News Scan for Aug 27, 2014

Pause for US labs
Ebola guidance for first responders
USAID Ebola funding
Chikungunya in US
Dengue in Japan

Feds plan to ask labs to pause for 'high-consequence' inventories

The US government plans to request that federally funded laboratories suspend all work on potentially dangerous pathogens for about 24 hours to inventory stocks of microbes, ScienceInsider reported today.

"Essentially, what the government will request is a short term on the order of 24 hours suspension of research involving high-consequence pathogens in order to allow institutional lab personnel to take stock of what pathogens they have stored in freezers, cold rooms, etc.," Carol Blum of the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) in Washington, D.C., wrote in a memo sent to universities today and quoted in the story.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is expected to deliver the request via funding agencies, the memo says. Several federal agencies appear to have already begun inventories, the story said. In addition, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which represents many of the affected researchers, asked its members to conduct such inventories.

ASM President Timothy Donohue, PhD, said in an Aug 25 statement, "I ask all microbiologists to make sure that you and your colleagues know what they have in the lab (freezer, refrigerator, store room, etc). Simply put, I think it is good 'laboratory housekeeping' to review what microbes we each have in the lab, inventory them, and use appropriate methods to deposit in an approved collection or destroy any cultures that are no longer needed by our labs."

The moves come after several high-profile US lab breaches involving variola virus, which causes smallpox; Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax; and highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus.
Aug 27 ScienceInsider story
Aug 25 ASM statement


CDC releases Ebola guidance for EMS and 911 providers

As part of its growing resource base for public health workers and clinicians, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday released interim guidance for emergency medical services (EMS) systems and 9-1-1 service providers that might be managing US patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD).

The guidance addresses issues related to the uncontrolled environment that EMS personnel might face, such as the need to intubate, suction, or perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a patient in a moving vehicle, which could increase the risk of exposure for workers. The guidance urges EMS workers who come into direct contact with a suspected Ebola patient's body fluids to immediately stop working, wash skin surfaces with soap and water, and immediately report the exposure to a supervisor for follow-up.

It also walks responders through personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and procedures and covers facility transport, environmental infection control, cleaning vehicles after transport, and patient care follow-up steps.

For 9-1-1 providers, the guidance covers what screening criteria to use for Ebola and when to consider the risk of Ebola to be elevated in the community.

The CDC also updated its interim guidance for specimen collection, transport, testing, and submission for patients with suspected EVD infections and posted an infographic on contact tracing.
Aug 26 CDC Ebola guidance for EMS and 9-1-1 providers
Aug 26 CDC updated guidance on specimen collection and testing
Aug 26 CDC infographic on Ebola contact tracing


USAID funding boosts West Africa Ebola commitment to $19.6 million

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that it is providing an additional $5 million to help West Africa battle its EVD outbreak. The amount lifts USAID's commitment to the effort to nearly $19.6 million, the agency said in a press release.

USAID's director of foreign disaster assistance announced the extra funding in Liberia during a 3-day visit with CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, who is touring the three countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak.

The boost in funding is targeted to health equipment and emergency supplies, training and support for healthcare workers, public outreach, and strengthening local health and emergency response systems.

USAID recently airlifted more than 16 tons of medical supplies and emergency equipment into Liberia, including 10,000 sets of PPE, water treatment systems, water tanks, and 100 rolls of plastic sheeting that can be used to build Ebola treatment units. The group deployed a multiagency Disaster Assistance Response Team on Aug 5 to coordinate the US government's response, with more than 25 members in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
Aug 27 USAID press release


US chikungunya cases near 700

Although the chikungunya epidemic in the Caribbean region has slowed somewhat, reports of US cases continue, most of them in returning travelers, with the total reaching 696 as of Aug 26, which is 60 more than a week ago, says a CDC update today.

The large majority of cases (680, 52 more than last week) have occurred in people who traveled to the Caribbean or South America. Another 6 have been in travelers to the Pacific Islands, which is 1 more than last week, and 4 in travelers to Asia, also 1 more than last week.

In addition, six cases of locally transmitted infection have been reported in Florida, an increase of two that was previously reported by state and local health officials. Florida and New York are the states with the most travel-associated cases (139 and 108, respectively); Florida is the only state with local transmission.

US territories have reported chikungunya as well. Puerto Rico's cases number 16 linked to travel and 201 locally acquired, both the same as last week. The US Virgin Islands have had 4 travel-related cases, 2 more than last week, and 21 locally transmitted cases, 19 more than last week.

Total confirmed and suspected cases in the current epidemic in the Caribbean and South America number nearly 590,000 as of Aug 22. In the period before the epidemic (2006 to 2013), the average number of US cases reported per year was 28.
Aug 26 CDC update
Aug 25 CIDRAP News scan on the epidemic


Japan records first local dengue case in 60 years

Japan's health ministry has confirmed the country's first locally acquired dengue infection in more than 60 years, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. It said the case occurred in Saitama, a prefecture northwest of Tokyo. The patient is a teenage girl who has recovered from her infection.

The disease was common in Japan during World War II, but the mosquito that spread the disease has been eradicated for decades, according to the AP.

A machine translation of background information on the case on Japan's health ministry Web site said the country records about 200 travel-linked dengue cases each year, and the closest area to Japan where the disease is endemic is Taiwan. It said that although the principal vector of the disease is Aedes aegypti, another type of mosquito that can spread the disease—Aedes albopictus—is present in some regions of Japan.
Aug 27 AP story
Aug 28 Japan health ministry background

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