WHO: MERS cases down 58% from last year; Saudi Arabia has 3 new cases
In a MERS-CoV situation report today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there are 58% fewer cases reported in September and October of this year compared with the same period last year.
The respiratory illness still primarily occurs in those aged 50 to 59. "However, the females in the age group of 20–29 and 30–39 are acquiring MERS infection in higher numbers when compared to males in the same age group," the WHO reports. That increase may be because more women are healthcare workers and exposed to MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) through patients, the agency said.
Nov 28 WHO report
In other news, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS yesterday, diagnosed in a 56-year-old Saudi man from Hafar Al Batin. The man is in stable condition and the source of his infection is listed as primary, meaning he did not contract the disease from another person.
Today the MOH reported two addition cases. A 47-year-old woman in Riyadh is in stable condition. She is a secondary household contact of a primary patient. And a 35-year-old Saudi man from Taif is also in stable condition. The MOH said the man had direct contact with a camel.
266 suspected cases of Rift Valley fever in Niger
The WHO said late last week there are 17 confirmed and 266 suspected cases of Rift Valley fever (RVF) in Niger, resulting in 32 deaths. The outbreak began on Aug 30 and is affecting the nomadic stockbreeder population that moves within that country.
"The stockbreeder population is highly mobile and moves along stock routes to find pasture for their herds in the Sahel region that incorporates a number of neighboring countries," the WHO statement warned. Though RVF is not easily transmitted from person to person, the WHO said surrounding nations, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Togo and Cameroon, should be aware of the public health risk the outbreak poses.
RVF is an acute viral disease often transmitted among livestock. It can cause vision loss and death in humans in rare, severe cases. Like Ebola, it is one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers. It can often mask itself as malaria in milder forms.
Nov 24 WHO statement
CDC notes variant H1N2 flu case in Iowa
Iowa officials confirmed a case of variant H1N2 (H1N2v) influenza in a person who had recent swine contact, bringing to four the number of such cases this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its weekly FluView update.
The CDC did not say when the person contracted the disease or give any demographic information, but it noted that the person was not hospitalized and has fully recovered. The agency reported the first H1N2v cases on May 13, in Minnesota, as well as another Minnesota case and one in Wisconsin on Jul 1. Two of those three earlier cases required hospitalization.
Since 2005, state officials have reported nine H1N2v cases, six of them in Minnesota. That compares with 372 H3N2v cases and 20 H1N1v cases in the same period, according to CDC data. In 2012, more than 300 people tested positive for H1N1v, H1N2v, or H3N2v strains—primarily the latter—in cases that were mostly linked to county and state fairs in the Midwest.
Eighteen H3N2v cases have been reported in Michigan and Ohio this year.
Nov 28 CDC FluView update
Jul 1 CIDRAP News scan "Wisconsin, Minnesota report variant H1N2 flu cases"
CDC variant influenza case totals
Aug 26 CIDRAP News scan "Seven more fairgoers ill with variant H3N2"
Study: No link between maternal flu infection, vaccine and child autism
A study today in JAMA Pediatrics shows no link between maternal influenza infection or vaccination and childhood autism diagnosis.
In the cohort study of 196,929 children, where 3,103 had autism spectrum disorders, maternal flu infection during pregnancy was not associated with increased autism risk. Maternal flu vaccination during the first trimester did suggest an increased risk of autism, but the association was deemed statistically insignificant after adjusting for multiple comparisons.
The researchers based their conclusions on 10 years of data collected through the Kaiser Permanente California hospital system from 2000 to 2010. Only mothers with confirmed influenza were included in the study. Infection in any trimester of pregnancy was not associated with an increased risk of autism.
Influenza vaccination rates increased from 6% of mothers in 2000 to 58% in 2010, and vaccination was associated with increased maternal age, education, and socioeconomic status. The slight increase in autism diagnoses in children whose mothers received the flu vaccine during the first trimester of pregnancy was likely due to chance, the authors said.
"While we do not advocate changes in vaccine policy or practice, we believe that additional studies are warranted to further evaluate any potential associations between first-trimester maternal influenza vaccination and autism," the authors concluded.
Nov 28 JAMA Pediatr study