News Scan for Sep 16, 2015

Two new Saudi MERS cases
More cuke-linked Salmonella
Persistence of anthrax spores

Saudi Arabia reports 2 new MERS case, 1 death

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported two new MERS-CoV cases in Riyadh today that don't appear to be linked to a large hospital outbreak, and it confirmed a death in a previously reported patient.

The new Riyadh MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases involve a 21-year-old Saudi woman and a 38-year-old male expatriate. Both have mild respiratory symptoms and are listed in stable condition, the MOH said. Neither is a health worker, and neither had contact with another MERS patient.

The MOH also noted that a 70-year-old Saudi woman in Riyadh has died from her infection. She was not a healthcare worker and had pre-existing disease.

The agency also reported that three Riyadh patients have recovered from their infections, 51- and 63-year-old women and a 61-year-old man. All are Saudi nationals with underlying conditions and none are healthcare workers.

The new developments push the MERS-CoV total in Saudi Arabia since 2012 to 1,240 cases and 524 deaths. Forty-four patients are still undergoing treatment, 8 are in home isolation, and 664 have recovered.
Sep 16 MOH update

In related news, a letter yesterday in Clinical Microbiology and Infection noted that standing close to a MERS patient might be enough to transmit the virus.

South Korean scientists noted that nine healthcare workers had contact with a fatally ill MERS-CoV patient during his 27-minute stay in the emergency department. One of them was a security guard without any personal protective equipment (PPE) who remained 3 to 6 feet away from the patient for 10 minutes and talked to him for 2 minutes without any evidence of touching the man.

The guard was later diagnosed as having MERS, and his case demonstrates that being in close proximity without PPE is enough to transmit the disease, the authors wrote.
Sep 15 Clin Microbiol Infect letter


Salmonella cases tied to imported cucumbers top 400

The multistate outbreak of salmonellosis cases tied to imported cucumbers has grown by 77 cases and 1 state in under a week, to 418 total cases in 31 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest update yesterday.

Among 290 people with available information, 91 (31%) have been hospitalized. Patients' ages range from less a year to 99 years, with a median age of 17. About 52% of patients are children, and 53% are female. Two deaths have been reported, in California and Texas, a number that has not changed.

The onset dates for people's illnesses range from Jul 3 to Sep 3, and any outbreak sicknesses that began after Aug 22 might not yet be reported, the CDC said.

California has reported the most cases, 89, followed by Arizona, with 72, and New Mexico, with 22 (see CDC map here).

Officials in Arizona, Montana, and San Diego have isolated the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona from cucumbers imported from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, the CDC said. On Sep 4 Andrew & Williamson, of San Diego, recalled all cucumbers it had sold under the "Limited Edition" brand from Aug 1 to Sep 3. On Sep 11 Custom Produce Sales of Parlier, Calif., followed suit on cucumbers under the "Fat Boy" label that it had received from Andrew & Williamson.

Clinical isolates from three patients were all susceptible to common antibiotics, the CDC said.
Sep 15 CDC update


Study says anthrax spores stay viable in topsoil for weeks

Anthrax spores on some outdoor surfaces initially decay rapidly then slowly, but those on topsoil showed minimal loss of viability weeks later, with or without ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, according to a study yesterday in PLoS One.

US researchers inoculated Bacillus anthracis and B subtilis spores on glass, wood, concrete, and topsoil with and without exposure to simulated sunlight via UV radiation. They recovered spores after 2, 14, 28, and 56 days.

The determined that on glass, wood, and concrete, spore viability for both Bacillus species waned in two stages: initial rapid decay followed by a period of slower inactivation. The greatest loss in viability was found on glass with UV exposure, with nearly a four log10 reduction in just 2 days. In most cases, B anthracis decayed faster than B subtilis.

Spores on topsoil, however, showed little loss of spore viability even after 56 days, regardless of UV exposure and for both species.

The authors conclude, "The results suggest that natural attenuation of B anthracis spores in the environment may have limited value as a potential remediation option following an accidental or intentional release, except for spores found on clean, nonporous materials, and exposed to ample sunlight."
Sep 15 PLoS One study

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