News Scan for Jan 03, 2014

News brief

UAE has another MERS-CoV case

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has another Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case, involving a 33-year-old male healthcare worker in Dubai who had contact with another MERS patient, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.

In a statement, the WHO said the patient was exposed to the MERS patient whose case was reported on Dec 20. The latter was a 68-year-old man in Dubai who has since died.

The new case-patient got sick on Dec 27 and was hospitalized Dec 28 with bilateral pneumonia, acute renal failure, and thrombocytopenia, the WHO said. He tested positive for MERS-CoV on Dec 29 and is now in critical but stable condition. The agency said he has a history of chronic bronchial asthma and chronic kidney disease.

His illness raises the WHO's count of confirmed MERS-CoV cases to 177, including 74 deaths. The WHO does not give case counts by country, but the Epidemic blog by virologist Andrew Rambaut, PhD, shows that the UAE had 13 cases before today's WHO announcement.
Jan 3 WHO statement
Andrew Rambaut's Epidemic blog


Serum study finds weak antibody response to H7N9

Researchers who examined the blood of patients infected with novel H7N9 influenza found a weak antibody response to the strain, which might shed light on disease pathogenesis and suggests that multiple doses of vaccine may be needed to provide protection. The study, by a team from China, appeared yesterday in an early online edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors focused on 48 samples collected from 21 patients sickened in the ongoing H7N9 outbreak, 19 from Shanghai and 2 from Beijing; paired samples were obtained in 15 of the patients. Of the samples, 21 were from the acute phase, 18 were convalescent, and 9 were obtained between 102 and 125 days after symptom onset.

For controls, the team included 100 blood samples collected in 2008 from healthy donors in Beijing and 77 samples collected in May and June 2013 from poultry workers in Shanghai.

Protective antibody response to H7N9 was relatively weak, with neutralizing antibody response lower than the response to the 2009 H1N1 and H5N1 viruses. Also, serum IgG avidity for H7 was lower than that for H1 and H3. In addition, the group found a correlation between IgG levels against H3 in acute-phase serum and IgG levels against H7 in convalescent serum.

The findings raise questions about the role of humoral responses in H7N9 disease severity and duration, the team wrote. They also said scientists should examine the cross-reactivity between H7 and H3 and determine whether any boost response could occur from H3N2 infection.
Jan 2 Emerg Infect Dis study


Farm in China destroys 23,000 birds to stop H5N1

A total of 9,300 cases of H5N1 avian influenza in chickens have been reported at a farm in Guizhou province of southern China, and more than 23,000 chickens, ducks, and geese have been destroyed in an effort to contain the outbreak, according to a report today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The outbreak began Dec 27, 2013. The most recent occurrence of H5N1 in the area before this was in June of last year. The poultry death toll in the outbreak is listed at 8,500, for a case-fatality rate of 91.40%. Susceptible birds number 31,567, says the report, for an apparent morbidity rate of 29.46% and an apparent mortality rate of 26.93%.

Besides the destruction of 18,250 chickens, 4,569 ducks, and 248 geese, other control measures being used are quarantine of the farm, control of bird movement, disinfection of the premises, and dipping/spraying of birds. No vaccination or treatment is being carried out.
Jan 3 OIE report

OIE unveils wildlife disease Web tool

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday announced the launch of a new Web tool designed to share information about diseases in wild animals. Called WAHIS (World Animal Health Information System)–Wild, the Web application includes information on diseases not listed by OIE that pose threats to animal or human health.

The system, designed to monitor 53 infectious and noninfectious diseases, was recommended by a working group that saw a need to dedicate specific surveillance for wildlife. The information has been collected on a voluntary basis by member nations since 1993, and animal health officials have been able to submit online reports since 2012.

WAHIS-Wild allows experts to more openly consult on the diseases, the OIE said, adding that the information is not to be used for international trade policies. "However, the knowledge of wild animals' diseases can be crucial for the epidemiology of various pathogens," it said.
Jan 2 OIE press release

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