News Scan for Jul 29, 2016

MERS reappears in Saudi Arabia
Yellow fever slows
Anthrax in Siberia
Statins and flu vaccine protection

Saudi Arabia: First case of MERS in 1 week

After 7 days of no reported cases, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS-CoV today. The case is not related to the current outbreak at King Khalid University Hospital in Riyadh.

A 58-year old Saudi man from Al Jubail was diagnosed as having Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) after presenting with symptoms. He is in stable condition, and the MOH reported the man had indirect exposure to camels. Exposure to camels is a known risk factor for contracting MERS-CoV, including indirect contact. 

The new case brings Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total to 1,441, including 608 deaths, since 2012.
Jul 29 MOH report


Yellow fever continues to slow in Angola

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its weekly yellow fever situation report today, noting that Angola reported only 66 new cases of the mosquito-borne disease. As of Jul 21, there are 3,748 suspected and confirmed cases in Angola, and 364 deaths.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), meanwhile, reported 109 new cases, bringing its total number of cases as of Jul 20 to 1,907, including 95 deaths (10 more than last week). A technical error that prevented DRC labs from confirming new cases of yellow fever for the last month has been fixed, the WHO said. 

The situation report is cautiously optimistic about the receding spread of yellow fever in Angola, but warns that transmission could still occur in the most populated areas of DRC, including the large, crowded city of Kinshasa. Since the current outbreak first began in Luanda, Angola, in January, experts have said preventing widespread yellow fever transmission in Kinshasa has been a top priority.

According to the report, "Reactive vaccination campaigns started on 20 July in  Kisenso health zone in Kinshasa  province and in Kahemba, Kajiji, and Kisandji health zones in Kwango province."
Jul 29 WHO report


Anthrax outbreak in Russia sickens 13 people, kills 1,500 reindeer

After unseasonably high summer temperatures, for the first time since 1941 western Siberia is dealing with an anthrax outbreak that has hospitalized 13 people and killed about 1,500 reindeer, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

The outbreak was likely spawned from a thawing carcass of a reindeer that died 75 years ago, officials have surmised. Active Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes the disease, might have been released into the environment. Those hospitalized are nomad reindeer herders, including four children.

Herders face a quarantine that may last until September, the story said.

In addition, Governor Dmitry Kobylkin declared a state of emergency on Jul 26, with measures put in place to isolate the area. "Now the most important thing is the safety and health of our fellow countrymen—the reindeer herders and specialists involved in the quarantine," Kobylkin said.

Local veterinary officials believe the disease probably emanated from animal burial sites, which are numerous in the area, according to Global Meat News. "This disease has been present in our country for a long time and we have 35,000 officially registered animals with anthrax in burial sites," said Julia Demina, deputy head of Russian sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor. "These are places where anthrax spores could be found in the soil."
Jul 28 Washington Post story
Jul 28 Global Meat News report


Study: Statins might lower vaccine effectiveness against H3N2 flu

Use of the cholesterol-lowering drugs class of drugs known as statins might make the flu vaccine less effective against the H3N2 strain, which has been linked to more severe flu seasons, according to new research in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Investigators with the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wis., analyzed data from patients at the clinic from the 2004-05 through 2014-15 flu seasons who were 45 and older. Of 3,285 adults, 37% (1,217) received the flu vaccine but did not take statins, 27% (903) received neither statins nor the flu vaccine, 26% (847) received both statins and the flu vaccine, and 10% used statins but did not get vaccinated.

The team found that vaccine effectiveness (VE) against the H3N2 strain was 45% (95% confidence interval [CI], 27% to 59%) among those who didn't take statin and -21% (95% CI, -84% to 20%) among those taking statins. In contrast, vaccinated statin users had substantial protection against 2009 H1N1 (VE = 68%; 95% CI, 19% to 87%) and type B (VE = 48%; 95% CI, 1% to 73%).

The researchers found that statin use was not significantly associated with changed VE when stratified by previous-season vaccination, and the use of other cardiovascular drugs did not modify influenza VE, either.

The authors conclude, "The results of this study are consistent with recent published studies suggesting reduced serologic response to vaccination and lower vaccine effectiveness against nonspecific acute respiratory illness in statin users. However, the biological basis for differential strain effects by subtype is uncertain."
Jul 28 J Infect Dis study

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