News Scan for Mar 20, 2018

More MERS in Saudi Arabia
Nigeria Lassa outbreak
Latest global flu status
South Africa Listeria probe expands

Three more MERS cases reported in Saudi Arabia

Yesterday and today, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) announced three new cases of MERS-CoV, including another household contact of a previously reported case in Jeddah.

Yesterday, the MOH said a 43-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh was in critical condition after being diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). The man had direct contact with camels.

Today, a 67-year-old female expatriate in Jeddah was diagnosed as having MERS. She is in stable condition, and the MOH said she was a household contact of a previously recorded case. She's the second household contact recorded in Jeddah in 7 days.

A 62-year-old Saudi woman from Medina was also listed in stable condition. Her probable source of infection is listed as "primary," meaning it's unlikely she contracted the virus from another person.

Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total cases since 2012 have now reached 1,821, including 738 deaths. Eleven people are still being treated for their infections.
Mar 19 MOH report
Mar 20 MOH


More Nigerian Lassa cases reported as local officials say to avoid rat meat

Last week brought nine new confirmed cases of Lassa fever in Nigeria, including three deaths, according to the latest outbreak report published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

From Jan 1 to Mar 18, officials have recorded 1,495 suspected cases (376 confirmed) in Nigeria, including 119 deaths. The case-fatality rate among confirmed and probable cases is 24.7%. Though Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, the current outbreak is one of the largest in recent history.

Nineteen states have recorded cases, but 83% of confirmed cases have been reported in three southern states: Edo, Ondo, and Ebonyi. A total of 17 healthcare workers have been infected during this outbreak, 4 of them fatally.

Lassa fever is most often transmitted through contact with rodents, including rats. Human-to-human transmission can occur if a person comes into contact with infected bodily fluids.

Yesterday, the government of the Ebonyi state urged people in rural areas, where rat consumption is common, to refrain from eating rat meat in an effort to curb Lassa transmission, Vanguard News reported. "We are vigorously carrying out enlightenment through mass media, workshops, seminars and various ministries' communication channels," Donatus Njoku, state environmental commissioner, said.
Mar 18 NCDC situation report
Mar 19 Vanguard story


Flu peaks in some Northern Hemisphere countries, but levels still high

As the Northern Hemisphere enters the final months of its flu season, activity appears to have peaked in some regions, such as North America and parts of Europe, but flu levels are still high in many countries, with similar proportions of influenza A and B, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in an update.

In eastern Europe, flu activity is still rising, including a sharp increase in Russia, with all subtypes detected. However, detections are declining in northern Europe, except for Norway, and disease levels seem to have peaked in southwestern Europe.

In Asia, flu levels are still elevated in China but are decreasing in the eastern and western parts of the region, but in recent weeks activity has been on the rise in central Asian countries. In northern Africa, flu activity also dropped, though levels remained high in Egypt.

Temperate countries in the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season typically runs from May through October, are still reporting interseasonal flu levels.

Globally, the proportion of influenza A and B detections are similar, and of subtyped influenza A samples, 60.4% were the 2009 H1N1 virus. Of characterized influenza B viruses, 94.7% belonged to the Yamagata lineage.
Mar 19 WHO global flu update


South African Listeria outbreak steps expands to more countries

A Listeria outbreak that began in South Africa in 2017 now poses a threat to other countries on the continent, and the WHO has offered preparedness and response support to 16 African nations, according to a separate WHO statement today.

So far nearly 200 people in South Africa have died in an outbreak linked to contaminated ready-to-eat meat products that are widely consumed in South Africa and may also have been exported to two West African countries and 14 countries that are part of the South African Development Community. South Africa's outbreak—the world's largest—has been linked to a type of processed meat called polony, which is similar to bologna lunch meat, made by a facility in the country's Polokwane in Limpopo province.

One of the nations is Namibia, which has reported one confirmed listeriosis case involving a man who was hospitalized in early March. An investigation is under way to assess if his infection is linked to South Africa's outbreak. The WHO's African regional office said today in its weekly health bulletin that the patient is a 41-year-old man with underlying health conditions who was hospitalized on Mar 5. The early investigation found he had eaten meat products (Viennas) bought from a butchery in Tsumeb 2 weeks before he got sick.

WHO agencies are working with 16 priority countries to improve their capacity to prepare for, detect, and respond to potential outbreaks, and experts have been deployed to South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Food samples are being collected for testing, and efforts are under way to trace the product's origin.

Matshidiso Moeti, MD, WHO's regional director for Africa, said in the statement, "This outbreak is a wake up call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems."
Mar 20 WHO statement
Mar 20 WHO African regional office health bulletin
Mar 5 CIDRAP News scan "Source identified in South Africa's Listeria outbreak"

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