News Scan for Oct 31, 2016

Saudi MERS case
Ebola transmission
Organic food outbreaks
Chikungunya blip

Saudi MOH: New case of MERS

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported one new case of MERS-CoV. The patient is in critical condition.

A 41-year-old Saudi man from Buraydah was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) on Oct 29. The man is listed as having primary exposure, which means he did not contract the virus from another patient.

Confirmation of the latest case lifts Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total to 1,470 cases, 615 of them fatal. Seven people are still being treated for their infections.
Oct 29 Saudi MOH update


Ebola transmission chain analysis highlights viral longevity in semen

A study from the World Health Organization (WHO) tracked an 11-month transmission chain that ended with a case of Ebola virus in Guinea, suggesting the disease should be considered transmissible in semen for at least 12 months.

In a new report published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers detailed the unusual transmission route for a case-patient who presented with Ebola in October of 2015. Eleven months earlier, the patient's brother-in-law tested positive for Ebola. The man recovered and refrained from intercourse with his wife for 6 months, resuming sex about 9 months post-infection. In September of 2015, the woman had a mild illness that was likely undiagnosed Ebola, and through close household contact spread it to her brother. The woman's serologic tests were positive for Ebola, but no genomic data were available.

The interval between the case-patient’s onset of symptoms and that of the woman's mild and missed Ebola illness was about 30 days, longer than the usual maximum incubation period of 21 days.

Epidemiologic and molecular evidence support this unusual chain of Ebola transmission. The authors of the study said this case supports the WHO's updated January 2016 recommendation that safe sex should be practiced between couples for 12 month post–Ebola exposure. Alternatively, semen can be tested every 3 months post-illness, and sex can be resumed after two negative tests.
Oct 28 Emerg Infect Dis study


Study details 18 outbreaks tied to organic food

A study today in the Journal of Food Protection said it was not possible to tell if organic food was more likely to be implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks than conventional food, despite public perception that organic food is healthier, but it has been involved in at least 18 outbreaks since 1992.

Researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to look at 18 organic food–linked illness outbreaks in the United States from 1992 to 2014, which caused 779 illnesses, 258 hospitalizations, and 3 deaths.

Of those, 56% occurred from 2010 to 2014, which shows the increasing demand for organic food, the authors said. Salmonella caused 44% of outbreaks, and Escherichia coli caused 33%. Campylobacter, Clostridium botulinum, and hepatitis A virus caused one outbreak each (6%). Eight of the outbreaks were attributed to produce items, four to unpasteurized dairy products, two to eggs, two to nut and seed products, and two to multi-ingredient foods. Foods that were certainly or likely certified by the US Department of Agriculture were implicated in 15 of the 18 outbreaks (83%).

As organic food has risen in consumer popularity, it's been more frequently tied to foodborne illnesses. Though there's not enough to data to determine whether or not organic food was more likely to cause illness than conventional food, the authors said the study is the first step in understanding organic food risk.

"Consumers should not assume organic foods to be more or less safe than foods produced by conventional methods. Proper handling, preparation, and storage of foods, regardless of production method, are necessary to prevent foodborne illness," the authors conclude.
Oct 31 J Food Prot study


PAHO reports 452 new chikungunya cases

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) late last week reported 452 new chikungunya cases in the Americas, bringing the 2016 total to 303,107 confirmed, suspected, and imported cases.

The report comes a week after PAHO adjusted its numbers downward by 1,667 cases after Panama ruled out 1,788 previously suspected infections.

The Oct 28 report includes 216 new cases in Peru, 141 new cases in Cost Rica, and 52 in Colombia—as well as smaller increases elsewhere. Those three countries now have 233, 3,023, and 19,159 cases this year, respectively.

Many countries, however, have not reported on chikungunya for several weeks, including Brazil, which has reported more than 216,000 cases in 2016, by far the most of any country. PAHO reported no new chikungunya-related deaths, leaving that number at 106 for the year.

The region's chikungunya outbreak started in December 2013 in St. Martin in the Caribbean and so far has sickened 2,181,547 people.
Oct 28 PAHO update

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