News Scan for Apr 04, 2018

Saudi MERS cases
Global flu ebbs
Lassa fever in Nigeria
South Africa Listeria lab evidence

Saudi Arabia records 2 new MERS cases

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed two new cases of MERS-CoV, including a household contact in Riyadh.

On Apr 2, a 58-year-old Saudi man from Najran was diagnosed as having an asymptomatic MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection. He is in stable condition, and the source of his infection is listed as "primary," meaning it's unlikely he contracted the disease from another person. 

Today the MOH recorded the case of a 57-year-old female expatriate from Riyadh, who is listed as a household contact of a previously recorded patient. She is in stable condition. On Mar 23, the MOH said a male expatriate in Riyadh had been diagnosed as having MERS. Neither of the two newly reported patients is a healthcare worker.

Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total cases since 2012 have now reached 1,830, including 739 deaths. Nine people are still being treated for their infections.
Apr 2 MOH update
Apr 4 MOH update


Flu retreats throughout most of Northern Hemisphere

According to the latest global flu update from the World Health Organization (WHO), flu is declining everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere except Eastern Europe, where case counts are still rising.

Globally, influenza strains are almost evenly divided among types A and B, with 46.8% of laboratory specimens typed as influenza A and 53.2% as influenza B. Of the sub-typed influenza A viruses, 64% were influenza 2009 H1N1 and 36% were influenza H3N2. Of the characterized B viruses, 91% belonged to the Yamagata lineage and 9% to the Victoria lineage.

"In Eastern Europe, influenza activity continued to increase with influenza A virus most frequently detected followed by influenza B virus. In particular, influenza activity was still increasing in the Russian Federation, with all seasonal influenza subtypes co-circulating," the WHO said.

Flu declined in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and all Asian regions. In the temperate zones of the Southern Hemisphere, flu remained at typical inter-seasonal levels.
Apr 2 WHO update


Lassa fever kills 2 more in Nigeria, including doctor

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported six new confirmed cases of Lassa fever last week, including two deaths. One of those deaths, in Abia state, involved a doctor who was in close contact with at least 30 patients, according to Nigerian news sources.

From Jan 1 to Apr 1, the NCDC has confirmed 400 cases of Lassa fever, including 97 deaths. The case-fatality rate is 24.3%. Twenty-five healthcare workers have been infected since the onset of the outbreak, with five of them dying.

Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, but the current outbreak is one of the largest in history. The virus is transmitted mostly by rats, but human transmission can occur when a person comes into contact with infected bodily fluids.

The vast majority of cases are in the south central part of the county, with 81% of all confirmed cases from Edo (42%), Ondo (23%), and Ebonyi (16%) states.
Apr 1 NCDC update
Apr 4 All Africa story


South Africa's lab reiterates Listeria source evidence amid political claims

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reiterated its evidence linking a company's contaminated ready-to-eat polony meat products to a large Listeria outbreak, pushing back against political claims that the source was still unknown and that the health ministry has backed down on its earlier assessment about the link.

In an Apr 2 statement, the NICD said it was concerned about confusion that came from statements at a parliament agriculture hearing, which implied that the NICD misled the health ministry and the public. "Furthermore, we condemn the statement made that the government prematurely scapegoated 'Enterprise and Rainbow' without sufficient evidence," the NICD said. The agency said the doubts raised in the hearing are not a small matter, given that the NICD's lab expertise plays a key role in global health matters in South Africa and across the globe. "Therefore, the work of the NICD is scientifically sound and evidence-based," the agency said.

In reiterating the evidence, NICD described how whole-genome sequencing showed that the clinical isolates from patients suggests that a single Listeria monocytogenes strain is involved in the outbreak and tests on samples from an Enterprise Foods production facility yielded the outbreak strain in the postcooking production environment and on final polony products. That the patient and facility strains were 99.99% related "means there can be no doubt that these L. monocytogenes ST6 strains are all linked, and that there is certainty that products manufactured at Enterprise Polokwane are the source of the outbreak."

Also, interviews with sick patients have found that 86% ate polony, a meat product similar to bologna, during the month before they became ill.

The NICD also said new test results from polony samples from the same facility sold at its factory store in Germiston tested positive for the outbreak strain. "This means that the outbreak strain has been found inside the ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods' Polokwane production facility, dispelling claims made to the contrary."

The outbreak, the world's largest involving Listeria, has resulted in at least 978 lab-confirmed cases, 183 of them fatal. The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised concerns about the potential scope of the outbreak, because the company's products, which have been recalled, were exported to 15 African countries.
Apr 2 NICD statement

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