News Scan for Dec 23, 2014

New virus in Kansas
Listeriosis and caramel apples

New, possibly tick-borne virus cited in death of Kansas resident

A Kansas resident who died this past summer was infected with a new virus that may have been carried by ticks, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported in a press release yesterday.

The patient died after having symptoms like those of other tick-borne diseases, including fever and fatigue, the KDHE said. The virus's host is unknown, but it is believed to be spread through bites from ticks or insects.

The virus has been named Bourbon, after the southeastern Kansas county in which the patient lived, the KDHE reported. For confidentiality reasons, officials are releasing no information about the victim, said Kansas State Epidemiologist Charles Hunt, MPH.

Because of the patient's symptoms and changes in blood counts, it was initially believed that he or she had a tick-borne illness such as ehrlichiosis or Heartland virus disease, the agency said. But the patient tested negative for known tick-borne diseases, and after further investigation the pathogen was found to be a new virus.

"It is not known if Bourbon virus was the cause of death or how much it contributed to the resident's death," the department said.

The statement said there are plans to look for the virus in other Kansas residents with similar illnesses who have tested negative for Heartland virus within the past year, the statement said. The heartland virus was discovered in Missouri in 2012.

Hunt told CIDRAP News that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking the lead in developing the testing plan. He said he didn't know how many patients would be involved in the study.

The CDC has developed a blood test for the virus, the KDHE said. There are also plans to test ticks and insects in an effort to learn how people get infected.
Dec 22 KDHE press release


New case of listeriosis tied to caramel apples; source a mystery

An additional case of listeriosis linked with commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples has been reported, this one in Wisconsin, bringing the total to 29 cases in 10 states (see CDC map below), according to a CDC update yesterday.

All case-patients have needed hospitalization, and five deaths have occurred. Listeria monocytogenes contributed in three of the deaths and may have contributed in a fourth. Nine of the cases were in pregnant women or newborns.

Of the 23 case-patients who have been interviewed to date, 20 (87%) had eaten commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples in the month before they became ill. No illnesses have been related to plain apples or to caramel candies.

States affected include Arizona (4 cases), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and public health personnel in several states are investigating the outbreak. No specific brand of caramel apples or source of contamination has been identified yet, and no products have been recalled. The CDC is advising consumers to refrain from eating any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples until more information is available.
Dec 22 CDC update
Dec 19 CIDRAP News story on outbreak

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