News Scan for Mar 06, 2019

News brief

MERS sickens 1 more in Saudi Arabia hospital outbreak

Saudi Arabia's steady rise in MERS-CoV cases continued today, with one more illness reported that appears to be part of a hospital outbreak in Wadi ad-Dawasir, according to a Ministry of Health (MOH) update to its epidemiologic week 10 report.

The patient is a 45-year-old woman who is listed as a secondary case, meaning she likely contracted MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) from another sick person. She did not report recent camel contact, the MOH said.

The newly reported illness lifts Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total this year to 92, including 53 in Wadi ad-Dawasir, which has reported cases linked to healthcare and camel exposure.
Mar 6 MOH update


WHO announces new organization structure, staffing changes

The World Health Organization (WHO) today unveiled a broad set of reforms geared toward modernizing and strengthening its role as the world's public health leader.

In a press release, it said the changes are designed to address ambitious "triple billion" targets that are part of its strategic play for the next 5 years. They include one billion more people covered by universal healthcare, one billion more people protected from health emergencies, and one billion more enjoying better health and well-being.

Some of the changes mean a new structure and operating model to better align the work of WHO headquarters with its regional and country offices and to eliminate duplication and fragmentation. Other changes address improvements in technology and data handling. The reforms also, create a new Division of Chief Scientist to improve career opportunities for scientists and a WHO Academy to provide new learning opportunities for staff and public health professionals globally.

In a step to strengthen its role in helping countries in preventing and responding to outbreaks and other health crises, the plan creates a new Division of Emergency Preparedness.

The new structure, developed jointly with WHO regional directors, is based on four pillars: programs, emergencies, external relations and governance, and business operations.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in the release, "The changes we are announcing today are about so much more than new structures, they're about changing the DNA of the organization to deliver a measurable impact in the lives of the people we serve."

Among the staff changes that pertain to outbreak response, Peter Salama, MD, who has been directing the WHO's health emergencies program, has been appointed executive director of a new program pillar called Universal Health Care and the Life Course, according to a report from Devex, a media platform of the global development community.

Citing an internal WHO staff memo, Devex said Michael Ryan, MD, will replace Salama as head of the WHO's health emergencies program. He is currently assistant director-general for emergency response. Also, Hanan Balkhy, MD, has been appointed the new assistant director-general for antimicrobial resistance.
Mar 6 WHO press release
Mar 6 Devex story


Report places cost of 10-healthcare worker measles outbreak at $792,000

An outbreak of measles involving 10 healthcare workers (HCWs) in 2017 cost almost $800,000, according to an analysis published yesterday in Vaccine.

The outbreak began on Jan 31, 2017, at a German hospital, and two HCWs fell ill with measles on Feb 13 and 14. Eventually, the number of affected HCWs reached 10, yet none of them had direct contact with the index patient. The group included 6 nurses, 2 physicians, 1 patient transport service employee, and 1 cleaner. Eight of them were not vaccinated, and 1 had received one vaccine dose.

The expenses related to the outbreak included 30,000€ ($34,000) for serologic tests, vaccination, and other material cost; 215,000€ ($243,000) for medical leaves for the 10 HCWs and those not protected against the disease; and 455,000€ ($515,000) for lost revenues from patients whose admissions had to be postponed or did not come to the hospital at all because of the outbreak. That places the grand total at 700,000€, or $792,000.

The authors conclude, "Being able to identify immune HCW is an essential requirement for preventing outbreaks and protecting the health of patients and personnel in medical institutions and to restrict the economic costs of an outbreak."
Mar 5 Vaccine study


HHS funds first Marburg vaccine project

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today a partnership with Massachusetts-based Public Health Vaccines LLC, to develop the world's first vaccine against Marburg virus.

The partnership is funded through HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

"This vaccine candidate is the first BARDA has funded against the Marburg virus, and it is an important step toward meeting an urgent public health and biodefense need," said BARDA Director Rick Bright, PhD, in a press release. "We will leverage our experience in establishing public-private partnerships that bring results that are critical to saving lives and protecting Americans – and possibly people across the globe – from health security threats."

The Marburg vaccine was first developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which licensed it to Public Health Vaccines Public Health Vaccines will receive an initial 2-year contract of $10 million from BARDA, with additional funding for a total of up to $72 million to advance the Marburg virus vaccine through a phase 2 clinical trial if the initial development is successful.

Marburg virus is in the same family of hemorrhagic viruses as Ebola and is considered a potential bioterrorism threat by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Mar 6 HHS press release


Bayer advances indoor insecticide targeting drug-resistant malaria 

Bayer today launched the world's first combined indoor insecticide residual spray called Fludora Fusion, which combines neonicotinoid clothiandin with pyrethroid deltamethrin to fight malaria against a backdrop of growing insecticide resistance.

According to Reuters, the product is sprayed inside a home, typically on walls, where it can kill mosquitoes within 48 hours of contact.

Progress toward malaria eradication has stalled in recent years because of the rise of insecticide resistance. And only a handful of drugs are approved to kill the mosquitoes that carry malaria.

"In the context of this urgent need for new modes of action in malaria vector control, Fludora Fusion represents a major step forward in eradicating malaria," said the president of global vegetable seeds and environmental science at Bayer, Jacqueline Applegate, PhD, MBA, according to Reuters.
Mar 6 Reuters story

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