Flu expert says H7N9 viruses are rare 2nd warning of public health threat
The world rarely receives advance notice of a significant public health threat, but the detection of the highly pathogenic form of H7N9 avian influenza in China serves as a second warning, an expert from the World Health Organization's collaborating center in Australia said today in a Cell Research commentary.
Recent studies found a high level of genetic diversity in H7N9 viruses from China, including seven highly pathogenic viruses bearing four different hemagglutinin sequences. In addition, an isolate from a human showed a mutation that may make it more virulent. So far, 28 human infections with highly pathogenic H7N9 have been reported.
Kanta Subbarao, MBBS, MPH, wrote that the emergence of highly pathogenic H7N9 represents a second warning in two ways. First, uncontrolled spread of highly pathogenic H5N1 allowed the virus to become enzootic, allowing it to evolve, spread, and cause severe sporadic infections in humans. Second, low-pathogenic H7N9 viruses in 2017 spread more widely, and scientists found that highly pathogenic viruses came from more than one low-pathogenic precursor. "Once is a warning, twice is a lesson; we cannot afford to ignore the spread of H7N9 viruses and allow them to become enzootic," she wrote.
Focusing control measures on only poultry flocks infected with highly pathogenic H7N9 won't solve the problem, Subbarao said. Both forms of H7N9 need to be eradicated from avian species, and human isolates need to be monitored very closely.
Dec 1 Cell Res commentary
GPEI confirms another polio case in Afghanistan
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) announced another new case of wild poliovirus detected in Muhmand-Dara district, in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
The patient had paralysis onset on Nov 5, the GPEI said in its weekly report. The total number of officially reported wild poliovirus cases in Afghanistan in 2017 now stand at 11.
Afghanistan, along with neighboring Pakistan and Nigeria, is one of the last few countries where polio virus is endemic. There have been 16 wild poliovirus cases this year, compared with 34 reported in 2016.
GPEI said health workers in Afghanistan will launch another vaccination campaign in the second half of December.
Nov 29 GPEI update
UMass begins vaccination campaign after 2-case meningitis outbreak
The University of Massachusetts Amherst has begun a meningococcal vaccination campaign after two meningitis cases were confirmed on campus, the university said in a press release.
The two students were infected with the same strain of serogroup B meningococcal pathogen, the university said. Health officials began vaccinating students yesterday and will continue for 2 weeks. The campus serves more than 23,000 undergraduate students, a group considered to be at risk of meningococcal disease.
Officials are administering two doses of the serogroup B vaccine Bexsero to students. More than 1,400 students so far have received the vaccine.
Nov 28 UMass Amherst news release
UMass Amherst health services page