News Scan for Feb 26, 2018

Saudi MERS cases
CDC high-containment labs
Immigrant TB screening

Six new MERS cases reported across Saudi Arabia

After only a handful of reports released earlier this month, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed six new cases of MERS-CoV over the weekend.

On Feb 23, the MOH reported three new cases, including a fatal infection in a 75-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh. That man had direct contact with camels, a known risk factor for MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). The other two patients are in stable condition, a 61-year-old Saudi man from Medina and a 45-year-old Saudi woman from Rafha. The Medina man's source of infection is listed as "primary," meaning it's unlikely he contracted the virus from another person. The MOH said the woman in Rafha had contact with a known case-patient.

The MOH announced two cases on Feb 24 that involve primary infections. A 45-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh is in stable condition, and a male expatriate, 36, living in Najran is in critical condition. On the same day, the MOH announced the death of a previously reported patient, a 15-year-old expatriate girl from Riyadh who had no preexisting disease.

Yesterday, the MOH said an 82-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh is in critical condition with MERS. The source of his infection is listed as "primary."

Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total cases since 2012 are 1,805, including 733 deaths. Nine people are still being treated for their infections.
Feb 23 MOH report
Feb 24 MOH report
Feb 25 MOH report


CDC seeks funds for new high-containment lab

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking Congress for $350 million to build a new high-containment lab complex on the CDC campus in Atlanta, according to a story from The Washington Post.

The lab will replace the current facility, built in 2005, and be used to contain and test some of the world's most lethal pathogens, including Ebola and avian influenza viruses. It would take about 4 years for the new lab to be constructed, and by that time, the CDC said its current facilities will be unsuitable for handling biological pathogens.

Thomas Friedman, former CDC director, told the Post, "Although the age of the labs has not contributed to any lapse in health security, CDC needs the upgrades to avoid future problems and to keep pace with improving technology and evolving threats."

The current lab is one of two places in the world that houses a live smallpox virus, and several samples of H7N9 avian flu. According to the Post, the current facility has four quadrants, with the main work centered in a biosafety level 4 lab the maximum safety level—surrounded by a suite of biosafety level 3 labs

The funding is part of the Trump administration's budget request submitted this month.
Feb 23 Washington Post story


Analysis finds TB screening of immigrants effective in Canada

Researchers analyzing data on more than a million Canadian immigrants report that demographic characteristics can help identify which groups are at high risk of tuberculosis (TB), according to a study today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The investigators included all those migrating to the Canadian province of British Columbia from 1985 through 2012 in the study—a total of 1,080,908 people. They linked data from multiple administrative databases to the provincial TB registry.

They found that active TB was diagnosed in 2,804 immigrants, or 25.2 cases per 100,000 person-years. Having a live-in caregiver, being a refugee immigrant, older age, and coming from a high-TB nation were all classified as risk factors for having TB.

"Screening latent TB infection based on demographic factors at the time of immigration is a necessary first step toward eliminating TB in migrants to Canada," says James Johnston, MD, MPH, in a CMAJ news release.

The authors say their findings support Canadian guidance to target post-entry screening for and treatment of latent TB in adult refugees from high-incidence countries. They add, "Our study adds to the understanding of long-term TB incidence in migrant populations in Canada by showing that rates remain elevated up to two decades after migration."
Feb 26 CMAJ study
Feb 26 CMAJ news release

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