NEWS SCAN: Generic antibiotic, scarlet fever, measles deaths in Congo, babesiosis in US, non-drug steps for flu

Jun 21, 2011

FDA approves generic antibiotic to treat anthrax, other infections
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday approved the first generic versions of Levaquin (levofloxacin), an antibiotic for treating bacterial skin and lung infections, including inhalational anthrax, in adults, according to a release. The drug is used to treat bacterial infections of the skin, sinuses, kidneys, bladder, and prostate. It is also used to treat certain bacterial infections that cause bronchitis or pneumonia and to treat those exposed to inhalational anthrax, according to the FDA release, which said that FDA-approved generic drugs must meet rigorous standards. The agency approved levofloxacin in tablet, oral solution, and injectable forms. Twelve manufacturers have been approved to produce the drug.
Jun 20 FDA press release

Hong Kong: 26 new cases, 1 new death in scarlet fever outbreak
Declaring that local scarlet fever activity is now at a "high level," Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) confirmed 26 new cases in 24 hours today, raising its 2011 total to 466 cases. It also announced the second death from the disease, in a 5-year-old boy who was diagnosed clinically as having it. News reports yesterday said that a 7-year-old girl with scarlet fever died in late May. In an update, the CHP said the 26 new cases were reported from noon local time yesterday to noon today, raising the week's total so far to 38 cases. Last week, 69 cases were confirmed. In a separate release today, the CHP said the 5-year-old had fever beginning Jun 15 but was hospitalized Jun 19 after his symptoms worsened. He suffered toxic shock syndrome and died today. Confirmatory lab tests are pending after initial tests indicated gram-positive cocci. The disease is caused by Group A streptococcus.
Jun 21 CHP update
Jun 21 CHP news release

Measles kills 32 in Congo
Republic of Congo officials said that 800 people have contracted measles and at least 32 people have died from the disease in a 6-month outbreak in the country's southern Pointe-Noire and Kouilou regions, according to the UN's IRIN News service today. Of the 800 patients, 624 have been hospitalized, said Hermann Boris Didi-Ngossaki, director of the World Health Organization's Expanded Program on Vaccination. "These past 5 or 6 years we have had many weaknesses in our vaccination system, notably in Pointe-Noire. The current epidemic reflects these weaknesses," he said. The first cases were reported last December, but the disease was neglected because of a simultaneous outbreak of polio, the country's director-general of health said. An intensive 30-day immunization campaign targeting all children 6 to 8 months old in the affected regions is planned to kick off tomorrow.
Jun 21 IRIN News story
Elsewhere, officials in northern Utah say they've confirmed another measles case in Cache County, according to an Associate Press (AP) story yesterday. This brings to five the number of cases in at outbreak first identified early this month, when a child believed to have been exposed in mid May was identified. Bear River Health Department spokesperson Jill Parker said the other four patients had contact with the child. Parker said officials have not determined how the first child contracted the disease.

Spread of babesiosis in US Northeast worries health officials
The tickborne disease babesiosis is increasing in the Hudson Valley and in coastal areas of the US Northeast, posing a threat to the blood supply because of the lack of a licensed screening test, according to the New York Times. The malaria-like illness is caused by Babesia microti, a parasite that is carried by deer ticks and lives in red blood cells, according to the story. There were 119 cases of babesiosis in the Lower Hudson Valley in 2008, compared with just 6 cases in 2001. The disease is also becoming more common in areas where Lyme disease, also spread by deer ticks, is endemic, such as coastal Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Long Island. Dr. Peter Krause of the Yale School of Public Health said the illness is also slowly spreading into other regions, such as the Upper Midwest. Many infected people have no symptoms, others experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, and some get seriously ill and can even die, the story said. Blood banks do not screen for Babesia because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not licensed a test for the parasite, and experts fear that many undiagnosed patients may be donating blood. Babesiosis is the most common transfusion-transmitted infection in the United States, blamed for at least 12 deaths, the report said. "We are very worried about it and are doing everything in our power to address this," Sanjai Kumar, chief of the FDA laboratory of emerging pathogens, told the Times.
Jun 20 Times story

Hand sanitizer, cough etiquette may reduce influenza A in schools
Although implementing a school-based program of hand sanitizer and cough etiquette use did not decrease lab-confirmed influenza, it did reduce total absences by 26% and influenza A by 52%, according to a new study. Researchers with the Pittsburgh Influenza Prevention Project assigned five city schools to the nonpharmaceutical intervention (NPI) program and five others to serve as controls, with 3,360 children participating. Using reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction tests, they detected 54 cases of influenza A and 50 cases of influenza B. Total absences were significantly lower (26%) in the NPI schools, as were cases of lab-confirmed influenza A (52%), even though overall lab-confirmed flu was not significantly lower. The authors write, "Our results suggest that NPIs can be an important adjunct to influenza vaccination programs to reduce the number of influenza A infections among children."
Jun 17 Ped Infect Dis J abstract

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