow fever in Nigeria by the end of 2021.
Dec 20 WHO statement


WHO proposes code of conduct for pathogen genetic info in outbreaks

The WHO is proposing a draft code of conduct for the open and timely sharing of pathogen genetic sequence data during outbreaks of infectious disease, according to a WHO press release and a letter published in Nature.

The guidance suggests that genetic information on a pathogen should be made public at the onset of an outbreak.

In the letter, Vasee Moorthy, MD, PhD, Peter Salama, MD, and Soumya Swaminathan, MBBS, MD, all top-level WHO officials, wrote, "By making it easier to share the benefits rapidly and equitably, the code will help public-health authorities, product developers and researchers to collaborate more effectively, and from a position of mutual trust."

The WHO's draft document is available on its website for public consultation. Comments are due by Jan 28, 2019.
Dec 19 Nature letter

Dec 19 WHO news release
WHO's draft code of conduct


India and Bulgaria report high-path H5 avian flu outbreaks

In new highly pathogenic avian flu developments, India reported an H5N1 outbreak at a poultry farm, and Bulgaria reported an H5N8 outbreak in mixed poultry.

India's outbreak began on Dec 7 in two villages in Orissa state on the country's east coast, according to a Dec 15 notification from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The virus killed 5,603 of 6,123 susceptible birds, and authorities culled the remaining ones. So far the source of the virus isn't known. The outbreak is India's first since early June.

Bulgaria's food safety agency yesterday reported an H5N8 outbreak at a farm in the city of Vidin near the border with Romania and Serbia, according to an official notice translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog.

Chickens, pheasants, and pigeons were affected. Response steps include culling of poultry. Bulgaria has been battling sporadic H5N8 outbreaks over the past year, and it reported its last outbreak in November.
Dec 15 OIE report
Dec 20 Avian Flu Diary post

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