News Scan for May 17, 2017

Saudi MERS cases
Health providers work through ILI
N95 protection for nurses
Support for NIH funding

Two more MERS cases linked to hospitals in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) said today two more cases of MERS have been detected in patients who had been exposed at healthcare facilities in Bishah and Riyadh.

A 57-year-old expatriate male in Bishah is in stable condition after being diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). The patient is a healthcare worker and is asymptomatic.

A 38-year-old expatriate man from Riyadh was also diagnosed with MERS. He was not a healthcare worker, but he did contract the virus in a healthcare setting. He is currently in critical condition.

The latest infections raise Saudi Arabia's number of MERS cases since the disease was first detected in humans in 2012 to 1,609, which now includes 666 deaths. Five people are still being treated for their infections.

An MOH report yesterday described another newly diagnosed patient, but that update remains in Arabic.
May 17 Saudi MOH report


Health worker survey reveals many work during flu illness

An Internet survey of healthcare workers during the 2014-15 flu season found that about 40% of them worked while they were sick with influenza-like illness (ILI). A research team led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported its findings yesterday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Since 2009 CDC researchers have surveyed health providers to estimate flu vaccine coverage in the group, and for the 2014-15 season they included extra questions about working while sick and about missing work while experiencing ILI. The final analysis included 1,914 healthcare workers, of which 21.6% (414) said they had been sick with ILI.

Of those who said they had been ill, 41.4% said they had worked while sick, for a median duration of 3 days. Of eight different occupation types, pharmacists and physicians had the highest frequency of working while they had ILI. Hospital-based health providers were more likely to work while sick compared with those not working in a hospital.

The most common reasons for working while sick were a perception of still being able to perform their duties and not feeling bad enough to miss work. For those who worked at long-term care facilities, the most common reason was inability to afford lost pay.

Being vaccinated against flu during the 2014-15 flu season was also associated with working while sick, according to the findings.

To reduce levels of health-worker–associated flu transmission, the researchers said that misconceptions about working while sick and sick leave policies both need to be addressed.
May 16 Am J Infect Control abstract


Study: Nursing movements contribute to N95 face seal leakage

Movements during routine nursing procedures can increase the risk of face seal leakage of N95 respirators, according to a study that involved nursing students who wore backpack aerosol spectrometers that measured particles that entered the mask.

Researchers from Hong Kong reported their findings yesterday in the American Journal of Infection Control. Their goal was to assess if properly sealed respirators provide consistent protection for the wearer.

The study group consisted of 120 nursing students who were equipped with the best-fitting respirators among three common models using the quantitative fit test (QNFT). They performed nursing procedures such as breathing, talking, and bending over for 10-minute periods while wearing the portable spectrometers to detect particles inside the respirator.

Fit factor determined by QNFT dropped significantly after nursing procedures, and the researchers also saw significant differences in particle concentration of different sizes inside the respirators, as detected by the backpack spectrometers, before, during, and after the procedures.

The team concluded that body movements during nursing procedures might increase the risk of face seal leakage of N95 respirators  and that more research is needed to improve respiratory protection for users, including the development of new prototypes that offer a better fit.
May 16 Am J Infect Control abstract


Research and science groups ask HHS head to protect NIH funding

Related to a US House of Representatives committee hearing today on federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leaders of 28 medical, science, and research advocacy groups sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, MD, asking him to protect the NIH and its Fogarty International Center.

The letter, started by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association, praised a $2 billion NIH budget increase for fiscal year 2017 but aired deep concerns over the White House's proposed cuts to medical research funding for fiscal year 2018, including the elimination of the Fogarty Center, known for its international research collaboration and role in training scientists to protect domestic and global health security.

In a press release from the IDSA, its president, William Powderly, MD, said erosion in medical research funding threatens the ability to diagnose, prevent, treat, and control diseases and will discourage new scientists from entering the field. "Work supported by the National Institutes of Health, to develop new diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies against emerging infectious diseases as well as the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance has never been more vital," he said.

The topic of today's oversight hearing was advances in biomedical research, and the primary witness was NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD. He and others from the NIH, including Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), appeared before the House subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
May 16 letter to Tom Price
May 15 IDSA press release
House committee hearing background

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