News Scan for Jan 20, 2017

US Zika cases
Seoul virus in rat breeders
NIH director stays
Avian flu outbreaks
HPV rates in men

US reports slowdown of new Zika cases

In its weekly Zika update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday reported only 34 new cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the United States this week, bringing the total to 4,900.

Of those cases, 4,682 are travel-related and 217 were locally acquired. There are 1,347 pregnant women with confirmed Zika in the United States, and 2,885 such women in US territories.

US territories report a total of 35,527 cases of Zika, 112 more than last week. The vast majority of those cases are in Puerto Rico, where some experts suggest 20% of the population  has been exposed to Zika.
Jan 19 CDC Zika update

In other Zika news, a case report published yesterday in Eurosurveillance describes Zika virus in the genital tract of a French woman who had traveled to Martinique and Guadeloupe in the summer of 2016. The woman has HIV that is well-controlled; she presented with a rash, pain, and fever 2 days after returning to France. Tests on swab samples revealed Zika virus RNA in vaginal and cervical secretions up to 10 days after symptom onset.

The case provides further evidence of the potential for Zika to be sexually transmitted from females to males via intercourse, though Zika RNA has been detected for much longer periods in semen (up to 6 months).

"Our findings suggest a short period of infectivity of women with acute Zika virus infection through their genital secretions," the authors write. "This short duration of virus shedding in genital secretion may explain why to date only one case of female to male transmission has been reported."
Jan 19 Eurosurveillance study


CDC: Rat-linked Seoul virus cases reported in 2 states

The CDC announced today that it is working with partners in Illinois and Wisconsin to investigate Seoul virus infections in eight people who worked at rat-breeding facilities in the two states—the first known outbreak of its kind in the United States.

A Wisconsin home-based breeder was hospitalized in December, and CDC tests confirmed Seoul virus in that individual and a family member who also worked with rodents. A follow-up investigation of several rat breeders that supplied animals turned up six more cases in workers at two Illinois rat-breeding operations.

Wild Norway rats worldwide harbor the virus, a member of the hantavirus family. Humans can contract the virus from exposure to body fluids or bites from infected rats, but it doesn't spread among people or to other pets. Seoul virus produces milder illnesses than other hantaviruses, with symptoms that can include fever, headache, eye redness, and rash. Rare instances of acute renal disease have been reported.

The CDC said rats infected with the virus don't usually appear sick, and it urged people in Illinois or Wisconsin who think they may have bought or come in contact with rats from the breeders to contact their local or state health departments.
Jan 20 CDC press release


NIH head Collins to remain in position, at least temporarily

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, has been asked by the Trump administration to stay on, at least for now, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

The NIH said in an e-mail yesterday that Collins "has been held over by the Trump administration. We have no additional details at this time." The e-mail directed reporters to now-President Donald Trump's transition team for more information, but transition officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Collins was appointed NIH director by President Obama in 2009 and has told Trump he would like to keep the job, but Trump has vetted others for the post in addition to meeting with Collins. If he is not asked to stay permanently as NIH director, Collins is planning to return to his NIH genetics lab, the story said.
Jan 19 Washington Post story


First suspected H5N8 in Kazakhstan; more outbreaks in Europe

Kazakhstan today reported its first suspected highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu detection, and a handful of central European countries reported more H5N8 outbreak in wild birds and backyard poultry, according to the latest reports from agriculture ministries to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In Kazakhstan, initial tests on two swans found dead on Jan 16 on the shore of the Caspian Sea near the city of Aktau in the country's west tested positive for a highly pathogenic H5 virus. Authorities said seven more birds show clinical signs and are being monitored by veterinarian specialists.

Elsewhere, Poland reported another H5N8 outbreak in backyard birds in Mazovia province in the central part of the country, an event that started on Jan 18, killing 14 of 60 susceptible birds. Slovakia reported two more outbreaks in backyard birds, one in Presov region in the east and one in Trnava region in the west. The events began on Jan 10 and Jan 12, respectively, killing 20 of 60 birds.

Elsewhere, Croatia and Romania each reported new H5N8 detections in wild birds. Croatia's outbreaks involved five wild swans found dead on Lake Soderica in the north and a great cormorant found dead in the city of Virovitica, also in the north near the border with Hungary. Romania's four outbreaks involved whooper swans found dead in nature parks, with three locations in Constanta County in the southeast near the border with Bulgaria and one in neighboring Ialomita County.
Jan 20 OIE report on H5 in Kazakhstan
Jan 20 OIE report on H5N8 in Poland
Jan 19 OIE report on H5N8 in Slovakia
Jan 19 OIE report on H5N8 in Croatia
Jan 19 OIE report on H5N8 in Romania


Study finds high HPV prevalence, low vaccine coverage in men

In the first population-based study on the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in US men, researchers found the overall level was 45.2% and the virus was widespread among all age-groups. A team based at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., reported its findings yesterday in JAMA Oncology.

The study was based on genotype testing on self-collected penile swabs from 1,868 men ages 18 to 59 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013-14. When the researchers gauged how many men were infected with at least one high-risk HPV subtype, the percentage was lower, at 25.1%. In vaccine-eligible men, 7.1% had at least one strain targeted by the four-valent vaccine, and 15.4% carried at least one strain targeted by the nine-valent vaccine.

Prevalence by age-group was lowest in younger men ages 18 to 22, increasing to 46.5% in ages 23 to 27 and remaining high across older men, which the authors said could reflect the practice of vaccinating younger males against HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection and a major cause of anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers. 

The researchers also reported that HPV vaccination coverage was 10.7%.
Jan 19 JAMA Oncol abstract
Jan 19 JAMA press release

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