News Scan for Jan 02, 2014

Disease threats due to African conflicts
MERS-CoV death in Oman
West Nile in bald eagles
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WHO steps up disease prevention in African conflict zones

The World Health Organization (WHO) is taking steps to curb infectious disease threats at refugee camps in two African nations struck by violent political unrest, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

In a statement today the WHO said it and its health partners will launch an emergency measles vaccination campaign tomorrow at two camps in the CAR, following the detection of cases at a camp near the Bangui airport (3 cases) and the Don Bosco Centre in Damala (5 cases). The effort will target 60,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years.

Health officials are worried that overcrowding and lack of sanitary facilities could spark rapid spread of the disease. For example, the camp in Damala has 50,000 people who fled violent clashes in the capital that began on Dec 5. The camp near the Bangui airport is even more densely populated, with 100,000 displaced people.

Elsewhere, the WHO in a Dec 31 statement warned about a growing threat of infectious diseases in South Sudan, where more than 195,000 people have been displaced by violence that began Dec 15. About 75,000 have taken shelter at United Nations peacekeeping bases in Juba, Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu. The WHO estimated that 58,000 others are displaced in Aweriel County Lakes state.

Poor water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions, coupled with crowding and a shortage of health workers, pose risks to the people at the camps, especially in the form of waterborne diseases, a WHO official said.

The WHO and partners are identifying health workers who can help at the camps, and it has provided emergency health kits to clinics and other providers in four states. Diarrhea and malaria are the most common illnesses reported at the camps.
Jan 2 WHO news release
Dec 31 WHO news release


Fatal MERS-CoV case reported in Oman

An Omani man died Dec 30 of a Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, marking the country's second case, The Times of Oman reported yesterday.

The Ministry of Health said the patient was a 59-year-old and had "lung failure and pneumonia," according to the story. It gave no information on the man's possible exposures to the virus or the course of his illness.

The report said Oman's first MERS case-patient died of the illness on Nov 10. Earlier reports said he was a 68-year-old who had diabetes.

Another Omani, a 75-year-old man, was diagnosed with MERS while visiting in the neighboring United Arab Emirates and died there on Nov 10, the World Health Organization reported on Nov 15.

The MERS count of the WHO, which has not yet noted the new Oman case, stands at 176 cases and 74 deaths.
Jan 1 Times of Oman story
Oct 30 CIDRAP News story on first
Oman case
Nov 15 CIDRAP News story noting case in 75-year-old Omani


Bald eagle deaths in Utah blamed on West Nile

Tests have confirmed that the recent deaths of 27 bald eagles in Utah were caused by West Nile virus, possibly acquired from eared grebes, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) announced Dec 31.

Testing has ruled out many other possible causes of death, including toxic chemicals, lead poisoning, bacterial infections, and several other viruses, including avian influenza and avian vacuolar myelinopathy, the agency said in a press release. Tests were conducted at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan and the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.

West Nile typically affects birds and humans when mosquitoes that carry the virus are active. The DWR said officials aren't sure how the eagles contracted the virus, but think they might have eaten infected eared grebes that died recently on Great Salt Lake.

About 2 million eared grebes stop at the lake during their migration each winter, and about 1% of them die, usually of avian cholera, said Lesle McFarlane, DWR wildlife disease coordinator. Lab tests on dead grebes this year were inconclusive, but additional tests suggested that their cause of death is "consistent with what's going on in the eagles," she said.

The DWR said 21 of the 27 eagles were found dead in the wild and the rest died while being treated in rehab centers. West Nile virus can live for a few days in the carcass of a bird, according to the agency.

Dec 31 DWR statement

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