NEWS SCAN: Dengue in Kenya, Pakistan; vaccine safety poll; resistant H1N1

Sep 30, 2011

Dengue hits Kenya, Pakistan hard
A dengue outbreak in northeastern Kenya has affected at least 5,000 people in the past few weeks and is overwhelming healthcare systems, and in Pakistan dengue has sickened more than 12,000, according to news stories. In Kenya's Mandera district, the mosquito-borne disease has spread because of overwhelmed health facilities and personnel and poor sanitation, according to IRIN News, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "Mandera District Hospital is congested, many patients and panicked residents are streaming into the facility, it's the only public hospital, all wards are occupied above capacity," said provincial public health and medical officer Mohamed Sheikh. The country's Ministry of Public Health said on Sep 26 the outbreak had claimed at least four lives, but residents say that number is at least 10, according to the report.
Sep 29 IRIN news report
In Pakistan, more than 12,000 people have contracted dengue and 126 have died in three provinces in less than a month, with the city of Lahore especially hard hit, according to a story today from Agence France-Presse (AFP). Lahore has confirmed at least 10,244 cases and 107 deaths. A provincial health secretary said the country has undertaken a huge public awareness campaign, including large banners emblazoned with images of mosquitoes and warning messages. Teams from the World Health Organization and Sri Lanka are also helping with prevention efforts.
Sep 30 AFP story

Poll: A fourth of Americans concerned over vaccine safety
About a quarter of US adults have concerns about vaccine safety, with 21% saying they believe autism is linked to immunization, a new NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll found. Overall, 26.6% expressed concerns about the value and safety of vaccines (types of vaccines were not specified in the poll's queries). This number was highest in households with children (30.8%) and in those 35 to 64 years old (30.3%). It was lowest among those 65 and older, at 18.5%. Among those with concerns, 47.3% cited future long-term impact on health and 46% mentioned side effects. Only 4.2% said they were worried about ineffectiveness, and 2.4% cited religious reasons. When presented with a list of four conditions—autism, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—21.4% said they believed in a link between vaccines and autism, compared with rates of 9.2% for cancer, 6.9% for diabetes, and 5.9% for heart disease. An NPR blog post said the poll involved more than 3,000 adults and had a  margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. It was conducted in early August, before an Aug 25 Institute of Medicine report confirmed vaccine safety and dismissed any link to autism and before presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) questioned the safety of the human papillomavirus vaccine on Sep 12.
Sep 29 NPR blog post
Complete poll results

Study: Drug-resistant H1N1 strain spreads well but causes milder disease
Pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza viruses that carry a drug-resistance mutation appear less pathogenic than a non-resistant strain, according to the results of a study in ferrets published in PLoS Pathogens. Dutch researchers inoculated ferrets with either a well-characterized reference 2009 H1N1 virus or one containing the I223R mutation, which has been shown to confer resistance to the neuraminidase-inhibiting antiviral drugs, including oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). They found clinical signs to be similar between the groups and pulmonary lesions similar 4 days after inoculation. However, the I223R virus caused milder pulmonary lesions and alveolitis at day 7. The authors conclude, "The I223R mutated virus isolate has comparable replicative ability and transmissibility, but lower pathogenicity than the reference virus based on these in vivo studies," which means it may spread efficiently among people.
Sep 29 PLoS Pathog study

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