News Scan for Sep 06, 2016

MERS case in Saudi Arabia
Few new chikungunya cases
Global flu levels steady
Influenza D named

MERS case appears as Saudi Arabia prepares for Hajj

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS-CoV in Riyadh today. The case is not connected to a previously reported outbreak at King Khalid University Hospital in that city.

A 65 year-old Saudi man was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). He presented with MERS symptoms and is currently in stable condition. The man acquired MERS from indirect contact and exposure to camels, the MOH said.

The new case comes as Saudi Arabia and the World Health Organization (WHO) make preparations for the Hajj, when about 2 million Muslims will travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimage. Preventing a MERS outbreak during Hajj is a top priority for the MOH, the WHO said in a statement today.

Saudi Arabia's MERS case count has now reached 1,450, including 610 deaths and 3 patients still being treated, according to the MOH.
Sep 6 WHO news release


Only 290 more chikungunya cases reported

There were 290 new suspected or confirmed cases of chikungunya last week, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) weekly update, raising the total in the Americas this year to 252,444.

Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, and El Salvador are the only countries that reported new cases, with other countries not reporting any changes in total case numbers for the last several weeks. It's unclear whether transmission of the mosquito-borne illness is slowing down or if the slow pace is caused by countries not updating their case counts.

The previous week PAHO reported 1,428 new cases, but the previous reports indicated 32,492 and 3,100 new cases, respectively.

PAHO reported no new deaths; that number remains at 55.
Sep 2 PAHO report


WHO: Flu at inter-seasonal levels

In its biweekly global flu report, the WHO said that flu levels are typical for this time of year in temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. But flu counts are rising steadily in southern Africa and Oceania.

In southern Africa, the WHO reports a new shift from influenza B to predominantly influenza A virus circulating, but it said pneumonia cases are down. Australia has seen increasing numbers of influenza A(H3N2) circulating, while New Zealand said flu rates are below the seasonal baseline level.

Countries in both the Caribbean and South America are reporting decreasing numbers of flu cases. Chile was an exception, reporting elevated influenza and respiratory syncytial virus activity. Influenza A dominated in Chile.

Flu activity in Europe and North America is low, with influenza B circulating. Between Aug 8 and Aug 21 WHO laboratories tested 2,173 specimens for influenza, of which 1524 (70.1%) were typed as influenza A and 649 (29.9%) as influenza B.
Sep 5 WHO flu update


Influenza D officially named

The International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses approved the name of influenza D, discovered by scientists at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in 2011.  Cattle are the primary reservoir for this virus, which is part of a new genus, Orthomyxovirdae.

When influenza D was first identified in 2011, it was thought to be a novel influenza C virus, because the first sample was obtained in a diseased pig. But researchers, including Feng Li, PhD, at SDSU, showed that influenza D was actually the first influenza virus identified in cattle and is endemic in many cattle populations. Influenza D is 50% similar to influenza C.

Since 2011, Li and his colleagues also showed that influenza D does not affect poultry, but can be found in blood samples from sheep and goats. Transmission occurs only through direct contact, and the virus at this time poses no threat to human health.

"From a science viewpoint, it's very exciting to work with a brand-new virus," said Li in an SDSU press release. "We have much to learn about this new virus."
Sep 1 SDSU press release

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